Even before dawn broke, the news that Chanda Bir was approaching the palace with Rongomala’s severed head arrived like a storm. Earlier, flocks of black crows had swarmed the skies, flying in from who knew where. Their caws echoed across the courthouse, and through the palace corridors and balconies and the orchard and the banks of the pond. The palace was in uproar. From the commotion, it didn’t seem as if it was a low-caste woman’s head that was arriving but a wildfire blazing across the
Roopsingh Plains, a fire that threatened to wipe out the entire Chowdhury dynasty. Raj Chandra Chowdhury lay unconscious in the outer house, still stoned from drinking bhang the evening before.
Everyone – men, women and children – was terrified. When he woke up and, with Rongomala’s decapitated head in hand, commenced upon a dance of destruction like Lord Shiva, who would stop him?
Heera dashi, the slave, darted though the palace searching for Phuleswari Rai in each wing. She stormed through the rooms, entering through one door and exiting through another. Her only misadventure was stumbling and falling over Mejo Thakurani’s hookah pipe, pulling down the whole contraption.
The stale tobacco water ruined her favourite fancy rug; however, the Thakurani barely…