Laahorie is an ordinary village spinster. She is nearing eighty years of age. She lives alone in
her house as she is the only child of her parents. Age has made her weak which necessitates her to
use a walking-stick to help her walk. Her vision has also dimmed. Cataract! Says the doctor. But she
has no money to operate on herself. Whatever she gets as an income is from a pension plan of an
insurance company. Her cultivation fields are looked after by a sharecropper who keeps half of the
produce and returns half to laahorie. He also looks after the seasonal crops cultivated in the front
and backyard of her house. On most of the days, she stays indoors and passes the time sitting beside
the window on the old arm-chair of her father. Late evenings, she retires for the night, having
nothing to do.
On a bright sunny afternoon after having her lunch, she was sitting on the armchair and
looking out of her window at the village street in front of her house. After some moments, she saw
some people carrying a bier. She knew whose it was. It was of Bonko’s, a man of her village who was
some years older than her. He had died the morning of that day. Bonko’s bier had brought to her
mind memories of her past which she does not like to recall…but even then these memories arrived
on their own bringing with them the reason of her present disgustful life. She shuddered! Should she
go through them now? She thought. The time of the day and the occasion just necessitated it!
Like a reverie, the scenes slowly flashed before her mind, unhindered. She saw herself as a
small child playing with her friends. Yes! Hers was a small family, with her father doing everything
except undertaking a salaried job to run the family of his wife and only daughter, laahorie. She was
studying in the village school. Life was full of frolic and fun at that time. And amidst such fun filled
days, she entered her womanhood, a world of shyness, maturity, retirement from the childhood
pranks and, reservation from many things. And in a poor family, a newly-matured girl’s necessities
are seldom met to the fullest extent. Even then life was easy going and gee-gee for her, with her
school, her household chores and the weaving and knitting lessons from her mother all going
together. And around this time happened an incident unintentioned by her which changed the course
of her life and connected Bonko to her life although covertly.
As said earlier, Bonko was some years older to her and was a big, rustic and strong lad of her
village. And although not eying Laahorie in Public, he held a secret covetousness for her. So one day,
when she was returning to her home through her cultivation fields filled with mature but unripe
paddy, Bonko caught her from behind and did the most horrible and unimagined act of her life.
Although defeated, humiliated and exhausted, laahorie enjoyed the violent carnal pleasure on that
occasion. She did not tell anybody of that incident and let her days go on as usual-only remaining
wary of Bonko whenever she met him.
She skipped recalling the incidents that followed and started from the time of her father’s
death. And when did her father die? She recalled! It was after she had crossed eighteen years of age.
He had suddenly caught ill and died. Thus she found herself studying and trying to earn an income,
‘to keep the home fires burning’ and to keep herself in college. But it was not to be and she dropped
out of college to find work, and an income. But in any Indian village, to find work in any household is
like searching a needle in a haystack. So she changed her plans and targeted the marriage and other
ceremonies and death rituals to find work. In this she was lucky for she found at least one such event
every month in her village and also in her nearby villages.
In all existences, hunger takes precedence
over everything and in the case of Laahorie also it was so. Work-and thus income in a day of the
month and unemployment for the rest of the month-is not a good thing; so she ventured out to the
nearby town to find work as a part time work-maid. Here she was very successful for her youth,
energy and her lithe body attracted her to many households. Soon she found work in more than ten
(to be continued)…