Varsha 2023 Stories -Rathin Bhattacharjee


Forgiveness (Kshama) Divine

By Rathin Bhattacharjee


My teacher, Mrs. Kshama (Forgiveness) Guha was an exemplary woman. Short-statured with a milky complexion and always clad in a white sari, she was a fighter of a woman. I consider myself fortunate to have learnt from her close proximity the meaning of divine forgiveness. Let me share her story with you on this glorious morning…..


"Mom, I've brought your future daughter-in-law home. See if she gets the nod or not." Bandhan, told his mother on a dusky day on his return home. Seated on the divan, his mother, Kshama Devi, lifted her eyes from behind the paper and looked at the door of the living room of her third-floor apartment at "Anandadham". Her only child, Bandhan, had stepped inside by then.

The crimson hue of the sundown had cast a glow in the room through the balcony. Though it was not yet time to light the evening lamp. From the "24 Hours" News Channel on TV on the opposite wall, news of the brutal murder of a housewife was heard being read out.


There was a girl standing right behind Bandhan. He was in the habit of bringing his friends, especially girls, home frequently. From his early childhood, Kshama had taught her son not to go sit with his girl friends at the lake or in the park. It was better to bring them home instead, that was what she had taught him. Bandhan always kept these words of his mother in mind.

But Kshama was doubtful of who eventually would end up being her daughter-in-law. If he brought Surupa home today, he would bring Gargi or Lopamudra on the day after. Rarely did he bring the same girl twice at home! And how did she single anyone out of those girls? Or how could she put one of them to the sword? Girls have always fallen for the magnetic pull of men like Bandhan. The son of rich parents, God created Bandhan in all His magnanimity. Nearly six feet tall, slim, with high-powered glasses, whatever he lacked in, if he lacked anything at all, was more than made up for by his unique, inimitable way of speaking. Naturally, girls swooned over Bandhan.

Whenever I think of him, I recollect his mischievous eyes accompanied by the winning smile on his face and that rockstar of a singer, late Kishore Kumar's song on his lips with his hands spread out:

If the furtive glance continues for a little longer/ What's the harm?

If the moment was spent sitting side by side, sharing some heart-to-heart words/

What's the harm?


Pushing her glasses farther up, Kshama looked up at the girl. She was not only a good-looking lass but also seemed a well-bred one.


"What's your name?"


"Priya," was the prompt answer.


"Nice name. What class are you in now? "


Her intent was to gauge the girl up while asking questions.


Fair-skinned, with a mass of curly hair all around and a Colgate smile on an oval-shaped face, she replied, "I am majoring in Microbiology this fall. "

"How have your results been so far?" Having risen to the top from a humble background by means of Education, Kshama wanted to test Priya's interest in studies.


"I have scored above 85% almost in all the semesters." She answered self-assuredly.


"When is the final scheduled to be held? "


" In June..."


"Great. And where do you live? "


"At Lake Gardens." The girl had no hesitation in answering the barrage of questions whatsoever.


"Who else are there at home?


" My dad, mom and my elder sister. My sister is married though." That was the first time Priya added something on her own.


"What is your father? "


"He's a retired businessman, "


"Are you gonna keep asking her questions or invite her in? " Bandhan burged in.


"I'm extremely sorry. What are you standing at the door for? Do get in." Kshama hurriedly asked Priya.


"How did you find your would-be-daughter-in-law, Mom?" Bandhan asked his mother with great curiosity at the dining table that night.


"Good. I have had such a girl in mind for you. Which college did you say she is studying in?"


Kshama was delighted to hear that Priya belonged to the alumni of Lady Brabourne, her (Kshama's) alma mater.


"Then what's been keeping you, Mom? Try getting your daughter-in-law at ours fast."


When Kshama realised, after having talked to her son that he was serious about Priya, she talked to her parents about the wedding plans and arrangements. She had hired St. Peter's Church for the wedding.


Priya sat on the podium inside while Bandhan, standing under a tent, was busy greeting and receiving the guests outside. I have heard it said that the buffet system became an integral part of Kolkata from then on.


Kshama spent lavishly on the wedding of her only son. Everyone, who was someone of repute and some standing in Kolkata was invited. On the night of the wedding, after all the guests had left, Kshama, sitting beside her mother in bed in the Guest Room, exclaimed to her, "Priya is the kind of girl I always wanted for Babu (Bandhan) as his wife. She is such an educated, cultured girl. But I am worried about Babu, Ma, lest he toys with her feelings too."


When Bandhan, a first-class second mechanical engineer from Jadavpur University, had an offer from America right after the marriage, the whole neighbourhood couldn't stop praising Priya enough.


"This is what is meant by a lucky bride. What a lucky girl! Going to The States within two weeks of the marriage! This is just beyond our imagination! " One of the relatives was heard remarking.


They lived for few years in America in sheer bliss. But when B.K.G, that is, Barun Kumar Guha, the husband of Kshama, was taken ill all of a sudden, Bandhan had to come back to Kolkata and that too, after relinquishing his job.


A few days after BKG's recovery, Bandhan entered his parents' room and declared, "As you're better now, Baba, I am thinking of accepting the job in Indonesia. It's a very lucrative offer. Besides a well-furnished house and a car, they're offering a lot of facilities like paying for my son's educational expenses, guest entertainment allowance and what not! Considering the lull in the employment market in India, I simply can't throw it away, can I? "


Kshama knew her son well, so she tried hardening her mind from then on. Bandhan left for Bali with his family the very next month. Many feel that this Indonesian sojourn proved fatal for Bandhan. Arka, the only child of Priya and Bandhan, had turned some three and a half years by then. They had Arka admitted in a prep school in Bali. But Kshama Devi posed a problem of sorts, saying that if Arka studied at South Point like his father did, no one would have to worry about his future. So, Kshama Devi entreared Bandhan to come back to Kolkata with his bag and baggage and his entire family.


The view touched a chord in Bandhan. Besides, who else could teach his son better than Mom? And the sudden demise of Barun Babu right at this juncture made decision-making easy for Bandhan.


After the shradh ceremony, it was decided that Bandhan would go back to Indonesia but Priya would stay with Arka and Kshama at Anandadham.

That relationship between Kahama and Priya would turn so sour, no one could envisage at first. The mom-in-law and the daughter-in-law lived quite peacefully early. Whenever Kshama went to her father's house, she took Priya along with her. The sweet-natured Priya became an instant hit with the people of Kshama's and endeared her to all and sundry. What lovely days they were! Everyone remarked that the kind of relations they had was something to be seen to be believed.


But nothing good lasts for a lifetime. Kshama hinted at the cracking relations between Bandhan and Priya to her mother on her way back from college one day. Kshama also told her mother that Priya held her (Kshama) responsible for the souring relationship between her and Bandhan. While arguing, Priya had yelled at Kshama saying that she was responsible for the gulf between Bandhan and herself.


In reality, physical distance gradually created a mental divide between Bandhan and Priya. She started spending more time with her parents and married sister without paying much heed or time to her aged mother-in-law. That night when she came back home quite late with a friend, Kshama tried to warn her.


Priya countered by saying, "You know that Praktan is my childhood buddy. I didn't resist his offer of reaching me home as it was quite late. For this offence, you harangued me so much, that too in front of him! Didn't you feel ashamed of yourself? Shame on you! I never expected you to be this low or mean-minded! Time you changed yourself when you have one foot firmly planted in the grave." Priya taunted her.


If Kshama got stunned by Priya's outbursts then, she got the shock of her life when, while walking past Priya's on the way to the bathroom at night, Kshama heard her (Priya) talking to Bandhan on the phone, detailing the night's event! She was outright cooking up a story! What if Bandhan believed her? If he felt that Kshama was being unjust to his wife and son?


There was none to wipe away the tears from Kshama's eyes that lonely night. When later on the next day, Kshama was trying to explain what had really happened to Bandhan over the phone, Priya went berserk.

Bandhan had no option other than giving up his job when things between his mom and wife went out of control.


Bandhan joined GM in Mumbai as the CCEO. And being the only child, he set his mother up there in the hope of creating some memorable memories between the two of them. In the meantime, he met Kuheli at the Shamba Dance Club. The only child of a tycoon in the city, Kuheli was a divorcee and mother of a son. They were well-known in Mumbai with a lot of political connections.


I really can't tell you exactly when their physical attraction for one another turned into this thing called love. But Kuheli started pressuring Bandhan for marriage soon after their initial interactions. At first, Bandhan didn't pay two hoots to her marriage proposal but Kuheli became adamant once Kshama turned up in Delhi. Her intuitive mind told her rightly that Kshama would never accept a mod woman like her as Bandhan's wife.


That very night at the Club, Kuheli started sweet-talking Bandhan into revealing their affair to his mother.


"Did you tell (about us to) your mother?" She asked Bandhan in the suit while getting back into her provocative, black one piece.


"Damn! I completely forgot it!" Bandhan replied, shifting his cigar from one corner of his mouth to the other. "Don't you know how the Company is pressurising me, Darling? Once I am back from Hyderabad, I'll have the marriage plans finalised, I promise."


"No, you must talk to her about us tonight itself. I can make everything ready at least for our registry marriage in the meantime." Kuheli told him, nibbling at his ear, putting her arms through his from behind.


Kshama Devi vehemently opposed Bandhan's decision to divorce Priya that night. She made it quite clear to him that as long as she was alive, Bandhan could never divorce Priya and insisted on a patch-up between them.


Bandhan was bewildered by Kshama's insistence. He made a great blunder when he told Kuheli the next day about his mother's objection to their marriage during the worship of Shai Baba going on in the lobby of his bungalow, without his mother's knowledge.


Only Kshama Devi was the sole witness to the hand-to-hand fight between her son and that evil woman, Kuheli, that morning! She has seen them fighting down there from the window of her room above.


There is a saying that "Man proposes, God disposes". Bandhan's dead body was found lying on the floor of Room 113 of a Five-Star Hotel in Hyderabad a couple of days later when he made a trip to the city on an official visit. The news of his death hit the last nail in the coffin of whatever little hope Kshama had of living. She became quite a solitary and helpless figure after the death of her only son.


When, on returning to Kolkata, Kshama, tried living all by herself, Priya picked her up forcefully and let her stay at "Anandadham" for a day or two. Later, on charge of Kshama having lost her mind, Priya dumped her in a mental asylum far away from the city. That was the only time she went there. If you ask me - Who bore the expenses for Kshama's upkeep there? - I have to admit that Priya did it. She bore all the expenses, no doubt, but it was like frying the fish in the pan in its own fats! As a retired government servant, Kshama was entitled to a monthly pension of 65,000 rupees, mind you. From that amount, Priya paid 10,000 rupees for Kshama's upkeep. She had no qualms about pocketing the rest!


A few days before, Kshama Devi passed away, I paid her a visit at the asylum. Forgetting the relationship between us, I asked her how she had benefited by refusing to let Bandhan divorce Priya. I also asked her why she bequeathed her all to someone, who had been mean to her all along.


Frail, fragile, flabbergasted in the Battle of Life, Kshama Devi answered my question with what might be termed as grace and equanimity : "I have none to call my own any more, dear Ron, other than that vain woman. Priya, the wife of my only son, also happens to be my closest relative. Isn't it so?"


Kshama (Forgiveness) Devi justified her name. I have never known a woman with this kind of divine power to forgive even those who inflicted such unbearable pain and suffering like what her daughter in-law had done. There lies the greatness of a true champion like my late teacher. One who justified her name in the best possible.


Rathin Bhattacharjee from India, majored in English from V.U. He joined the RCSC, Bhutan as an English Teacher. Awarded HM's Gold Medal for Life Time Achievement in Teaching 2018, Rathin Bhattacharjee serves as the Principal of SXPS, Joypur, spends his time trying to impact lives.


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