The year was 1975.They had met in Shantiniketan. He was already a reputed writer who was visiting for a workshop and she was one of the most stunning and promising singers the university had seen in the recent years.
It seemed like love at first sight, though he was several years her senior. Like a proper aristocrat, the following week her parents had received a formal proposal for marriage which they had no reason to deny.
He expected no dowry and the only condition was that Suparna would not sing after the marriage, certainly according to her parents this was not a huge price to pay by a poor girl to marry into a rich aristocratic family. She was hesitant at first but then love took over her reservations and she believed her love would soon make him change his heart about her singing.
She went into the haveli as Chotti bahu (young daughter-in-law). He had no siblings and after his father’s death, his mother had retired as a pious widow to Vrindavan to spend her final years praying. It was a new life, she had truckloads of new sarees and jewellery, the house was palatial and she had dedicated maid servants for her. She had started reading English classics at the university and continued that habit, taking out books from the huge library at the haveli, her favourite being the ones by the Bronte sisters.
He called her his muse and dedicated his new collection of poems to her. She was mighty pleased. But gradually Suparna was overpowered by her new identity as Mrs.Sengupta. She was no longer the happy go lucky girl she once was.
Other than his short temper, he was a pleasant man and never interfered in her routine in the house. She had once casually mentioned starting Rabindra Sangeet training again, he had smashed the wine glass against the wall and didn’t talk to her for a week. She never brought up the topic again.
Three years later she was used to a walking-on-the-eggshells life. Whenever his mother wrote or made a phone call to her it was about conceiving an heir for the haveli. Suparna felt violated in more ways than one. Obviously the poor lady didn’t know her son and his wife still lived in different rooms. He being the artist always needed his space and she was not allowed to get into his room, however whenever he chose he could come to her room for exercising his conjugal rights.
On their third anniversary he bought her a singing parrot in a gold cage. Though initially she was averse to the idea of keeping a bird caged but according to him the bird could be the closest she could get to singing now, so she accepted him like a consolation prize and not as a gift of love.
Suparna named him Mitthu, the chirpy and bubbly bird soon became the companion she never had in her life. She would take him around the house neatly perched on his gold bar in the elegantly crafted gold cage. The lady and her bird had become each other’s shadow.
Just a few weeks later one morning, Mitthu was found dead inside the cage. Suparna was inconsolable, but a few days of gazing into the empty cage resting on her dresser, led her to an epiphany. Mitthu’s unexplained death was a message for her. She would one day end up like him if she didn’t help herself now, she thought.
The next weekend she quietly walked out of the house with only the cage in her bag. It was precious enough to pay for the rest of her education at the university and the lawyer’s fees to file a divorce petition.
Suparna had started singing again, and every time she did she felt Mitthu joining her in his honey laden voice. It was ironic that her freedom from her golden cage was bought by selling another cage. Finally Suparna and Mitthu were both free.