The goat and its kids knew exactly what to do to that sound. It moved out of the barn and followed the man to the nearby field. The man left it there for grazing and came back to the house. He sat down on the verandah by the kitchen door wiping his face with his gamcha.
“Mami!” he called out to the lady inside the kitchen.
A lean old lady came out with a cup of tea and two biscuits in her hand. She handed them both to Shamsuddin.
“Aren’t you late for work?” the lady asked.
He shook his head and took a sip of tea from the cup. He replied munching the biscuit, “I have to look for new job.”
It was not a new conversation for both of them. It was more or less like exchanging greetings every morning. Each knew the question and the following answer. Actually their morning had never been any different for the past couple of years, the same morning routine of taking the goats to the field and the same red tea and biscuits. Only the house looked gloomier over those years which once had been the epitome of all events in the neighborhood.
“Why don’t you go to my brother’s place? He has shifted here recently. Surely he might need help,” the lady suggested.
“You think so? Alright I shall visit him then,” saying he got up. He washed his cup from the well in the courtyard and put it beside the kitchen door.
The lady picked up the cup and gently placed it in a corner away from all the other utensils in her kitchen. She was not the only one doing it. Coming from a well known Brahmin family allowing a Muslim inside the house premises let alone share utensils was totally against the rituals practiced by the Hindus in this part of the country. The nation may be celebrating golden jubilee of Independent India but it has failed to wipe the scars of partitions from both the communities till date. And Guwahati, the gateway of Northeast India, was no different. For ages the city has been a dumb witness to the tension prevailing between different communities which burst out on minimum provocation be it Hindu-Muslim or Bengali-Assamese or Hindi -Assamese or the tribal and non-tribal tribes. And adding flame to the fire are the political system and insurgent groups that keep no stone unturned for their own interest. In all these modus operandi it is the common man who bears the bruise. Kalapahar, the resettlement colony of the Hindu Bengali refugees from Bangladesh, in the outskirts of Guwahati city was no different.
The handful of migrated Hindu families who first came down to settle here after losing everything in partition had had a hard time surviving. Snehlata was one of them. Her husband would be out for work most of the time and she had the responsibility to up bring her children single handedly where surviving itself was a big question. The area at that time was a marshy land with no civic amenities whatsoever. Earthquakes, flood, infiltration of wild animals from the nearby forest, criminal activities were part of the daily life of the residents in this area. And to top that the inhabitants were poverty stricken. People somehow managed their lives by helping each other in need and thus the society developed. And today, it was one of the most sought after developing neighborhood in close proximity to the Guwahati city. The place had everything now from supermarkets, offices, schools, hotels and restaurant and with it came the employment opportunities for many.
From having nothing after partition to earning a respectable lifestyle the people here had done it all. And Snehlata was no exception. She was merely ten years old when she had lost her mother and stepped into her mother’s shoes for raising her young siblings. Her father was a traveler and left the children under the care of servants back at home in Shillong. She left her studies too young to take up the household work which she had mastered with perfection over the years. Her illiteracy was never a hindrance in her life. She was a mute learner and love to read from her brother’s books. The beautiful girl had slowly turned into a shy and introvert young lady. She was a good listener but not a good speaker. She could never stand up for her own rights. Not even when her father remarried a girl almost her age and married her off at a mere thirteen years of age to a man twice her age. That was the time of partition and tension prevailed in the state of Assam as well. The uncertainty in people’s lives clearly shown on all face be it Hindu or Muslim. The Bengali Hindu families, who decided to migrate to India, were poverty stricken. Both her father and husband had lost all their properties in East Pakistan. Starting from zero with her husband had been very difficult for her. And she never forgot the pain of rendering homeless and needy. Thus she helped everybody irrespective of their caste, religion and creed in her own way. Her home in Kalapahar had sheltered many, who like her had nowhere to go and this had earned her both accolade and disgrace. But she chose to stick to her deeds. And thus for the last ten years Shamsuddin had a place to call home.
LIKE WHAT YOU HAVE READ SO FAR... BUY HERE
About the author
she moved to Delhi to pursue her career in later years. Her love for creative writing made her quit her
job and she started as a freelance writer in 2009. Since then she has come a long way from a distinguished travel writer and documentary film maker to be a successful fiction writer.
Shamsuddin’s Grave is her debut novel that clearly narrates the agony of a migrant. Staying away from
her own hometown so long Paromita says the theme of youth migration came naturally to her. Inspired
by real life incidents, Shamsuddin’s Grave, talks at length about the plight of a lesser known community in India. Paromita loves to write about issue based subjects that she says makes the readers “THINK”. She is also an avid reader of romance, horror and thriller novels besides travel journals. When not working she loves spending time with her children (both human and furry) or can be seen feeding the stray animals. She is married and currently based in Raipur, Chhattisgarh.