Story: Doll’s House
[Translated by Cauberi Mukherjee]
At breakfast table, our uncle asked did you hear the name of Firoza Bibi? Of course, you are not likely to hear it. She is the character of a famous folk theatre in Barishal, a district in Bangladesh. I have seen the play. Goblu his nephew, interrupted,” are folk tales all imagined or do they have some truth in it?” Whether it is fully imagined or not I can’t tell but all the theatre companies of Barishal were willing to produce it. Finally, Notto company produced the play and the role of Firoza was played by a less known actress. Bakul remarked,” who goes to see these rural plays? So, outdated. Somehow, I can smell some mystery in this Firoza’s character.
Uncle agreed that there was a mystery shrouding Firoza. He decided to talk about the theatre company first. The company was named after Baikunth Notto. The Company reached its height of success under the guidance of Makhanlal Notto. He shifted the company from Barishal to Kolkata. While shifting they brought many dolls, replica of the theatre characters. Among them was a doll made like Firoza. Goblu asked can we meet Firoza? Of course said his uncle. In fact, we will visit the hundred and fifty years old house of the Founders located in north Kolkata. It is said that the artisan who made the doll of Firoza, said that a spirit had entered the doll. It was a woman ‘s spirt. The founder brothers didn’t give much importance, but in the dead of night a woman singing classical songs were heard. The people who heard it said that there was evil spirit hiding inside that doll.
Bokul was taken aback hearing about the ghost.” So, we are going to a haunted doll’s house! He said that he had seen a film titled “Anna bel” where a doll was an evil spirit. His uncle agreed that he had seen the film too. A lady named Mrs. Warren had kept the doll inside a glass show case. Goblu and Bokul couldn’t hold their excitement any more. They got ready immediately for the adventure. They headed towards the Shova bazar launch ghat. There was a narrow lane beside it through which one would arrive at an old, dilapidated house.
They didn’t have any difficulty finding the haunted doll’s house. The house was a big one. There were statues at the main gate which once adorned the house. Near the main gate, there was a big notice” Do not believe in rumours nor spread rumours. This house is not haunted. All stories about ghosts are untrue. “Goblu was a little shaken up after reading the notice. They all agreed to enter the house whether there were ghosts or no ghosts.
Uncle told them that the house was named Dolls House. There are many dolls carved out of white marble housed there. At night, several voices were heard by the locals. The dolls walked all over the house. Some were heard to cry and some laughed in a strange manner. Their loud shrieks made the doors and windows rattle. When they entered the house, dusk had set in. The rooms in side were already shrouded in darkness. A faint bulb glowed in one corner. Suddenly they saw a shadow in the silhouette it came near them and asked “why did you enter this house? Why can’t you let us live in peace?” Bokul saw an old wrinkled lady coming near them. Bokul replied “we have come to look for ghosts living in this house.
The old lady spoke in a shrill voice,” Ghosts! How dare you?” Do I look like a ghost? All absurd stories.” Next an old gentleman came down and said there are no ghosts dwelling there.
There is a tailor’s shop here. Besides this house is used as a godown for many years. The tottering steps are extremely risky to climb. Besides the concrete chunks can fall any time and cause a serious accident. In fact, one such chunk fell on someone and he died of head injury and people called it the work of the ghosts. Uncle kept his voice low and very politely told him that they had not come to see the haunted doll’s house. The building was a heritage house hundreds of years old. They were keen to study it as a heritage building. They would be extremely grateful, if he granted them the permission to take a look around the house. The man’s anger had cooled a little, and he said they can go at their own risk. There were scorpions, rats and spider’s web all around. Besides there is no light. Uncle assured him that they would be careful besides, they were carrying torches so they would manage.
He called Goblu and Bokul and asked them to follow him. They tip toed upstairs after their uncle. They came to a huge hall. There was a foul smell and they had to use their handkerchiefs. In the light of the torch they saw scattered all over the floor, were marble dolls with broken limbs and arms all around. In the faint light of the torch, they felt that the broken parts of the dolls were watching their movement. A broken head of a doll, gave them a cold stare. They felt a chill down their spine. Uncle tried to assuage their fear by cracking jokes. Finally, they came across a perfect marble doll. It was beautifully carved. Its wavy hair, its neck adorned by a chain looked mesmerizing. One look at her eyes seemed that the doll wanted to speak something. The chilly wind blew through the broken window. Suddenly they noticed tears rolling down the doll’s cheek. Next, they saw her lips quivered and they heard a song.
Goblu and Bokul were utterly confused. Was it real? Or just a figment of their imagination? In the eerie atmosphere, they felt they were losing their minds. Lightning flashed across the sky and lit up the room. Goblu managed to get hold of himself. He said this doll must be Firoza begum. Its confined in this room for years so it is crying in despair. Uncle spoke in a stern tone. “Seeing the lightning flashes, and rustle of dead leaves in the room, you are thinking that Firoza begum has come to scare you. There is no enmity between you and Firoza. “Bokul replied,” agreed there is no evil intention but the song she sang is in the local dialect of Barishal. How can we disbelieve that?” Uncle argued that there are some folk singers singing near the river front. Maybe you heard them and thought it was the doll singing. It seems people of Barishal who were Firoza’s fans did not approve the idea of Notto Company shifting to Kolkata. They therefore, spread the rumours of ghosts and evil spirits that penetrated inside the dolls.
Outside torrential rain poured incessantly. Wild wind blew inside through the broken windows. Bokul and Goblu were sweating profusely. They had no words to speak. They stood motionless. They saw a figure clad in white coming near them. They were scared that that the ghost clad in white would break their bones and kill them. They also believed that the broken dolls would also arise and attack them. No wonder nobody climbed upstairs to see the dolls. Suddenly there was a sound of a loud crash. Uncle raised his torch and they all saw that the beautiful marble carved Firoza begum fell on the ground and was broken into several pieces. Seeing the wonderful craftsmanship in bits brought tears to their eyes.
Goblu at last broke the silence, he said “it seems Firoza’s soul at last became free. For years, her sprit was imprisoned inside this marble doll. Her muffled cry could be heard at night. Her sprit would now fly to her own village in in Barishal over the green fields and the shimmering waves of the river.”
Uncle was stupefied. He had never imagined that they would get to see the marble carved Firoza ‘s doll. Everybody in the locality said there were no dolls or any marble craved statues upstairs in that dilapidated house. Everything had been stolen. Even the old man who lived in that house had said the same. But what they saw, was a terrifying thing. It was a spine chilling experience. This was a dark secret and could not be shared with one. The haunted doll’s house would ever remain the mystery house to all.