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‘The Nocturnal Vaishnavi’ (‘Raater Boshtomi’) By Subir Ghosh

Bongshidhar was returning from the weekly market of Hajratpur. His both hands were loaded with goods purchased from the market. Usually, Bongshidhar didn’t need so
Somewhere in her tanned skin, between those dark and deep watery eyes, in her entire physique’s airy motion, there seemed to be hidden an alluring call
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As they walked along, Bongshidhar had to slow down a bit, to synchronise his steps with Maya. Whatever Arati opined, it didn’t bother him. Rather, he liked Maya. But Bongshi also understood, if he wanted to maintain peace, it would be better to be silent. For Arati, Maya was no more than a beggar who begged while singing devotional songs.

Bongshidhar looked at Maya’s face. No, definitely she did not look like a magician or a charmer. Well, not exactly too. At any given moment she could be terrifying! Even the Gods dared not to predict a woman’s character. She might not be a charmer, but surely, she was an attractive woman. Somewhere in her tanned skin, between those dark and deep watery eyes, in her entire physique’s airy motion, there seemed to be hidden an alluring call.

 

Arati was not present here to monitor him. Bongshidhar walked along and furtively looked at Maya.

 

Did Maya understand? She didn’t speak. But every woman understood all these. What others didn’t understand, a woman did. What everyone understood, a woman didn’t. A woman is very complex and mysterious. Once Maya tried to commit suicide in the river Ajoy. But she couldn’t. She witnessed Lord Krishna in the waters. Villains couldn’t turn Draupadi naked, because of Krishna. If Krishna was there, who could do any harm to her? Krishna was her lord, as well as friend.   

For Arati, Maya was no more than a beggar who begged while singing devotional songs
For Arati, Maya was no more than a beggar who begged while singing devotional songs

Maya asked Bongshi, “Please, recite once, your poem on ‘Gosta Mela”.

Bongshi recited another poem.     

“Maya is not a charmer

She’s a wild doe inside the mind

I tried to embrace her within,  

But couldn’t hold her and missed.  

Just look, I see the flowing current

Of a stream inside her eyes…”

Maya remained unperturbed. Bongshidhar was trying to break her composure. He thought she would protest. But Maya didn’t respond. However, her demand did not stop. “You didn’t recite the poem of Gosta Mela”, she said. Bongshidhar didn’t want to disturb her anymore.

He sang,

“Going to the Gosta Mela, I see the deity, Balaram,

Krishna, my heart’s Lord, and the ‘Gosta’ is my abode”.

The two walked along. After a while, they reached the ‘Shitalmukhi Kandor’ (big pond). Maya bade him farewell. She dipped her feet in the water and said, “You move on, my dear. I will be coming after taking a dip.”

Once Maya tried to commit suicide in the river Ajoy. But she couldn’t. She witnessed Lord Krishna in the waters
Once Maya tried to commit suicide in the river Ajoy. But she couldn’t. She witnessed Lord Krishna in the waters

Maya was going to take a bath. Bongshi reined in his deep wishes. One shouldn’t watch a lady bathing. Only Lord Sri Krishna could watch Radharani bathing.

After a few months, when autumn was almost over and winter was tapping on the door, Bongshi was returning from a relative’s house. The train was from Palashsthali. If it ran on time, he could have returned home by early night. But in the midway, the engine had a breakdown. The journey resumed only after the engine was changed at Burdwan junction. The road was quite familiar to him. Hardly a walk of just forty minutes from the station to his home. Neither he was carrying any money, nor any gold or silver. Still, a fear of being alone, haunted Bongshi. He had no idea whether ghosts existed. But the fact was, he hadn’t walked alone on this road at such an hour before. If there was a fellow traveller, he could have walked with him. Now, he had ‘Ram’ on his lips and a fear inside his heart. The only assurance being ‘Shukla Poksha’ (bright moon fortnight). Dazzling moonlight flooded the earth. But Bongshidhar realised for the first time, that moonlight was scarier than darkness.

Bongshi reined in his deep wishes. One shouldn’t watch a lady bathing
Bongshi reined in his deep wishes. One shouldn’t watch a lady bathing

Especially moonlight in the forest that was mysterious and deathly. As if it came to strangle him like a dark fairy.

He overheard a rustling sound nearby. Bongshi’s ears perked up. Snakes and other reptiles made a similar sound. The sound came repeatedly. Bonshi was afraid. He was certain that some supernatural spirit had come down to the earth in the delightful moonlight.

 

He hid himself against a tree. Then took a deep breath, desperately attempting to breathe normally.

 

He heard a gentle human voice.

“Oh, my beloved dear, please wash my body with moonlight now,

When in the island of river, one lovebird makes love with the other…”  

What a dangerous and alluring song! It pronounced ultimate destruction in such a deep moonlit night. The voice was quite familiar to him. It was Maya, Maya Vaishnavi! His eyes wandered like an arrow in search of her. And ultimately caught her. There was Maya sitting on the sands of the Shitalmukhi Kandor. Unperturbed and merciless. She was open, ruthlessly, in the solitude of the night. Bongshi could not move. Would he be able to swim and cross this river of nudity?

All Images: Google

Amit Sarkar is known nationally and internationally for his wildlife photography. He has received many awards distinctions and accolades in the field of photography from more than 30 countries. International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP) the parent body of all photographic associations has awarded him with Distinction ‘Excellence FIAP’ in 2023. He is also a well-known poet and writer in Bengali language.

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