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Mukherjee Mansion By Nandita De nee Chatterjee

Updated: Dec 13, 2019


The thick walls of the haveli,

the sinister corridors. 

The lamps on antique brackets 

casting long, ghostly shadows 

on the scarlet stone floors.


Heavy, shuttered, 

green wooden windows 

shutting out the open sky,

the cluster of old withered faces

hiding their deep grimaces 

and stern disapproval 

behind their drooping veils.


The lady picked up her Puja thali

and made her through the rooms.

Perhaps the incense, 

the light from the lamp

would shed the darkness in the hearts, 

blow away the stagnant fumes 

of years of being stifled.


She did not remember 

her father's home as a child. 

Married at 5 years, 

brought here asleep 

in the arms of an elder,

regimented into the

stranglehold of an ideal Indian wife.

Loaded down with ornamentation 

and the voluminous glittering folds 

of heavy sarees,

burdened with tasks 

way beyond her age.


Every night she bathed

and readied for the day

before the night was out.

Every night she put out 


every last lamp

when the house was finally asleep. 


Every day she toiled 

for 60 years now.


Stories from mythology,

history, folklore 

fed her imagination. 

The sea she had never seen.

The towering mountains

that she had never gazed at.

The deep, dark forests 

where Shakuntala's deer ran wild,

the illustrations which carried her 

to realms unknown.


She shut the picture books 

and jolted back 

from her daydreams.

The men would be returning 

with their myriad stories. 

The ladies would listen attentively,

spellbound by the recounts 

of daily valour,

wisdom, enterprise...

The male members would be feted 

and fawned over

and served tirelessly till

the dead of night.


Behind their veils

the ladies hid their yawns. 

Hunger had to wait

till finally it was their turn.


And when the world slept 

the errant woman 

could creep up to a window 

on tiptoes.

Softly opening the shutters 

she could peep outside.


It was an autumnal night 

of 1829.

A cascade of light 

was dripping down 

from the sky.

A large, silvery-gold disc

almost hung over the heavy, iron gate.

Supermoon tonight?

How would she know?

Where they ever told anything?


In the eerie silence 

she heard her voice, 

gasping.

Women were not supposed to be heard!

Had she not been silent 

through it all,

following dutifully the footsteps 

of the other ladies of the house?


Battles were fought outside, meanwhile.

Battles the females fought within,

deep inside themselves. 

Quelling all desires,

killing every wayward wish,

togged in their bejewelled battle gear,

covering their defiance 

in silken threads.

Lips sealed,

no dissent ever voiced.

Resolutely maintaining peace,

come what may. 


Iron-willed, or made so from birth,

feminine whims and whimsy 

forsaken as infants,

into their in-laws strongholds 

they entered,

tiny feet decorated 

in auspicious red.


Into their black and white world 

of silence,  subservience and service.

Destinies drawn up  multiples,

never to be defied.


Our brave and beautiful ancestors,

who submitted to their times,

their talents unexplored,

their wishes unheard.

Their stories of fortitude,

sacrifice,

selflessness, untold!


Poet, Writer and Journalist: Nandita De

Nandita De is a writer, journalist and a housewife. She has worked with The Economic Times and also as a Freelance journalist. She has written cover stories for The Saturday Statesman and features for Illustrated Weekly of India ,Telegraph, Times of India, Femina, Filmfare, Germany Today Cityscape column etc. She has been an Editorial Adviser of ETM, an Economic Times publication. Consulting Editor with Environ. She has a good editing experience. She was a part time Lecturer at Calcutta University, PG Journalism, teaching Media Ethics. She has a Fb Page and group Studio Quaintrelle. Blogger at BeBee.com. She is also the Administrator of two more fb groups. Her poems have been published in various digital literary forums. Contributor, Voix Meets Mode, UK,  latest annual. Co author at Anthology,  Big Bang of Non Fiction, Life in Reserve, released this Sep.12. MA, English Literature and BA, English Hons,  both from Jadavpur University, Kolkata. She works on welfare,  visually impaired, labour, social issues and human rights, lifestyle and investigative stories for mainstream Indian newspapers. Passionate about epicurean cooking,   nature, ikebana and social service. She has an Army, Navy, Air Force background with father from Indian Air Force. Defense issues are a critical priority of hers.

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