Colours of a folk tale

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  • Published 4.05.12

Book title: Tejimalar Makar Sadhu

Author: Mridul Sarma

Publisher: Aank-Baak

Pages: 352

Price: Rs 230

The overt simplicity of folk tales often leaves space for interpretation and opens up scope for startlingly fresh readings. One such folklore that has been an integral part of almost every Assamese’s childhood is the story of the ill-fated girl, Tejimala.

Though the original story appears in Lakhminath Bezbaruah’s Burhi Aair Sadhu — a cult book — writer Mridul Sarma reinterprets the story in her novel Tejimalar Makar Sadhu.

Sarma extracts the story from its folktale and layers it with meanings that are strictly grounded in reality — both social and psychological.

For one, Sarma concentrates on an unlikely character, Tejimala’s father Bhogeswar.

Though the novel is named after Tejimala’s mother, almost the first half of the book is about the nature and character of Bhogeswar and the way he spent his days (rather nights) after the death of his first wife, Hadori.

Bhogeswar’s second wife, whom we know as the cruel stepmother of Tejimala, is depicted as less ruthless.

Sarma weaves situations in a manner which lead the woman to behave the way she did.

The author delves into her mind to understand the workings that lead her to daydream about killing the beloved daughter.

No crime can be planned or can take place without a compelling situation to fuel the evil in a person, believes the author.

The main players of the story, in fact, are a complex mesh of psychological and emotional pressure — exploitation of the mind ignoring lust, a sense of disgrace, the physical and emotional agony of bearing unpleasant situations and also the bond of unmatchable love.

This deadly concoction of emotions force the characters of Batahi, Sauni, Bogiram and Bhogeswar to behave the way they do and results in psychological disorder and depression of Sumitra.

Sumitra’s trauma towards the end of the story, was faced, though to a lesser extent — by the first wife — Hadori.

This world is filled with characters like Sauni, Bhogeswar, Batahi, Bogiram and hence, there will always be characters like Sumitra who will continue to suffer such grief.

The previous story by Lakhminath is for an innocent audience.

Sarma’s version plucks out this children’s story and turns it into a complex psychological thriller meant for adults.