No Freedom Without Love

Today I guess even my perpetually punctual accounts teacher took a view minutes to just observe the arrival of our saviour from the incessant heat. While I gazed out at the city being refreshed with a heavy shower, my senses soon got engaged with a familiar aroma. Good heavens! It was just what I thought it was- homemade “nimki”. While I gorged on them, my senses seemed to be reverting back to the days when a little girl use to make them for me.

That would precisely be a decade back, when this little girl from the interiors of Assam landed in Kolkata only to satisfy her hunger. She found refuge at our residence and I was her only priority which she fulfilled beyond my parent’s expectations.

She was hardly sixteen and I had just turned three. As time passed, we grew closer and we became friends, rather best of friends. I would anxiously wait for her to pick me up from the Montessori so that we could feed the rabbits in the park, play on the swings to our heats content and then return home only to dance to bollywood songs before I retried to bed for a good afternoon sleep- a must in Bengali families and I can tell you that it is the best nap of the day. My parents were blatantly ignorant of these activities of ours, not because we were trying to hide it from them but because they were busy with work and were too tired when they returned home. I do not hold it against them.

Eventually I had started going to school and she had loads of spare time till I returned. She creatively used this time to learn how to cook, imitating recipes of my mother’s, my mother would cook during weekends, and with her own innovative concoctions, she had churned out great dishes which we relished.

When I had graduated from learning letters to spelling words and knowing their meanings, I vividly remember coming back home and telling her that her name- Purnima meant full moon and that it  suited her well considering she had a perfectly round face. Being inspired by me, she had once secretly confessed her desire to able to read and write. Unable to keep anything inside that little stomach of mine, I just spat it out on the dinner table. I could see the nervousness in her eyes when I said it and she was going to burst into tears, just when by parents said they would get her enrolled in the primary school of our locality for afternoon classes. Her eyes twinkled with joy accompanied by the inevitable brawl of sheer happiness.

But like they say, our happy days are numbered and so were hers. When she was on the verge on completing her primary education, my parents received a call from her parents asking us to send her back for she was going to get married. My parents had conveyed the message to her and she acknowledged it with a mere nod. My stomach had dropped when I heard. I recall not having slept the night and quietly sobbing.

Even though I was around ten then I had sensed she was upset. Just a couple of days before she could leave, I wanted to test the waters for myself. So I remember telling her that she must be excited to have her own home and to be able cook for her family. Her riposte was something like this- I may have the freedom now to choose the dishes I want to cook but I doubt I shall be lucky again to receive the kind of love and respect your parents gave me.


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