Ahalya and Mrs Thurlow

'You got to be Mrs. Thurlow then!'
Ahalya almost spoke out impromptu.
Before her stood a woman, expressionless.
She couldn't understand what Ahalya was talking about.
'Tallo? Oi namey kakukey chinina...'
(Don't know anyone by that name...)
Saying this she started winnowing the rice grains.
Ahalya looked at her.
A woman, barely thirty years of age but lost her lustre.
Continuous struggles had made signs on her face. Her hair had got dried like straw.
The heat and the dust of the terrain had made permanent botches on her limbs.

'So your sons? They went away too?'
Ahalya asked in Bengali.
'Ha...'
The woman answered curtly.
She didn't even look up.
She had works to do.
She would have to winnow the grains, put them into sacks and then would have to carry them on her head up to the rice storage unit some three miles away.
It was already two thirty.
She didn't procure anything to eat.
Last night she had put a small quantity of rice which she got from the local ration shop into an earthen pot with water.
She would've taken them and would've by now winnowed at least a few kilos more had not this stray woman from somewhere arrived with nothing else to do, like a zombie, upsetting all her works.
'What do you actually want? Are you from the government? Are you a trafficker? A peddler of something? What?'
Suddenly the woman started shouting in her own dialect.
It was partly Bengali.

Ahalya didn't understand the context.
But she sat down by the woman.
'You are tired...why not you take rest for awhile?'
She tried to say.
This made the woman even more furious.
'Who are you? What do you want?'
The woman cried out in her language which Ahalya understood using her intuition.
'I don't want anything from you...nor am I trying to do anything to you to get you out of your duress...only that, only that...no...you wouldn't possibly understand that...you would perhaps think it as my whim...a very childish whim...but only that I have lost my father a few days back and having lost him, I can't stay at home, I keep on going places...and then I saw you working in the field...I deliberately started an interaction with you...and after hearing your story of losing both sons and husband...I think I am in a much better condition...at least I have something to earn for myself and to fill my stomach with...at least I have got a better roof overhead...at least I have got better clothes than yours...at least I have got better things to get without toiling the way you are doing being half fed...and I understand I can do so little...so poor am I...'
Ahalya said, muttering.
She was losing her composure.
She was losing her words.
She then unfastened her wrist watch.
Last Sunday she bought it.
She put the wristwatch in her folded hands and tried to put it into the hands of the woman.
The woman was aghast.
'Ami nebo Ken?'
(Why should I take it?)
'Er modhdhye bomb thakti parey...'
(It could've a bomb inside it)

'I am giving it to you for you are my inspiration. Please take it.'
Ahalya said, this time tears almost dropping out of her eyes.

The woman took it, this time.
She might have seen something in Ahalya's eyes.

'Kichu khaben?'
('Want to eat something?)
That woman asked Ahalya in her language.
'No...I have got all the food for my life...till meeting you I thought I was the unluckiest person in the world...I thought I was the person who had lost everything...I thought I was a kind of Mrs.Thurlow...then I meet you...and I now know there are so many Mrs.Thurlows in the world...'
Ahalya said in Bengali.
'Shey kon gramey thakey?
(In which village does she live?)
Asked that woman.
'She lives at different parts of the world, in all ages...in all times...she is very much like you and me and probably hundreds or thousands like us...her two sons went away and her husband left her...yet she kept on doing her works...without really being bothered of what happened in her life...she just kept on working...'
Ahalya said.

The afternoon had turned into a spring almost.
Ahalya heard cuckoos singing.
The woman heard the story from Ahalya
and then shook her head.
'Ami unarey chini na...tobey bolben dekha holey...ami kharap nai...kaj Korey amar dibbi choley jai...du bela...'
(I don't know her...but if you meet her tell her...I am not in any distress...by doing works I could gather food for myself...for two halves of the day...)

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