The garlanded photo of my aunt’s face; reflected the same arrogance and ego of her prime. My mind raced, amidst the background of the Shradh rituals.
We visited an aunt’s house in a suburb, during school vacations, when I was seven years. Amola Di, the elderly maid; but my playmate and companion in the mansion, obliged to the rules dictated by my aunt to all, a zamindar’s wife.
“What did Kortama say Mithi? I’ll call her, if you step nearer”, Amola Di squealed.
“How are you drawing water from the well if there’s a python, and it’s not climbing out? I want to see it “, I protested in my childish voice.
A firm grip of my hand literally dragged me inside the room,in front of my father. ” Your daughter is insolent and disobedient. No one ever questioned my commands including you. You should teach Mithi to be courteous, polite and lady like, not boisterous and a rebel in nature”.
The mischievousness on my part and the strict disciplinarian regime of my aunt went in parallel tandem. I ran on the open terrace, a forbidden territory, escaping the eyes of all elders, except the hawk’s vision of my aunt on my truant activities. The punishment followed; of holding my ears and standing in the corner, lifting one leg. No one dared to lift a finger or protest except my savior, Amola Di, continuously pleading my aunt, to spare the little girl, and apologizing for being careless and not taking care; with promises of nil repetitions and complaints in future.
Everyday, sitting on the cornice of the porch, I waited eagerly for Amola Di to enter the house. She religiously performed her household chores and narrated stories, while I followed her like a shadow. Hunched on the floor, the attraction of the rhythmic movement of Amola Di; rolling the cylindrical stone on the pyramidal one to grind the spices, was a clue to my daring activity. Tiptoeing from behind, putting my arms tightly around her shoulders; and exclaiming, “I love to swing!! You’re my swing!!”
Amola Di was dumb struck, “Oh my God!! Don’t hug me, you shouldn’t touch me. Kortama will kill me if she sees, get off my back,” she pleaded. “Why?”my innocence was jolted by her fluid, unscathed response. “You’re Chotobabu’s daughter, a sweet girl with an apt name, and I’m a low-class maid. Your mind is pure now; hence it doesn’t comprehend the differences, but you’ll realize as you grow up.”
My cousin responded, “Amola Di is bed ridden and cannot recognize anyone now”. I pleaded, ” Take me once to her place”. In the room she lay on the cot, the faint light reflecting her blank gaze at the ceiling. Hugging her, I whispered, “Your little Mithi has grown up and touched you again, you’re still there in her heart”.
Leaving with moist eyes, maybe not to return again, but with a free mind and a happy heart after hugging my childhood companion.