A Moment of Eternity – Bhabani Bhattacharya
The Prisoner was waiting for her verdict. The Judge called out “Prisoner at the Bar”. There was faltering in his voice. There was a knot of trouble and throbbing of the old man’s heart. The Prisoner had to resolve his problem. So she smiled at him. As the Judge cried he looked away, and the Prisoner felt he was like her Father. There was black cap waiting on the table for the Judge. It implied death. It was meant for the Judge to look like Yama. The convict pitied him for his trouble and loved him for his tenderness. There was mercy in the Judge’s face. Perhaps he would not don the black cap. This was the moment of eternity. It was a condensation of all that happened. It was the moment of a drowning person yielding his last breath. Perhaps the convict was to be drowned not in river or tears or passion, but in mercy. But mercy was not coming after all. The hands of the Judge fumbled towards the black cap. It meant that the convict, the mother of Sona Mona was to be condemned.
It is in this moment of eternity that the life story of the convicted woman, the mother of Sona Mona is flashed before the eyes. Sona was a small girl child, not more than four feet tall, who would bath joyously in the tap water of the wall. Mona was younger. Mona was a baby girl whose name had no meaning, but was meant to rhyme with Sona which meant gold. The woman had these two small daughters.
Her husband was a shrunken man, with dark circles under the eyelids. He used to be sleepless with worry. He had not wanted to marry but because of his old grandmother who had encouraged him saying one day he would be High Court Judge with his learning and would find no difficulty in feeding an extra mouth. But unfortunately he lost the clerical job he had in the coal merchant’s office. His wife who wanted to help could help in no way.
Then he got the job of a bus conductor. But he was already ill. He had fever. Suddenly he began to cough and spewed up blood. For one second he was thinking of the nice things he would buy with his monthly pay and the free medical aid he would get. But the sickness was galloping within. He had to be moved to the hospital, but the beds were full. His wife nursed him. She thought of the story of Savitri and Satyavan and how Savitri had fought against Yama and brought back her husband from the dead. But the mother of Sona Mona could not be Savitri. Her husband expired.
Then she thought of a way of suicide. There was a stock of opium in the house which Grandmother used to take. She gave some to her two children. Rest she took herself. Her two children died. But she lived. She thought of losing her sanity. But there was no way she could lose her sanity. She thought of various other ways of suicide. Drowning, Fire but to no avail. Mona had suckled death out of her breasts and Sona had taken it out of her hands. Now she was presented for the verdict of the Judge. She was charged with two cold blooded murders and attempt to suicide. She did not plead insanity. She confessed that she had done it in full awareness. She hoped for death as punishment from law.
But to her amazement, anger and disappointment the verdict was that she was to live. She would be imprisoned for four years. The moment of eternity came to an end with the sentence. She was a victim of the old man’s mercy. She prayed for insanity but it did not come. The ringing voices of her two little daughters whom she had killed rang in her ears.
This story is a pathetic tale of poverty. It is the woes of a helpless woman and a mother. What she had done was to save her children from extreme poverty. She had wanted to be Savitri. It reflects the condition of an Indian woman left without a husband. She cannot fend for herself and she is left with no other choice but suicide. It is a pathetic picture of poverty and hapless motherhood.