The Treasure

TreasureThere was so much clutter in the room, the broken roof was a relief. It allowed air and light inside the musty over crowded room, which was full of old furniture and newspapers. “Why doesn’t he get the room cleaned ever?” Amravati thought to herself. The dust now irritating her nose, she rubbed her nose hard, but wasn’t able to escape the loud series of sneezes that followed.  “Oh God! I will die sneezing”, Amravati thought to herself. But this was the only good place to hide, no one will come looking for her here, she knew. She just wanted to be away from her family, wanted to be alone.This was an old attic room, which no one had used, and since her mother’s death, so she was told, it was used as a dumping ground for old stuff. She cleared the dust with her duppatta and sat on a broken chair. She looked around and saw an old hand crafted table with a yellow flower motif and a bright red color tin box. This couldn’t have been my dad’s choice, Amravati surmised. According to Amravati her father lacked taste and nothing colorful or beautiful could be his choice, in fact the old colorless aluminium trunk was definitely once used by her father, she concluded, as she stared at the trunk distastefully. Her eyes roamed from one pice to another, as she judged, which one was her fathers. Something at the centre of the room caught her attention, as if it had just appeared. How could she have not seen a bright parrot green wooden box with beautifully carved butterflies on it? Amravati couldn’t close her mouth, she gasped at the intricately carved butterflies, how could this box find place in her house? she wondered. Whom could it belong to? She was curious. She quickly moved to hold the box and gently blew the dust from it, her lips making a fine ‘O’.  She wiped her lips with the back of her hand, just in case she had some dust sitting on her. The lock was rusty and came off with a light tug. The hinges were rusty and cracked as the box opened.

A dried flat rose and a jasmine gajra greeted Amravati to the inner realms of the box, which contained a different world within itself. A small card size painting of a woman clad in a orange and light green checked sari with thin gold border, smiled at her coyly. Amravati was struck by the soft eyes that looked at her adoringly, the gaze made Amravati’s eyes misty with tears. She knew this had to be ‘mother’. She caught her tears on her lips with her tongue. Salt, she thought, but this is so sweet, this moment of just looking at her mother gazing at her lovingly, unconditionally. Amravati’s tears couldn’t stop, it was as if a river, which had been blocked or dried up had resurfaced and was flowing.

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The Birth

Amravati's birth
It was a sultry, sunny afternoon. Some noisy kids were playing on the roofed terrace in the neighborhood. Everything looked bright and there was sun in everything. The colored clothes that were drying on the rope looked like beautiful colored fairies dancing to the tune of the wind, they were warm and everything smelt of the sun. The Earth smelt of the Sun. You will know what I am talking about, if you have been in a sunny afternoon in a village mud house. The description of the smell itself will transport you to that afternoon, to experience the love making of the Earth and the Sun, which creates such wondrous, sensuous and warm Indian afternoons. It was such a bright afternoon, when Amravati was born in a small corner room of the village mud house. Sometime back, there had been groans and cries of the mother trying to push the baby out of her system. But now everything was still and silent. Even the leaves on the trees were not moving. The Sun seemed to be covered by the dust in the soundless wind. The afternoon grew patchy and a new born girl’s cry cast a dark shadow on the village.

A woman and two men standing at the door of the room rushed inside, to see what remained of Amravati’s mother. A young woman lay on a bloody bed, whose lower body was completely drenched in blood. An old woman held, a puny, little, blood and fluid, smeared baby in her outstretched arms, expecting someone to take notice of her. Amravati was crying incessantly, as if complaining angrily about something to someone. Suddenly the new borns cries were smothered by loud moans and wails of her father, who held on to Amravati’s mother’s body tightly. “Don’t go…don’t go”, he wailed. The afternoon was filled with sounds of sorrow and grief. The relatives and other village folks rushed in to console a distraught and broken husband. Amravati was now quite. She had bathed and was neatly put on a corner bed by the good old woman, who then sat besides her.

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Ambika – A glimpse of Amravati

Upset woman

Amravati was stunned. She listened to her neighbor, wail. Her neighbor was dressed in a bright pink sari with a green and gold border, her heavy jhumki dangled from her ear lobes, like a pendulum gone wrong. The kajal that was adorning her eyes a few minutes back was now all smudged on her fleshy cheeks. She was hysterical. “Ambika is not in her room, she has run away on her wedding day. Amu, find her, go get her, Amu.” Amravati’s neighbor kept repeating as more people started pouring into the room. Most of them were Harini kaku’s relatives, who had come for Ambika’s wedding. Harini Kaku’s fingers dug into Amravati’s shoulders and she continued to wail. Amravati put her hands around the crying woman’s wrist and gently pulled both her hands down. “Shh…shh…” said Amravati. The background chatter of relatives was increasing. “Where could she have gone?”, “She must be still at the station.”, “If we go now, we could catch her.” “I will kill my daughter, if she ever did such a thing.”” Girls should not be allowed to step outside the house.” “Look what happens when you give too much freedom to girls.” The chatter kept increasing. Amravati, firmly held Harini kaku and made her sit on the sofa. She held her there, as if making sure that, she doesn’t stand and start wailing again. Somehow Amravati knew that, if, Harini kept sitting, she would keep sobbing and taking to herself gently. Amravati then turned to the clamoring crowd and placed her finger over her lips, almost like a threat. Suddenly there was a lull in the room.

Amravati felt like laughing, her stomach churned with hysteria, how she would have loved this drama to continue. But instead she decided to be sober and centered. “Ambika, went to my house to rest, she hadn’t slept in weeks, with all the wedding noise in the house.”  I will go and get her. The sudden silence seemed to deepen even more, Harini kaku’s had a strange expression on her face, almost like she had lost her nose and didn’t know about it. A splash of icy cold water fell on the gossiping relatives and they dispersed.

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Amravati sat in a corner, knees folded at her bosom and her long hands tightened into a hug as she cradled herself between sobs. Her brown and grey hair was tousled and soft curls framed her petite tear stained face. Her black- brown cloudy eyes were full of remorse and hurt…her wrinkles told tales of a life long lived, the harshness of her features showed the struggle that life had been. Her whole body looked beaten by the whip of time. She gently blew her nose on the crumpled beige cotton saree wrapped around her tiny frame. As she did so, a thread of the well-worn saree got entangled with her nose ring. She squinted her eyes and struggled to remove it, a curse left her parched lips. She kept muttering to herself as the thread refused to give up on the nose ring; it was getting painful while she kept tugging on the thread. Amravati got up and slowly moved towards the window where some light was filtering in, she continued to concentrate on the task at hand. The room was shadowy with very little light. It had a musty smell due to lack of ventilation, and probably it was closed for a long time. The grey paint was chipping off in every corner; the floor was a cold concrete without tiles. There was one small plastic table with a deformed steel jug and an aluminum plate with hard Roti on it. There was only one small wooden window, which opened a little. Opening this window was difficult and then it became a huge task to close it at night if you wanted to ward off the bitter cold that forced itself in. The door to the room was large, with heavy thick chain to lock it both from inside and out. There was a sigh of relief, which echoed gently in the room as Amravati successfully rescued her beautiful nose ring from the tugging thread of the pathetic old saree.