Alta…Churi…Feeta | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 03, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 03, 2018


Always a bride, never a wife. Always a dream; never a reality! The quintessential Bengali belle is no longer here, yet her unmistakable image is so deeply impregnated in our minds and imaginations, we fail over and over again to shrug away and dissociate with that romantic notion, which may just be a label and nothing more.


The belle is a likeness of the goddess to romantics; a literary or visual imagery handed over generation after generation of writers, novelists, painters and sculptors, not to mention the roadside Romeos! Times have changed, yet the look of a quintessential girl is the exact same — taant, alta, churi, feeta…

Eons have passed since a girl from the metropolis has wandered around fields so vast that it meets the sky at the horizon. From the stories heard on a rainy day, she imagines the company of a duckling, Hashu, no more than a week old. Her feet dyed with alta, the hue in the brightest shade of red that promises prosperity, and shuns away all pessimism and negativity — an unfortunate reality of our urban existence.

She has a payel wrapped around the webbed feet; a token of love Nitu's granny had put around her tiny feet the very day she was born, a decade ago!

Nitu too has put alta using a Q-tip along the sides of her feet; wore a silver anklet that chimes with every step. Yet, all she knows is to run like the wind, Hashu, comforted by the warmth of her palms and Jori, her faithful billy-goat, hopping and leaping just for the heck of it.

They are all set on adventure, one that ends as one meets the blue sky at the end of the earth, in the horizon!

The warmth comforting palms of Nitu makes Hashu feel at ease. On her two tiny hands Nitu wears bangles, churi…reshmi churi that shines in a riot of colours as the sunbeams bounces off them.

The possibilities are endless — a myriad shade of green lends a positive vibe, which can easily be subsided by the flamboyance of dazzling reds; or subdued in shades of grey!

And who says it has to be monochrome, when the game is to go for a riot, Nitu brings all her arsenal and creates a rainbow in her hands!

Tagore speaks of one of his heroines, an epitome of a Bengali beauty—

I call her Krishnokoli — the girl whom the folks call dark

On a cloudy day at the field I saw her dark hazel eyes,

Unveiled, open locks of hair rolled over her back

Dark? Dark she may be; it's her hazel eyes I see.

I call her Krishnokoli, whatever others may call her by

At the meadows of Moynapara, I saw her dark hazel eyes.

Her head unveiled, yet she spared no time to feel shy

Dark? Dark she may be; it's her hazel eyes I see.

A renegade against all notions of Victorian romanticism, Jibanananda Das, our purest poet, creates a complete new image. The identity of his heroine is a well-guarded secret, yet she reappears in almost a depiction of women in Das' life.

It's a game of cat and mouse between him and his perpetually confused readers — “Are they the same?”-- some enquire. Others completely convinced that Banalata, Suranjana or Sujata are the same, just a reflection of the duality of human existence, and the inner thoughts that make all of us unique. Yet, amidst all that, each stands alone as the ideal representation of a Bengali woman.

Jibanananda presents beauty through metaphors that remain unique to Bengali literature to this day.

He writes:

Her hair was like an ancient darkling night in Vidisa

Her face the craftsmanship of Sravasti.

It is the depth of Das' imagery that gives his heroines immortality. They are like the 'sound of dew'; 'the fragrance of the sun', a 'fragrance of sleep' and 'furry exuberance of darkness.'

Possibly it is in our darkest hours that we realise the true beauty of life and the privilege to breathe in air, which may very well be our last. The Bengali belle may not be here or anywhere, but her presence is felt as Krishnokoli, Sujata, Suranjana; perhaps essentially all leading ladies are the same. Only the eyes of the beholder give each of them their own identity.

So, in all honesty, if you feel like donning that perceived image of a pastoral belle, even if for a day, know this that the image has changed as we have changed. But think for a while, the belle is you in every minute, every hour, every day of your life. Possibly, all it needs is a dance off between the old and the new.

“No mistakes in the tango, darling, not like life. It's simple. That's what makes the tango so great. If you make a mistake, get all tangled up, just tango on.”

That was Al Pacino in 'Scent of a Woman,' because beauty is not what you see, but what you hear, touch and perceive.

And that is the reality.

By all means, feel the Bengali that you are, but be yourself too!


Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed

Model:  Oshin

Wardrobe: Bibiana

Styling: Sonia Yeasmin Isha

Make-up: Noyon Ahamed

Location: The Palace Luxury Resort, Bahubal, Habiganj

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