A Many-Coloured Rainbow | Support Elders

A Many-Coloured Rainbow

Support Elders member Ratna Sen shares the story of her life with Rimjhim Bhattacherjee.


As a young girl, I grew up in a very conservative family where a durwan would accompany me even if I had to go two houses down. Those were days when women didn’t venture out too much and my father, although he loved me like no other, was very strict about this. Life changed dramatically after I married. My husband worked for Bharat Petroleum and had a transferable job. Wherever he went, I went with him— Burdwan, Behrampore, Asansol, Gujarat, Bombay. Sometimes he used to be away on tour for as many as fifteen days at a stretch and I had to manage on my own. Can you imagine the leap this was for me? I enjoyed my freedom though. I liked travelling to new places. Each new city had its own idiosyncrasies, its offerings of happy and sad days and new friendships. Some friendships forged in these new cities stand strong even today.


I used to spend my days immersed in chores, books, embroidery and music. I was trained in embroidery and it had almost become an addiction for me. I loved stitching patterns on panjabis, table covers and so on. But music engrossed me like nothing else. Along with completing my Master’s in Home Science before I was married, I used to take singing lessons at Geetabitan. I even learnt to play the Hawaiian guitar from a young chap who gave me lessons at home. My husband always encouraged my love for music and tried to arrange for guitar teachers for me in every new city we visited. Some of my most precious memories are with my son in Bombay—the two of us playing music, he on his Spanish guitar and me on my Hawaiian—alo amar alo ogo aloye bhubon bhora…those were magical days…


But enough nostalgia. Let me now tell you of an incident that happened while I was in Asansol…


I used to live on the ground floor of a house. Another family of mother and daughter, who I was very friendly with, occupied the first floor. Three steps led to my room. My husband was away on tour. It was late evening. I had been reading a book and had dozed off for a while when I suddenly heard a rustling noise, like the crumpling of paper. My eyes were immediately drawn to the door which I had left open for the evening breeze to pass through. What I saw made me freeze on the cot for a second before I gathered up all my courage and ran up to the first floor. I was so scared that I was unable to speak.  Very cautiously the daughter crept downstairs and ran up to report the vision to her mother— a gigantic snake, with its hood raised, was sitting calmly on the steps leading to my room! Immediately, the mother wrapped a thick cloth over a stick, dipped it in kerosene and setting it to flame, brandished it in front of the terrifying creature. It slithered away into the darkness with a hiss. I slept upstairs that night. The nineteen or twenty year old me cocooned in my natal home would never have imagined, in her wildest fancy, that she would one day have an experience like this!

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By rimjhim