SONAJHURI Chapter 6: Meenakshi - A Novel by Santwana Chatterjee | WBRi Online Magazine

"Sonajhuri" is a serialized English novel by Santwana Chatterjee published in WBRi Online Magazine section. Each episode has links to previous and next episodes.

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SONAJHURI

A Novel by Santwana Chatterjee

CHAPTER FIVE

MEENAKSHI


Mr and Mrs Mukherjee had built a small two storied house near ballygunge in South Calcutta and they shifted away form Park Circus. It was a small but compact house and Meenakshi was happy in it, though initially she was sad for leaving us behind. But gradually she got accustomed to be on her own, as Ramesh, by then, had joined Bengal Engineering College, Shibpur and moved to the hostel. Meenakshi wanted to study psychology and took it as an honours course in her graduation. She used to go out in the morning and after college, went to the library where she spent a good two hours and returned home in the evening dog tired and sleepy. One day she found that her parents had employed an old woman, quite like our daima, to look after the house course and cooking. Meenakshi was taught to call her Burima. Burima was a small and skinny, dark and unhappy woman. She seemed sad all the time with perpetual drooping lines around her lips and sagging long face. Only time she seemed happy was when Meenakshi and she were alone together.


This old woman was very affectionate and Meenakshi became very fond of her in no time. Her parents were not the type to shower affection on their children as they thought it was the way the petty middleclass people and elite people of society don’t adopt such attitudes. But a young girl would be a young girl and she

very much hankered for a show of affection, which Burima had in ample quantity and so the two jelled well. It did not go down well with Mrs Mukherjee. She tried a number of times to correct Meenakshi and advised not to become too familiar with a servant, to which dictate , Meenakshi, now old enough to have her own opinion, did not adhere to.


One afternoon Meenakshi skipped the Library routine and arrived home before schedule. Before pressing the calling bell she stopped short as she heard Mrs Mukherjee shouting at some one. The voices were coming from the back and she walked along the narrow passage leading to the back where the building had its servant’s room. The argument went like this:


I have brought you home, giving you shelter and food and you are again at your old trick !”


What old trick !


Don’t you know ? Trying to come close to my daughter, that trick! Stay away from her I warn you.


She is my grandchild Minoti”


Stop calling her your grandchild. I told you if ever you try to be familiar or try to establish your identity, you are out of my house. I took pity on you and I see I was wrong. Who am I to do good to some one who had been forsaken by all , even God.


It is not only pity that you had brought me here for Minoti.


What do you mean?


Was it not for grabbing the property?



You cunning old woman, I took you for a simpleton. I see I was wrong.


Minoti, you give me back my house and the land, I will go back stay where I belong. I don’t want to be a servant in my daughter’s house.


What property ; a rickety house, some barren land ! Do you suppose that that little property would compensate all that I am spending on your stay, food and clothing at my house?


I don’t want to live in a pakka house like a beggar. Give me back my small house and I would love to die in peace, but won’t stay in this hell for moment more.




Their mother Minoti hailed from a small town at Hoogly Distric. Her parents were middleclass people having a carpentry business in the town. With their savings they built a one storied house with two bed rooms and a toilet and a kitchen with a small little plot to spare, where they proposed to make a vegetable garden in future. Their only child Minoti was a beautiful girl. She was put in a good school and she was good in studies too. She grew up to be a charming young lady stunning in looks and she bore high admission too. Her humble parents were looking for a match for her, but the matches that were being referred to were being summarily refused by the would-be bride herself for their humble lineage. The district magistrate Mr Robindranath Mukherjee had a son Bikash , who set his eyes on her and was so besotted with her beauty that he refused to marry any other girl than Minoti.


The Mukherjees had embraced Brahmhoism and member of the Brahmho Samaj , which was a combination of the main Religions prevailing, propagated by Raja Rammohon Roy. It believed in One Eternal God, as per the Adaitya Vedanta. Hindu Dharma (religion) had at some point of time become extremely narrow and vested interests made a lot of distinctions on the basis of cast, creed and religion, subjecting the people of lower casts to extreme humiliation and denying their right to live a dignified life in the society of supposedly the high cast Brahmins , as chosen by God to rule over all other. The Hindu dharma looked down on all other religions declaring the almighty as being partial to chose Hinduism as the true religion. Rajah Ram Mohun Roy, introduced the sublime ideal of a universal religion which knew no barriers of caste, colour, race or nationality but united men and women of all classes and countries in the spiritual worship of the One Eternal God, the Creator and Father of all.


Thus Brahmho Samaj was quite modern and liberal in its outlook and they held no one above the others by virtue of his cast, creed or position in the society. The Mukherjee’s, being basically hypocrites, could not reject their son, being Bhamho, from taking a bride from the family of a carpenter, though they detested it enormously. They came from elite societies, were well placed in life and could not think of introducing their son’s in-laws who were so low in cast and so lower down the social ladder to their own society.


The Magistrate and his wife ultimately had to give in to their son’s wishes but procured a promise from their son and Minoti that they would not keep any ties with the middleclass carpenter and his wife, let alone presenting them to any of their associates. Minoti’s hapless parents gave in to the pressure to make their only child happy. They just stared as a part of their heart was taken away by the high society, by the rich, by inhumanity and selfishness personified, both in the form of Mr & Mrs Mukherjee , as also their own flesh and blood. Their son-in-law offered quite a huge amount to compensate for their loss, which they would not even touch by a stick. The Mukherjee’s then moved out of the town and settled at the city of Calcutta. A long time had passed since their marriage and the District Magistrate and his wife were no more.


Minoti’s father worked till he could , as he wanted to forget everything. He toiled day in and day out and his wife fretted and cried , accusing God for his indifference to their grief, for being partial to the rich and for keeping them still alive to suffer. The carpenter suffered a heart attack in ten years’ time and obtained peace, according to his wailing widow.



A few months back the Mukherjees came to know about the carpenter’s death and the plight of her widowed old wife. The District town had become quite a prosperous place and their little one storied house and the plot would fetch a handsome amount if sold, so they heard. They approached Minoti’s mother with a proposal that she move out of the town and come to stay with Minoti. In return she should surrender the plot alongwith the house to them. The old woman was in two minds. One part of her was cautioning her against taking any such step, the other half wanted to forgive and embrace the long lost daughter and her family. Ultimately the mother won and she came to stay with the daughter . But she never imagined that she would have to stay there in the guise of a servant. She had already handed over her property to her son-in-law in writing, and here she was being treated like a beggar. Meenakshi realized both her parents were in league in treating the old woman in this monstrous way and she started detesting both.


Meenakhsi stood their like a statue not able to digest what she witnessed. She was an extremely headstrong and also sentimental girl. Her kind and beautiful eyes were filled up with sorrow and shame. How could her parents be so mean, how could they do such a heinous crime. She shivered in terror. Oh God let this be a nightmare, this can not be true. Silently warm drops of water starting falling on her cheeks and washed her chest. She must do something to atone for this sin. She must protect her parents from the divine wrath , it was her foremost duty. As a daughter she should make up for the wrongs that her parents were doing. She went back and sat on a bench in a nearby park and cried and cried. Ultimately she decided she must take care of her own grandmother. But the question was how, she was not yet a graduate. What job could she get. She started looking for part time jobs and got two private tuitions after college hours. The money she got she started saving. There was only one more year for her to clear her graduation. She did not want to disturb Ramesh. He was doing Engineering and should be more serious in his studies. Apart from that Ramesh was a very calm , quiet and devoted son. Meenakshi was not sure of his reaction. So impulsive as she was she made up her mind to fight for justice on her own. She was to complete graduation in another year she begged Burima to be patient. . During that year Burima stay put with a brave heart and tolerated all humiliation without a murmur. Though she wanted to do higher studies, but our courageous friend Meenakshi sacrificed her carrier for their hapless granny. As soon as she got the job she took a separate room at a very low rent in a slum area where she intended to shift with Burima. On the schedule date Meenakshi came and touched her parents feet asking for permission to leave the house


Minoti and Bikash were having tea when Meenakshi approached them with her baggage and touched their feet as a gesture of goodbye. Surprised they looked up at her and asked :


What is the matter? Are you going somewhere?


Yes, I am leaving you to stay on my own with Burima.


With Burima? Her parents kept on looking at her wide eyed without comprehending anything.


Yes, she is my grandma, isn’t it ?


Oh the old woman had talked after all ?


No father, she did not tell me anything. I heard ma speaking the other day.


But why should you leave. Wait I shall give her back her property, even give some money from my own, so that she won’t be put to any difficulty. You don’t need to suffer for her. You didn’t even know her for long.


I am leaving ma, because I am terribly ashamed of you two. I can’t introduce you to the society as my parents, so obnoxious was your act.


It would have been poetic justice if Meenakshi could leave them and lived on her own but Meenakshi was not as cruel and as heartless like her own parents. So ultimately she gave in to their overture.


Minoti and Bikash were after all her parents and they knew they were at fault. They were also quite aware of their daughter’s determination. Ultimately they gave in and apologized for their act to Burima and begged her to talk to Meenakshi to see reason . So after a lot of emotional blackmail, Meenakshi agreed to stay on condition that Burima would be given her proper place and honour in their house.



Ramesh came to know of everything much later. She congratulated his sister for fighting single handedly for justice and winning the game.


My heart went out to the siblings, for I could not even imagine what agony they were going through. How horrible it must be to hate your own parents and I was awed at the show of courage by Meenakshi .


I got a lesson from the episode. We generally tend to judge people by their relatives or to be precise their parents. But this, after all is not always true. A virtuous man may beget a thief or a murderer or a liar and the opposite may be true too. We all know the story of Prahlaad in a family of demons. Gene and environment makes a man. How could there be a righteous, brave and kind daughter like Meenakshi of such a mean parents! Ma always told me ‘Never ever be greedy and proud’. Self esteem is not pride. The Mukherjees were blinded by arrogance, vanity and selfishness. You should know your strength and be humble about it. Any good thing that you have had been bestowed by the nature or God. You should always try to keep your virtues in tact. Greed and vanity clouds our vision and make us make take many a wrong decisions.


Next: Chapter 7 >

Previous: Chapter 5 >



Santwana Chatterjee is a creative writer and blogger from Kolkata and is a member of the Tagore family. She is a prolific contributer to Washington Bangla Radio - her other writings can be found by using her name to search this web site. Her own blog is at santwana.blogspot.com. Santwana can be reached by e-mail at santwanastar [at] gmail [dot] com.