People pour in like a stream to see a newly—wed bride. The impact of a marriage seems doubled in the aftermath than in the wake of it From far-off villages relatives, old and young, thronged in, with a passionate desire to dine together and see the bride. The newlywed bride is Jogeswari. the consort of Someswar.
Something, other than her usual bashfulness, seemed to make her uneasy even in the midst of the giggling and jocoserious hilarities of the virgins and the marrieds all around her.
“When would this crowd disperse and shall I become old in this house? I would not mind if somebody breaks the secret after I settle down, but how shameful it would be if people can discover so early a their very first visit”. She argued with herself. But Night fell where tigers infest’, as the saying goes. All her efforts have gone in vain and in no time the lynx-eyed women-folk. who gathered there to see her. made the discovery. A puny little girl suddenly screamed, “Ah! how look the little toes of our new sister—in-law7” The words wrought an electric shock as it were, in her heart and Jogeshwari tried to tum in the little toes as much as possible. But once discovered, it would be meaningless to hide it. Among those present, some giggled or chuckled, some exchanged something through the eyes and this titter went on. Stopping only at the glum looks of the middle-aged ladies.
Right since the time of negotiation, the people of the bridal house took all caution to keep the matter a secret, so that it might not fall into the ears of the men of the groom’s house. They took utmost care when men from the groom’s house came to see the bride, lest they do not blunder as on the previous occasions. For, on this score earlier, several parties had shrunk back. They came, had a pleasant dinner and returned. Then the reply came “the would-be bride is not bad; not one to run away with on throw to the gutter, but..”. Jogeswari’s parents felt dead at the point. They knew that all other young maids of the village had been married one by one, but only Jogeswari had to rot in her home on account of this handicap. This apart, Jogeswari, no less beautiful than others, was sufficiently adept in all domestic chores. But alas! Fortune decreed otherwise.
Someswar, the only surviving member of his poor family, had bettered his pecuniary position through toil and labour and with a zealous gusto he arranged for his wedding. There was plenty of matrimonial offers, but the marriage was finally settled with Jogeswari. All factors. namely, star-position, genealogical relation and position of the same religious head required as fundamentals to cement a matrimonial alliance between two families, have been found favourable. The wedding was also duly solemnised. Entire responsibility of the house had now devolved upon Jogeswari who was to put up with everything, be it a slander or repute. She thought how helpless she was. Her other traits and accomplishments had been blurred by what everybody thought it to be a defect in her, much in the same way as a stray whit of dung spoils the milk. Her little toes are longer than usual and the source of all troubles.
When Kadami’s mother, a pretty old woman, was about to take leave, she said to Someswar— “How could you marry her‘? Could it not be noticed by anybody?” His face grew dark and pale and no wonder, that he performed his wedding with a heart full of hopes and aspirations and if others now start speaking ill of it, everything seemed to fizzle out. He almost gasped and asked her “What‘s the matter’?” “Look at her little toes, you wretched? Get a vermillion mark on your forehead. Damn those people you engaged to sec her. You could not remember people like us lest we may play the first fiddle.” She hurled the invective at Someswar and jolted oft`. Someswar stood motionless, his heart ruffled and burning.
The episode did not end there. The two little toes of the wedded bride are longer than usual – an ominous sign. Someone laughed at, someone joked. There was fuss and flurry about amongst the people present and before long the matter became known to all. Those who could not notice it earlier through oversight drew nearer again with renewed curiosity.
And what about the wretched bride? She grew pale and again turned red. The young damsels earlier managed to unveil the bride partially but she now fully drew the veil again to her waistline.
“The matter must have reached the ears of her husband by now. What is he thinking of? Know not, what his nature is. Fuh, Fuh, the matter ought to have been intimated much earlier to the people of groom’s house. If it embitters their mind now, it may as well strain their relation with her family and bring about a dislocation in all matters. Her parents or other members of her family might be ill-treated either by the brothers of her husband or by the husband himself. Alas! what an inauspicious moment she was born at !”. Thus began Jogeswari to contemplate and curse herself under her veil. Unconsciously, she tried to turn in the two little toes, just as the tortoise does its limbs. May God either destroy them there on the spot or make them commensurate, she felt.
Meanwhile, inside the house, the crowd of women began to increase. Other villagers also assembled outside. It was but natural that large numbers of people collect in a house in the post nuptial period. The newly—wed bride is the cynosure of all eyes. Besides, people also pay visits immediately after the ceremony to partake a cup of merry tea or tobacco or betel-nut. Someswar had no interest in all these rejoicings now that he was in a predicament. He felt, he could escape, if he could go out of the mess. He would rather sit somewhere else in , complete seclusion. He felt as if the words of Kadami’s mother still rang in his ears, other voices all being inaudible.
Then he must have been deceived. He knew that quite a number of marriages had been performed in his village and other villages in the neighbourhood over the year, but his was doubtless the most successful in all respects — in ostentation, reception, entertainment etc. People, who saw his bride, said in her praise – “Someswar’s consort is perhaps the best of the lot in the locality”. Other brides were not without a defect, someone with crisp hair, someone obese, someone having the foot-palms resembling the shape of wooden chappals, someone cock-eyed and someone again with a dark complexion and so and so forth. Under such circumstances it was Someswar alone who could realise the condition of his mind best. As if the jocose rejoicings, laughs and merriments, all have died down. The cause of all these was apprehended by all, but nobody could divulge it.
Mahim Bora (6 July 1924 – 5 August 2016) was an Indian writer and educationist from Assam.He was elected as a president of the Assam Sahitya Sabha held in 1989 at Doomdooma. He was awarded with most notably with the Padma Shri in 2011, the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2001 and the Assam Valley Literary Award in 1998. Assam Sahitya Sabha conferred its highest honorary title Sahityacharyya on him in 2007.