Anirudh, lightly straightened his glasses, as he took his seat beside his Kaka in front of the public library. The generally deserted public library was unusually packed with people. The rumor of Krishnanagar Thakuma calling this Panchayat to prove their innocence had travelled like wildfire causing debates and theories wherever it went. “Wasn’t Thakuma’s granddaughter already convicted, what magic are those Krishnanagar people expecting to turn the tide in their favor?” a voice behind Anirudh, commented with disdain. The Panch had arrived and started a discussion of their own. Anirudh remained silent while stealing occasional glances of his Kaka’s face. The generally proud face of Trilochan Roy Chowdhary looked nervous and anxious which caught Anirudh by surprise. Then he heard what his Kaka had been repeating over and over “That girl just can’t give up”
Just then disturbing the chaos of the meeting, a line of jeeps drove straight and stopped right near them. The entire area immediately quietened down. The doors opened and out stepped Thakuma, followed by the entire family one by one. At the end, the door of the final jeep opened and Bondita stepped out. Anirudh had to blink twice to confirm the reality of the scene in front of him. He looked around and caught everybody else spellbound too. He gently closed his eyes shut and reopened them to refocus on the center of attraction.
Bondita was wearing a royal blue colored saree with intricate patterns. Her long, shiny black hair gently waved as she made her way to the front. He had seen her completely decked up as Vayjanti to wearing a colorless saree with no jewelries as a Sanyasini. Yet this avatar was different than every other outfit, Anirudh had seen her in. This look of hers radiated confidence, pride and dominating spirit. This was the second time Anirudh realized of a how fine, young woman Bondita had grown into. The first time seeing her like that had been equally captivating.
The Das family took their seats opposite to the Roy Chowdhary’s directly facing them and the grimacing faced people of Tulsipur and thus the panchayat meeting set into motion.
“As we all know,” the Sarpanch began “Bondita Das, of Krishnanagar was convicted, a week ago, of working as a spy and deceiving the people and zamindars of Tulsipur by going there in disguise of Vayjanti”. “She was sentenced to becoming a Sanyasini for life in Kashi. She had completed all the ritual for becoming one except the last one, before which she fled.” The residents Tulsipur angrily agreed shouting “She should be punished” “She is sinner”
Anirudh looked up worried but was astonished to see not even a trace of worry or fear in Bondita’s eyes. She had undecipherable expression. Her face was relaxed but her aura carried the power of calmness before a storm. Anirudh relaxed, he now was certain that she was prepared.
The Sarpanch quietened the people and continued, “But now Bondita requests an appeal to prove her innocence.” No sooner had the Sarpanch ended when people started getting up and complaining “she shouldn’t be allowed to do this” “Send her to Kashi” “Make her a Sanyasini”.
“I request only 10 mins to prove my innocence. If I fail to do so, then I shall leave for Kashi by tonight’s train” A voice said, cutting through all accusations.
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