Even death cannot separate our loved ones from us.


It was the time when British came to Murshidabad for the first time.

Sairindri devi lived with her family in Murshidabad. She was around 35 or 36 years old. She had three sons. The older two went to school but the little one stayed at home. Sourav used to cling to his mother always, even when his mother cooked. He never went out and played in the courtyard. He cried his lungs out if his mother went out of sight. Every afternoon Sairindri devi used to pat her son to sleep. Little Sourav used to see his mother sit on the edge of the bed, chew beetle leaves and tell stories while patting him. The smell of the pan filled the room as he fell asleep.

One afternoon like any regular day Sairindri devi was patting her son to sleep when she chocked on a beetle nut and died.

The last memory Sourav have of his mother is that she is lying on the floor struggling to breath. It scared him. The same smell of pan filled the room the slight change was that instead of him his mother fell asleep and forever.

It took little Sourav quite some days to realise what had happened. His father, Soumen babu tried the best to hold the family together. Uncannily, Soumen babu had also lost his mother as a child so he could empathize with his children. Soumen babu never remarried for, nobody could replace his wife. Then onwards, he played the role of both father and mother.

Time is the best healer. Life got back on track for Soumen babu and his sons. They had learnt a lot from their loss. Slowly all the three sons of Sairindri devi grew up and became well established. They married and had children. Soumen babu had retired. When his sons went out on work he used to sit on his easy chair in the garden and think of the life he had spent. He thought his wife would have been so happy to see her sons well established. She would sit on the edge of the bed and sing songs or tell stories to their grandchildren like she did to her sons.

As his age advanced, Soumen babu started falling sick often. He was 90 years old. He knew that his time for departure had come. His sons tried their best to save him. They had lost their mother at a very early age they did not want to lose their only remaining strength. But according to nature’s law Soumen babu passed away.

Sourav smelled the same beetle leaf smell very strongly as he had smelled as a child, when his mother narrated to him tales of heroes and sang songs.

He thought about his mother’s demise and felt that he had associated the death of a beloved person with the smell of beetle leaf.

That is why on this day he smelled the same smell even though no one was chewing beetle leaves.

During that time photography was new in India and very expensive too. After Soumen babu’s death his sons had called an English photographer to get the picture of the entire family with soumen babu. Soumen babu’s last rights were performed.

After a month or so Sourav received the photograph that they had clicked after their father’s death. When sourav looked at the picture he was speechless. Along with all the family members in the photograph was his mother. She was of the age she had died in. She stood behind her husband’s head. Sourav realised why the smell of beetle leaves had arrived that day.