When Bini died, I didn't go to see her. I could not look to the end of the street where her mom kept her body and was crying. I didn't see Bini when she was alive either, but her mom Aduri used to do the dishes at our place for a meagre sum of Rs 30 a month. This is way back in the 70s, so I guess she could make do with whatever amount she earned then. I just hope she could. I don't know. Like I never could get myself to go up to her and console her for her daughter's death, I couldn't look at the little hut they used to live in. The hut was so low, one would have to crawl inside. I would walk past. But I was pretty civil to Aduri. In fact loved it when she came over to clean the house. I wouldn't have to study then. I would just follow her from one room to another and listen to her speak.
I could speak her dialect. And she definitely took pride in that.
My mom, when she gottu know about Bini's ailment, paid for her treatment at our local hospital. But they couldn't save her. And I forget what happened to her. And cannot ask my mom either because mom too passed away some years back. And believe me, she has taken away with her some awesome recipes...of dishes that I grew up on. I miss her.
Aduri in Bengali means someone who is loved and cuddled all the time. Our Aduri definitely didn't have time for that. She was too busy working as a household help in some ten houses all through the day. And in the night her drunk husband would either beat her up or try to get her pregnant again. That is, unless she already was pregnant.
She was always pregnant. When I remembered Bini's death (just the faint wail of Aduri sitting at the corner of the street in front of her body) last night, I placed a hand on Aaron. He was trying one of his Z poses in his sleep as usual. He can be a great contortionist. One just has to make him sleep during the show.
And then I wondered how Aduri would have felt at her death. She couldn't cry her heart out...she didn't have time time. And then she had her other children to feed. Her eldest was a son, probably my age, a guy who played all day. Believe me, I envied him. I met him later when I was in senior school. I had gone to one of the local hooch shops to buy liquor for the first time in my life. Me and some friends of mine went up to the shop and bought some country liquor, saying it was for our dads! As if the guy selling the stuff cared who we were buying it for. I don't remember how much it was for, but we did fall short by ten rupees. And this fellow, Aduri's son, lent that money to me.
I never saw him after that. I eventually left Durgapur and then moved on to Banaras, Delhi, and then Bangalore and forgot all about him until last night. I remembered him because I remembered Bini. Or her death. But I don't remember his name. He must be grown up now, working somewhere. And I calculated how much I owe him back. Going by the sensex way back in 79 at 100 points, I should owe him a lot today. The sensex has breached the 15,000 mark, and those ten rupees would be? Rs 15,000.
I called up my friend in Durgapur today. He said he will find out about Aduri. She must be really old, probably still working as hard, scrubbing the plates, mopping the floors...how much do we actually owe her? Can I buy her a retirement package? Not with Rs 15,000 for sure. You can buy just a couple of standing wooden speakers from Sonodyne with that kinda money. And I've been eyeing the Sonodyne Sonus speakers for the last three years now.
What if I say I don't have that money? Will the wail stop coming back to me?