Growing up as a strong-headed single child with a privileged upbringing in Calcutta, Devi has learnt much from her surroundings. Her childhood memories are filled with mixed emotions – especially as she remains angry with her mother and the hypocrisy of women in India. On an unexpected journey home, she encounters reality – new stories and experiences of strangers, as well as friends. It has been years since she left Calcutta, yet the city’s untold stories haunt her.
This time Devi is back in town to solve issues and above all, through some painful and hard revelations, to make peace with those she can.
Although a housewife, like many well-educated women are, she knew all the systems of paperwork. Yet, no matter where I went, the clerks would jeer at me — I was made painfully aware that I had no right to live, no right to demand for the government pension that my husband had passed on to me. One even said, “Mashima , why are you wasting your time and energy here? Go sell some fried peanuts. It is sufficient money for a widow to stay alive.”
That day, I grew very bitter. I didn’t feel accepted by society anymore. But I didn’t let it drown me like those jeering clerks had intended. Instead, I got my pension and waved my pension book at their faces before I left, letting the weight of my last words linger — “I may be old and widowed, thrown out of my own home by my own son and my daughter; I may be alone but that doesn’t mean I should quit living.”
That day was the first time in decades that I raised my voice in public. I was not proud of it, for it is not good for women to raise their voices, or so I have been taught. But it felt good. It felt good to stand up to a jeering stranger and say what I wanted to say — it came from my heart. On my way back, I bought muri-chanachur bhajaa for myself, and an elderly beggar woman I often see near Puturam’s sweet-stand. Dirty white thaan, prickly white hair on her shaved head, and bent over with age. When I handed her the packet of muri-chanachur, she didn’t say much; but I’m almost sure I saw tears in her greying eyes.
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About the Author
Debolina Bandyopadhyay aka De.B.Dubois is a writer, poet, designer and visual artist. With her roots firmly in Bengal, Deb is now a Swiss national where she practices Visual Arts, teaches students of design to bridge theory and practice, and continues working as an inter-disciplinary design and communications expert. Despite her ADHD and dyslexia, Deb has been publishing books, working in integrative design and also taking part in many visual art festivals, the most famous being the Body and Freedom Festival (Zürich), on a solo performance called “Mirror”, with the writing “Why do I feel comfortable being naked here (front) but fear, death, rape and physical verbal assault in India (back)” on her body.”
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