Maidens of Fate
Shipping (per book) : 50
Genre : Fiction
TARGET AUDIENCE: Teenagers, Adults
Pages : 100
Maidens of Fate
The position of women is unique in India. On one hand, we worship them as representatives of the Primordial Mother Goddess, but on the other hand, they are subjected to numerous atrocities. This ‘weltanschauung’, a comprehensive conception in our minds of the power of a primordial mother goddess in each woman is present in every Indian’s life and resonates with the belief that this feminine superpower will look after all her children in the form of a mortal mother, whose love for her children is considered the greatest in this world. However, at the same time, a girl child is not desirable in the majority of the households here. This is such a paradox that has amazed everybody all across the world. ‘Maidens of Fate’ tells the stories of twelve such Indian women in their various trials and tribulations in this vast land. All the stories in this book have been partially inspired by real-life women and the various situations that they find themselves in, with love, loss, joy, grief and happiness. The maidens here give us an understanding of what women go through emotionally from the perspective of Indian society and its collective psyche. These stories in this book are not only a unique read for all the women; they will also enable the men in this country to examine their role from a broader perspective as fathers, brothers, husbands, uncles and friends. All the stories in ‘Maidens of Fate’ are very interesting and will feel like edgy thrillers.
The spongy cotton clouds were fluttering high above the horizon, swaying as if to the tunes of a divine flute, when Mrs. Dev just walked into the classroom and Srimoyee had to turn her attention to the blackboard again. Srimoyee had taken her seat today at the edge of the bench, which was towards the vast window protruding to the wide valley outside, below their compound. She would repeatedly take her seat at this side, either with the frontbenchers or with the back. All she needed was the window. That would give her the chance to look outside between the classes. Their school was situated at the Northern end of the town atop the steepest peak of the valley. The classrooms were situated at the back of the school compound, where the land gave away to undulating tilt making wave like formation until it dissolved into the horizon. Srimoyee’s father dropped her every day to the school in the morning on his scooter, and she would return with her friends in the afternoon. This was her general routine and she was always more eager to attend school rather than staying at home. Partly because, it was due to the presence of her numerous friends with whom she would enjoy a lively chatter while giggling their hearts out. But partly it was also due to the numerous vistas of the nearby valleys that their school compound afforded due to its excellent location. Srimoyee often marveled at the wide tapestry of the conflicting images outside her classroom window, which gave her many opportunities to ruminate over them and then draw. She was an excellent painter. The geometry of the images on her drawing book engaged her thoughts more, rather than the geometry of the theorems and angles. She would draw, sketch and colour whatever clobbered her mind. She knew she was good at it, but her mom never supported her efforts. It was her dad who encouraged her by buying her all the required painting materials. He would also buy her numerous storybooks of a wide variety, which would suit her tender age. Srimoyee was addicted to storybooks. She would not take a breather until she had flapped through the pages of a new book, which had arrived. Either it was a Harry Potter novel or an Anandamela magazine or a Tintin comic book, Srimoyee was spellbound all the same. Since her dad had high hopes about her painting capabilities, he probably wanted her imagination to run wild by reading books of different kinds, and hence invariably took an active interest in what she must read. Nevertheless, this was a growing concern with her mom who was dead worried about Srimoyee’s studies. Not that Srimoyee was a poor student, by no means. However, she did not belong to that elusive first ten which mesmerized any guardian of that time. In addition, her mom’s worries were exacerbated by the results of their neighbor, Bijoli, who was a topper of Srimoyee’s class. Bijoli’s mom did not make them sit with any peace either. She would often drop to their home now and then, and narrate with glowing terms how her daughter had outwitted everybody in the class and brought marks of unimaginable numbers. Bijoli moreover was a topper in the various science Olympiads of their region, thereby making herself a cynosure in everybody’s eyes. Had it not been for the absence of a proper laboratory in her school, Bijoli and the other toppers would have brought more accolades to their phrontistery by participating in the various science exhibitions across the country. The Headmistress of Srimoyee’s school often cribbed about the lack of this vital facility, but she could not manage the fund to erect it.
One fine weekend, Srimoyee’s father took her to the Museum of Natural History. It was their Sunday routine where the father and daughter would go to a place with the drawing equipments and food in their satchels, which would enable Srimoyee to find subjects to draw. She was more taken in by natural objects and landscapes, rather than portraits. With the help of her father, she had already seen and studied the masters of landscape paintings; either it was John Constable with his English landscape depictions or the poetic outpourings of Claude Monet. Srimoyee however was more excited to learn and study the Hudson River School movement of landscape portrayals. She was fascinated by the likes of legends like Thomas Cole, Frederic Edwin Church and others, a group of 19th century artists who drew the scenes of the landscapes around the Hudson River valley and exuded aesthetics and finesse hitherto unseen in the history of art. Srimoyee had taken a vow in her mind to be like them. When they went to that museum that Sunday, she sat at one corner and started drawing the skeleton of a mammoth, while her dad went for a stroll in the other rooms. In due course of time, she got into a trance and her hand and fingers moved with a precision, which only come from the deepest recesses of a person’s humongous mental capacity. Srimoyee got oblivious to the external world and all she cared about at that moment were the shapes and sizes of the image that was taking a form on her drawing book. Hence, she did not notice the tall gentleman with a white beard who was eagerly looking at her sketch. After she had completed and looked up, the gentleman gave her a smile and asked ‘Daughter, how long have you been painting in your life?’ Her dad just arrived at that moment and gave the man his answer. The white bearded gentleman then introduced himself as the owner of numerous art galleries in the town and he offered Srimoyee and her dad an exhibition of her paintings.
The next few days went in a whirlwind. Srimoyee took a break from her school, went to the workshop of the gallery owner, and painted as per his instructions. Within a couple of days though, she finished whatever was asked of her, and then she went back to her classes. As days passed on, she forgot about it and got busy in her studies and her preparation for the upcoming annual day of her school. But one fine morning, she got a call and upon responding, found the gallery owner on the other side of the line. ‘How are your beti?’ After the pleasantries, he sounded super excited and informed Srimoyee that all her paintings were sold on the very first day of the exhibition itself. ‘You are presently in possession of a large sum of money, tell me how do I transfer it to you, or would you come yourself to collect it from my office?’ He asked her. Srimoyee thought for a few seconds. Suddenly, something came to her mind like a flash of lightning and she instructed the man about her decision.
The annual day event of the school went as usual with all the celebrations, which was a norm with this institution. Various children participated in the function with their performances. Most of the guardians attended with their kids. The class toppers collected their merit certificates and other prizes. Bijoli’s mom looked at the others including at Srimoyee’s parents with unbridled pride and joy when her daughter went to the dais. The time came when the Head Mistress got up to give the vote of thanks for closing the ceremony. When she took the microphone and hushed everybody for a special announcement, the entire crowd felt on the edge thinking about what was to come next. The head mistress then proceeded with her speech. She announced that in the history of this school, many students had brought many glories to its precincts. But nobody till date had contributed the entire sum of money from the proceeds of her first painting exhibition towards enabling the school to build its first science laboratory ever, and that too a current student. She then gave out the name of Srimoyee and urged everybody to give her a standing ovation. The entire crowd erupted with joy and Bijoli and the other classmates rushed and embraced Srimoyee to a tight hug and then took her to the dais. However, Srimoyee was too elated to utter any word while the crowd kept on cheering.
The beaming Sun outside seemed to burn the flesh of anybody moving at this time of the day on the roads, just when Nayanika was packing off her bags in her room after lunch for her impending trip. It was already the end of October, with Diwali hardly a week away, but Mumbai’s heat was unrelenting. This maximum city of India did ne’er have the whiff of a proper winter ever; where temperatures would drop down to make the gargantuan of human mass of this place shiver with a delightful humor. But Nayanika loved this city all the same. She was born here and in spite of her brilliant results in both school and college, she stayed here for further studies, evading the call of Ivy League of Western countries. She even found an employment right in this city at one of the top advertising agencies. Not that her parents ever complained. In fact, they were relieved to find their only child snuggly and happily staying with them. Although Nayanika and her dad Mr. Kapoor were not on speaking terms for the last few months, but she would not like to think of that at this moment. The minute saw her bursting with inexplicable exhilaration inside her heart, as she went with the motion of packing. She and her two bosom friends, Mala and Nita, were going for a road trip to Goa tomorrow. They had planned this together for a long time, ever since this triumvirate had feasted with wondrous hypnotic gaze, like the rest of the nation, the excursion of Sid, Sameer and Akash to Goa from the delightful Hindi movie ‘Dil Chahta Hai’. Nayanika merely could not wait anymore, as she wanted to hit the outdoors right at that moment. The blazing silver beaches of Goa, together with the immaculate breeze of the rolling Western Ghats hills, was beckoning her to take shelter in their coffer at the earliest. All three of them had managed a week’s leave from their offices together after many hassles. As she almost completed cramming her travel bag, Mrs. Kapoor, her mother reminded Nayanika from the other room to carry enough sunscreen lotion with her together with an umbrella.
The Three Musketeers started very early in the next morning from Nayanika’s beach side house, as a hapless cuckoo cooed from the front porch of their garden just when they were riding out, probably biding goodbye to them for the long journey ahead . Nayanika took her Toyota Innova and they planned to drive each one of them in turn. Mrs. Kapoor came to the gate to see them off. Mr. Kapoor however was quite conspicuous by his absence. Nayanika and her friends decided to have their breakfast on road at some decent looking dhaba. They drove off in unadulterated excitement and the moment when their car had finally hit the highway; all three of them left their worries behind, or so they initially felt. As the concrete jungle of a vast city slowly gave way to acres of green all around, with paddy fields, billowing hills and great masses of water bodies, Nayanika became a tad melancholy. She was having a serious show down with her father for quite some time now, with whom she was the closest. She felt genuinely remorseful now, not having even conveyed him goodbye before embarking on this journey. Even after, driving for sometime in this broad expansive highway, Nayanika felt embittered and there remained a bad taste in her mouth thinking about the whole affair. Slowly, her mind went back to a party two years ago. At that gathering, amidst the haughty glitterati that was generally a norm with Mumbai when it came to its upper echelons, she met Dr. Prakash. He seemed quite different from the rest of the pretentious crowd of that event. After they were introduced by a common friend, both had hit it right from the first note of conversation and increasingly became enamored with each other. Gradually, as the days passed into weeks and the weeks passed into months, they met numerous times and sometimes with the slightest of excuses, before both realized that they had fallen for each other. Nayanika had never met such a charming man before, not that she was dating somebody for the first time in her life. Right from an early age, she grew up with a constant male gaze all around her, people who were continuously eager to throw verses of admiration at her more than her eagerness to receive accolades. Hence, before long; the realization that she was wonderfully attractive also dawned upon her. But Dr. Prakash was a special case. There was something inherently magnetic about him. He seemed like an Indian monk of yore, as cool and calm as a cucumber but as wise as the proverbial grand patriarch. There always seemed a halo burning at the back of his head, signifying a divine like presence to whomever he met. Well, everything would seem just so perfect for Nayanika then, before one would learn about the fact that the doctor was already married with two kids. Not that he had ever suppressed that to her, but for Nayanika, it hardly mattered. She was completely besotted by then and could never think of a world without him. Nayanika’s parents gradually came to know about the matter. Her demure mother protested only once or twice, but her father got furious just like raging molten lava. Ever since, Nayanika had several terrible fights with Mr. Kapoor and after a time, he completely stopped talking to his daughter.
After a hard day’s drive, Nayanika and her friends finally reached Panjim, the glorious capital of the ever-partying state of Goa, late at night and quickly checked into a hotel. The next day, they went to the nearby Dona Paula Point. Nayanika took a beer and stood near the railings, looking at the wide expanse of the water in front of her along with numerous fishing boats, gently swaying to the beat of the water. Goa was much cooler than Mumbai, she felt and the breeze was blowing in their direction too. Nayanika remained transfixed in that same spot for quite some time. The soothing gale was hitting her face with a mild fury, washing her off, of all the worries about her future. She gulped down beer after beer in that tranquil ecstasy. There was something about the ambience of that place with its view of the water birds taking off, from nearby spots in a rhythmic gesture of their fluttering wings, made Nayanika realize how beautiful was God’s creation. She was also intrigued hearing to the talks of the local guide who narrated the tragic legend of the lady of Dona Paula and her doomed love story, after whom this place had been named. However, Nayanika soon became tipsy. She suddenly realized that she had taken a beer too many. Her feet seemed heavy too and she could barely keep her eyes open. She told Mala and Nita and went off to the hotel to rest. Upon reaching, she jumped on to the bed without changing her clothes and fell fast asleep.
When Nayanika woke up, she found herself in an old grandfather chair in a gigantic room made of stone with a Gothic formation but with Corinthian pillars all around. There were carvings on the walls too, which she realized was also of an old style. Before she could make any head or tail of her surroundings, a maid came to her room and addressed her as ‘Lady Dona Paula’, the viceroy’s wife would like to see you at once.’ Nayanika was startled and before she could say anything, the maid rushed and dragged her to the other part of the house, which she found, upon leaving the room that it was actually a palace. When they reached the Lady Viceroy’s room, which had been adorned with some of the finest paintings and embellishments reminiscent of the highest nobility of Europe, the lady herself welcomed Nayanika with open arms. The maid left them in the meantime. Strangely, the Lady Viceroy too addressed her as Dona Paula. Soon, Nayanika also came across a mirror in that room, where she was stupefied to see herself wearing an old styled gown. What was happening! Nayanika found herself in a daze and was dumbstruck. She could not gauge what was happening but at the same time, she seemed too perplexed to form words and speak. The Lady Viceroy then offered her a drink, which she gulped down quickly in the hope that it would stabilize her to decipher finally about what actually was happening all around her. In the meantime, the wife of the viceroy also offered to take her to a walk along the sea line. Nayanika was not herself and she could not say no. It seemed somebody had put her in a spell. Both of them went out and Nayanika found that the palace was close to a cliff, which jutted out into the open sea. The Lady Viceroy and she stood there for some time, taking in the beautiful view of the wide ocean. However, Nayanika’s head was reeling by that time and she had started to feel extremely weak. The Lady Viceroy looked at her and smiled. She then thundered her voice and announced that she had always been quite aware of the fact that Dona Paula, her maid in waiting, was having an affair right under her nose with her husband – the viceroy. Therefore, seizing a chance now, she had poured poison to that drink which Dona Paula had just partaken and saying these, the Lady Viceroy pushed her from that high cliff to the ocean below. As she rolled into that dreadful abyss, Nayanika woke up with a start and found herself on the hotel bed. ‘Aaaaaah’, she thought. ‘It was a dream after all. But what a dreadful dream!’
Nayanika kept sitting there for some time. She gave a blank stare and wondered about what she saw. She then suddenly realized something, took her mobile phone, and dialed. As Mr. Kapoor came on the other side of the line, Nayanika told him ‘Hi Papa, I am so sorry to fight with you all these days. However, I deeply apologize for all the pain and agony that you have suffered because of me. I really miss our old days. When I come back, let us go for coffee just like before.’
Saurav Ranjan Datta
About the Author:
Saurav Ranjan Datta is a writer for several national & international publications and a content researcher & creator for many TV shows. He has written numerous articles for Hindustan Times, CNBCTV18, Timeless Travels Magazine UK, Outlook India, Times Journal, Ancient Origins Magazine, Ancient History Encyclopaedia and The Indian Hour. By education, he is a postgraduate in Business Management. He has also worked in the corporate world for the last 15 years in senior positions. He has also written travel booklets, poems for anthologies, etc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Saurav stays in Kolkata with his family.