Jyoti Prakashan, 2011 (1st ed 2005)
Rs.190, 416 pages
Are there such things as small people-big people in your society? You have addressed me as pai. This means you are my younger sister
The Brahmaputra is to the north, Dimoria to the west, Boramoli to the south and Khagorijan to the east. The Tiwas and others, living in this vast region, had forgotten Konsari in the first flush of youth; that old Abi Konsari was also a young girl once. Young Konsari’s looks were as bright as fire. She had an alluring body that could even captivate a god.
Of course, she still has the remnants of her beauty from those days — golden skin, silky hair like the scales of a snake, eyes as deep as a lake and an Apsara-like build. All these have almost remained the same. The shrinking of her skin, however, says it is only a sparkle left over from the past.
After coming to Gobha, Konsari initially felt out of place when she wore the kasyong phaskai. Whenever she stepped out of the palace, passers-by would gaze at her and murmur:
“Hey, look! She looks like a gasani. She is wearing our banat-bathu. You can’t say she is mekdo. She certainly looks like our libung.”
Hearing such comments, margi khamsamai Xounjira, accompanying Konsari, laughed and said:
“Do you know what people are saying, pai? They say you don’t look like a mekdo. You look more like lalung.”
“What is mekdo?” asked Konsari, not comprehending what Xounjira said.
“Mekdo means people belonging to a different community. People are very happy that you are wearing banat-bathu. Pai, you really look beautiful in this dress.”
“Pai, I’m ashamed to hear this. I’m an illiterate, naive girl. The Deuraja has brought me only to look after you. What will I teach you, pai?”
“You shouldn’t talk like that, Xounjira. Are there such things as small people-big people in your society? You have addressed me as pai. This means you are my younger sister. What is younger sister called in your language?”
“Can I call you nanau?”
“You can. But can a khamsamai be addressed as sister, pai? The Deuraja will feel bad if he hears this.”
“Is your Deuraja a person who is upset by such small matters?” Konsari laughed.
“Where will you find a mathinegiri like our king? The king has lighted our land just as the moon makes the night look like day. It takes much good luck to have such a mathinegiri.” Xounjira said this with hands folded in awe of the Deuraja.
These things happened long after Konsari’s arrival in Gobha. Her son Mriganka by that time was fit to be sent to the dekasang. Prior to that, before and after the birth of Mriganka, Konsari had not donned the kasyong phaskai. At that time, she would wear riha mekhela and sador made from cotton yarn. Xadhukumar had those clothes woven in Datiolia village and fetched them through margi khamsamai Xounjira. The silvery silk mekhela and riha, woven with golden threads and yarns obtained from silkworms that fed on pansopa leaves, were still glittering in the cane casket Xadhukumar had given to Konsari. The fog-coloured sador, brought from Manipur, lay wrapped in an eri cloth in the same box. In one corner of the casket was lacquer and stone-studded jewellery covered with a piece of cotton cloth.
They are still in the same condition.
Konsari has not shown them to any person till date. Nor has she seen them herself. Most of the people who saw those clothes are no more. Among those who are alive is Gobha king Xadhukumar.
Xounjira has not seen those clothes either. In fact, she came much later. Since Konsari did not know the Lalung language, Xadhukumar found Xounjira to work as an interpreter for Konsari, long after she had come to Gobha. Xounjira first saw a morose Konsari, lifeless and lonely, dressed in manganthla, riha, and eri sador. She had stared at Konsari in amazement from the doorstep. She had even forgotten to bow to Konsari.
“What are you staring at? Go to Ranideu. Conduct yourself as I say,” said Xadhukumar, who was standing on the doorstep. Then, looking at Konsari, he said with deference:
Xadhukumar went outside, leaving Xounjira with Konsari. Till then, Xadhukumar had lived in the main palace of Gobha. A few days later, he had shifted to the palace at Amsai Marjong. He still stays at
Amsai Marjong. After long intervals, he comes to the palace where Konsari lives but never enters her house. He goes back from the outside room like a guest. He speaks to Konsari only when particularly required and so does Konsari.
It is a strange relationship, founded on courtesy, friendship and love, so near, yet so far; so far, yet so near.
Konsari goes to Amsai Marjong from time to time. She goes there whenever she faces worry and anxiety; whenever she fails to solve a problem. Perhaps Konsari finds an answer to all problems from the man whose mind is as solemn and deep as the Brahmaputra. She finds refuge and solace in him. It seems Konsari always takes from him whatever she wants. If it was not for his benevolence, Konsari, who enjoys queenly status without being a queen in the Gobha palace, would have sunk into the darkness of anonymity and ignominy and lost all the trappings of a dignified lifelong back.
It was only as Xadhukumar’s possession that Konsari had set foot on the soil of Gobha. She had entered the Gobha palace with a future solely dependent on Xadhukumar’s will.
Konsari was so weak and helpless then. If Xadhukumar had so desired, he could have demanded Konsari’s ripe body. He could have commanded her loyalty like a bought slave.
He could have taken away from her everything that made her a woman.
He went away to the old palace at Amsai Marjong, leaving Konsari with lifelong self-recrimination and unending mental pain.