Nilanjana placed the book she was reading for hours on the table and advanced towards the right wing of the castle. It was drizzling slightly and there was no one in sight. Nilanjana stood in front of one of the windows and observed the raindrops hitting the surface of the pond next to the castle. For some unknown reason, she felt petrified for a while. She simply could not believe how her life depended on a single statue being found. Breathing in a lung full of petrichor, she proceeded towards the smallest of corners inside the residence, which she shared with a fellow maid, Shyamoli.
“Did they find it?” Nilanjana asked with a pale face.
“You shouldn’t refer to Maa Kaali as ‘it’, Nila.” Replied Shyamoli.
“No!” Shyamoli replied in a harsh tone. Knowing that talking to a superstitious and blindly religious girl like Shyamoli would be of no use, Nilanjana silently left the room.
To begin her routine session of obsessively overthinking, she started mentally calculating the probability of the statue being found. It was true that the British Government had done a lot of injustice to the state of Bengal. But this time, they had indeed done something good. Removing all the statues of Goddess Kaali from temples to prevent Hindu fundamentalists from murdering young girls in the name of ‘sacrifice’ was indeed the first good thing they had done. While thinking about everything the British did during their reign, Nilanjana suddenly felt a pang of immense fear, followed by a blunt hopelessness, which made all her senses become numb.
Nilanjana woke up in a different room the next morning. This one, unlike the one she shared with Shyamoli, was huge and perfectly decorated. It had velvet bed sheets and curtains made of a highly sophisticated fabric that poor Nilanjana did not know the name of. That morning, ‘she’ was served breakfast, instead of having to serve others. She knew very well that trying to run away would be of no use. But what even took Nilanjana by surprise was that she did not want to run away, knowing that if it was not her, it would be someone else. Moreover, she found peace in finally being certain about something.
Held strongly by two robust men, Nilanjana entered the dimly lit temple. Everyone was chanting in Sanskrit, which she could not understand a word of. Not wanting Goddess Kaali to be her first sight, she looked up. Was Nilanjana crying? Or was it just the water droplets oozing from the age-old ceiling of the temple that rolled down her face? No one bothered to know.
written by: Shahreen Khan