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  • Writer's picturePanchi

Chapter - III 'Bald Vixen'

‘All writers are vain, selfish and lazy and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.'
-George Orwell.

'Maa, am I selfish and thoughtless?’ asked Queen. ‘No dear! That is the last thing you can ever be. You always put others’ wishes before your own. I have watched those fair, beautiful and soft hands turn thirty shades darker by toiling for that undeserving of a husband; people so fondly call a doctor. Is he even a human? How can he enslave and beat up my daughter like that?’ said Queen’s mother.

Queen’s mother never stops talking about it. Two years have passed, and with each year, her story only became more sonorous and transformed, most of the facts forgotten, the course of events, the day of the week, the month of the year and so on, until only the most grotesque details remain. So every day when she brings up the story of what a monstrosity of a husband Abhinav was, she doesn’t talk much about the violence, she doesn’t talk about the routine pillages, she doesn’t even talk about the real domino theory that led to Queen’s running away from her abusive marriage.

Queen’s mother was a writer and hence she only likes to highlight the emotional quotient of her story and largely points out the noticeable changes in Queen’s appearance after her marriage. When she speaks of Queen’s break out, she talks about her hands and her hair mostly. (Even when Queen was around. Even when she covers up her hands behind a dupatta. Even when her hands had no role in her break out except driving her activa to her mother’s place. Her mother was quite oblivious to her uneasiness. She may have enjoyed the reaction that she received from her audience.)

Picasso’s painting from Blue Period
Picasso’s painting from Blue Period

‘Look at her hands. They look like they belong to labour.’ She says. ‘When I met her first, her hair was all wiry, her hands were so dark and her eyes were bleary. She looked like a Picasso’s portrait of women from his famous Blue period with melancholy painted all over her face.’ And then she rolls up her eyes, slightly bend her head, leans it on her right hand and parts her lips to make a sound ‘shess shess shess shess’. This is a sound of disappointment that Assamese mothers make. If someone was aware of the Assamese dialect they would know why mothers here would make that sound. ‘You are strong enough to leave that house before anything bad happened. They could have murdered you, mutilated you or even worse, they could have framed your murder as a suicide.’ said Queen’s mother.

Sometimes when she is in a lighter mood, she would say, ‘you know your father is such a caring person. In our twenty-eight years of marriage he never ignored my needs, he never treated me like an invisible person, and he never crossed the line with me even when his relatives persistently forced him to.’ Queen’s father would wash her feet and her hands with his own hands, rubbing and rubbing and rubbing with lukewarm water, salt and soap. As he would apply coconut oil to her hands and hair he would wonder what kind of atrocities his daughter must have endured and how broken she must be from inside to have eloped from her husband’s clutches like this. He was a very kind-hearted person. In her entire life, Queen never saw her father raise a voice against her mother.

But Queen’s mother won’t defer from the original topic for long. She kept on insisting about the fact how Queen was beginning to look like a beggar from the streets. How she was losing strands of her lifeless, stringy hair every day. At some point those strands became chunks then those chunks became handful leaving only a few strands of hairs on her head. There is a famous lullaby in Assamese. It goes like this-

‘Xiyali aeee..........nahibi rati

Ture kaane kaati logame bati;

Xiyali murote teeni daal suli

Takei maake kati logabo bati’


O vixen......don’t come at night

Your ears will be ripped off

And used to light a lamp

There are three strands of hair on vixen’s head

And those strands will be used

By my mother to light a lamp...

Traditionally people of Assam believe that infants are susceptible to evil powers. This belief influences the lullabies too. Such lullaby songs create fear in the infant’s mind and also suggest a way to overpower it. Sometimes the elements of magic and charm enter here too. The evil power may be symbolised by a vixen (generally the dangerous, cunning kind) or maybe an imaginary being for example Kankhuwa (the one who consumes ears). Queen’s mother would often compare her to the bald vixen from the lullaby. She would say. ‘I can’t tell if it was really my daughter or the bald vixen. Her head was full of bald patches. It seemed like she has developed alopecia. I raised her up with so much care, all her life she had hair that reached up to her waist, and not once did she complained about hair fall. This monster cut her hair short after marriage. Now, look what she has become. My daughter does not look her herself anymore.’

And that is how Queen’s story as a young woman who ran away from an abusive marriage became a story of how her daughter turned into a bald vixen.

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