The lemon bites. I think lemon bites more than a chili does. The chili produces so fast a sense of abrasive burning in tongue that quick efforts are made to douse its effect, ward off its slight presence. Nothing remains of it. But a lemon releases the tangy effect, creeping into our eyes and innards, like an inquisitive squint. A lemon has memories. It seems capable of preserving the old seeds inside.
She used to rush past the side of the road where the blue and yellow striped buses bound for Howrah used to stand and the bus-drivers released themselves on the wall of the Dhakuria bridge; and the same thing remained on the wall in a vein-like formation. Parallel to it stood Kalibari, where out of inducted belief in fear and not in God, she touched head on the brown engravings. During “rather mela” this corner was illuminated by the stalls selling clay Bishnupur dolls, plastic rings in variegated colours shining underneath bulbs, wooden chairs, tables etc. She thought that she would have no memory of it except the rip-roar of the crowd.
But the lemon bursts without any foreknowledge. Memories rise and fall influenced by its cruel energies, always wanting to reach its destiny, to reach us.
That year when she went to Rather Mela she was overcome by the sounds of the fair more than its visual tapestry. The clangour of Rather Mela peeled itself by turns. The sounds of “bhepus” (paper flutes), frying of jilipi, and thrill-filled voices branched out like a frangipani tree in her subconscious. Clutching her sister’s hand she survived the flood of the people. The earth of sounds defied chronology. The sounds grew like creases in her mind. She suddenly felt a hand on her breasts, clasping to grope. The feeling was repulsive, similar to what a river might feel flowing and halting against obtrusive rocks and finally dying with silt.
She pulled her sister’s hand, trying to explain what happened to her; who the element of abomination was. “wait, we will buy that doll later, you want that, I know’ said her sister jostling, her spectacles had settled on the bridge of her nose; and her face encased in sweat. When they had reached a corner, on the backside of the stalls, relatively less crowded Lekha narrated it detail by detail, placing hands on her breast to reproduce the feeling of revulsion. She urged her sister to describe the incident to her uncle. But her sister silenced her. She told her to keep mum about it to avert the ramifications of it on their chances of venturing out at night, especially her sister’s.
Today when she thinks about the incident, she no longer feels any repulsion, but a circuitous rage; angry like a graffiti, strong like an overhang. On that day Lekha’s elder sister ensured she bought everything she fancied: clay dolls (Kashmiri woman), hairclips, key-rings to make her feel happy: eliminate the feelings of disgust which had settled like soaked, heavy tea-bags in her psychological narrative.
The clay dolls, blue mirror, key-rings made her happy, but the feeling of being groped pricked her innards, like glass splinters, sporadically. As she returned home, she wanted to throw herself into her mother’s arms but if she did that she knew she would have breached the implicit agreement between herself and her sister.
The glowworm sat on the squiggle of the Bengali alphabet “ummo” on the green walls of her house. Her mother was wearing a mustard-green night-gown, different from the one she had worn when they left for Rather Mela. It was strange as she never changed her night-gown until next day’s shower.
“Go to your room Lekha, I will have a look at what all beautiful things you bought from the Rather Mela, I can see the head of the doll peeping out of the bag. It must be very beautiful; we will keep it on your study table.” Sitting in her room, feeling the “prick of the glass splinters,” she could not decipher as to why her Ma was so vapid and stoic, like old stamps.
Later she got to know that her father had physically abused her Ma, stripped her naked on her refusal to have sex. He tore her night-gown into shreds. She imagined her mother naked and her breasts being groped and stroboscopically she could see the “glass splinter” pricking and hurting their umbilical cord.
Huffing-puffing she reached the Sealdah platform. The train was pulling itself inside covering the excrement, chips packets and paper cups. Gasping for breath, she had missed noticing her coach number; she quickly steadied herself and looked attentively at the chartreuse coaches of Sealdah-Delhi Rajdhani coach.
Hopping onto the train, she struggled to put the luggage beneath the side lower berth of Rajdhani trains. She loved side lower berths; it was almost like straddling a rope and taking in views from both sides like a squirrel climbing upside down on a wall. Her momentary kinship with the city of Kolkata came to an end like many others’ had; sometimes lasting for a week and sometimes a month, hardly more than that. The city had grown into a haunting den of lone senior citizens, a refuse of its own political stubbornness.
Against her was sitting the man who shared the berth; a broad-built physique, but not manufactured out of GYM, with a stubble-laced face, beard growing like a creep. The biggest anomaly was that he didn’t have a phone by himself. Now-a-days people are so intertwined with cell phones that they look like dead volcanoes, with no magma building up and the crater blocked indefinitely, with no guts to look up. Who suffers? Volcanologists. They miss the things that surround us. The things that surround us, shape us by its absurdist playthings. Every day when we wake up, we feel nothing is different and yet we want to live the day through those absurdist playthings.
The man sharing the berth thrust his bag and sat as though without a concern for her city. The images outside the train don’t cut him; the wrench doesn’t unnerve him.
The stone had to be removed.
She opened her teal-blue diary. There were so many pages folded that her diary looked like a jutted rock. She penned down:
“ I hate sounds: sounds of television cracking the wall up, sounds of Pia whimpering, bursting into shrieks. Oh ! How I wish I could muffle such sounds. They violate my being; never allow me to write; acts of vulgarization of my existence. If writing has to find its way, I have to enact a carnage… I wish to die; death will bring a life to me; a life full of lies and escape, a life to tell people that writing is a process of self-awareness; writing is a death: a needle through which thread of every colour must pass to weave a new life. I want to capture the split-seconds: a dancer’s movements of backbone, a musician’s pomegranate bursts of rhythms, fossilize every sigh of pain, angst. I don’t have to fall in love to ovulate the meaning of estrangement; if I realize I have a being I know that I would feel a sense of estrangement too. My city is one. My memories are my being. Partho is one. I was never in love; I was in a conscious state of oblivion: in a passing state of desires proliferating; in a desire to have solitude to take charge of me.”
She leaves one page blank. She continues to write.
“The toddy palms were as juicy as Ma wanted them to be. Picked from the first morning supply. She would give it to me in a kashar bowl which had her name engraved on her. I sat in the same position on the bed facing the alcove where the different deities: Kali, Durga, Lakshmi were placed with the frames smeared with vermilion. She appeared in a foggy apparition, blowing the conch-shell. She was at one with the offering of prayers so much so that all the crumbs of anguish rising out of marriage were whisked away by the rumbling of the conch-shell.
The juice from the toddy palms dripped down till my elbows. I let it drip and fall on the bed sheet. I let it drip till she blows the conch shell. I let it drip till she is absolved of all the forced acceptances. Even if lal pipre(red ant) comes greedily to suck the juice, I will let it suck and bite both Ma and me. I have to remove the glass splinters from our umbilical cord. Ma grows in my womb, viciously. She fingers the walls of the womb and sometimes pin-pricks also to incite a squeak. And the world lingers around us. Waiting and desiring to archive.”
She looked up the diary and saw that man in blue-striped shirt flipping the pages of a diary and closing it alternatively, perhaps to reflect upon the inscriptions of the diary. A diarist takes a good deal of joy in reading her/his diary. It gives you chances to interpret life, express surprise and exasperation at our caprices, at our emotional intuitiveness, at the manner our nerves beat black and blue; also to wonder at our caves of desperation, delirium and spree of expectations and hopes.
As a diarist, she felt there was always an eye hovering around her diary and there was a persistent need to guard it against the “conscious sinister eye.” A diarist always feels that everything is ephemeral and time will escape the fetters of memory. A diarist only knows that each second is a worth of catacomb’s mystery; and each second is a civilization of nerves and veins.
There was a mash of scarlet, auburn colours outside the train window; emanating from the backlash of sunset. Thoughts spilled her mind— incidents that glide back and forth in the aftermath of a notional happening. “ it is a ruddy shellduck and not only a duck,” shouted Pronil who had a interest in wildlife photography.
“ No, the candlelight march is no farce. Even if there are people who like crowd-fancying a cause, it instills a fear in the authorities, a fear of people climbing after people for bringing about a paradigmatic change”—-Pronil’s wife said aggressively, keeping the cup of tea on the table as a small tremor ran through the tea causing it spill over on the table.
“ Except the candlelight march is not banned unlike the documentary”—Pronil chuckled having no care about the issue. Pronil was Lekha’s friend from school.
He had resigned to the clichéd prisons of every incident, Things continue to happen, crimes are committed. We add rage to it. And the victim lives to feel the pain grow like a tendril out of the main-tree.
“When I was in college, I spearheaded the Redressal Committee against sexual abuse, molestation against women in the campus. Once, a friend of mine got into a brawl with a boy who remarked that girls should be tied to trees and raped. She complained to the principal, but in vain. No actions were taken. The principal was coldly phlegmatic. It was shocking to see somebody being so cold to such a despicable incident. We shouted slogans, had sit-in protests, gheraoed principal’s office, remained wide awake through devising new means of protest like pasting nude pictures of us on tree-trunks.” Lekha said.
“You sound as throbbing as Langston Hughes poems. How do you manage to do sit-in-protests. What do you do when you have to pass stool.” Pronil gurgled a laugh.
“Didi, Pia has passed urine, she is wet, get her a new pair of pants,”— Sree said giving Lekha an alarm.
Lekha brought in more tea without paying any heed to her younger sister’s alarm. They sipped on tea and the conversations swung from the uprisings in North Africa, the new egg roll shop in Delhi, the Kieslowski movies, the ManBooker nominations to the Potlababu in Jadavpur who left his family in Bengal to open a library in honour of Narayan Gangopadhyay books in Australia.
Mountains and the prisoner, and the mother and child, the old man discovering solace in the ruddy hills
The prisoner –“ Hill I was wrongly imprisoned for no guilt of mine. I felt like a railway track being built inside me on which trains trampled without any rhyme or reason”
Mother and child:
Child- “why did you commit suicide mother and dragged me along with you ?”
Mother- I could not leave you alone in the dark hollows. I brought you along so that I can make you cupcakes and recite the poem “Closed Mussels” to you.
—-These were the premises of her stories written in her diary. The corners of her mind were towed to such half-baked stories and poems which alternated, unfinished, like the tea-kiosks, loose peepul tree leaf tucked on the roads between her office and home in Delhi. She tried to keep each such thought at bay. But each such primordial thought visited her to examine its viability.
“Didi, Pia has passed urine.”- Sree said standing up giving Lekha a jab at her elbows.
“When did she pass urine. Oh god, she must be wet. Oh! She will catch cold; she hasn’t totally recovered from cold yet. Oh please Sree, go and wipe her. No, give her to me.”—Lekha said, avoiding eye-contact with the others as though guilt would be hurled at her from all those present eyes.
She rushed to the cupboard, in a state of frenzied guilt, and dragged a pair of pants.
“Come, Pia, my shona baby wear these pants. Switch off the fan, Lekha.”
“Bring the powder, don’t take too long to find the powder.”—Lekha said, caution repeating like a skin repeating itself over a dry wound.
Pia, stand, darao, sorry my baby, sorry, sorry, I turned blind and deaf, didn’t want to make you suffer in the wet of your piss. Be angry with me… never intended to keep you in discomfort.”…said Lekha, the guilt of an uncaring, indifferent mother becoming intolerably violent in her.
She stood behind the television set motionless, clasping Pia tight, guilt hitting at her torrentially. Her face was leaking toxic of guilt, the world of communication around her fell flat, like a medicine crossing its expiry date, and the air seemed to beat around her as a propellant to instigate chronology of a mother’s guilt: a self-pollinating, restive guilt.
The pond feels like a thinking tomb
Trying to find out its origins
Strangulating the fish
A fish dies in every city
Without ever reaching the sea
Growing into a sea-weed
To see light passing from birth to death
A bystander’s retreat.
Lekha Ghosh..(24th April 2010)
She looked up the diary. The train crossed past ponds, a man on cycle, coconut trees and advertisements of medicines boosting sexual courage. She looked opposite at the man reading a diary. It was not his diary. Something indicated that. He was reading and keeping it down with a sigh. When she read her diary she never let out a sigh except a feeling of courteous enmity with her writing. Looking back at her past recorded spells of anxiety, despair, fears, she felt some other hand and mind had concocted her diary. She sometimes repelled what she had written.
He observed her noticing him and laying the diary. “Ah!, it is my mother’s diary. She had recorded her extramarital affair with a man named Mihir. She thought about him and retained him in her subconscious throughout her marriage with my father.”- he said, stretching his right foot inside.
The act of giving away details of a stranger’s diary surprised her.
I did not want to know all these. I did not ask for it, I don’t even know you. What led you to think that I would be interested in diary entries of somebody I don’t know”– Lekha said, her forehead cringing with the revulsion towards secrets being given away do unabashedly.
The diary is where we keep the mortal remains of our subconscious. The world salivates over the secrets. Do we have secrets at all? It is a fear of perception.
She had secrets, so many that they could have outlived her spoken words. Secrets are deadly encumbrances. One of the entries in her diary read:
“I wish I could kill my daughter without giving her any pain. I wish I could just obliterate her, be done away with. She cries whenever I sit down to write. My half-finished poems and stories smell like the water of sewage tunnel. It is the “practical love,” as Kant describes, that I have towards her and not the “pathological love”. My love for her is directed not by my “tender sympathies” but by a choking duty. No, I can’t kill Pia. I can’t treat her like a dry leaf which has lived its life and does not mind being trampled time and again on a street. If I kill her, the guilt will suffocate me, tear myself away from my fragile existence, leaving me like a loose tether in air. It would be mad…..mad…obnoxious state of affairs. Nobody should read my diary, Don’t burn my skin”
Taking a sip from the cup, he looked at her, the sun-tan has concealed her true complexion like a new line of clothes hiding the old-fashioned clothes in a shop. A horse-shoe of her true complexion could be carved out. At a time on the train when the windows reflected only the faces of the passengers, she looked outside the window as though the cicadas, tree-branches, granaries, truck lights bloated like a fruit germinating from a seed.
“ Music has made me patient, it nurtures my writing skills”—one girl co-passenger aged between twenty-two to twenty-four in green T-shirt said.
“Beta, dip the breadstick in the tomato soup and sip, don’t eat only the butter,” said the father who could anticipate what would become of the breadsticks. His wife had already started stuffing her bag with sugar sachet, ladoo, dal moot.
One boy in twenties, with a slight bulge, was showing a video on his phone to his friend. He urged his friend to be patient to see through the video. The climax was that a portly man while jumping on the parachute cloth, got deflected to another direction only to perch upon his dog which barked ruthlessly. The videos continued in a row: truck toppling, cat pissing on owner’s face, a woman farting inside lift, a drunkard man dancing only to be ricocheted and both guffawed ceaselessly. The ritual of endless sharing videos and jokes and that too immediately without letting time to sniff is a disease contaminating the verbs of time and space. Let’s not try to conquer that space always with something tangible; let’s visit the space with hearts to realize the hearts of others. Let’s commemorate shadows. Create lacquer in dreams. Perspire in reminiscences.
The night had descended. The factory chimneys, the glow of yellow lights from the houses, the smoke billowing out of chimneys, the dark waters of the rivers seemed like a hand of past civilization staring at us, calling us; telling us to assume their stationary lives. Passengers resort to conversations.
“ Mining mafia would loot the nation”—a spirited voice protested the nonchalance of the government.
“ It has its social costs apart from indiscriminate exploitation … the continuous threats, loss of forestation” said a woman, feeding her child some biscuits.
The dinner was served.
“ My mother was in a relationship before her marriage with my father. I have no clear idea as to why she succumbed to marriage. She must have her own limitations. She felt a discomfort throughout her life. I found out a keychain once bearing her name and her lover’s. I was unsettled as a kid, broke that keychain, threw it into the pond near our house. A tumult ran through me….. earth’s surface cracking because of the overpowering roots expanding sideways.. I became a kafari, dived so deep into an indifference that I refused to identify myself as an appendage to my mother. I tried to find ways to kill her, abolish her soul inside me…” he said, holding the roti drenched in dal.
“But I was content with the fact that her disenchantment with marriage never left her core lonely. My father had little time for her. She had memories and the “being” of Mihir to fall back on. Marriage pleases every senses except that it is a tarnished concept” ….. he said amid the passengers boarding the train from Mughal serai.
A burly man, looking over the spectacles, came and tried to ascertain the berth number. Following him, came his family consisting of a 15year old girl dressed in maroon T-shirt and jeans, his wife bearing a calm disposition. He looked under the seats to inspect whether enough luggage space was left for him. The skepticism was very clear: the passengers from the source station had usurped his luggage space. He snorted. It was only an inviting call to a sonorous fight for luggage space. On trains, it is a remarkable conquest.
“you should push the bag more to the left side, and let us put ours in the middle,” said the burly man fuming, it seemed as though the anger didn’t visit him accidentally, but it perpetually inhabited him.
“Instead of losing calm, you must realize that your five pieces of luggage can’t be shrunk anywhere between our luggage. You can put one here and the rest somewhere else. You don’t buy luggage space, you accommodate, and you can’t command orders” Mr A said trying to explain reason to a man fed by excessive anger and skepticism.
Reason fizzles out in the face of anger. The fire engulfs reason. Murders are committed, incidences of estrangements rise. Lekha Ghosh 25 th May 2009
That burly man’s daughter settled on the seat and immediately commanded their servant, aged between sixty-five to seventy years, to massage her legs. Her command had a routinely sharp tone. There were no qualms; there was a certainty, confidence that nothing could take away her right to act so irreverently towards the old man.
“ it is so unsightly to see that old man massaging legs of such an young girl,” he said
What is your name,”—she asked.
“Shubham, and yours?—he asked
“ Lekha”—she said.
“Do you stay in Delhi or going there for any purpose?—she asked.
“I would be going to Jaipur, take the afternoon train. Before that, I would spend some time with my friends here, might just go to Qutub Minar,”he answered
“Jaipur, for official purpose?”
Oh yes, I work with Archeological Survey of India.. I often have to make field trips to Jaipur. I go looking for minerals”
The fight for luggage space went on. The TT was called. The burly man excavated all his “political kinship/connections” to assert his power over the married couple.
“Take both of them outside the train and settle the matter, “ shouted somebody who took great pleasure as a bystander’s retreat.
“My father too worked with Archeological Survey of India. It was on one such mineral discovery trip that I got to know about my Ma’s escapades.” he said, while others patted the dust off the bedsheets.
“But, you know Lekha, the surprising thing about my mother was that she was never frigid or remotely gloomy. Her memories turned her into a reactionary…she experimented with emotions..,” he said as the lights inside the train were slowly being turned off.
“Have you ever seen ruddy shellduck” she asked him
The diversion from the subject surprised him.
“No, I haven’t seen,” he said
“I feel like having some hot coffee.”
Perhaps, not coffee, but waffle with maple syrup”
He laughed; he looked at her; he laughed again. A cockroach flitted in and out of the luggage. In his lost aim to discover beauty, he discovered beauty slipping from farce to her laugh, from a drop to a violent energy. The clingy feeling of nothing moving dispersed. It was a response to his innocent vigilance. He could feel the realization settling inside him like slush after rains that she was piously ignorant of her desires. He recently had entered into his diary
“ I have lost the desire to discover beauty except the beauty found in the strange volition of wind around a peepul leaf. Peepul leaves rotate wildly, swoon, holding tightly to the fulcrum of the air, while leaves of other trees stay still and stable, undisturbed by the wind. Volition is the dissimilarity of the pressure they put on the will, as Kant says”
Nights usually arrive early on trains. The innards of the train matched the atmospherics of outside; the train seemed a tunnel inside another tunnel. With the fireflies flickering, the man carrying the light on tracks, houses lit and car and truck lights crisscrossing each other, life seemed to be wax melting and collecting itself below the candlebody, burning and then settling calmly, tired of being stationary designs of our desires.
All except both of them were asleep. Wailing of infants and farts cut through as they went on talking. The bed sheets remain crumpled on the upper side berth.
“Waffle with maple syrup. Where did you have it the last time”— he asked, as expressions of thrill sifted her face.
“Mumbai, it was delectable. The waffle looked like cat’s paws imprinted on the sand. Have you ever had ?”
“No, Never had”
“Have you walked through the street covered with vistas of trees in C. R Park,… oh, I am forgetting the name… it is near the gates of the ground..the gates which have been closed post the terrorist attack after the 1984 riots, I love walking there at dusk. I don’t like shadows of trees. It seems as though they are dead or preparing themselves for their death. When it is all dark, it seems almost everything begins there”..she said
The darkness is a sieve. It sifts the coarse from the refined. It hits the belfries inside our body. Darkness helps us collecting all the shards of glass. Below our skins, we ride a boat without any oars. The boats rattles, calling out to danger; even with our fears rising we love the feeling that there are some things which are yet to be overcome.
“ The moss on the lake, the children running parallel to the local trains is a beautiful sight. As I walk towards a direction and then turn back, I see few people making boats. They are like nails still attached to the human body. Once removed from the land, they too, like the disposed nails would float in a self-chosen hysteria. To them, estrangement is a natural way of living.”…. he said
The train brakes could be felt very sharply. The sleeping bodies tossed and counterposed the jerks as though some inbuilt anesthesia had equipped them with a buffer.
“Everything is a struggle of our subconscious. Subconscious scares us, pollutes us.”…she said.
“Subconscious, essentially the subject of Freud and Camus” he said as Rajdhani pantry boys shuffled by.
“Is the train on right time,” he asked
The conscious part in you strives to find responses to strange ordinary needlework of surroundings and incidents; and you can’t waive off your conscious part even though it makes you eligible as a social animal, it sustains itself by its own resourcefulness, but the most beautiful part in you is your subconscious: repository of your fragile secrets, your anxieties, fears, despair, poetic selfishness, erotic gravitas.
Your subconscious floats in you like a fragmented soul of your lost friend.”… she said, letting a part of her diary excerpts go.
“My mother loved some other man throughout her marriage. I knew she was writing in her rust-coloured diary. She never hid it expressly, never even attempted to hide it. I knew there was something that musn’t be talked about.”
“It was so simple to imagine her writing behind the doors in the afternoons when my grandmother slept; the summer afternoon sun blazing outside, she sweating as she kept the windows closed while she wrote making the room more stuffy, the ants feeding on the prosad, nokuldana melting, icecream vendors shouting, schoolchildren trotting by, screaming, chattering and she wanting her son to be the last child in the longest distance at the end of the road where the man under the tree shade cut the amra fruit and mixed it with the concoction of chanachur , onions and rock salt. But to imagine what was between the pages of her diary throbbed my subconscious. I used to have my lunch and imagine my mother in a physical relationship with that man. When I looked at my mother and tried to coordinate such thoughts with her face, it was so easy…damn easy for her to lead a parallel life of dalliances without any guilt snowing inside her.
Was it even a guilt? Did she even realize that she was acting irresponsibly towards the fidelity expected by her son.?”
“why did you choose to fish out her diary suddenly”—she asked
“Nothing, but a few weeks ago, I saw my guilt multiplying in my dreams, a black widow spider dangerous insect spitting on me”
“Yes, I often felt a guilt ..what if I am never able to discover my mother. She distanced herself from me when she came to know that I have knowledge of her affair.”
“My uncle was a geologist. So he often went for field trips in Rajasthan. My mother accompanied him and my mashi once”
“ It was like the dark pits we see outside the trains at night, nothing retrievable. A Sikh driver took us for fishing. My uncle wearing boots set out for mineral discovery in the dusk and we went for fishing.”
“When we made up all our minds to go for fishing after drinking buffalo’s milk, my mother refused to accompany us. I was so excited about fishing that I danced in joy outside the yellow tent and assailed the Sikh driver with questions. I came to know much later when my mashi came out of the tent alone. I waited for my mother to come out. I knew I was more comfortable asking Ma questions and pricking her with the remotest query. I refused to budge; I never went for fishing and sat outside the tent watching the Sikh driver and mashi dissolve in the molten sun.”
“I sat outside the tent waiting for Ma to come out and persuading me to go for fishing. But she was never”
“I peeped inside the tent from the window. She was writing her diary( brown diary with blue and green floral paintings) with an expression of selfish complacence on her face….a paranoia of accidental solitude spreading beyond her ears and a venom to harm any irritant peeling on the sides of her face. “
Later in the afternoon mashi and the Sikh driver returned catching “ boyaal” and “chela” fish for the lunch. Ma jumped in such an excitement as though she was eagerly waiting for the “Boyaal” fish
“ Let’s cook Boyaal maach with brinjals and bori.” … she said.
“ Her excitement to cook was in drastic contrast to the delirium of solitude she basked in a few minutes ago. She was like an electric post rooted in solitude, spreading tentacles of energies of secrets to her diary, her silence about Mr Abir.”… he said letting out a sigh.
Lekha thought to herself that her mother could have found a love outside her marriage as well and lived happy and armed. But finding love was to reveal her elemental, untiring, rudimentary rooms of herself, even if some parts of her were in ruins. And her soles were too cringed to walk even on the fences of love. She wished if lives could be thus exchanged.
The breakfast consisting of boiled eggs and bread had arrived. The bananas have long since disappeared from the palette. The pantry boys crawled fast to perform their last obligation as though trying to put the last alphabet in crossword.
The train was due to reach New Delhi station. The alley was packed with overenthusiastic passengers who just chose not to leap from emergency windows. The pieces of luggage collided with each other out of disgust at the overflowing thrill of the passengers in discovering the proximity of the New Delhi station.
She slowly wrapped her blue scarf around the backpack, put the Lessing novel inside, crushed the Rail Neer bottle, throttled it to non-existence and pulled out the luggage from beneath the seat. Before bidding goodbye to him, she looked around the train. They both looked at each other, and answered each other’s gaze with a dizzy trail of assurances, which memories gift us at frozen times.
Sitting in the auto, she felt herself so steeped in silence that she started looking for her diary in the bag to sustain the chords of that corroborative silence. Digging her hand into the bag, she felt the bottle, sanitary napkins, Lessing: the woman’s anatomy, hairclips, the blue box of archives but not the diary. She frantically looked for it, but it was nowhere in her bag.
In her dead-eye she tried to gather her activities by peels before de-boarding the train…she wrapped the scarf, unhooked the sondesh and mihidana. Yes she was more careful about putting the Lessing inside which only could fill the chasms of her loneliness: acknowledging the extraordinariness about her being. It was on her seat when she went to the bathroom and after that she doesn’t remember anything.
Did he take her diary? She threshed all the bed sheets; she looked around and checked everything; she suffered from a phobia of leaving something behind; leaving a part of her she didn’t want to give away so callously and incurably.
Did he steal the diary?
If he has stolen her diary, everything about her would be revealed, lest her precious subconscious be trampled … where everything multiplied unexpectedly…her angst…her subconscious cruelty towards her daughter, her delirium with Partho, her contemplation to kill her husband and daughter.
She shrank in guilt in letting go of her subconscious; she dissuaded herself from screaming in the auto; she wanted to tear her skin and wear a new one wanting to appear different with the same subconscious.
His face flitted in and out of her mind. She allowed him to stay in her subconscious. His nose, eyes, lips dotted her subconscious. She allowed him to subvert her subconscious.
Did he want to satiate his voyeuristic whims?
She felt a wrench inside as though the dry leaves were collecting themselves to set fire on her secret recesses. She felt as though she had stopped listening to herself; an alien body had surrounded her to reiterate that she was a cruel, obnoxious mother who considered her child to be a grotesque figment, her husband to be a social encumbrance and a woman who was ready to kill both to pursue her writing poetry and novellas. If either of them died, the world would know that she had killed them; it is her handiwork.
She continued to utter alarms; crinkle in a lost equilibrium and he continued to hear her shudder beneath her clothes, on bed, on sidewalks and subways, inside bathrooms. The force between them flapped, ruptured, but cared to exist by muted virtues of pain.
The glass splinters clinked in the umbilical cord.
Pushpanjana Karmakar, in her words: “I am a lawyer and currently working with a private company as an Associate. I have previously worked as an editor. My articles and poems have previously been published in Times of India, All India Poetry Competition, Harvest New Millennium (Cyberwit), Kritya Journal and ColdnoonPoetics Journal. I am a part of a poetry group “Moonweavers” in Delhi and as a member performs poetry at India Habitat Centre, Attic”