Birth, Marriage, Death, Birth, Marriage, Death, such is the cycle of life.
My father’s elder sister Oipun got married to a hot-pursuer who was something of a legend during his time. The marriage happened two years after the death of her elder brother. This guy from the Tanjan District reportedly went to a new village every summer vacation and caused a terror among the unmarried girls. He had such a reputation that girls went into hiding on the mere rumor that he was approaching their village. When he found that a village was empty of girls, he sought them out in the paddy fields. In the horizon, against the sea of young paddy waving in the breeze, that figure of terror, shotgun hanging behind his shoulder (he liked to carry it around just in case he spotted a game) would appear, and like deer spotting a tiger, the girls would get into frenzy. This crazy heck of a guy, who was a University student, (one of the firsts in the entire Tani clan) had heard a girl from his clan sing in the Radio program Karpunpuli broadcasted by AIR Dibrugarh. He fell in love with her voice and went on an obsessive hunt which would continue until he found the owner of that voice. He found her in Gold Island. Oipun, who had no father, mother or older brother at that time, and who had an audio cassette to her name thanks to her school-teachers, was flattered by this hot-pursuer, and his story of how he fell in love with her. She accepted his hand, and the responsibility of the marriage ceremony was taken up by the entire Basket village. It was one of the truly big weddings of the day, the newlywed were made to sit on top of Rani, the old elephant of Pakkom, and were paraded around the village, while everyone danced to the beat of drums and other noisy musical instruments. Years later when they had their first baby, he told her, “When I heard your voice for the first time, I saw my future. I knew instantly that it was you who I wanted to marry.”
Kaising, on the other hand, never believed that one day he would have wife and children. The reason for this was Kaising’s sickly nature from an early age. The elders in the family, the older brothers of Pakkom, had predicted his death and did not include him in the distribution of the Amo Estate. He was always being carried from one village to the other throughout the year due to his stomach pain. He lived with distant relatives in different villages as he took up courses prescribed by quack doctors who were known to be wizards in curing ailments of his type. Also during those years he was repeatedly failing his matriculation exam: he would come to sit for his exam with a piece of cloth wound tightly across his stomach (so that the pain in his stomach was stifled), but had to always leave the exam hall before time, sweating and shivering with agony. On his eighth failure he requested his sister Oipun, who was now living in Guwahati with her family, to take him to a hospital). Oipun took him to the nearby Downtown Hospital and got him operated. Within no time Kaising regained his health and his good looks. The ailment he had been suffering from all those years was not pneumonia but a bad case of ulcer and gastrointestinal bleeding commonly known as Melena. Kaising was finally able to sit through his exams, and when the result came he saw that the word “Pass” was written beside his name. After that he also passed his Higher Secondary and his BA exam in quick succession.
Kaising himself had more or less accepted what people said about his condition when he first saw the much younger Pongkir Takar, my mother. It so happened that his operation in the stomach became known all over the village, and in all concerned parties outside the village. Those days nobody in the village had been operated (many years later my father would actually boast of being the first one in whole of Gold Island) and the common belief among the villagers was that he was no more a full man nor will ever be one. So girls never agreed to marry him, and even if a girl did, the parents and everyone concerned would tell her that he would never be able to sire a child, or be able to live a long life. Kaising had more or less accepted what people said about his condition when he saw Pongkir Takar for the first time in his life. Pongkir had come to Basket village to help out a classmate of hers in the preparation of a dodgang (a feast celebrating the dead), a normal thing for young unmarried women to do. He saw her glowing in the bloom of youth, irresistible and confident, filled with laughter and vivacity. She was tall and large in size, with a beautiful bosom and behind that made my Still-a-Bachelor father’s head slightly dizzy. My father had no high hopes but he made his approach. For a year he wrote love letters and my mother finally relented to his persistence. She agreed to elope with him, and did exactly that. She ran away in the middle of the night hoodwinking her vehemently opposing older sister. My maternal grandmother’s entire family wept for she was the youngest and the most beautiful daughter in the family, and the man with whom she had run away was rumored to be a man who had been cut open in the stomach and who was going to die sooner than a normal man dies, and in addition to all that he was a man who could not sire any children. They wept as if she had been lost forever. Pongkir herself wept when she saw Kaising’s scar across the length of his belly on their nuptial bed. She was petrified at what she had done: that scar was the ugliest thing she had ever seen in her life. She could not go back home, even if that was the one thing on her mind in the morning, in the afternoon, late in the night: she was too ashamed to go back, and in any case the villagers would not look too kindly on her. She wept tearfully and silently and my father made the bed, brought my mother presents. Now she could blame no one but herself for agreeing to elope with this man she thought she knew all about.