Have you ever been in the following (or a similar) situation?
You are at a dawat, and you come across a random acquaintance. You smile and greet him/her. The random acquaintance does not smile back, instead he or she looks at you with disdain and exclaims how you are not recognizable, “tomake chinai jachche na!”, followed by a piercing look at your ensemble and a comment asking what you are wearing, “tomar shashuri’r goyna?”.
You see the smirk on the person’s face and the glint in the eyes. You are wondering why someone you do not know, and have barely ever had a conversation with, would respond in such manner to your greeting, that too in a social arena.
Your eyesight is fine (okay, so you need reading glasses, but otherwise it is fine), and you have not undergone extensive plastic surgery, and despite becoming mota, you have not gained 200 pounds; you have access to your old photographs and plenty of mirrors, so you can safely conclude that you have not metamorphosized into a Kafkaesque giant accessorized insect.
And if that were the case, why would you be mingling at a dawat? Are giant accessorized insects regularly invited to dawats?? Or do dawats have the effect of transforming people into Kafka characters? Thoughts?
Anyways back to the moment. You do, for a fleeting second, consider asking the person if he or she is an avid Kafka reader, because after all you never know. Some readers become so immersed in their favourite literature that they become oblivious of their surroundings and begin to inadvertently recall and enact the literary tropes in many a conversation.
Then you think the better of it. You have eliminated the possibility of you not being unrecognizable on physical grounds. You are recognizable, period. So why would the person state you are not? In the meanwhile, you are just about beginning to process the contempt, and you would rather not say anything that may bring out further unsavoury characteristics of Gregor Samsa’s family from this person.
Aah, then you begin to realise that it is a khocha, a sweeping khocha where he or she has managed to pass on the subliminal message that you are unrecognizable because you are accessorized, and you are accessorized because your mother-in-law has bling.
Duh! At first you think there are two separate statements, after you realise the meanings are interwoven. Once the truth has dawned upon you, you then attempt to deconstruct what the person means. Maney ki?
Maney, the person feels the need to remind you that you are of humble origin, that you in that ensemble is not the real you. You are an imposter, a pretender. Now whether the person had prior hallucinations about you metamorphosizing into a giant insect and is disappointed to see you in human form, it is difficult to say. (I think even Kafka might be slightly perplexed here).
But at this moment in time, you in human form are not acceptable. You realise of course that whether you are accessorized by your mother-in-law or not is of no consequence, it has been decided that you are. The verdict is out. The khocha was formulated before you left the house to attend this dawat, or perhaps when the invitations were given out.
The visions flash through your mind, of the person regaling to his or her friends the moment of glory in conducting the well - rehearsed khocha, or the shunaidilaam, with due derision (or due diligence) to your face.
You picture the scornful laughs, the friends of the person referring to you and saying, “who does she think she is”, and the “hmmph, as if we do not know what she was”.
You know someone will have to state, “since the time of my great-great-great grandmother we have been making and wearing our own jewellery, we do not buy from shops like the common people”, and another will surely echo, “for 7 generations no one in our family has ever had to wear shashuri’r goyna”. “Amader baba self-respect achey”. Hmmmph!
As their choddo gushti is elevated, yours will be downgraded. The will be plenty of “just imagine” with the self-congratulatory fortunate not to be you expressions. There will be a few who will break rank and state, that it is of no consequence whose goyna you are wearing, after all it did not suit you, and you certainly did not look happily married. Then your courtship and wedding, all will be dissected.
How do you respond to the person who is demanding your self – abnegation by querying “tomar shashuri’r goyna?” Knowing fully well what will transpire after the scene of the khocha, after the dawat, what are your options?
Now go read Kafka.
Chintamoni grew up in Dhaka, where she will always belong, but never quite fit in. She is an enthusiastic traveller, a compulsive procrastinator, and a contumelious raconteur.