Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra
Subarnalata lived a long time ago.
Mainly in the imagination of the author – but nevertheless, she did live.
Her life was probably borrowed from the author Ashapurna Debi’s own experience in one way or another. And her life touched mine.
All the physicists, who say that for entities to interact, the world lines must meet [i.e. their paths must cross in both time and space] are wrong. Completely wrong.
I interacted with Subarnalata almost as really as if she were a human being living right next door.
She lived in the some place in Bengal in the early 1900s and I began my journey in Bombay only in the second half of the century and did not venture into Bengal until I was 25 years old.
Clearly too late to have crossed paths with her and met her, had she actually lived.
The thing that attracted me to Subarna was the simplicity of her desires.
In her life as a newly married little girl, all she desired with her entire being – was a balcony in the family house that was being built.
Her husband promised her that just to keep her silent and then reneged on that promise. His reasons were many – ranging from an inability to voice an opinion to his mother to his aggressive possessiveness as a result of which he believed that she only wanted the balcony to ‘display’ herself to other men.
No balcony, no terrace and certainly no going outdoors was allowed to her.
All she wanted was a view of the sky.
Such a simple desire. So little to ask for.
I met Subarna and lamented the tragedy of her unfulfilled wish when I began reading the book a few months ago.
Ever since, every time I sit at any of my balconies reflecting or enjoy long afternoons of cloud-watching, I always think of her and wish I could share this with this girl -woman that I love like a daughter! All my balconies and windows and terraces are now dedicated to dear Subarna but they are of little use to her now – for she is dead – even if she never lived. Nevertheless, my dedication stands.
Who knows how many girls are denied this even in today’s world. And as in Subarna’s case, the window and the balcony were analogies for greater things.
If only I could visit the past, enter her reality and gift her all her freedoms!
But I will have to calm myself with mere gratitude for gifts of circumstance that I did not know I had until I peeped into her deprived world.