Why so late ?
- Part 1 -

Lamabam Virmani *

Even though she was married and living together with her husband so affectionately for the long seven-eight years, Leirik could not consider her husband absolutely her own for the rest of her life. She was sure that the cloud looming large over her mother-in-law's mind would fall as a heavy downpour with lightning one day.

She knew why people were talking against her and why her mother-in-law was apathetic towards her. This acted as an incurable disease making her gradually weak physically.

Inspite of all these, she remained in the family as a bride with the lonely hope that her husband continued to love her. Otherwise, Leirik's life would have been filled with despair, like a fenceless garden, being separated from her partner.

In addition to the illness persistently lingering, another very wayward one had been added. She walked easily no doubt, took everything literally and was not confined to bed; yet she could not keep herself engaged to work at all.

She could not make progress in any work she undertook, having sudden headache followed by nausea and vomiting tendency .........demanded more and more food for recovery. This added further fuel to the distaste of her mother-in-law. Using her uncommon strength Leirik was paying attention to the family chores as a necessary must even though she knew full well that nobody would count what she did.

She was about to set what were lying scattered here and there thinking that her husband would be coming back soon. But being too dizzy she could not move further and retired to bed.

In token of defiance, her mother-in-law set the scattered things aright and left the room with the soiled utensils. Leirik saw this but remained silent finding no other help.

Her husband returned home and saw his mother cleaning the utensils. He felt dismayed but could not exhibit the anger visibly. However, when he found his wife resting on bed inside; he was filled with sudden anger. This was the moment when Leirik felt a little better. She got up from bed to see her husband approaching.

"Don't you feel ashamed to make the old woman clean the utensils when at least a person like you is there?" The husband asked. His mother entered the house after cleaning the utensils. On apparent hearing of his words she shouted, "No ! Please do not ask her when there is a servant like me." Leirik did not reply. Her husband continued, "If you are not useful to that extent, of what use will be your stay at this house?"

Leirik blushed with remorse. The husband might have uttered the words without meaning anything at all. Yet this appeared on the part of Leirik heavier than the whole burden of Atlas. She was at a loss. So far she did not hear such harsh words even for once from her husband. When she came back to sense, her husband had left the room already.

Her mother-in-law was filling every ear in the locality about having a daughter-in-law with undergrown limbs and things like we could not see any grandchild with our eyes. Somebody sympathetic to Leirik would reply, "Why sister ! Why are you in such a haste? Your daughter-in-law is still so young.

God willing even at the age of forty-fifty one can give birth to child." To this she answered disappointedly, "You do not understand. See her complexion. To present her as a bride of the family is so shameful." Someone supporting her said, "Yes, she had been married for the last seven-eight years. If at all, it is right time now to give birth to a child."

All such taunts and rebukes could be borne bravely. But the words of her husband today, she could not forget even for a single moment. She tried to set the scattered articles in place but felt dizzy, could not see things and once again sat down. She thought: "Of what use my existence as a woman !" The room appeared pitch dark even in the dazzling light at that moment.

Naran, her husband, was a reporter of a popular journal Meiri. He did not come back home since his last visit three days back. Such absence was nothing new, yet the present absence was fraught with suspicion. Her husband never failed to inform her of his visit to far off places. The absence of her husband without information, his utterance last time, her own illness, all combined together to make Leirik really ill. She had not eaten even a single morsel of food in the last two days.

On the other hand, her mother-in-law was spreading information to everyone in the locality, "My son has run away from home being unable to bear the tortures of this giantess."

Once she heard with her own ears, "Sister, could you help find a maiba or maibi ?".

"What for, auntie?"

"This time this incurable patient's days seem to be numbered. So we cannot help performing some propitiation so that such malady does not visit again in the future generation."

"What do you mean, auntie? Is not that really ominous?"

"There is no doubt about it, this is something certain. So look for a good one to be my daughter-in-law."

Leirik could no longer bear it. Tears started rolling down from her eyes and she felt exhausted. She had not eaten anything for the last three days and this time the wish of her mother-in-law was perhaps going to be fulfilled. A question oppressed her. "For my sake is there going to be separation between the son and the mother?"

Taking into consideration the attitude of the mother-in-law, the atmosphere in the family and the condition of her daughter, leirik's mother told her, "Your elder brother wants you to come to our place. Let us go there for sometime for your treatment."

Leirik did not answer. She was thinking within herself, "What is the use of my survival when I have been turned out by my husband and kicked out by the society?"

To be continued...

Translated from Manipuri by Baasi

* Lamabam Virmani wrote this story for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on July 20, 2012 .

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