Sanahanbi’s husband Raghu works as a peon. They lead a cosy life with three lovely children. Neighbours are envious of Sanahanbi. They consider her fortunate for having a husband who isn’t a spendthrift. But ever since an officer who loves to drink and gamble got transferred at Raghu’s workplace, his house has become a party den. It has been a daily affair. Quite unexpectedly Raghu has started drinking regularly. Day by day he has become more violent and abusive. Sanahanbi often pleads, “This is home not a workplace. Neither am I an employee under your officer. Rather one honour-bound by marriage. Attending to the care of husband and children, maintaining a home needs all the time in hand. It is below your dignity to entertain their biddings in this way. It would affect the children. Don’t make a devil out of me, please have some sense.”
Raghu replies, “Boss says he finds comfort and cordiality in our secluded house. On top of that he is my superior and I have to obey him. As you know a peon’s job is to follow orders.”
“That I don’t know. I can’t even finish the cloth that I had begun to weave. Cook this and fry that – I am cramped in the kitchen. Catering and cleaning. I don’t run a vendor here. From now on I don’t give a damn to your kowtowing. Don’t bring them back, I’m telling you. I will spare no energy to serve them.”
The wound on her body from the injury of her husband’s bashing hasn’t healed yet. Last week she was beaten with firewood for her retorts and disobedience. That cold January night Raghu’s bosses stayed back at his house. From time to time they giggled having drunk heavily. Sometimes they hurled loud abuses. Later they all passed out. Ragu laid on his bed. Some of them were on Sanahanbi’s bed and some other on the floor. She, along with the three children, freezing with cold sat near the fireplace. They couldn’t catch a wink of sleep. They waited for the night to pass. In the morning she cleaned an awful pile of vomit, clasping her nose with her fingers.
It’s Sunday. Her three children are playing at the porch.
“Hey Chanchan, hurry up. Go get some drinks and eatables. I will mimic baba’s officers. I will make a drinking face and play drunk.”
“Hey Chanchan, you must get my Jarda and cigarette first. With a mouthful of paan, I will puff out long streak of smoke. I will play boss who laughs loud.”
The two older brothers ordered.
“Shut up! I am the ‘Sir’. Don’t you know, knucklehead? ‘Sir’ is more powerful. Chanchan, you must take his order first.”
“Cut it out. Boss is more powerful. Take his order first.”
“Sir’s order first!”
“Boss’s order first!”
The two kids start to scuffle. Sanahanbi comes out in haste from the kitchen with a ladle in hand.
“That father of yours is more powerful, you children of a lowly servant! Don’t you dare me to turn you into cicadas with this ladle whacked on your heads. Try playing drunk any longer.”
The two kids drooped seeing their mother fuming. In a sobbing tone the little daughter uttered, “I won’t anymore”, following the mother’s stern caution against playing such game.
“Sanahanbi, prepare food for six persons. Today is holiday. My bosses want to spend some good time here.” The husband ordered.
This makes already infuriated wife implode. Deep inside she boils with anger however like a frozen ice stays still. No answer.
“You have to prepare only eronba and champhoot. I need to get chicken. And listen; go get some soft rice from the locality. The one we have is hard to chew.”
Even now Sanahanbi hasn’t uttered a single word. Raghu continued,
“The house is in a mess. Anyway, they won’t be sleeping over anymore. That day they got mindful of your disapproval. They said they are embarrassed. It’s been a week that they haven’t set foot in the house. Isn’t it? But today you shouldn’t repeat the scene. I am sure they will leave a cut of their gambling. Quick, get on with your work. And where have the kids gone, make them available for errands. Everything must be prepared when I come back.”
All awful things like pieces of torn card, paan spittle, cigarette buds, oil-stained utensils, scattered leftover bones on the floor, crop up in Sanahanbi’s eyes. Any slight remark of discontent opens up a verbal duel. ‘So, another night of toil and beating!’ But today her mind begins to wander. ‘Is there a way out now?’
Quickly she gets up on feet. She puts on new clothes, mounts her little daughter on her back. Holding the hand of her second son she hurries out to the porch. Her eyes suddenly meet with Raghu’s, who was about to climb up the porch carrying chickens on both hands. Startled, Raghu asks, “Where are you going?”
In a calm and elegant tone Sanahanbi replied with a smile, “Today is Sunday. Need to show my unhealed leg to a doctor. Will also visit my parents as well”, shows her wound, “It’s been long, will have lunch there. I have kept your share cooked. And for the rest you may please do the needful. It’s a holiday as you know.”
She walks away without waiting for husband’s words.
Raghu was completely baffled by Sanahanbi’s conduct. But he realises the rights her wife wants to assert. He was left with not a single word to stop his wife.
After a furtive glance at the chicken in his hands, he looks at the confident steps, the rhythm of her feminine form. Taking a deep breathe, he savours the soft and soothing fragrance of her words that have come to settle inside of him.
(English translation Bobo Khuraijam )
Bobo Khuraijam is an independent filmmaker. When not making a film he muses with journalism.