By: Dr. Dhrubajyoti Bora
Bristi couldn’t restrain herself at the last moment. She dashed out of the kitchen to the drawing-room, almost fuming, where Professor Choudhury was reading a newspaper, holding a half-burnt cigarette in between his fingers.
“Yes Bristi, do you want to tell me something?’’ Choudhury said, smiling. It had been his morning relaxation for long.
“Please don’t smoke, – this smell of smoke irritates me,’’ Bristi’s words were direct. Her face was serious.
Choudhury folded his newspaper and kept it on the table beside him. He stubbed the remaining cigarette in the ashtray lying beside him. He wondered how a housemaid of only a few days’ familiarities could express so much arrogance before the owner of the house!
Bristi continued, “It’s not good sir. Abhinandan is studying in the next room. He is a college student. He might get attracted to smoking if you do this at home.’’
Wide-mouthed, being devoid of any proper words to assuage her, Choudhury stared at the twelve years old Bristi, helplessly. Though her words lacked minimum smoothness, yet those were absolutely right!
She didn’t stop, “Madam is having diabetes and high blood pressure. This smoke will decrease her immunity and weaken her.’’
Choudhury removed his spectacles, wiped them with a soft towel hung at the back of his chair, and continued staring at the little girl after wearing them. She’d known so much about medical science at this tender age, amazing!
“This isn’t good for you too. You know it, sir.’’
Saying this, she stomped out of the drawing-room back to the kitchen, leaving Choudhury speechless.
One of the Choudhury’s junior colleagues had brought her as a maid from a remote village only a week ago. His wife, Pratibha, due to her multiple ailments, now couldn’t do the household chores properly. The family desperately needed a maid, and Bristi came as a rescue. Choudhury was a University Professor. As the government announced lockdowns due to pandemics, he had to remain at home for most of the time. It was frustrating. To kill his boredom and monotony, he started smoking more than usual, not less than seven or eight per day.
It was not long ago that Pratibha had to shuttle from doctors’ chamber to chamber, seeking proper care to get relief of her problems. The woman, who’d not once dared to do the toughest household chores, wasn’t that woman again. Now, she could only do the things required to maintain her only. Sometimes, she gave mental support to her husband and her son. That’s all.
Bristi had discovered her owner smoking on the very next morning during her entry into this house when she’d approached him with a cup of tea. The smoke used to disperse everywhere in the air. That smell had made her irritated. On many occasions, she was just waiting for the right moment. And today morning, after gathering enough courage, she told everything that she’d kept in her heart.
Never had anyone told Choudhury so harshly against smoking? Bristi, the little girl, however, was right. For some time, Choudhury remained seated on his chair like a statue. Bristi’s words stirred something in his mind. He’d earlier vowed many times to quit smoking, but couldn’t succeed. He stood up, took his cigarette packet and the ashtray, walked out of the house, and threw them at the municipal’s waste bin a few yards away from his house.
He felt relieved. The decision which he had thought of, to take one day but failed many times, was finally possible today only because of Bristi. However, he felt a little embarrassed for having been to be instructed by a twelve years old girl.
Back in the kitchen, he saw her preparing breakfast for all the family members.
“Bristi, you know so many things, who taught you?’’ Choudhury wanted to make her mood light. Before today morning, he’d not talked to her in-depth. He’d never asked about her family, her village, up to which standard she’d studied, etc. All the communication had occurred between Pratibha and her. And Pratibha too hadn’t felt the urge to make his decision in this regard.
Bristi’s hands stopped for a moment over the dough of flour. Without raising her eyes, she said in a low tone, “Life has taught me, sir. My father used to smoke many bidis per day for which he died of lung cancer. I saw myself in his last helpless days. He died six months back. I had always been with him like a shadow for two years as I was his eldest daughter. During those days, I had met a number of doctors. They taught me about how to give him medicines, what diet he should follow when to bring him to the hospital etc. Now he’s gone, but we, the children, are still suffering.’’
The silence that followed thereafter was heavy. Choudhury had no words to console her. But he would talk to her later and ask her about her dreams if she had any. Sometimes, life makes us understand some values at an early stage, irrespective of our age. His eyes drifted through the open window of the kitchen, and outside, it was a pleasant bright morning with a new promise.