Many children loose their parents in childhood. Sometimes due to death of a parent or divorce and separation between them. I must have been a little more than six years old. I can still recall the day, the shock, sorrow and the loneliness that followed from that day.
When I came home from school in the afternoon I found the front door locked. It was not unusual. Maa did that quite often. She would go to buy either vegetables and other stuff or go to watch movie. My Uncle's house was in the same locality. I used to go there and eat lunch with my cousins and slept in their house in the afternoon. I would do my homework with them. Then Maa would phone aunt and send Buroda to take me home.
Buroda was a young hand in my father's business. He stayed in one of the rooms of my father's workshop to safeguard the workshop from intruders at night. Buroda was much older than me but I was very friendly with him.
I used to ask him, "Buroda why is your name Buro when you are young,strong and handsome?"
He used to laugh aloud "ho ho" and say people have names like that in his village.
Then he asked," what's wrong in being a Buro ? "
Then I used to laugh and say, " Maa says Buro is another name for Lord Shiva ".
Buroda said, " Maa is right. My grandmother was a devotee of Lord Shiva.She thought if she remembered GOD'S name all the time and suddenly died she would go straight to heaven and Lord Shiva. So she named me Buro after lord Shiva ".
I would then roll my eyes upwards and say, "really"? And we used to laugh together.
So on that fateful afternoon when I came back from school Buroda was waiting for me outside the door. His face was sombre.
He said, "I will take you to your mamabari for few days ".
I asked, "why Buroda?"
He said, "your Maa has gone away for a few days. That's why I am taking you to your mamabari .You will stay there for some days".
I said in protest, " I can stay with my cousins".
Buroda said, " boro babu told me to take you there" in a voice which broached no argument from my side. I became quite.
Buroda called my father borobabu.
I had heard Maa and Baba fighting in the morning. They fought most of the time. But it was not like that when I was a baby. Baba and Maa never fought then. My aunt had told me once. But recently when my father's business expanded and he was away most of the time Maa and Baba started having those fights.
I said to Buroda, " I know why Baba wants me to go to mamabari. It's because Maa and Baba had a bad fight and Maa has gone away somewhere, isn't it? "I said with the uncanny intuition of a seven year old.
Buroda got angry and said, "don't be paaka otherwise I will box your ears".
I became quite.
I was greeted with affection by my grandparents and mama. I stayed there for 1 week. I didnot like being there. All my friends were in my home town and I was missing my school.I wanted to go home.
I called my parents from grandfather's phone. Baba picked it up from the other side .
I said, "Baba, I don't want to stay here. I want to go to school and play with my friends ".
" ok I will send somebody to bring you back " he said and cut the phone before I could ask him about Maa.
When I returned home Maa was still not there and nobody would tell me the truth.
Then the policemen came and spoke to Baba.
My cousins said Maa had died in a car accident. I cried the whole day.
People have a way of gossiping, spreading rumours and telling tales. So eventually my friends heard and started avoiding me. Then one day I had a fight with a boy and he said, " your mother was a bad woman. She ran away with another man. It was good that she died. All bad women should die.You are her child so you also should die. Your Baba will bring a stepmother and she will beat you and drive you away".
I fought. I punched his face. But I saw my classmates taking his side. I felt abandoned and cheated by my friends.
From that day I didnot want to go to school but Baba insisted that I go to school and do well in studies.
He said, " when you excel in your studies you will have friends again ".
I did not want any of my classmates to be my friends again. But there was some truth in what baba said.
The value of mother is understood by those children who loose their mother in childhood. I felt the pain more because I had nobody with whom I could share my sorrows. My aunt started ill treating me. If mother die early children start looking at aunts as mother. But when I went to my aunt to get a little love and sympathy she pushed me away. She must have thought Baba would give my responsibility to her and she did not want that. My cousins also pushed me away imitating my aunt.
I heard my uncle admonish my aunt. That made aunt very angry. My cousins got angry with me saying their parents were fighting because of me.
Perhaps aunt hated my Maa secretly and was jealous of her but didn't show it when she was alive.
I stayed home and played with Buroda.
Baba was away most of the time. When he was home we used to have dinner together. He used to tell me, " I have bought land in that place. Do you know what will be its value in future?. You will be very rich when you grow up".
I kept quite and ate my food silently. What was the point of arguing with a man who equated everything with money? I thought.
Now my story will take a supernatural turn. You may or may not believe it but it is true.
One night I was lying in bed and thinking of Maa.I closed my eyes and turned sideways waiting for sleep to come. I felt a cold icy hand touch my forehead. Fear gripped me. My heart in my mouth I lay there praying to GOD. Then I heard my name being called. It was the way my Maa used to call me. I forgot my fear and opened my eyes. Maa was sitting beside me just like she used to when she was alive. She was wearing all her jewellery. I had heard aunt say that Maa had run away with all the jewellery. Maybe Maa was wearing all her jewellery when she died. She did love jewellery.
I was too young to understand what it was to see a ghost. So I was more curious than afraid.I was also strangely happy that Maa had come back.
I said," Maa, how did you come hear? You are dead .You should be in heaven".
She said, in a voice,which seemed to come from far away," I have come specially for you".
Her eyes were filled with tears of sadness.
She said, " don't be afraid of me".
Though it was easier said than done but my fears went away gradually and I started talking to Maa as I spoke to her when she was alive.
I told her everything that had happened since she went away. I told her what aunt said. I told her about the bad behaviour of the boys at school,bad behaviour of aunts and cousins. I told her they only pretended to be good on the outside but were now showing their real nature. I told her how the the servants misbehaved with me because she was gone and they all thought nobody would punish them anymore. She listened as she had never listened when she was alive.
My heart became light after all the outpouring of misery and I started feeling sleepy.
I said, " Maa will you go away if I fall asleep?"
She said, " I will always come to you whenever and wherever you call me. You will be able to see me, touch me and talk to me but you must not tell that to anybody because they will not be able to see me and think that you are mad. They will get an excuse to get rid of you and your Baba will believe what they say".
I asked innocently, " but Maa if I can see you why can't baba see you"?
She said, " You see me because you love me and I love you. Your baba can't see me because he doesn't love me like you even though I love him. Why will others see me.I don't come for them".
That night I slept soundly.Next day I had a fever. The fever subsided after sometime.
Whenever I called Maa she would come.She used to talk to me .I told her about school, my studies, my favourite subject which she said was also her favourite subject.
Everytime when she went away,I got fever which went away on its own after sometime.
Oneday while coming from school with Buroda I thought of telling him something of what was happening. He was the only person I could trust.
I said, " Buroda, do you believe in ghosts?"
"Oh my God, you must never talk about ghosts. There are spirits all around us. We can't see them because they don't have bodies. But some ghosts are very bad. They can do great harm.Hari OM, Hari OM, " said Buroda chanting the name of his GOD.
Buroda was terrified of ghosts. He said that in his village bad ghosts were always wanting to get into the bodies of unsuspecting people. Then the people started doing odd things and saying odd things.
Only a very able Ojha who knew the right mantras could see the ghosts. Bad ghosts only harassed those people who were weak. Nice ghosts are also there .
So that was that.After listening to Buroda I felt he would scream if I told him about Maa. But Buroda eventually got to see Maa.
One evening I was in my room doing my schoolwork. Maa had come and she was helping me with ideas. Buroda entered my room with bournvita and saw my picture book hanging in the air. He was shocked. He couldn't see Maa holding the book in her hand.He only saw the book.
Maa told me what had happened and before Buroda could scream and run I got hold of him and said,
"Buroda , don't be afraid.Maa has come.You can't see her because you are grown up".
Buroda was trembling.He said, "Maa has come?"
I said , " Yes Buroda".
From that day Buroda knew everything about my conversations with Maa and kept my secret in his heart. Maa convinced him about her presence by telling him many things that I or anybody else couldn't possibly know except Buroda because he had come to our house as a help before my mother's wedding.
One day Baba dropped a bombshell.He said he had decided to do a puja for Maa's peace of soul. I turned pale on the face.
I told Maa about it. I asked, " Maa will the puja hurt you and drive you away"?
"No, it won't hurt me. I won't stop coming because I will not get solace in this way" she said.
( to be cont. ..)