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Designs of Undivided Bengal

May 7, 2019
Moody Mo

As she walked into the train compartment. She saw the gaps in between the boogies. Mrinalini often wondered what would happen if the connecting iron chains would disentangle and the compartment would lose its chain of continuity. As she stared at the ugly black soot filled track below. She could see her life in those moments when it derailed from its original destination of familiarity.

Mornings in a train still remain her favourite hour to get to the steel wash basin and praying a bridge doesn’t come while she is washing her face. The water would spill all over her neat cotton dress. As she negotiated the timing of the shaking of the compartment and her clever manoeuvre of unnecessary wetness. She was woken from her unheard thoughts.

The same old man who kept watching her in the compartment came and stood close to the window. He smiled at her as she blew out the water. He told her that you must be like the train charting new territories and finding resting spots in between to see the changing sky colour and the changing landscape.

He said he was Amal. When Mrinalini told him her name. He said it was Tagore’s wife’s name. He told her of the huge Tagore household where Mrinalini lived forever pining for the love of her poet husband.

Mrinalini was only 12 years old when she was chosen to be the second wife in the illustrious Tagore household. She was not highly educated for the progressive Bengali aristocratic household yet she was a quick learner. Her intelligence was not noticed ever in the narrow shroud of her beauty.  Tagore’s Mrinalini after 15 years of marriage wrote her first letter to Tagore, her husband.

Now as the years have passed the train journey still remains etched in Mrinalini’s mind. She recalled the connection of Tagore’s women and her equal connection to all the beautiful things in her home, she was also one of those things.

Every time she watches a train from a distance what remains is the conversation between Amal and her. He held the strong iron handle as he alighted from the train and waved to her. She waved back to say goodbye. But the remnants of those piercing eyes into her own telling her the truth gets mixed with the loud banging of the tracks and her reality. It silences her yet the muffled scream remains.

As Mrinalini wore her kaan pasha which was the traditional undivided Bengal design, one of her favourites, the gold earring held the weight of Ma with her turbulent mutinies of finding herself in the cold hills of terror-stricken Shillong. There were no lockers those days. Ma had a traditional engraved wooden jewellery box. She kept most of her jewels in that box hidden below clothes in the cupboard. Mrinalini knew the hidden spot.

Ma looked beautiful with the kaan pasha in the flush of her youth. These traditional ear studs were part of the Shringar of a Bengali woman.

Mrinalini recalled Amal’s eyes. And she thought of her inherent nature of being free, fearless, quick of tongue and always ready to give back as good as she gets.

Mrinalini wore the kaan pasha and her bindi and she knew she could never be the domesticated woman most men seek. She would be crazy to most people, as long as she remained beautiful, eloquent and cerebral.

That is the fate of most of them. How would she be different? The kaan pasha covered most of her ear. But the shrill loud voice of reckoning, the jewellery couldn’t withhold.

Bengal Culture, Fashion Blogger, Fashion Clothes, Moody Mo

The Defiant Devi

April 29, 2019
Moody Mo

As I walk out into the burning scorching sun of the summer Calcutta home, I leave my trail of the sari palla falling and failing behind me. I failed as a woman you put on a pedestal, I failed for all the conditions and the confidence you had in my acceptance of your rules. Every time you flexed your muscle, I cowered because I knew my strength lied in my mind and not in my body. I knew you didn’t want to see the naked me. The naked truth of not being a Devi but a mere human being fraught with failings and follies.

I was tired and exhausted playing nurse for your incompetence when you fell ill and you couldn’t hold your health and spirit, I was angry for your tenderness towards me when I towed your line. Your approval of my morality when you spoke about the woman next door, who met men at her free will. Like she was some sort of a crazy person who needs counselling. I was dejected every time you pulled the hand brake when I tried to learn to drive because you thought my free reins would thwart your incessant need to be in control.

But you failed in navigating my path ahead because I had silently charted my own path. I am the Devi.

The Devi Blouse

The Devi Blouse

This summer noon was different. I felt the spirit of the noir goddess envelope me in her fierce nature. She was the epitome of all that is dark and divine. She isn’t the Devi who is demure. She is Kali the goddess of wrath. She marches on nude with her hair let down and her breasts are covered with the skull necklace of Asuras. She fought each one of them and as each Asura arose from each drop of blood she finally drank his blood to stop the birth of one more Asura. Devi is noir, merciless with evil, loves her meat and her drink. She isn’t the domesticated Lakhshmi. She is the noir Devi.

And you worship her every morning as the demure Devi but refuse to see her your own Devi in her naked truth after you open your eyes from your daily prayer. I hope you realise you are failing your own devout delusion. The Devi is the reincarnation of the years of turmoil she has endured in your bloody hands.

And there are Devis everywhere, under the fading sunlight and the receding moon. She is tired of you putting her up on a pedestal and stopping her from being the mere human spirit that she is.

The Devi on my blouse is Satyajit Rays’s classic film where Sharmila is worshipped as the reincarnation of the noir goddess because her father-in-law had a dream. That his daughter in law was a reincarnation of the Goddess Kali. To the utter horror of her husband who watched his wife being worshipped as a deity and eventually she starts believing that she is truly the Devi.

My Devi is in you and in me, she is in the trains, buses and roads where she fights against this conditioned mindset of how celestial she ought to be.

Devi is divine, demure and destruction. She is in you and in me. As we pack the tiffin boxes for our families with one eye on the clock and also wear our grey on our parting, she is everywhere and yet nowhere.