On the move
She was not even twelve when she saw her mom kissing Sudhin uncle. They were all traveling to Chandigarh to meet her father; when she woke up in the morning on the train with sleepy eyes, the first thing she wanted to know was how far was Chandigarh; she bent down from the upper berth, saw her mom kissing Mr Dasgupta, occupying the middle berth. Babu, her brother, five, was sleeping then with her mom on the lower berth…little did he know what his mom was doing…he was perhaps dreaming his usual dreams, fairy godmother that looked like her mom, hugging him, feeding him, kissing him.
This stays with her even today. She called her mom names, never understood why still her father was committed to her! Years later, she saw her father on the high, making it with her aunt out in the garden in a moonlit night. Her mom was then cooking in the kitchen. She just heard her aunt say… ‘O so now I know…that’s why didi had to go to him?’
She never discussed this with Babu, not even after her mom died. But these questions about how elders live went deep inside her, she was thankful to God that at least Babu didn’t have to witness those incidents. Two years later, when she was beginning to enjoy her teens, the whole family went to Digha with Mr and Mrs Dasgupta. On the beach Mr Dasgupta took her to a silent place, held her tightly and tried to molest her. Furious, she went to her parents and complained, her father hit the man badly, but that was all, the teenage girl didn’t know why the two families did not part. Of course, she never spoke to the virile uncle anymore.
Sutonuka, instead of becoming a potential criminal, as a psychiatrist told her, became a healer. No, she did not find any letter in any cupboard, no one told her why her parents did what they did, she went searching for answers everywhere possible, she discovered Mrs Dasgupta to be a very honorable lady, her aunt’s husband to be happy with the marriage, and she herself was very happy when ‘others’ saw their family as picture perfect. Perhaps not knowing the truth is bliss.
She was sixteen when her mom died. In the last couple of years, she became best of friends with her. She understood her not only as an erudite who would be comfortable talking about scriptures as well as novels and poems of Tagore, Bankim, Shakespeare, Flaubert, Camus and so on, but also as an outstanding mother. When she’d laugh the sky would fall in love with the earth. If people still remembered her, it was also because of her melodious laughter that had a healing effect on people. She refused to let her mother be defined by only that one incident… this wisdom came to her much later.
At forty-two, she has a broken marriage. Apparently she broke off because her husband was impotent. She works in IT and still takes care of her ex-husband by paying all his bills. He lost his job because he was charged of stealing and was also an under-performer. She stays with her daughter now who has decided not to marry and Sutonuka is okay with it, her ex-husband lives in another city where luckily he has a house of his own. Her daughter simply adores her, doesn’t respect her father at all… why not, respect has to be earned.
She also has another profession…it’s not a profession because she doesn’t charge anything, it is rather her passion, she calls it her raison d’être!
She heals traumatized children. Children whose parents had either abandoned them, or whose parents continuously fight with each other. She heals also those whose either parent has outrageous extra-marital affair. She is doing it quite successfully. How no one knows. She hugs them and says only one thing… shh… mum’s the word… she says “I am indebted to all of you.”
She tries to look for the unanswered questions even today, seemed to have responded to some of them herself, through her life. Whenever she closes her eyes, or becomes unmindful, she has this impression of being on the move, going nowhere on a train.