Thursday, April 1, 2010

the royal vase

The Royal Vase
Even though we had stepped into our new house, the question of the royal vase was there. Not only that, just to prove the significance of its presence, it posed a problem, ‘where is it to be placed now…?’
The question of ‘placing’ it was so very unpalatable to him as if the royal crown were suddenly snatched away from his head. ‘What do you mean? Well, it is a royal vase. Why shouldn’t it be placed in the drawing room itself?’ ‘Drawing room?’ to Farheen’s mind it didn’t deserve a place in the beautiful drawing room of the new house because the visiting friends and the sons of noble men did not consider it to be an antique piece, nor did their eyes venture to roam through the alleys of the tales of the lost sovereignty. They only laughed, openly, ‘oh sister…so you are there…from what rugged curio shop did you buy it?’
For asharaf this royal vase had only this much of attraction that his father’s respect for it had grown a bit too profound in his declining age and father, despite the passage of time, was still imprisoned in the castle of bygone sovereignty wherefrom it was, perhaps, not easy any more to get out at this age of his.
Yes, if it were the matter of looking for hatred attached to this ancient token, the vase, it could be found in the eyes of the mother only. Glaucoma had cast its effect there, but, despite their being over-shadowed by the dense fog, her eyes, turning the pages of the merciless past, could not speak but would say, ‘Lo. What a royal vase? Children have erected a house, and I was the one who having married you had come to the thatched collage, and since spent the whole but belonging to what kingdom? There meals of day are what even a beggar can manage.’
My name is Asharaf. Asharaf jahangeer.
I had no taste for history books in my childhood. As I grew up I developed an aversion to history. To me it was a horrifying mirror. The idea of my seeing my reflection in it filled me with horror. To me the pages of history seemed to be cruel. Since the time I stepped on the threshold of my childhood, the silence peeping from behind the infirm arches hurt me. After my birth my father submitted himself to the mosque and to the prayers (prescribed by Islamic law). In this atmosphere of want when my mother’s irritability expressed itself against my father, he, to show his helplessness takes the shelter of that royal vase forgetting everything else. ‘Lo. How could have thought that the descendants of Taimoor dynasty would come to such a wretched state and the issues would suffer for want of petty coins.’
Shaba was younger to me by two years. When she saw father and mother quarrelling, she would shut herself up in her room, curl herself on the bed and soak the pillow with her tears.
On there cruel pages of history I get just a glimpse of ‘Taimooriya paper bag store.’ lucklessness when he opened a small shop dealing in paper bags. Descending from the royal throne to the occupation of a paper bag seller to pacify the hell of the stomach my father had lost uh that was within himself. Peeping out from that ruthless of history, even today the tears are discernible in the eyes---the tears that were visible in the mornings in my father’s ‘dry’ eyes. Red and swollen, they would tell all the tale of the previous night, that what-like it felt to see the present tomb from the ‘royal hujra’ father was horrified by the present and history pleased him.
It was, perhaps, during those days that the story of my hatred of history began. Memoirs of history and tombs seemed to me to be like a filthy spider web enmeshed in which some insect had died. During those days of struggle how could we be deemed to be human beings? We were insects, dead insects…and the tattered house, telling the tales of the past royal glory, looked like a tomb, and our concern about getting rid of which was on the increase day-to-day.
Does history require any explanations? - Or, it keeps defining itself in some way or the other according to the time. With my growing age, in the strange environment of home, a new flame of hope had got lightened, and with it. I had seen the changing face of history or, say, a new aspect of the explanation of history.
The news of my appointment had come from two places. One was for the post of a lecturer at a new place, and the other was for the post of a field-officer in a reputed firm. This change had come along with a new and full explanation of an aspect of history in the making.
It was during these days that a quarrel had erupted between two groups of students in a college. And this discord took such dimensions that the whole of the city, even the little alleys of it reverberated with the shrieks of the horrified youth. Shops began to get closed. In a panic shutters began to be drawn down and shops closed. Those who couldn’t close them were looted. Other people were looking at the happenings from their windows and roofs. In those days such conflicts between the violent groups of students of the colleges of the city were nothing new, as I came out of the room, mother and Saba were looking at me much alarmed.
‘Father hasn’t come….!’
‘Who should know where he is?’
My mother voice, one among so many shrieking voices from the road, trembled.
When two hours had passed father came back with his shaky voice…to tell us that the louts had looted the shop. The paper bags were thrown away onto the road, machine parts were taken apart. Deciphering the look in father’s eyes---that were fastened to the royal vase on the balcony, I was passing along new paths of history and its explanation. Father was simply affecting for us his being disheartened and terrorized. He was by no means burdened or distressed, not even over fact that the shop had got looted and the question how we were going to meet the household expenses now. He was looking steadily at the royal vase. This contradiction fully explained the history. He had given precedence to the golden past over the frightfulness of the present.
‘What shall we do now?’ mother had lowered her head seeing a bat taking its flight from the courtyard to the veranda.
I said quietly, ‘father needn’t do anything now for I have got an offer of employment.’
No. at the moment the shine that rippled in father’s eyes would be missing in the eyes of Taimoor. Kings when they returned to their palaces after a war had been won.
Love gives a meaning to your life. Perhaps it is a better and proper time when that slender and tall Farheen should also be talked about. Farheen, who would press between her teeth an end of a corner of her shawl, and feel annoyed because once and again her shawl would not keep in its pro9per place, and perplexed as soon as she faced my eyes. The time when Ferheen had begun her visits to our house as Saba’s friend slipped off unnoticed, but by her arrival she won the heart of all the members of the family. Putting oil in father’s hair, sometimes taking, per force, the work off my mother’s hand in the kitchen, or combing Saba’s hair, she had silently declared that the house was hers and whatever she did was for the sake of her own house. A little conversation in the beginning, then a little bashfulness and then certain things in the presence of father and mother.
‘Why doesn’t he say prayers?’
‘What’s the use of reading lots and lots of books?’
‘he ought to visit the mosque, on Fridays at least.’
Father, tell him if others don’t.’
Or, at some other time asking Saba.
‘Why is your brother wearing angry airs all the time?
And one day finding Faheen alone in the kolkari of the house, I surreptitiously took this chit of a girl into my arms. Instead of crying out, ‘Ui Allah’ and taking to her heels, she almost nestled herself in my embrace and closed her eyes. Tremblingly, as if a river having been thirsty for years had got some solace. She whispered.
‘Some one will come.’
‘Then why do you make so much of mischief?’
Her ear-lobes were deep red, her eye-lids fluttered; the corner of her shawl had slipped a little. In a low voice she replied.
‘Please say a prayer, that brings brightness to the house.’
Pulling her once again to my chast I said,
‘Look here, Farheen I pay my respect to religion. But, you see the desolation of this crumbling house. This house, and so many questions arising there from, has carried me off the rituals, and the situation has prevailed for how long, I don’t recollect. But don’t get frightened. I am not so far removed that can’t come back. But you will not persuade me about the matter.’
With her frightened eyes, taking leave of me she said this much, ‘Never mind, I’ll say prayers for you too. I’ll beg for Rod’s pardon for you too.
Adjusting her shawl, Fareen had gone away in a hurry. At that very moment, on her having collided with the wall a large patch of crisp white-wash patch crust had fallen off the wall. Perhaps it was a knock by the present and a small part of the history had fallen off because of this momentary romantic feeling.
Why do so many lizards creep up the walls of old houses? My sight happened to fall on the wall wherefrom two lizards were looking at me attentively. I was looking at the weak ceiling of the room that trickled when it rained, the other near by walls were blackened because of the smoke from the kitchen fire. Thick bamboo poles had been installed to give support to the ceiling. Now these poles, having passed a very long period supporting their fall any moment.
A fragrance having touched me softly had just departed. The house had grown old. Father’s paper bags had been looted and the glow of the history of the brilliance less royal vase had succeeded in pacifying father’s eyes. While departing Farheen left behind, in my body the feel of the fragrance and the heat of her own inflamed body.
I had to make my choice. The two placement opportunities were there for me. I made up any mind to accept the offer by Delhi’s reputed firm-a journey from a small courtyard to a big one. There lay a chance of seeing the living history of Delhi while I stood rooted in the black one. Delhi where monuments of the beautiful past of Taimoor dynasty was sounding its knock at every step.
A handful of history:
The news of my future departure for Delhi had spread through the house and for that reason the tales of students commotion and father’s paper-bag shop having been looted, were missing at the dinner table. In the eyes of father there gleamed the beautiful thoroughfare of the past and this road of the by gone ages there gleamed the red and white domes of kil-e-mualla.
‘so, you are going to Delhi?’
Father’s voice sounded as if I were going to the abode of our ancestors, to see our ancient residences.
After dinner at night we came up onto the roof. The moon was shining brightly in the sky. No speck of cloud was there any where in the sky. Our handy cots were laid out on the roof. I was on the one, Saba on another & father’s cot lay by the front balcony. Looking at the moon father got lost in the reminiscences of the history and the royal vase.
‘It was the month of may…. How should the things come to memory now? They are ancient—ancestral stories, passing from mouth to mouth, seem as if the whole thing has been from one’s own eyes…..’
Saba got up. And came to the father’s cot. She began to squeeze father’s head gently with her hands. Father’s eyes closed.
A fierce rebellion had taken place a rebellion! But only the spattering of dates remain when the actual dates have passed out. Those spatterings are repeated by the coming ages in their own ways. The rebellion was just as any rebellion would be. Who were the faithless?—our people, or the English? –was difficult to define. Aged 90, the old pensioner emperor was physically short of nothing. Doing nothing, he received Rs one lakh. The British officials worked in accordance with his consent only.
The time was about 8 and 9 the emperor was in his chamber of telling the rosary. Perhaps the prayer was over. As he came to the window, he saw clouds of smoke hovering over the far si9de of the river jamuna. The emperor sensed danger. He drew back flustered. He sent his camel men to see what the matter was. They returned and told him in embarrassed tones that the platoons of the rebel had come from Meerut. Brandishing their swords, giving fall rein to their horses, they were reckless soldiers coming from Meerut, raising commotion, massacring indiscriminately. The bungalows of the British had been around. Any English man who happened to came across was slayed. There was panic in the whole of the city through Calcutta gate. The English got the door shut. Death showered itself on Delhi. The fire of rebellion spread out far and wide. Whssen some calm resumed. After this carnage, the atmosphere reverberated with the slogan. ‘The uni9verse is Gods. The country is kings but the emperor who had passed through a long way of experiences knows that the rebels had terminated his days of peace; the future will be accompanied by ruin. And that was what exactly happened.
Father cleared his vocal cars audibly…was serene for a white...And then, once again, was shut within the dark caves of the history.
‘There was a compulsion on the part of the emperor. He had to support the rebels and also not to support them. They were his own subject who appealed to him to drive away the British and to command the royal authority once again. Now, it was either the emperor’s compulsion or the pressure of the golden history of Taimoor dynasty that, despite being angry with the rebels, he was compelled to accede to their desire…and then…how long could sentimental Indians keep their stand against the fraudulent British. The British forces entered the city through Kashmere Gate, Morie Gate, and Kabuli Gate. Massacre was let loose in the capital city.
Father turned to his side.
‘Shanzeb, ancestral record of the dynasty passes through the name. Tunny beghum was in pie Bagh. Ladies and the other women of the palace were assembled in the hall. The news was that the emperor had made preparations to hide himself in the tomb of Humayun, and the royal declaration was, ‘efforts should be made to preserve own lives.’ The tumultuous assault of the British could crack down upon the palace any moment. The palace was in a state of topsy-turvy. Futile efforts were being made to save lives. Shahzeb knew that in this state of disturbance all the near and dear ones would got separated….how could sympathy be expected to be there at the heart of the wounded British? But he did not want to leave the palace without any princely token with him…and there was the royal vase….leaving the palace, he made a parcel of this royal token, held Tunny begum by the hand and got out. By the time the news had gained currency that the emperor was taken prisoner and carried away to Delhi. The princes were killed near Khooni Darwaza and their heads brought on a platter covered with a dish cloth, to the listless emperor. Aah! This was the extreme of cruelty.
The clear and moon-lit bright sky was suddenly overcast by a few floating clouds that took the moon in their embrace.
Father was preparing to get asleep….’and then, this royal vase,’ he mumbled very quietly, ‘the last token…when I see it, I forget the ruin.’
Father once again passed into the caves of the past. And I had to complete my preparations for my departure for Delhi.
History and explanation
I know that history explains itself in its own way according to the time. Sometimes time presents it, making it cruel and unbearable, and at some other time it discovers for itself as clear a face as sparkling water from within the most callous faces of history.
But I had no idea that having come to Delhi any experiences could attach themselves with the past golden history in such a way. For that reason, this history of mine contains not only the history of the royal vase, but it has branches connected with it that, otherwise, would have been lost like the tributaries into the ocean-like greater history. No. perhaps you will not fully comprehend the truth contained in the fact that I am going to narrate, I must linger here a bit longer and make the things clearer.
At the time of my departure for Delhi father was pleased.
‘Just see, history has given us one more chance,’ he said.
‘That of hoisting the flag on Lal Quila or searching out the royal throne and occupying it once more,’ I mumbled.
During my days in Delhi, for four to five years, I didn’t face much difficulty in finding a beautiful floor for myself. You are already familiar with the story how father had insisted upon setting the royal vase in the drawing room as a prestigious token. And was successful in making it agreed to. Time rolled on. Saba got married and was happy in her father-in-law’s house. Farheen gained control over the household. The pressures and pains of there five years had, to some extent, made me a Delhi-wallah. Now this Asharaf Jahangeer, perhaps, was gaining courage, to some. Extent to look into the eyes of history. In the beginning Farheen had also thought of taking up a job, but changed her mind. She did not consider it necessary to sacrifice the ease and pleasure of life for a job. Moreover, after Favvad was born her responsibilities had also begun to mount with her growing age.
Outside the house, on the veranda, flower pots were set in a row. It was a holiday. I had already had a little quarrel with Farheen about a bonsai lemon plant.
‘You are mad. The plant will die.’
‘If it didn’t.?’
‘It will die.’
‘And if it didn’t?’
‘Well, let us see what turns up on time.’
On that holiday Fareen came on to the veranda. Hurried back to me, and then holding me by the wrist took me out to the verandah swiftly. The pot bonsai plant already bore a foretoken of the arrival of miniature lemons. I was almost taken aback, couldn’t believe myself. Farheen was all elation…. As if the history had stretched out its limbs. The imperialism asleep within me through years woke up quietly. What ever I was saying. I did not know what it was. Perhaps it was a fun only…but it was perhaps a defeated emperor speaking…
‘Yes, the defeat accepted. Speak out…what do you ask for? You can gain independence it you wish to…, can get a divorce from me,
‘Divorce! Talaq?’ Farheen shuddered. The minute lemon buds peeping from the plant had hid themselves under the light-green leaves for fear of the chilly gusts.
‘What….what did you say?’ Farheen was looking at me with her frightened eyes.
‘no.’ I myself was surprised. The absurd words had no sense here. Perhaps such matters running continually on news channels had turned me into a cruel ruler at that weird moment. A thing that I had never imagined of. A thing that filled great terror in the eyes of heartily laughing Farheen perhaps I had seen the blood oozing out or dripping from the minute citruses borne on the branches of history.
Farheen’s eyes were misty that night.
‘I don’t know why you said like that, but there must be something within you. You may tell me that, or you may not. You are absent from the house. You are a renowned person. You have calls from women. You are engaged in meetings. Tell me the truth Asharaf. Didn’t you think of Favvad for a second even?
I saw favvad was asleep on bed.
‘I am sorry…,’ could be the cure. I was trying to fight against myself, but the sentence ‘I’m sorry’ couldn’t come up to my lips till the end. After all what monstrous thing had I done? Just a little joke. And it is not a talaq if you utter the word just for a joke. Such jokes can pass between a wife and her husband. But Farheen seemed to be hurt. Perhaps she had kept crying over the joke for a long time. Her eyes were swollen.
‘Why don’t you say prayers?
‘That is the matter that stands between myself and my God.’
‘No. it’s not a matter between you and your God only,’ Farheen cried out, ‘now there is favvad also he is five years old now. He has to know his religion. He is to be seated to read the Quraan Sharif. Father also was saying yesterday, ‘Don’t make him another Asharaf….’
Farheen was silent for a moment.
‘if you said the prayers, you would be afraid of God, and then you wouldn’t have abused me so gravely. How should you know for us, the women, a talaque is much more dark than the death itself.’
Once again she burst out crying. At this occasion the defeated emperor roared out,
‘you are mad. You don’t have the capacity to digest even a little joke. Will I have to measure and weigh every word before I speak to you? That was just a cup of tea. A holiday is rare. You laid waste this holiday.’
I had shouted so very loudly that the sound soared high up to the dull rounded pinnacles of the Lal Quila. Favvad got up and began to cry. Having evicted myself of the dust storm gathering at my heart, as I descended to my drawing room, my eyes caught the sight of the royal vase, involuntarily. I felt as if there was some relation between myself and this royal vase, a relation that I probably felt, but had tried to keep away the awareness from myself.
I had the feeling; the silent eyes of father were looking at me from behind the closed doors of the adjacent room. Perhaps mother also was there behind him, mother with lack-luster eyes…perhaps it was a moment of my own examination for me. Then, was it a new explanation of the history connected with the royal vase, whatsoever happened today? The way in which the beastliness had taken possession of me in an unguarded moment of mine had never before taken possession of me. Had the dictator slumbering in my blood taken a turn? Or, was it a common thing?—a story that repeated itself against the natural behavior that had been mine till now.
And I had to make Fareen realize that whatever I had said connected with the bonsai lemon plant was just a small joke, and also to prove that it was a joke. Two or three times—and at one of the times, in a very romantic mood, taking Farheen within my arms and kissing her—I had said to her, then, why don’t you accept the talaque from me?’ and having said this much I had laughed out boisterously, crying out, ‘see! How gravely frightened you are! A talaq is not performed just by such an utterance. It was just a little joke. But why does your face grow so very pale?’
But, perhaps, I did not know that at times history in its own explanation is so ruthless and cruel that two lives are set at a stake.
The politics of ‘Fatwa’
The company in which I was one of the directors is named Millard Company. Mallard had launched a number of products---soap, oil, Basmati—in the market. Within a few years Millard become the first choice in the household. Presently, I had the responsibilities ranging from entertaining the foreign delegates to making an advertisement film for a new product. For making such a film I had recurred the services of a prominent and famous bollywood film director. After consultations, the director had secured the services of a renowned cricketer. No advertisement of this cricketer had appeared on any channel as yet.
Perhaps the story of my bad luck or the sinking of my star begins here. The advertisement was finalized. Having been finalized the budget came to me. And after I had signed, the director shot three films, ten to forty seconds each. The advertisement had come up satisfactorily well. But my ill-luck had also begun here. A panel of the board of directors had serious objections with regard to this cricketer. The story of his taking drugs and beating his wife had been highlighted on the news channels. The board was of the opinion that as the advertisement came, Indian families will oppose it, resulting in the failure of the product because our products are called house hold products, and the matter took so great a momentum that all the members of the board of directors took their stand against me. On the other hand I was alone---and these were the days when the story of Farheen’s anger had begun. On the veranda the bonsai lemon plant was in its youth but my household to have come under the influence of some evil eye. I desired to talk with Farheen when I returned at nights, but her anger was nowhere near to coming to an end. My blood pressure shot up as soon as I got back home. Coming back from my office I hoped to have calm and peace at home, but Farheen’s presence had begun to make me irritable now. At seemed as if some animal within me kept telling me quietly at every moment I spent by Farheen that none the other but farheen was responsible for all this and my mind would go on experiencing the heat as if put on the red hot coal. Under such conditions I expected I shall get help, I shall get encouragement from my wife. But, not to say anything of the help, my petty joke had also been attached with the interminable anger by Farheen. The difficulty with me that at home I could nto speaks to anyone about the opposition or the conspiracy going on in the office4 against me.
That night, perhaps, the volcano at my heart had erupted out. A meeting of the board of directors was held again about the advertisement film. Perhaps I have never suffe4red such a great humiliation in my life. When I reached home my mind had already ceased

the rain ,darkness and..

The Rain, Darkness and….
(This story is absolutely imaginary. It bears no relationship with any writer, publisher or dispute.)

It is not proper to link the whole sequence of happenings—that you will try to know, hereafter, through this story—with any unbelievable or dramatic occurrence, though there are, perhaps, some truths that are strange and alarming. It is difficult to imagine whether you have come across any such situations in your life when oral communication is lost and, instead of that. Extreme silence or cognizance of some presence remains that touches you, 9in the deep of silence, and says. ‘There is some one….’ This story was, all of a sudden, born of such an extra-ordinary moment.


The atmosphere was calm and lifeless. It can be said with confidence that you can’t hope of raising any sounds or movements in such a calm and lifeless atmosphere. At this moment everything was in accordance with expectations, that is, such as Shantanu had thought of. A day with bright but indifferent sun. a heavy autumnal morning and, in my garden, the rows of odorless flower plants—Sune, Gilbahri, and Tili—that I had brought from my Alsatian free publisher a few days ago. Your sense of self esteem about the great achievement of having been born a Homosapien may suffer a rude shock if you have been, like Bernard Shaw. Fondly upholding the conviction that a man may be transformed into a superman, when you read the epithet ‘Alsatian free’ for the English publisher I must apologize for that yet assert that he deserved no better compliment per Shantanu’s reckoning. After unexpected and exceptional success of ‘Vaasanaa Hai Do Raste’ this English publisher, having come to Shantanu are passing through some sadness—some deep agony said,
‘Excuse me. For some astrological considerate I had to choose an ill-omened day to visit you.’
‘An ill-omened day?’
‘I sold off my old and faithful Alsatian on this day. But I did not suffer any loss Shasnanu.’
He had all the particulars of expenditure, with regard to the Alsatian, on his busy finger tips. A separate room for him. So much on his diet. There was no mention of his faithfulness and love among the accounts. So, if observed minutely, this English publisher (who was an Indian but, since he published English books and with the impression formed by the way of his way of living, to Shantanu’s mind this very name for him seemed to be quite appropriate), the sale of Alsatians was in no way a deal incurring a loss in any way. And accordingly, to the mind of Marget Alior, of all the books he had published, this ‘dog’ pleased so well that she made up her mind to buy him at any cost. In this way, with one percent emotion and ninety-nine percent of economic considerations the bargain was settled and Miss Marget with the dog pressed to he fleshy bosom, felt emotional relations with the dog for a while. Then accompanied by the dog, she took her flight to the land of Mahashweta or the village of Nazarul,
So, to be short, ‘Seine’,’Gilbahri’ and ‘Tili’ flowers were under our consideration. It was this very ‘Alsatian Free’ who had brought them for him. And in response to this act of his Shantanu asked him some questions that were, more or less, of the following character,
‘where do these flowers grow?’
‘In Italy.’
‘Do Italian ladies also like these flowers?’
The candid answer should have been a ‘No’; for they were beautiful sans sweetness of smell could it mean that beautiful ladies also lack brilliance and fragrance? In the publisher’s opinion the answer was a definite ‘No’, but so far as literary environment is concerned, there are chances that it will cast its effect in the future. And that too, when a man quite familiar with these flowers is a publisher also, who should come to your door and take greater interest in these flowers than in your literary creations.
There were many more other questions. For example, ‘Will the climate here suit them?-or, are these flowers used in medicines giving you energy and strength just Viagra etc. do? (Obviously, the publisher had no answer to many of these questions).
Much the same had happened on that heavy autumnal morning, the happening that had imparted their imprint on the mind of Shantanu that stayed on there.
Every time he adds his books, he was sure poetry is a false vision, literature is not a touch. To spend the whole of one’s life in the hope of a reward worth Rs one lakh is not a disciplinary action against ones life. This petty amount, Rs one lakh, he gets transferred to his A.I.O. account as soon as his second or third edition is published.
“The whole of one’s life only for a prize rewarding one’s achievements?...My foot….”
Shantanu used to laugh out. He remembered a number of his friends. One of them was Sadhan chakraborty, chewed betel leaves, took tobacco snuff, didn’t mind even to see where his nose would ease itself. He didn’t care even to see that it caused cough to others. He took his snuff box, applied the powdered tobacco into his nostrils and sat down to thinks. After a little while freed himself from his trans, caught an end of his lion cloth and cleaned his nose. Now Shantanu is in discord with such for good-for-nothing persons. He has had grave quarrels with a number of them on their trying to pose themselves as ‘literary primes’. For an example take that very Saghan Chakroborty, and just listen to the conversation that occurred the previous November.
‘Your literary creations have disproportionately keener stink of your tobacco snuff…’
‘Oh! So you have begun to understand literature too.’ This was counter attack by Saghana Chakraborty.
‘Literature is in your snuff. If you’re thinking during the interval between inhaling the snuff and wiping it off your nose is literature, please excuse me.’
‘What…?’ there were wrinkles on the brows of Saghan.
‘was such a day ever to come when I should have to listen to your discourses on literature! Brother, if you are a creative genius, let me remain a mangy dog, and that too sans hair straying from lane to lane.
‘Anyway, what’s it that you want to say?’ Saghan glared. The thin bones of the body twitched.
Bursting out in a peal of laughter Shantanu said,
‘Listen to me Saghan Chakraborty. One of the two quarrelling persons told the other that he had taken him to be a gentleman. The other one replied that he had also taken him to be a gentleman. Now, the first one said, “O.K...I take my words back.” Ha…ha…ha...
In lieu of a sentence that might have been the closing one, Saghan Chakraborty remained silent and I can recall the expression of defeat on his countenance, even today.
‘Have come to you with a purpose.’
‘Wanted some money.’
‘Why don’t you ask your publisher for it?’
‘I do ask him. But, again and again….’ Saghan was applying snuff to his nostrils.
‘Really. We are mangy dogs of the street. Shy dogs whom every good for nothing publisher kicks off. They all want to publish books, but when they have to pay for it …A shy dog…shy even when he is creating literature. Perhaps for this reason the whole system has remained unaltered through centuries.
The atmosphere was calm and lifeless, but someone like Dushyanta tried to toss up a stone. An explosion was heard where there was no movement felt earlier. Though it created no crash, created no stir, but it did raise a commotion within the atmosphere. Intensely deep silence was broken up with the blast caused by some weary some conversation. In the spacious cabin of the English publisher, he was looking at the cover-flap of his newly released book, with the eyes expressing the feeling of a bit of restlessness and a sense of deep disappointment. No. the colour is not suitable. The selection of colors is wrong. And why this abstract art? Why should a girl be felt to be a well or a snake? In its place, why couldn’t there be a very time when two young writers, there be a living, beautiful girl?’
And this was the very time when two young writers, sitting on the sofa in the cabin, were discussing the poems by Josef brad ski.
‘people… are dying….’
‘when we are pouring. Scotch in glasses or killing cockroaches, people are dying.’ Yarning up, Shantanu saw. For a moment the whole of the building was transformed into a helpless youth, where only the stump of a bold and withered had remained. Political analyses began. The second world war, alliances, stories of clashes, Vietnam war, to Grenada, Afghanistan to Iraq…chile to panama and Nicaragua. The stayed innocent children of Philistine ….and….
People are dying while we are transacting our nameless desires….. Make pleasure houses…lose or gain confidence…buy mutton or chicken….people are dying…..
Turning to Shantanu, cast a look…an impulse to become apart of this horrible discussion arose within him…people are making love too…while we are tying a knot or pouring Scotch…in parks…at houses..On roads…islands…deserts and heaths…people are embracing…making love…despite battles and wars…. Kissing each other… clasping each other in their arms. And the point to remember is-it is not only they who are young; it is they also who are much more advanced in their age having left their youthful days for behind…
This was the appropriate time. To tie the moment, or to take the moment in one’s confidence, that secretly told Shantanu that the world is still suspended at the cross-roads…and who have suspended them? It is they….people whose talks are more dangerous than any lethal weapon….
The sound of something shattering was heard… it was a glass fallen down into the floor.. From the receptionist girl to the two young philosophers counting the deaths on political global scale, mustered up their courage to look into that direction…she was a girl. No. a lady, bob. Hair, fair complexion, the intoxicating body…as the flames of a red hot hissing stove. The age seemed, somehow, to have freezed the rising tempests of the ocean for eternity…the resentment on the face of the lady was explicitly visible…Desai, that is, the English publisher, in his Endeavour to say something, looked either. Like an innocent lamb, or cunning like a tiger. The woman held a paper in her hand and was saying something in a loud voice, flashing up the paper. Shantanu got out of the glass cabin on the pretext of picking up his old book. The lady was beautiful. The tree of her being was bearing so many roses that sent up their exquisite fragrance from her beautiful face—the rubier now because of her growing anger. Perhaps, innocent of the fragrance she was busy in clarifying her points of argument. Her sentences were explosive….
‘No, you shouldn’t have done that, not in the least to the man on his death bed….’
‘See…I…nothing like that…you…easily….can talk sitting in the chair.’ To escape from her assaults, Deasi was seeking the help of words.
‘No, never. And you, talking so restfully, asking me to sit down, do you the meaning of rest? A common man may become Sharma only after having sacrificed his rest for the life, with an unsparing dedication. Do you know what it means? Transformation into a Shimal Sharma?
‘For us he is a symbol of honor and greatness…’
‘Oh! Not that je is, he was. You have made him a mere puny piece of history. He was on his bed in hospital. He was ill. And what were you doing for Shimal? You were filling up your pockets, erecting your buildings, enlarging your bank accounts. But on whose earnings? Whose money? Shimal’s. You are the exploiters of gentle people like Shimal. In your baseness you have been violating his gentility…’the face of the woman was now red. I used to tell Shimal, change your publisher. But he was occupied with his criterion of greatness in his creation only. Or, he was nourishing within himself the childish desire of seeing great memories turning into history. But is that a solution to all the problems? The values born of cultural inheritance, a tussle of moral imprints, and the writing of protestations about things….were not these the epithets attached to his life. Long writing, in the name of understanding his creations, or reactions? All a fuss. Had Shimal written literature of protestation, he would have protested against the fiscal evaluation of his words, would have asked for proper evaluations? But take heed. It is not Shimal now. It is I, and I will not spare you.’
For a second, looking at the English publisher, she saw the eyes of a goat that had been slaughtered and whom the butcher was going to flay. Poor Deasai..Shantanu had already made his preparations for his exit. He did not know why it was so, or what right he had to do so, or in the words of Shananu Chakraborty. Why do you care for society or the things concerning society? Keep selling what you are selling. There are so many to buy it. For the rest? You need not investigate after the values or search for the new values….
But the attraction of the beauty of speech of the woman was so great that he came out and after a few minutes only the woman was seen coming out too in the full blaze of her rage advancing towards her little Zen…she was in her stylish jeans and a red t-shirt. Moving towards her car she cast a glance towards Shanftanu, and this was the very moment when Shantanu, and this was the very moment when Shantanu found himself ready for a direct address to her.
‘Please, could you spare a minute for me?’
‘Why? Standing at the reception you had been listing to us.’ She bore an angry look. Her eye-brows had an angry curve.
‘That matters little to me. I don’t have any interest in you.’
Even after the Zen had sped away like a blast of wind, the words of the lady kept ringing in my ears—‘that matters little to me. I don’t have any interest in you.’ Shantanu smiled serenely. He did not imagine that there could be any talk more free than this one in his first meeting with her. But his heart said, a second meeting was due to occur. Quite soon.


And it was not just a chance happing, nor was the environment calm and dead. The magic sheet of the night was spread as far as the eye could see. And innumerable stars twinkling on this sheet were trying to establish the belief that there was no need to produce a commotion by tossing up a piece of stone. To Shantanu, living lonely had become a part of his beautiful life. To him girls were more a symbol of romance. And sex than a source of inspiration, the would tempt him in so very beautiful nights, or play Menaka Roopsi and Gandhari in his bed, but Mandira?
The twinkling stars would at a time form the shape of a snake, at another a well, and at still another fish—the symbols of sex. And in every symbol he heard the music of the flowing stream that Mandira’s body was….in the presence of the stars, just in a moment Mandira’s body got transformed into an exquisitely beautiful piece of art. And, it may be said, at the moment Shantanu was firm on his notion about art. Is art only a concept, only to be kept in or to occupy a place in a gallery? Is Mandira also a concept only?—devoted to an aged, now expired, man?
The caravan of twinkling stars was creeping on the blue sheet of the sky…and now these stars were transformed into a great piece of art by some great artist. And Mandira was there in it, ‘I am not a well, nor a snake, nor a fish even…I am a poem…just a piece of poetic composition…why don’t you read?’
Shantanu recollected. On that day when the Zen had disappeared speeding away, he returned to the glass cabin. Desai was awaiting him.
‘Where had you gone to?’
‘Out, for a smoke.’
‘Anyway, that was good of you. With his down cast eyes and a cheque book in his hand, Desai was lost in some thought. The spring-bow of his glasses near his eyes slipped again and again.
‘You did not do well to sell away your Alsatian.’ He stopped in the middle of his narration.
‘Ha….ha….’ Desai laughed… ‘So, you remember. You do remember that Alsatian, or you don’t?’
‘Why not? We have been together for such a long time…you remember the Alsatian, but a sick writer, who was lying on a bed in a hospital, you forgot?
Desai gave a start, but instantly broke into a loud laughter,
‘So you heard us?’
‘Had to, who was that girl?’
‘Not a girl. Call her a woman. She is Mandira, Composes poems, paints. God off her feet swayed by the compositions of Shimal and…’
‘they got married.’
‘yes. Did not consider over his age the difference between her age and Shimals was vast, over two times.’
Shantanu was just going to say ‘love is never mindful of age differences.’ But checked himself. The English publisher was not in a mood of talking about the matters concerning love. He did not know much of love. But Shanuanu was against keeping love within confines. Love is a swift flowing river, and this river can neither be retained within confines nor can a bridge be constructed over it as it continues to flow with all its violence. He had kept love apart from literature. To him love was the beauty of the body than of the soul. And he could freely stand against those who opposed this beauty…immaterial, if this person be his English publisher even…
Desai was laughing boisterously.
‘This maze of royalty…everybody is not a Shantanu…’
Shantanu felt, the body of laughing Desai was transformed into a dog’s tail, wagging vigourously.
‘Because you know letter than I do.’ Desai was becoming serious now. He was fair complexioned. Dark glasses over his eyes. When he tried to think his face would get transformed into that of an otter….he was laughing.
‘Oh Shantanu, just see you…tell me, what need was there for me to nurse within me this disease called literature? All the dunce…,’ he paused for a moment, ‘take themselves to be Shakespeare, Arundhati or Kiran Desai. Do they do so or not?’ he was laughing in all his vulgarity. ‘They think they can make a hole in the sky. They think every passer by on the road knows them as he knows Shahrukh khan or Amitabh bachchan. Should he come out masses would encircle him.’ Desai was laughing… ‘Autograph, autograph…sons of a bitch. In same composers even they won’t read them for whom they write. And they think there are persons who read them in every house. Even the dogs in the streets are licking up his literature. How do they sell? Who buys them?’
He pulled out a book of Shimal who had an enormous nose.
‘See the first edition. It is five hundred only. Isn’t it? Now think of the expenses one incurs in printing out 500 copies. Who knows it better than you do? Even these would be difficult to sell out were there no support from the government godowns. And Mandira thinks we are making crores by selling out Shimal. We are erecting palaces, making mansons…in fact….’
Desai was whispering now. ‘ A frustrated lady… there comes a time when such women having chewed for long the stone of a mango eject it out and then want to count the tree….the trees that bear money. But the trees yielding what an amount of money. Brother…Don’t you follow me Shanranu?’
And this was the point where Desai blundered. Under such circumstances Shantanu might have for given him and forgotten all his anger, but the rude way of referring to Mandira was unbearable to him. Likings and disliking have their own psychological bases…Shantanu’s face were expressive of his annoyance. He gently interfered.
‘Have you got your blood pressure checked?’
‘Get it checked Desai Shantanu words was icy cold. ‘Don’t you remember Desai…my first book…?’
‘Oh, that one… ‘Sex and life…’
‘Yes, I am asking you about that very book. How many volumes of it were published in the first edition? In lakhs, despite that you had to publish new editions every year.
‘Oh, no! Desai put in front of him the cheque-book that he had held for a long time. ‘This is the amount of royalty this year. You can scan all the vouchers if you like to. You sell, and so it is a joy to offer heavy amounts of royalty to you. But that writer…’ the frown was there on Desai’s brows. ‘May curse fall upon Nimisha Deshpande who handed over this publishing house of hers to me. We fared well publishing English, children’s books on sex paid heed to the advice of friends and well wishers. ‘Do publish literature too. Of course, money is there, but there is fame too. Great people will visit you.’ But those great ones did not prove to be really great.’ Once again there were wrinkles seen round his month expressing his disgust. ‘They all take themselves to be vikram seth and Arundhati Roy. I say, show your worth by your sale.’
Mandira’s phone number shone out on the diary folio lying open in front of him. At this juncture Shantanu stopped the savorless discussion. Picked the diary up, memorized the number for a moment, took out his mobile and got the number saved. For what purpose? Perhaps he himself had no idea. Took his cheque and left for home
Shantanu felt that the wind was on the rise. A caravan of clouds drifted across the sky. The shine of the stars was out. Reaching home he brought indira’s number on his cell phone screen a number of times but did not send out a call. Every time he was lost in deep thinking. ‘what should I do? What is there for me to tell her? Why do I desire to see her? And that too when she is the widow of a celebrated author, Shimal. The lady who herself is an artist, writes poem. Once again he brought the cherished number on to the mobile screen. The momentary consideration of propriety got veiled by the layers of fragrance, for the present. He was feeling a strange stir is his body.
The question was asked in English, in a voice bearing a tings of anger. ‘who are you.’
‘it is I. Shantanu. On the outside of the office of Royal King Publisher….’
‘Oh the outside?’ she seemed to be thinking. ‘I can’t recall anything.
‘On the matter of royalty on books by Shimal….’
‘Oh. Did I not tell you I have?’
‘no interest in you? But the other person may take interest in you, isn’t it? I mean, in the literature. In Shamal’s and your literature.’ Shantanu added in a little lower tone, ‘wanted to see you. Don’t deny me please.’
The phone was switched off.
To be short, Shantanu had no differently in finding the address of Shimal’s house. He did not ask Desai her address. The avoidance of Desai was deliberate.
What followed was something like passing through a dense and deep fog, and that too for a person like Shantanu who was born in a family of businessmen in which there was neither any struggle for existence nor any window for the artistic tastes to let in. money was everything. The family, that counted money from morning till night. He couldn’t be definite about the time since when he had acquired the habit of reading pocket books or romantic novels. For Shantanu they exposed other romantic worlds, the worlds where the doors opened stealthily for Shantanu as the night deepened. By the time he attained manhood he had travelled from the world of money to the world of romanticism. During this period, sparing some vacant time for himself, he wrote two novels. Usually the heroines of the novels were the ones who actually figured in his life, or those who accompanied him in his loneliness of abstraction. Initially the members of his family opposed this writing business, but the businessman father set an idea in his mind firmly that if penmanship brings you remunerations as any other prospering business will do, do write, otherwise take up the business. His novels like ‘the king is sellable’ made him the emperor of the world pocket books within no time. Soon after, the process of its adoption for the film began and this literary journey of Shantanu led him to greater monetary success than his father’s business did for him. After that Shantanu had never to turn back in his march to successes. He changed his publishers many a time. He had other offers, too, apart from the world of pocket books. This was the time when he came closer to his English publisher who praised his Alsatian much more highly than he did any piece of literature, though Shantanu could never discern in his personality the swiftness of an Alsatian. Every time when he talked of a cheque or an advance royalty he looked like a stray dog and that too mangy one. Nevertheless, for Shantanu Desai was a big party. He did not want to leave him whatever it might cost him.
Shantanu did not marry. He always liked the pomp and show of a single life, and also the delusion of considering himself an author and being called so by others. He was, however, out of this fog at times when his status as an author was put to question. The truth of his own world was more acceptable to him than the truths of the blank world of other authors. After all he was also fighting against what was undesirable in the society-against blind faiths. Love was also an ingredient of the social structure and for that reason his heroes and heroines love passionately. Shantanu had read Premchand. He had also read Sharatchand. In the beginning he had tried to read a book by Shimal too, but Shimal could not be read by him. Or, better to say, he could not read so very dry literary a book. At times he found himself unable to understand why such books are written and, after all, who reads them.
On the next day, exactly at 11 o’clock, he was at the gate of Mandira’s flat. One thing that caused him some embarrassment was the awareness that there was a time when Shimal lived there.
The sun was pleasantly bright. The vegetation looked serene. Shantanu felt that at time Shimal too used to sit there bringing out his chair from the study. From the time he entered the house to the time he sank in the sofa of the drawing room, he was constantly occupied with the thought of shimal. There was a large portrait of Shimal in front of him.
The maid servant brought in a glass of water and moment’s later Mandira was there with a tea-tray in her hands. She was in her smartly fitting jeans and a red T-shirt. She put the tea tray on the table. No sooner had we begun her formal talks than she began her assaults with dry question.
‘What do you do?’
‘I’m a writer.’
‘Writer?’ Mandira took a start. ‘Writer, Nothing in you shows you to be a writer. A writer is distinct even by his behave. Have tea please.’ Passing on the her assault continued.
‘Do you know what literature is?’
‘Anyhow, what is your name?’
Shantanu told her his name. there was a flutter in the two twinkling eyes. They closed and then opened up….’Shantanu? that pocket-book author?’ Mandira was laughing. ‘The king is Sellabli….’ There was a film also. A c-grade film on a c-grade novel…So that is you. Desai, the publisher, and you too. You sell like not-cake. And there is a category of readers that reads you.’ There was anger in her laughter. ‘People who eat groundnut and puffed rice while on their travel, sitting in the railway compartments.’ Her eye-lids were tense. Thinking of himself Shantanu was wonder struck. Such patience in him even after so many explosive expressions. Of hers! Perhaps he had fore thought of it. This fire was a part of Mandira’s youth. When she was angry, the whole of her body would turn into a beautiful little rose bush…all the symbols. The well, the snake, would come together in her buxom body and raise a storm in his muscles.
‘So, you are a creative writer, a man of letters….!’ Mandira was laughing. ‘Do you know what is a creative expression? What does it take to become a Shimal? In my very tender age I thought one day I would take a leap into the swimming pool—that was his body—and forget everything else. You don’t even know what the truth to the height of perfection in art through his compositions…Do you know, I would wake up at nights and see him writing. While he, lika a master composer, proceeded in his writhing, the whole of his body seemed to produced an enchanting melody. I heard the melody. I still her him. While writing the whole of his body was a fine musical instrument, and he himself was the player of it. In his room the angels that bore grace and light would gather round him. Do you know what ‘words’ are? How they are used? Words are not petty things that one could waste away for nothing. As you do. They are to be treasured, to be used sparingly and judiciously. In the way as Shimal did. There…that was his table…he is still writing…’
There were tears in Mandira’s eyes. For a moment a shine came in them. She got up trembling. Moved ahead ….kissed the chair…restored to her seat.
‘Were you an author, I wouldn’t have called for you. Shimal was the only artist, all the rest are rest are artisans.’
Tea cups were empty. Mandira’s eyes still looked strained… ‘but why did you come to see me?’ she laughed, ‘will you fight for me? Against Desai? Will you console me? Will you remember Shimal? I should presume, you haven’t read even a single book by him. Is it not?’
‘You are right, tried to read one. Couldn’t go through the whole of it.’
Mandira laughed out aloud. ‘That is Shimal’s victory Shimal wouldn’t be Shimal if the likes of you could comprehend him. He would be a Shantanu. No?’
She was laughing. For a moment there happened to be an explosion in this stance of laughing of hers. The lily white hand, while passing across the table touched Shantanu’s. the little touch had all the power of the tsunami waves exercised on Shananu’s being. The expression on Mandira’s face altered too. The experience of the hot, steaming touch was more thrilling that the preceding multitude of his experiences with human bodies.
Mandira drew in a cold breath. ‘In fact in the present global system we have forgotten our mother tongue, that is the tragedy of it. Our slavery to the British gave us this curse, I. e. English. Our reading, living and assimilating even what is there in our native culture our habits and ideals-has got colored with English, through and through. We have adopted their tongue. In fact the subjection of the native languages of many a country is the out come of their weak economy. Had Shimal written in English only, he would have attained a different standing. He could write if he wanted to, but his own experiences, his ideals and impressions had so very deep impress on him that he could not think of writing in any other tongue. And for that reason people like Desai…’
Something happened suddenly. Mandira stopped for a moment. She was looking towards the chair at the front. A sense of awe seemed to fill her eyes.
The books in the almirah arranged in rows, Shimal’s table, old fashioned chair, colour falling off the wall in flacks, but rows and rows of flower pots—long lines of them. By the time Shantanu reached this colony. He had visualized this ‘literary solitude’ and the philosophical beams of sun light filtering through the boughs. But the uproariousness of the silence that he had witnessed in the whole of the colony, and in Mandira’s flat in particular, was discernible in the awe-struck eyes of Mandira, now. The philosophie4s ceased to stir. her pupils were dilated with awe and her ears cautions as if they heard some steps. She was looking towards Shimal’s room with her constant gaze…
‘There is some one…no. since morning today I have had a feeling that there is some one …did you…’
Mandira turned to Shatanu…and what followed was unbelievable…all of a sudden she held Shantanu’s hand.
Mandira turned to Shantanu…and what followed was unbelievable….all of a sudden she held Shantanu’s hand.
‘in the morning when I came here, he was standing here….did you hear the steps…and then…..there in the room.she almost shrieked, ‘I am asking you. Did you see him or you didn’t.
Then she cried out aloud, ‘Sumitra!’
The maid working in the house came in rushing, alarmed. ‘What’s the matter, Madam?’ Mandira’s eyes were red with anger. ‘You closed the rear window, or you didn’t?’ I had asked you to do that in the morning itself. Always keep that window shut. This happening has been continuing for the last two months. There is…there is someone…someone who having come here…didn’t you hear sumita? She roared, ‘get lost. Go and close the window.’
‘Madam, it is scarcely 12.’
‘Scarcely twelve,’ she mimicked. The fear was quite obvious on her face. ‘Twelve o’clock…can a thief not come at 12 o’clock? Go. First close the window. You…here?’
She held Shantanu firmly by the hand unmindful of his acquiescence or otherwise. She moved towards Shimal’s room.
‘He was there. Did you see him or didn’t? No please, speak out. Do tell me the truth. Didn’t you also see him there? Near this very chair was he. It wasn’t a shadow…he was looking at us. But….’
Mandira released the hand. ‘Who could he be? And the windows have wire nettings. Where can he have escaped to? May be, while talking we just got a momentary wink, and he took advantage of that. But, after all, why does he come?-and where does he go to?
Suddenly her body trembled. Her eyes dilated. Because of her astonishment. It seemed as if she tried to listen to some sound very attentively. In a flash she turned and took Shantanu’s hand. ‘He is in the house still.’ She was pointing in her child-like simplicity. ‘he is present…listen..His foot steps…he is going upstairs now,…on the stairs..Some with me.’ Mandira turned swiftly.
Stairs began in the corridor. Narrow stairs. There light was dim. She halted moment arily, cast a glance at him. And then making a motion to him swiftly ascended the stairs. There was an open room at the upper end of the stairs. Ventilators were shut. There was a curtain on the window, a heavy one. Besides books in bundles. And a broaden sofa set. Other useless things also were there. A clean bed was laid there. ‘He came here. These are Shimal’s books. The publisher sent them a few days ago. See. Gaven’t been unwrapped yet…’ all of a sudden she cried, ‘see, he is there. He is still there…’ see cried out in a trembling voice, ‘who is there…’ a shadow caused by a beam of light behind the curtain fell on the floor. ‘Have you still any doubts?’ she said. She was looking at him with her wild eyes. ‘Who is there? She cried. And suddenly she caught a glance of a spider’s web. Over the window. Just close to it was a lizard on the wall. She shrieked. Suddenly at that very moment Shantanu felt as if he was covered up with volcanic eruptions. Forgetting everything else she had turned and submerged herself in his body. He felt a great shudder. And then he felt, the most beautiful music ever created in the world was being played inaudibly within himhslf. Her hips were firm. They were, perhaps, the most beautiful hips in the world. The feet were all a shiver. Thousands of fireworks were being let off within himself, he felt. The very next moment a change took place nothing loss than an explosion to him. In a flash she stood apart from his body, looked at him with anger and shouted, ‘haven’t you departed yet? Drank water, sipped your tea, what are you doing here now? See, what time by the watch is. I can’t bear the presence of a person like you for such a length of time.’ Looking at hem Mandira shouted, ‘don’t look at me. Be gone…’ before departing Shantanu turned to have look of hers. Her eyes were still dilated with fear. She was mumbling, ‘there is someone.’
Shantanu passed out through the open gate. The bushes outside the flat were motion less, a swing for children was still oscillating. Perhaps some child had just left it. The outside lawn felt soft. The leaves fallen off the trees lay on the grass. The strange silence in the atmosphere was the transformation of the voice of frightened Mandira. ‘There is someone.’ But, perhaps, there was one. Having come out he started his car. He did not have any sense of guilt or guilt or remorse on his part. In the words of Mandira, ‘he was not hurt, not even one percent.’
By the time he came out and got into his car, the warmth of Mandira’s burning hand and the feel of her touch had permeated his whole body. He smiled as he put his hands on the stearing. By the time the car caught speed he had reviewed the whole of the wondrous happenings of the morning.
But the question was why did the happenings take this shape.’ Was it just Mandira’s confusion? Why did Mandira get confused when he uttered the name, Desai? Has this hallucination been going on since long? Or, was it the presence of a man, other than her husband, in her room that had stirred her up that much? Suddenly in his vision she was transformed from Mandira to the snake, the fish, or the cover page about which he had developed a non-appreceative view at the first sight. The whole of Mandira was before him, speaking pointedly to Desai of the Royal publishing house in his cabin two days ago. And then here…at Shimal’s residence…a most childish fear taking her in its possession. Was it a chance happening? Or was it a compulsion for Mandira to give it a dramatic turn? Could a woman find any attraction in a male body, aged and full of wrinkles? And that too having the support of literary creations only! For how long? For how many days? A dream hero, perplexed by the moments of shock and sorrow, can get transformed into a villain too. How many times he must have turned into a villain? When ever everyday little necessities couldn’t be met with squarely how could a lady at Mandira’s tender age sail on merrily and contentedly with a hero on her dream voyage? Was it any unquenched longing in her that had soon mall figure in the form of himself? Words were lost, only tactile relations remained—a living touch, expressing itself.
The unbelievable and dramatic situation had made it clear to Shantanu that he would find Mandira no more. But, had he got at the truth?- that after Shimals death Mandira was actually caught by some unknown fear and turned into a psychotic case?
A month passed like a swift blowing wind. He couldn’t come in contact with Mandira—neither had he phoned her nor did she. The controversy with the Royal Publishing House, of course, was there on the head lines.


The truth is it is not proper to consider the whole the reference or happening by linking it to any definite date. The world is changing fast—and Shantanu had an awareness of it. Society, the ways of living, Clothing’s, ways of entertainment, preferences in food and eating, films, heroes and heroines…they all are under the process of change. From miracles to science and psychology, from other girls come in contact to Mandira…the touch, the feel of it, seemed to have stayed in his senses and body. Oral communication was lost. The touch remained the shricking touch as the hissing flames of a stove, burning hot, making a sound. If the whole of it is visualized, there remains the close reaction of Mandira only---the frightened Mandira who is clasping to her chest and whose hips, pressed closely to him seem to beat like the pulse Shantanu has fresh in his memory, that mysterious night, when he was standing on the balcony of his house and innumerable stars were flowing away in the sky. He had seen something more too. No. it was mot a delusion, nor a story or fiction. The scene had enlivened the dense that we are not the only being in the universe. Shantanu had suddenly witnessed an ET in the blue carpet of the sky that was spread far and wide-extra terrestrial or aliens—a life, an intelligence from for beyond the earth, a new being. Not a flying saucer, rather so many stars together had formed an alien body. And suddenly mandira’s face replaced the ET. And if, that seemingly impossible happening when Mandira, possessed by fear and dismay, had taken him into her embrace, be necessary to be connected with any definite date, it was that very night when he had seen that alien body in the galaxy…and as he gazed on, it changed into Mandira. How and why about it can’t be dressed with an answer—from science to psychology. But why had that happened? And after that, for a month, there was nothing but rumours.
The angry letters of Mandira against the Royal Publishing House and Desai also found wide circulation. Mandira said all the accounts of royalty given to Shimal Sharma by Mr. Desai, the proprietor of the Royal Publishing House were fictitious. During the lat few months of his life Shimal had asked Desai repeatedly to give him the account of his books but Desai had no intentions to give him any. And seen it, he would have detached himself from the Royal Publishing House, that very moment.
Papers and magazines were fulkl of the matter of dispute between Mandira and Desai. Mandira had leveled against him some still graver accusations too. Some of them were hard and sharp. What were the sources of income of the Royal? What is the secret of the manson worth crores in junagarh? Mandira wanted to know, in straight forward words—what type of business it was in which the writer ix the loser—and on some day begs for his own money and dies—and the publisher went no founding mansons worth crores of rupees?
In her letter Mandira registered her anger and resentment in a piercing language with the implication that if there was still operative such establishments as the department of income tax and CBI, why they did not come forward to expose the scandal low activities of publishers. Giving a record of Shimali’s books she asked if the royalty of Shimal books amount to one lakh till 1995 how it came down to zero today. If the readers had disappeared. But the publisher was creating property in this business of his.
The dispute had begun, assertions and claims of writers had begun to pour in on such a day Saghun Chakraborty arrived sniffing his tobacco snuff and wiping his nose with his lion cloth.
‘now publishers don’t rely on the sale of books…’ he was in a serious mood. ‘Publishers rely on government purchases. How a purchase is settled is not known to the authors even. And that is the reason publishers do not care for writers. The problem will continue to exist till the purchase of books is not made public.’
Shantanu looked up.
Safghan was turning the pages of the book lying in front of him, but he was mumbling too. ‘what to say of us! Wrote a book and the whole of the books is there contained in a floppy. How much this little floppy earns for the publisher in the market you can’t even imagine. The truth is, Shantanu, no publisher maintains transparency in the matter of books. There are some writers who don’t want the royalty. Sitting in high chairs they help publishers sell their books. You will see how long Mandira’s controversy continues.’
BUT Mandira’s struggle continued. Such was the time when another letter of Mandira got published in papers.
‘it is regretfully declared that the Royal publishing House, hereby remain no more the authorized publishers of my husband, late Shimal Sharma. The account they sent us about the sale of books has been found to be dubious.’
Shantanu felt that the dispute is not to come to an end in near future. it must get aggravated. The trumpet was to be blown by this person or that, today or on another day. This war is begun by Mandira and, perhaps, she will emerge victorious….
But, perhaps, it is an ever recurring thing. We live in a disconcerting world of ET or the dreams of aliens even today. Even today, at some tender moment in the night a innumerable stars shine only to transform themselves into a flying saucer or an ET. Some Mandira, bating in the condescending rays of the seen cries out, ‘there is some one.’


Once again he was in all the likeness of his own father that night. On the outside the night was flowing freely. Moon-light was bleaching the objects…he had kept. The window opens conscientiously. The Scotch bottle was emptied.
Perhaps an intoxicated person thinks more deeply than he otherwise would. The details of his previous royalties were there in front of him. He went through them again and again. He was becoming more and angrier on Desai and say to him. ‘ssaaley, for this very reason I thought, time and again, that it was better for me to start my own publication than to suffer the fraud by the likes of you…should publish my own books.’
The previous accounts of the vouchers of his two books were missing. The account of the last five years also looked doubtful. Casting off the dead scales of a writer from his body he was in the shoes of his father, an unadulterated businessman, only.
Shantnua put the vouchers aside. He came to the terrace, walking. For a little while he kept looking at the constellations in the sky. Next, he pulled out his mobile and began to dial Desai’s number. Desai was there at the other end.
Shantanu roared. ‘it is twelve at night saaley. My fun of Scotch got grated because of you Saaley,’ Shantanu was speaking abusively. ‘I’ll come to your house to thrash you.’
‘ha….ha…,’ Desai was trying to laugh. ‘Do come. You do. Why are you getting cross? If there is any mistake in the vouchers we shall see to it. Take from me ten Scotch bottles for one my dear….’
Hearing him laugh Shatanu also laughed, ‘My fraternity is a different one, firangee. I belong to your Alsatian breed. I would bite rather than barks.’
By the time he restored himself to his room in the quiet of the brightly moon-light , some very dark comments that had been made during his conversation at Mandira’s came to his memory. Shantanu had deliberately kept preserved the memory of them.
‘Have you ever considered why the books by a writer like Shimal are printed in so very small a number?’
‘every one cannot digest them, is it?’
‘but he fights for all.’
‘Then, why did he not fight his own battle?...i mean against his own publisher?’
It seemed as if some one like Dushyanta had tossed a piece of rock in the dead quietness. For a moment Mandira’s whole body trembled.
‘I am not an author but I can analyses the whole matter,’ Shananu shot an unerring arrow. ‘Being given to the business of writing your author becomes a sky creative. In fact he becomes unable to fight any war, not even his own.’
Just on the next day, as I opened the main gate of desai’s bungalow, I once again heard the barking of an Alsatian.
‘so Mallika Bengal has returned you your Alsatain.’
‘no Shantanu….’ Desai laughed. ‘one Alsatian is out, another is in. one has only to be a lover of a good breed dog.’
Sipping his tea he asked in a murmur, ‘and what about the matter concerning Mandira?’ Dasai was laughing. ‘don’t you know? There has been a compromise. Such matters begin and got closed too….’
He tossed a big piece of bread towards the Alsatain which was caught by the Alasatian in the mid air.
In front of him the sun made two shadows of them on the lawn. Suddenly there came to his vision the face of Mandira, ‘there is some one….’
The Asatian barked for the second time and in response to it another piece of fresh bread was tossed to him.
Shanftanu felt very sad. By the time he returned home a strange quiet or a load over burdened his whole being. The atmosphere was once again very quiet and lifeless. As he returned to his room seeing the flowers of ‘Scine’, Gilbehri’ and ‘Tili. He was started. Though he was in the habit of living alone, an explosion had gone off somewhere. He switched on the lights. The window was closed, but the curtain fluttered. He retured to look at the bed. Innumerable furrows were there visible on the bed sheet. While departing he had forgotten to extinguish the piece of cigarette in the ash tray. Smoke was still rising there. The rows of paintings on the wall seemed to have become alive and moving even. Suddenly he felt a shiver. His frightened eyes once again turned to look at the window. He saw the curtain waving and a low shriek escaped from him. ‘There is some one, there is.’ But there was none. It was just a delusion on his part. And, this was the time when he made up his mind that he would try to visit mandira once again, breaking all the limits of decency.
And this was just a chance occurrence, or what, that the answer from the other end, without any observance of formality or extending any questions, was, ‘please come, better in the evening.’
When Shantanu reached the beautiful colony of late Shimal, all of a sudden the music of falling rain drops heralded some new mischance…..
She was alone in the house, in a sky-blue night-wear. When he got in, she was sitting on a chair, extending out her hand to fill up her palm with the falling rain drops. She looked up, then said in a murmur, ‘come in. I am collecting diamonds on my palm.’
It was difficult to say whether the tender fair palm had really turned themselves into diamonds or into fire. It was a rare sight. Rarer than the sight of a rainbow in the rainy season sky. But Shantanu had not come to watch the rarity of such a sight at this time. On the level of thoughts that he composed to picturize himself, he seemed to have turned into a dog at one time, and a toad at another. This was the first time that he was bitten by the fangs of words that made him think if he had made a mistake in closing pen-man-ship as his main occupation. I couldn’t restrain myself.
‘Why did you do this?’
Mandira stood there partially soaked. The rain drops on her face partly expressed the heat and partly her perplexity. She turned. There was an expression of wonder on her face.
‘What did I do?’
‘Why did you compromise?’ Shantanu was looking fixedly into her eyes.
There was a sharp clap of thunder.
‘Come in. had I an apprehension of the rain, I wouldn’t have asked you to come this evening.’ Her voice was heavy.
Having come in, suddenly he was perplexed. Shimal’s photograph was missing from the table. The room it self had an air of change. The sofa-set also was rearranged. She sat down on a chair, as if they intended to shut and then to open alternately. And then her lips moved.
‘Some times a struggle is that of a person faced by him all alone. Sometimes we are defeated by ourselves. Sometimes we lose words that should define ourselves—quite apart from our being authors or painters. The canvas stands blank, the brush sans colors, pen silent and the words making literature unconvincing…’
Turning, she cast a look, got up from the sofa and then came to me.
‘Listen to me Shantanu…every person wants another one, a little smaller than himself. Every important person in the market wants a less important person. Big words sometimes seek the li9ghter and smaller words. My flight was high but there was some other one with a higher flight. I felt, compromise was a part of business that one had to make regardless of any feelings of victory or defeat….’
There was thunder-clap.
She mumbled, ‘I had nothing to lose, and nothing to gain even. Entertaining the feeling of ourselves being great we lose everything, perhaps,…so many inborn desires too…’
She moved ahead. Rain drops came in through the window. Closing the window she said in a whisper.
‘The maid servant has gone home. Her child is sick. Will you stay here tonight...For me…?’
She was looking across the window…despite the flashes and the thunder, Shantanu was still lost in the current of her works spoken awhile ago. ‘Every person wants a smaller one.’
There was a fresh flash. Having closed the window, Mandira came in and stood in front of frog cane to his mind, the one he had seen near the rows of odorless Tile and Gilbari plants.
He felt Mandira’s palms move close to his eyes. Perhaps the blinding flash of the lightning had settled itself in his eyes. Despite the heavy rain, flashes of lightning and thunder of the cloud, Shantanu had scanned what explosive results the situation might bring in.
‘Won’t you stay?...please speak.’ At the moment Mandira’s eyes seemed to converse with the vapour laden clouds, on equal terms.
Shantanu said something very quietly—or tried to say something. But, at that very moment a forceful gust of wind spend the shut panels of the window and Shantanu’s answer was lost in the thunder of the cloud.

you are going to be a part of the story

You are going to be a Part of the story

Only an old man can understand the working of another old man’s mind. Its workings are beyond the comprehension of a child or the young. One can never divine what twists and turns of the mind cause an old man to suddenly start beaming, and the next moment to pull a long face.
I start feeling uneasy sitting in one place. But things arte not what they used to be with old age overtaking me, my head reels as I try to rise to my feet. My knee joints ache and my hand shake. Wishing to be propped up in bed, I call out to my grandson, ‘Bablu...oh, Bablu!’
The next moment he comes running to my room. ‘Yes, Grandpa?’
With a gesture I ask him to sit me up in bed. Bablu puts his hand behind my back and helps me sit up against the pillow. A array of questions lines up in my mind. What should I do? Where should I go? I have lost the habit of sticking to just one place. I have numerous friends who go about on social visits, tapping their walking sticks on the ground as they walk. I was always proud of my strong hands. I am no doubt tired but I am loath to go about holding a walking stick as a sign of my infirmity. Coming out of my room I call out to my daughter-in-law… ‘Shedaan…Ismat…Naheed…is nobody there?’
There are sounds of whispering from the kitchen. I know these young women must be curling up their noses at my call at this odd hour and more so at my senile eccentricity. ‘How tiring Abba can be, this is no time for tea but he must have his cup of tea, there is no getting away from it, they would be saying.
I …….age one never predict what a man will need and …..Watching oneself disintegrate under the creeping shadow of death, one calls out for anything one needs or even, out of some strange impulse, far what one doesn’t need. Little do these young women know that suppressing a plethora of desires, some funny and some not so funny, is another name for old man is not supposed to cry or laugh loudly. These can be mistaken for signs of approaching insanity. It will make the children gather around him. His grandchildren will be upset and his daughters-in law will ask, ‘What’s the matter, Abba?’ what will I tell them? That they should leave me alone? In his lonely hours, old memories can torment an old man. Dormant memories can suddenly come alive and make him weep. And old man too has a past and memories of a wife who is no more. She might have left him behind by just two or three years in this race of time. But to him it appears as if she is centuries ahead of him on her journey.
I dump myself heavily on the chowki—a journey from my room to the chowki, a journey from old living moments. An old man can’t even weep unrestrainedly. He has to keep his emotions on a leash. He must divert his mind with his grandchildren, his daughter-in-law. He must have his mind pigeon-holed for bizarre and new-fangled ideas. He must delude himself with the thought which makes him say, ‘you doddering old man, the game is not yet up. It is because of you that the house looks so gay alive. Your glum silence, your sad visage, can wipe the smile from your children’s faces and stop them from cackling. All because of you.’
Ismat comes with tea. Behind her, Naheed stands smiling. ‘Abba, why have you come out your room—at this hour?’
I pretend as if I have not heard Naheed. My lips are curled in a smile—a deep, pretentious smile. Oh, what great concern they show for the old man!
‘Beti, Ismat, how much saccharine have you put in my tea?’ I asked my daughter-in-law.
Shadaan says, ‘Abba, you should have stayed in your room. It’s so chilly outside.’
Like any old man, I listen to her without speaking. What great care these young women take of the old man. They want to give him every comfort. How should I tell them that in old age one is governed by one’s passing moods which can prove to be self-devouring at times.
All my working life I was a high-ranking official, holding a responsible position. Lide a circus ring master, when an officer enters the ‘arerra’ he sweeps everyone before him. People must. Abide by his whims and he must have his way in everything. Like a spoilt child he wants all his demands to be met. ‘Abba, it’s very cold and you are wearing only a thin shirt.’
I stop sipping my tea and take stock of things for myself. Yes, it’s quite chilly. Ismat is right. Picking up my cup of tea I proceed towards my room. I must stay in bed for some time more. There is nothing better than a magazine to while away the time in bed. Keep reading till sleep overtakes you. What more is there left to be accomplished in life? All the children have been married off. I now only look forward to death, when I’ll drift into senility and my eyes will close for ever. Who wants to live alone? My friends have left me one by one. And those who remain are slowly moving towards the precipice, towards the final doom. Suddenly the words ring painfully in my ears. ‘Did you hear? So-and-so is gone!’ I feel stunned for a moment. Something breaks within me. But by now I’ve inured myself against such news. I’m prepared for the eventuality. In the beginning such news used to give me a jolt and its effect lingered making me sad for weeks. Even now such news affects me, but not with the same intensity a s before. May be because at my age I’m expecting this kind of news and it loses its sting.
For some time I recount the qualities of the head and heart of the departed soul. And then as always, I revert to mundane affairs linked with domesticity. Maybe after my death my friends will also list my qualities in the same manner.
As if something has struck out of the blue, I suddenly feel inert. This always happens when my mind is occupied with thoughts of death. I try to extricate myself from this goofy word; ‘death’ one more day is gone. When did Asea die? How long ago was it? Asea! As I recall the name, tears throb in my eye and a voice coming from somewhere encompasses me. ‘Saheb, Saheb, won’t you go to the club? Give Saheb some tea… its time for Saheb’s dinner.’s
Asea is running around in the house, attending to so many things at the same time. And strangely enough, time has still kept on the run. I retired from service and yet Asea showed on signs of age. Yet, she broke her promise, and disappeared for ever behind the clouds.
I felt for the first time that I would not be able to bear the burden of life. Old age is a disease which man can suffer stoically with a wife by his side as a prop. To pass his life along becomes drudgery. He can spend his life in the midst of members of his family, searching for the flashes of happiness. How I miss that sunshine of the which I entombed in the darkness of the graveyard many years ago. From that day on, the desire to live also died. There is just an unending sequence of nights in which sleeping-pills and other medicines figure prominently. Time itself looks aged and so does strong-limbed Asea. In the bodily contours of life I have begun to feel the intensity of surging pain. My old friend, Majju, had rightly said, ‘in old age even medicines do not yield results.’ As it is, as one advances in years one is prone to a multiplicity of ailments. How many of them can be pinpointed treatment?
It is for this reason that my friends who assemble in my house in the brecing morning light do not talk of the vagaries of life. They go straight to the question of impending death in a most facile manner. Who knows when death will knock at our doors? When will the final call come?
The other day I got a jolt. It was about ten in the morning. As on other mornings, Majju, Faruq, and Zafar were sitting in their chairs chatting with one another. They were waiting for Ali who was overdue. Ali would usually come tapping his lathi on the ground, halt at the door and throw a salaam at them in a manner characteristically his own. ‘Mahboob Bhai, Salaam ulikam.’ He would then single me out for his greetings. Lying in bed I would raise my eyes from my book, cast a glance at him and reciprocate his greetings with a loud salaam. Putting aside his lathi he would settle down in a chair.
That morning Ali came much later than usual. Majju had cataract in his eyes. While trying to make out Ali’s figure in the strong sunlight his myopic eyes sparkled for a moment. ‘Bhai, have you been feasting on kurma and kabab?’ Majju asked in a bantering tone. ‘you are looking so cheerful.’
‘Majju Bhai, this time we will eat kurma and kabab in your house,’ Ali said in his sharp metallic voice. ‘Cooked by bhabi. You’ll feed us on kurma-kabab, won’t you?’
‘Yes, bhai. Why not?’ it was on rare occasions that Majjur spoke with such confidence. ‘Imran will be coming the day after,’ he said scraping at the earth with his lathi. I’ll be flush with money with his coming. Come o Friday, we shall have both kurma and kabab.
‘we shall all join you, ‘Faruq chipped in giving a hilarious laugh as was his went.
‘it’s Majju’s invitation! A special occasion indeed,’ I said. ‘let me try to get up. I’m tired of lying in bed.’
‘Mahboob Bhai, keep lying down,’ Ali insisted.
But my sentiments got the better of me and I called out to my grandson, ‘Babu, we would like to have tea.’
How many days are there to Friday? It is just round the corner. But I didn’t feel very enthusiastic about it. I keep asking myself how would a stingy and tight-fisted man like Majju throw a feast for us. Maybe he was doing it out of affection for his friends. They sat there laughing and joking—all of them in a hilarious mood over the prospect of extracting a feast from Majju.
Another day dawned and they had assembled in my room for the morning gossip. It was Ali’s daily routine and he was very finicky about it. Tapping his lathi on the ground, he would show up pat at ten. Even in his old age he looked so strong and hefty. His wife had passed away many years ago and he had no children. He messed both very much. Majju was also waiting for him like the others what could have dept him away? Tomorrow would be Friday. Imran would be here tonight, Majju was thinking to himself. He made some quick calculations on his fingers.
Just then a boy came from Ali’s house.
‘Ali sahib has passed away.’
A hush fell over the room. Majju looked at Faruq and Faruq at Zafar and Zafar at me. I tried to get up. Nobody spoke. The only sound was a crow cawing raucously on the parapet of the opposite roof. Majjur got up quickly and rushed out swinging his lathi at the offending bird. ‘go, go! Hush, hush!’ he croaked in his thick voice. Cawing loudly, the crow flew away. Many cold and warm breaths rose wheezily in the room. I felt as if a storm had burst upon the room.
‘So Ali is gone.’ The room was again steeped in silence.
‘At what time will they carry him off for burial?’
‘In the evening. After the evening namaz.’
Trembling lips again shivered into silence.
‘What happened to Ali?’
‘Nothing. He was perfectly all right. In the morning he woke up in the normal course and asked for water. Then he complained of pain in his chest. He lay down in bed and asked us to call the doctor. But before the doctor came….’
The boy went away. Uneasiness spread in the room. The chair in front was lying vacant. The one Ali had occupied yesterday, and the day before, and the day previous to that. Whenever he came, he sat in this very chair. Majju sat, slowly shaking his lathi. Yesterday he had invited the poor old man to have food with him. But little did he know...His eyes turned dull and lusterless. ‘He was a very good football player-our Ali,’ I said, as if to myself. ‘We were together and retired together. He played better football than me. He was in such good health, even at his age. He is gone—our Ali.”
The morning had turned better. Babbu came in with the tea and the cups were passed round. They started drinking in silence. Ali’s chair was vacant. Again and again their gaze travelled to that chair. All talk by-passed the subject of Ali. Was it anymore necessary to rope him in to this talk? Who knew whose turn would come next? We were all lined up in the same row—all of us in readiness to depart from the same row. And Ali…
Ali used to come every day. But he will never come again. Every day he laughed and made others laugh. But no more of that. Every day he teased Majju. Those happy moments already seemed so far away. Wasn’t his death a momentous event? Why didn’t his death stop the conversation that went on? Could anything be more momentous than death? Where were those tears gone? Zafar, Faruq, Majju—why had they cut out Ali from their talk? A quick sharp jolt and that was the end of it, they had again complacently gone back to their usual routine.
It was getting on to be afternoon. Our gossip session had long since petered out. In the evening we had to join Ali’s funeral procession. Majju was the first to leave and did it tapping his lathi on the ground. Then it was Faruq’s turn, followed by Zafar. I was left alone in the room. ‘Abba, time for your food,’ I heard one of my daughters-in-law calling out to me.
It is past at night but there is no sleep in my eyes. I had returned soon after sunset, after lowering Ali in to the grave. At this stage of my life, as I reflect on the vagaries of life, I realize that life is neither a puzzle nor a mystery. Only the four walls of the graveyard revolve before my eyes and it makes me wonder if that is what constitutes life? Something poised on an axis. Now nothing sounds strange to me. Or it could just as well be that everything sounds strange to me and I hear a voice within me proclaiming to me, ‘beware, a story will write itself. The answer silenced me.
This voice in my room at one o’clock in the silence of the night greatly agitated my mind. ‘be warned,’ it says, ‘ the story is going to use you. It is because you have experienced life in its fullness. You know about death. And also about life. People turn away in fear from looking into this deep well which is called death. But at this turning point of your life you have learnt about the quintessence of life that lies in the no-man’s land between life and death. There is a big void between life and death, nothing, except an urge to live on. You have to cross this distance between life and death. You just close your eyes and drift into sleep. That is the hard core of reality. After eating your food you will also like sleeping and then go to sleep. This destinations journey will slowly reach its ultimate goal. And then a long silence and the closed book. Mahboob, are you conscious of the fact that it is one o’clock in the morning and you every day. Therefore, be on the alert. The story about you is soon going to write itself. Yes, it will soon be written.’

parkinson,s disease

Parkinson’s Disease

Love moves you to the core. Love wounds you, shatters you or, God only knows what the more it does. But they say love begins to disquiet you even with the first occurrence of the feeling.

The old man and the bet

The room had no windows, no ventilators. No sooner did you close the door and moved on the glass-like glistening floor feeling the cool of the air-conditioner than the deep depression would pervade you. The whole….
He was laughing. He that is Ramesh Kalara. His status in the call centre of Marijuana Company was that of a hi-fi director. This was an additional flight for him. As soon as the talk lighted on the subject he would, in an instant, get transformed into an intellectual.
He was still laughing-an aimless laugh. But my eyes seemed to have been captured by another sight.
‘Did you notice it, Ramesh? The short quick continuous motion? He…. In fact…he is shaking. Yes, not such as one usually will…but he is shaking….’
‘You…of course….’ Ramesh spoke in ice-cold voice.
‘You mean….he keeps swaying as if….’
The wasted flaccid body of the old man could be seen by a person passing through the main gate, crossing the veranda or getting into the private room of Ramesh Kalara. He sat at a fixed place on a chair by the room with its netting ….but he was shaking. No. you do not shake like this sitting in an aero plane passing through dense clouds. Not even when you are facing an enemy’s bullet. Passengers in speeding shatabdi express will not shake like this. The most helpless, in the scantiest of their clothing’s, soaked by the drizzle in the severely cold night will not shake like this. Perhaps this was the reason that as Ramesh Kalara laughed every time my attention was caught by that old man who unconcerned with your smiles or even boisterous laughs kept on shaking.
‘Ho...Ho…ho…’ Ramesh turned towards me. ‘Old people are meant for shaking. For, passing along the roads of their vast experiences they already have caused things to shake to such an extent that nothing remains unshaken by the time they are old. And as such they keep their own selves shaking’ once again Ramesh burst out laughing-a boisterous laugh, neighing like a spirited horse and shaking all over. He made me recall many a happening of the day.
The whole of the day seemed to have been occupied by the thoughts of old people. A young man has the stories of the aged more than he has that of his own youthful days. Their attention to the old is something like their attention towards the things that posed challenge and concern before them. ‘See,’ they say to themselves, ‘you are going to be turned into the same…, that is, after a few years only, and then you will find yourself standing at the threshold of helplessness. But some young persons try to live in the present only disregarding the heart rending stories and the old age because they are much too frightened to look into the fear generating mirror of the future.
Once again Ramesh laughed out aloud.
‘Ho…ho…, my sentimental friend. There was an elephant and a blind man. Oh, no. I know what’s going on at your heart, the same cold of helplessness.’ There persisted on the chair an existence shaking continually, at a higher temp0erature of the outer room. Ramesh stopped for a moment, looked at me, and added, ‘they can’t bear the cool, my sentimental friend. That’s why they keep shaking.
‘Ah, definitely my friend. But I can say, one day, having been terrified by his seclusion and loneliness, he will suffer so great a heat...That…No. you are laughing…believe me my dear friends, he will cease to shake.’
At first I…I myself was not aware of what I was saying. Or. Perhaps, my afore mentioned words of reaction show that nothing could be done about the involuntary shaking of the body that presented itself there.
‘Ho…ho…it means you too are a real buffoon, my dear...’he was shrieking under a fit of uncontrollable, laughter, holding his belly with his hands. ‘That means,’ he said, ‘you believe in miracles, even today.'
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, for that reason a miracle had happened, but happened, but the form of the miracle was a transformed one.

The sovereign power of falsehood

Wrinkles appeared on his nose as he spoke. A part of his spoken sentence would get dissolved with his breath, consequently, lost to the audience. The hair above his forehead, on the front was disappearing fast. Many affairs of Ramesh Kalara’s life were such as were, perhaps, known to me only. Exceptionally ambitious he was. He had no scruple in going across the limits if it served his purpose. Falsehood, naturally, became a strong weapon in his hands. In other words, you might reckon him as one of the persons who would accept falsehood as the ideal. His marriage, too, took place under interesting circumstances. The would be wife belonged to a hi-fi family. They were the days when an interesting series of his falsehoods had already begun. It was in his very young age that his ambition had told him if he wanted to take a swift flight; he must learn to throttle others, to pay routine visits to the abodes of politicians and influential personages and to make money by creating employment opportunity for an interesting suppliant. This was followed by discotheques, waiting on the seats in the lobbies of five star hotels, and the like. Just a little of indiscriminate altering helped him acquire a second-hand car too. A beautiful Tata Safari he got almost for nothing. This chance happened to occur in the following way. This safari belonged to a doctor. The doctor was involved in some complicated case. Ramesh Kalara helped the doctor ease his position by virtue of his approach to a certain minister. Later on when the Tata Safari met with an accident, the doctor took the vehicle to be ill-omened and decided to replace it by another one. This helped Kalara buy the Safari at a wishful price.
Quite unexpectedly, one day he happened to come across Muskaan in the lobby of Miranda five star hotels. She was in her jeans and sleeveless shirt… Questions and answers were exchanged. Ramesh said quietly, ‘I’ve appeared at I.A.S. examination…’ Ramesh, of courses, had a taste for clothes. This was the outcome of his regular visits to five star hotels, or, whatsoever other reasons might have contributed to it, but because his clothing’s showed his refined tastes, and also that his English was stylish, it was possible for one to presume that this Kalara, though showing wrinkles on his nose again and again as he spoke, could aspire for a place as on I.A.S. officer.
Perhaps this was the story of Muskaan’s coming closer to Kalara. Much was added to this story as the time rolled on. For example, Kalara’s introduction to Muskaan’s businessman father winning his confidence. Imposing rides in Tata Safari. Stylish manners.
The residnes of the old and disappearing culture had, somehow, retained itself in the aged and broken down body. They were safe in Kalara’s father. To Ramesh Kalara, Ranvir Kalara, who lived in an ancient two roomed house, was nothing more than a tiresome burden, or an unseemly speck. He tolerates this ‘existence’ or ‘rubbish’ only because of his blood relation. Mother was dead. Both the sisters were in their father-in-law’s houses. Ramesh had to manage for a decent house that he would need when he got married.
Ramesh got a heavy loan sanctioned by the bank. He hoped that every thing will be set right as soon as the bird laying golden eggs is under his roof.
This was the very time when a fearsome eclipse took place. The father, conscious of the morals of his son, and enduring the abuses from him mutely began to shake, as a horse would. Perhaps, the ailment was the outcome of his suppression of the fire that lay smoothing at his heat since long ago. He fell a prey to such a disease as had never been or known previously in the family.
Soon, after Kalara had got the sum he bought a bungalow also in Preet vihar. Another story lay behind the transaction of the bungalow. This bungalow belonged to a widow whose sons were settled in a foreign land since Ramesh visited her regularly, and helped her perform some trivial activities as the occasion demanded; the old lady fell under the spell of Kalara. The widow was to go to and live with her beloved daughter in the latter’s small house in Rohini before her flight to the foreign land after two months. The lady wanted to dispose off the bungalow. The price was settled. The payment was to be done in two installments. As the documentation proceed on Kalara declared in clear words that his interest in getting the deal registered in his own name lay only in the fact that the responsibility of the payments that were to be made should rest on him. Half of the story that emerged out is, the widow could not get even the first half of the payment before she departed for the foreign land. She lodged a case against the Kalara. But cases like that opened against Kalara and closed too, not infrequently.
When Muskaan came to her new home, explosions occurred, one after the other. But in his practical life Ramesh entertained no disturbances or discontents. For example, Muskaan asked-
‘Were you not taking your I.A.S. exam?’
‘Why did you tell a lie?’
‘To make an impression on you.’
A room in the house was occupied by the broken down old body on which Ramesh on which Ramesh couldn’t spend any money for that seemed to him to be like setting a bet on a deal horse at a race course.
Muskaan kept crying for a number of days. Her businessman father consoled her, and to hive his son-in-laws a sound footing, he entrusted him with the reigns of the call centre, Marijuana Company, in partnership with himself. This was the time when, having gambled and won the objects of every dream, he himself became something like a dream. Bereft of sentimentality, care for the press, ideals, relations, the whole of his history and geography was money only. And in his race for money he did not keep himself to any particular mode or direction. All the possible fields were open to him.
And quite removed from them was the presence of the old body that, seated on a chair, continued to shake day in and day out. And to me, If there could be anything that would excite wonder in me, it was the shaking of Ranveer Kalara. On his wrinkled face the flesh hung loose. The spectacles had disappeared. His shirt and pantaloon were so very disproportionately loose on his body that he looked like a scare-crow on a bamboo pole. His limbs were disabled. It was difficult to ascertain what his eyes looked at any given moment. But could there be any hope for a miracle to happen to his body and bring about a change for the better with the passage of time? Perhaps, not and so, on that holiday when Ramesh had come home, I went to the room where the scare-crow, Ranveer by name, was left alone to keep sitting in the chair and shaking. After looking at him for some time carefully I was a bit worried and irritated too.
‘Yes, keep shaking. You too can shake, for the whole of the country is shaking. The public is shaking. Public verdict is shaking. Politics is shaking. Every thing, from the parliament to the streets is shaking. And no earthquake is required to make the bases, that possessed the firmness of good reasons, shake. And that is the reason that nothing is stale, from the individual to the whole country, from society to politics, from religion to discipline. All are shaking.
‘Have there been any miracles? Ho….ho…’ the all-in-all of Marijuana Company was standing before him now. ‘Friend, Listen to me. A miracle has happen here only. He was pointing at his head. Once again he was eager to tell me that he was not just a partner in Marijuana Company. He was the boss. A little of greasing the palm, a little of falsehood, a little of fraud---and once again he succeeded in giving a blow, a little harder this time, to the businessman, father of Muskaan. His x-partner was a close friend of Muskaan’s father. He had accepted the partnership on the insistence of Muskaan’s father only. But, as Ramesh said, ‘you have to dislodge all the bricks, one by one, that formerly supported you…’
‘But that will make you fall too. I mean you’ll be unsafe.’
‘O, no,’ he was laughing, ‘self-reliant. No sooner are all the bricks removed than you become cautions and careful about your own safety, not depending upon anyone else for it.’ In the manner of a philosopher, looking at the window he was saying, ‘with the passage of time dreams and struggles have changed market. And to stand in its support a bit of selfishness was to be adopted. In fact, my friend, there is nothing new about it. To live a life different from the commoners, as I desired, has been my desire all the time,’ he said softly, ‘in this new colonial culture we have to write our own history and geography according to our own ability. And for that, everything like self sacrifice, renunciation of selfish pleasure seeking, self purification, age old ideals, or any thing so called valuable…., al must be dedicated selfish pursuits….’ He coughed softly, ‘but I have still kept a little of my selfishness apart, Indian as I am, in the interest of that chair set alone, on which your miracle is shaking. On a certain day to come that shaking will cease and then the chair will be removed to another room. On that day that part of my abstention from selfishness will get wiped off too….’
It was a horrible truth. And perhaps this was the reason that I had set my hopes on that rare moment of time when the shaking of the old man should come to an end, perhaps because of my habit of following the age old, rotten, Marxist formula ‘ a change even in an individual.’ The meaning of our dialogue got diversified, carrying a worthy or an unworthy meaning.
At every opportune time Ramesh, with all the evidence of his being, would set himself to tearing into bits the time, history and culture. My ways were different. Perhaps it was the reason that all the changes I happened to observe in him exhibited themselves to be something like a horrible cultural upheaval to me. In the age of new global software, out sourcing, the mall, reality shows, cosmopolitan cities gaining global dimensions, I seemed to be akin to some dinosaur of the prehistoric age whereas Ramesh was on his natural evolutionary path moving in accordance with the shifts in markets and the codes of the age. He was moving just along with his own lines.
But there it was that a small happening took place. Immediately after Khanna had been removed from Marijuana Company, a new director, Shilpi, took his seat. A view change was in the offing. After that the news that followed and reached me too, had the impressions of fragrance, rains, butterfly, and deceit-all in their little proportions. J knew that shilpi had taken our king of falsehood in thrall. Perhaps struggling against our own circumstances we happen to come to a situation where we surrender ourselves to the temptation of the feminine body and just the presence of a woman becomes the means of smoothing out so many creases in our lives and happenings there in.

In the place of the old man

I could not believe that after a period of a few months only I shall have to come across such an odd circumstance. Ramesh asked me to come to him but, now, the voice was not that of a villain or a hero. I could discern the cry of a defeated man in the voice. Although it was my second or third meeting after a lapse of a few months only, Ramesh, in his own room, looked as if he had been sick for years. From the very beginning he had been trying to look calm and composed, but soon he seemed to be losing his grounds.
The room had neither any window nor ventilator open. And as soon as the door was shut, the cool of the air-conditioner suddenly acquired a new form at my heart. Ramesh was seated in a chair. With a cigar in his lips, he was lost in some deep thinking. His ‘you know…ho…ho’ was missing today. His words had got lost in certain narrow streets.
‘I heard, muskaan is going to divorce you.’ I said. Turning up he looked at me, ‘we have been married for two years. She has been divorcing me since the very first day she came…’ he said.
‘What does she want?’
‘Simple. She wants a divorce. There is a ruling of the Supreme Court that a wife can claim her divorce even on the basis of the mental harassment inflicted on her by her husband. It could be a simple excuse, the words of Ramesh were explosive, ‘but she couldn’t do that till now.’
‘Two years is certainly not on enormous amount of time.’
‘Don’t you think that in your flight you wagered your own life and domesticity?’ I asked.
‘I never felt like that.’ Ramesh shook the ash off his cigarette. ‘Every one has the right to take a flight. After all, what is politics? a desire and effort to shake off the opponent. What treatment did general Parvez Musharraf meted out to Nawaz Sharif? And the helicopter accident of Sanjay Gandhi? Did people not connect the accident with Indira Gandhi? It was politics only that tempted Aurangzeb to confine his father and slaughter his brother. What did emperor Ashoka do...he put his own brothers to death. I did not kill any body.’
‘There is a difference between politics and home.’
‘No difference is there; let it be the house or the society. For every place there is a politics of its own kind.’
‘is Shilpi too a part of this politics?’
Suddenly there seemed to have happened an explosion within him. He crushed the cigarette into the ash-try. There was a terrible change in his countenance. He got up. Moved towards the window, switched off the air-conditioner, and opened the window as if he wanted to keep himself from nausea and suffocation. The decayed body was seated on the chair on the front, shaking as ever, nut I had seen a wave in Kalara’s body that shook him as I named Shilpi. This was the very first of such an observation on my part. Something devastating must have happened, which, perhaps he was not fully aware of, or, there was something extra-ordinary that he wanted to bring forth. When he returned, it seemed a lot had already befallen him in a flash. He sat down. Sitting in his chair he burst out crying uncontuollably, in the way as a heart-broden child only could.
Perhaps, this was the scene for which this story was born….a sensational, maddening scene. Kalara and tears! To the eyes of a thousand, Kalara was a man who had ruthlessness only to0 show for tears. Could there have happened such a coincidence of circumstances that made Kalara’s heart bleed and made him cry? Perhaps it was impossible for me to believe, but it had happened. He was crying. His tears rolled down his cheeks. I stood there bent over him. ‘cry out the pain. You should cry. I think it is your right to lighter yourself, even by crying. If my presence is an obstruction to you, I may….’
Ramesh held me by the hand instantly.
‘No. stays here. You’ll go nowhere….for I am going to tell you what I wouldn’t have told any other one? He was wiping his tears. He seemed to be making an effort to compose himself, or putting in order the frayed impressions of the story.
‘But how shall I begin the story? Will any person believe it? He said. Despite the cool of the air-conditioner, sweat drops were collecting on Kalara’s forehead.
All the stories in the world begin with love. in fact, the world has no philosophy of its own. Love itself is the philosophy for love is eternal. Will any person believe that a person like myself, who could ne called a flint-hearted one, a stone image, or any other such thing, and quite appropriately too, is, at the core of his heart…., please, be kind enough to listen to me. Muskaan was not my love. To me, during this little span of time, she was more the daughter of a businessman than the wife.’ Ramesh wiped away the sweat with his handkerchief. ‘In my early age I read stories too, by such story writers as Moupassant, Chekhov and O’henny. At the time was impossible to believe in the truthfulness of the tales as they would bewilder me. I said to myself, ‘did it happen so? Could it be so? Or he….what’s the good name? Yes. Stephen Zwig. 24 hours in a woman’s life. And she gave those hours to a man who was not worthy of being a lover. I wonder if Zwing wrote this story for me.’ He stopped to connect the threads of his tale. ‘She got into my cabin as if in a breath. It was about 11 o’clock. No. I can draw a picture of the moment quite precisely. Perhaps the Ramesh Kalara of the former days could not do so, for she had brought along with her the intoxication of love and passion. Blue jeans, a number of embroidery flower-lets, hung from them, touched her beautiful white sandals. The upper garment-a T-shirt, white one. This was the time when my peon, who brought me to felt a shock as he got in. the first flower of ‘Neelambar sansai was peeping out, and the battery cell of the wall clock having struck 11 went to sleep. Do you follow me? She came in and freezed the time by her arrival.’
‘No. I don’t want to go back empty handed. By the way I am born to win only, she said sensing herself to be in full command of the situation and knowing the power of her beauty she advanced her resume. ‘Please look. Don’t you feel that I can give a new life to this- your call centre?’ she took a step backwards, ‘sir, look at me. My experience is not written on that blank paper. It is here also, in my eyes, in my body.’ Sir, look at me. My experience is not written on that blank paper. It is here also, in my eyes, in my body.’ All this was like a fantasy, as if a fantasy was changing itself into a reality. A person like myself who in business matters can use unrefined or rude language only, or who can never tolerate the words of pride or authority ….but what could I do? I had surrendered myself to the glow of her beauty. Or one could say, I was softening myself at heart and almost shaking physically.
‘As Shilpi came in my life, everything began to happen in a way as it had never happened before. For example, during a night, under the glow of myriad of stars, I stood on the balcony watching the moon; taken by a spell of strange intoxication I began to hum a film song tune. It seemed, for the first time a new man was born within me who was a lover of or husband to Muskaaan. She understood the touch of my hands that, now, had the feel of lovers. Many and many woman in the world has the sixth sense that they can recognize the fragrance of an alien love in the hands of their husbands. Muskaan pushed off my hands uncourteously. ‘Away. These hands bear the feel of some other one. In the skin of your hand there is some other one very near to becoming your love….Listen, it is not you Ramesh Kalara,’ Muskaan said. She turned to her side as she lay, and suddenly awareness downed upon me. It was not my hands only, but the whole body on which Shilpi was imposing her personality. By degrees. And it was discernible not on the feel of my touch only but on the whole of my physical existence. That night before I fell asleep I said to myself, Kalara, transforms yourself into a poet, and you are lost. The bases of your progress are founded on dishonesty, lie, and the things that are so foreign that no love can have any access to them. But on that day in the cabin….perhaps it was a part of my own well thought of plan….but what followed thereafter…..’
Ramesh stopped suddenly. ‘Does love make a fool of you? As, it did in the story by Z wig when that married woman eloped with that young man. Is it not detestable that a married woman should elope with a stranger, and that too when she has the husband and the offspring. To think of Shilpi when Muskaan was already there! But perhaps my heart had not only secretly consented to it but given it due respect too, for it was my very first effort, looking back since my very childhood to this day that I should have endeavored to that. I was behaving simply as a man touching the bounds of love without any considerations to selfish impulses.’
I had fixed my gaze on Kalara. No, it wasn’t possible that this man should fall into romantic feelings. The new culture of commercialization had changed the meaning of sex. Perhaps it had got mixed up in the ‘cocktail’ of romance suffered internally. At this moment this very cocktail was apparent on the face of Ramesh. He took a deep breath and proceeded.
‘I have a private room of mine in the office. Everything happened per my planning. Exciting music broadcast by world space Radio was in the air. I had sprayed the room to make the air sweet. All the staff, as a rule, is in by ten. I was awaiting Shilpi only. I had thought much about it, and also believed that nothing would be objectionable, perhaps, to open minded Shilpi. As she entered my room all was fragrance there. Looking round the room she succeeded in making out what was there at my heart. Coming swiftly she stood erect before me. She began to say, ‘I don’t believe in stretching the issues like a piece of rubber. Do you desire to get me?’ holding my hands into hers she added, ‘then please uncover me….’ Shilpi’s existence was akin to Monalisa’s whose smile had been beyond comprehension and was so perhaps to the artist himself too.
‘the clothings dropped down one by one, but Shilpi stood there clothed in her indifference. In all her nakedness she was there in front of me looking into my eyes. A woman’s body is a musical instrument, but every man doesn’t have the art of playing upon it. ‘can you tell me what part of my body passesses fire at its utmost? Here…’ she pointed at her breasts. And then, ‘here…here….here…’ her hands moving downwards from her lips to other soft parts of her body came to her ear loves, ‘here…bring your lips here. Sorry, I can’t call you ‘sir’ at the present moment.’ The panes on the window were glass ones, through them one could see the world outside but it was difficult to see the things inside the room from the out side. Looking at the rows of the multi-sky-scraper buildings, she turned, all of a sudden. With terror struck eyes she cried out, ‘vulture, my god! A culture on the opposite building.’ The volcanic eruptions within me turned into snow. She dressed up. ‘sorry sir… you can understand. No? a vulture on the building just opposite to yours, at 11 o’clock during the day! I could never stand vultures….ever since I was a child…’ having dressed up she was outside the room. After some time when I was able to recover myself after this explosive situation, she was already in her cabin in her head bent over files.’ Ramesh Kalara took a cool breath. ‘Perhaps it was a cruel act against me, the act that gave me a new mental shock. I advanced towards the window. Having induced in me her own sexuality she had left me. The emotion was not only growing intense with the passage of time, but was becoming more and more tormenting to me. She was always there within me with all her beauty, and it was increasing my mental tension continuously. Some times I would debate at heart whether she was really indifferent or posed to seem to be so, in the same way as on her physical level she was wild as well as normal at one and the same time. In her cruelty she was affecting my virility too; perhaps because I was close to her many a time but I could not ask her for our physical closeness any mere. I don’t know if it was the outcome of my helplessness or the shock of the vulture incident, I too began to see vultures out side my house.’
‘on that night too I was possessed by the very helplessness. Muskaan was shrinking, ‘I had been to the office today. Your office is showing loss continuously since Ramesh uncle left it. And you? It is said that you are not serious at all about your work. Remember, it is your office but mine as well.’ After a Ramesh added, ‘but I continued to roar for a considerable time, though I cannot recall now the matter or the content of what I said. As I recovered my senses and lay in bed all sick, Muskaan shook my very existence by her next step. She said, ‘it was the first mental stroke. No danger as yet and she laughed out. The very next moment she handed over to me an envelop, saying, ‘it is shilpi’s resignation letter. She has got a placement some-where else, in a bigger company.
The old man and his shaking
‘So she left you?’
‘God knows’
‘But as Muskaan told you she had got a better placement somewhere?’
‘I don’t know.’ Ramesh breathed in desperately. He took out a cigarette from his pocket and holding it in his lips seemed to have got lost in some deep reflections.
‘I was a petty actor in politics, my friend. Perhaps I could play my part only to the extent that my selfishness dictated me to. But the politics played on the level of relations kills you. She disappeared all of a sudden and, perhaps, this was the time when I became upset mentally. I had seen the beauty of her body. Or, I should say, in a few minutes Shilpi had taken me in thrall. Perhaps she knew that it was through Shilpi only that she…’ in the ash-tray Ramesh shook the ash off his cigarette. ‘Like a mad man I searched for Shilpi. On that night at about 11 o’clock, as I parked the car in the lawn, I saw Shilpi getting off a car along with Muskaan. She was beast perturbed by my presence. She stood there rather proudly like a champion. Anyway, having suffered a new mental stroke, I was trying to compose myself. My words were lost to me. Perhaps it was on that very night that I had suffered a second mental stroke.’ Once again Ramesh was looking out of the window. ‘I think there comes a time when we begin to shake…’ the rest of what he said stuck to his throat.
We came out of the room and there awaited a rude shock for me. The old sluggish body was there in front of us. I gave a start.
‘Did you see, Ramesh?’
‘Yes.’ Ramesh was death pale.
‘No. you didn’t observe, or did you?
Unblinkingly Ramesh was looking at the mute old man who was shaking continuously. The man also smiled, and I can say on oath, as we came out and cast a glance at him, he had ceased shaking for a second.
While trying to answer me Ramesh shook a bit. I did not turn to cast a second glance at the old man.