Reflecting on my own image, I wonder who will guide the mainframe of visuals inside me? Am I a thoughtful being or a lackluster hurtful me? Who got the chance to adjust my focus from living and surviving?
These thoughts came quelling within me as I sit before myself in my bedside mirror stand! All the years gone by haven’t changed one of the things on my mind that I am loved for a reason. I have led and been laid to live with a man who feels I am as good as a showpiece on his mantle, all petal, and diamond-adorned and expensive luxury.
Not that I feel precisely incomplete with this piece of a body lying motionless on the bed behind me. His money, his business, and his indulgence include me in a complete concoction.
The arena we spent our breathing time, our life scape has a palatial house, ample friendship, empty favors, flavors of fits and misfits of business circles but without any full stops to savor and indulge in our feelings. The mirror would lie to me if I say I have a beautiful life but do I really have it?
I climbed the odd ladder to take down the suitcase that held my old memorabilia. The old comb my mom’s used to use, the nib of an old ink pen, the inkpot lid that got pasted inside the old booklet we collected while traveling to various monuments on the school pass. The saree that she wore to her award function with two holes near the point where she pinned it on her shoulders so that she can play the harmonium without her pallu disturbing her playing.
The copper artifact of movable fish adorned the shelf everywhere we went while renting houses from place to place. I wished to help to tackle the weight of the memories that these samples of materials found inside the suitcase brought to the fore. They wavered me out of the tough days that a large family like ours had to go through during the Nani days. Those years ensured a bold canvas for all of us children to make a larger impact on each each-other and handle life as level-headed as me.
While I waited for my best friend scrounging through the suitcase it opened a lifetime of memories like a can of worms. Nani called up the regular rickshaw and took us alongside the brattaghara of the country cousin about ten km away from where we stayed.
Monu, Sinu, Dhubri all together we were fourteen children running around the Tulsi plant in the middle of the verandah relishing the early morning Dalma and poori breakfast. Bathed, oiled, and combed with coconut oil locally churned out of from the big coconut tree in our backyard kitchen garden.
Monu found a coir rope used to tie bamboo sticks together at the gates. Under Mamaji’s supervision, Dhubri the tallest child amongst us swung the rope up the mango tree in front of the thatched end of the house.
Arre! What are you doing Dhubri? Tie a knot and increase the length down to hang from the strongest branch. Balance the two ends between the middle of the branch! Let me hang Monu on it and see the weight is enough to cross the arc of pressure on the bark of the mango tree. Don’t come down! Wait! Adjust the direction of the wind as the swing will be left open at night and it shouldn’t get wet.
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The farther you bind it the better will be the height of swing to use by all of so many varied weighty lots of our relatives! Just as was the practice, the seniors of cousins swayed the Swing and younger ones were aided to climb and swing. At times, you too fall off while singing the same song
Asichhi raja lo neinuasajabaja
Heard the calling bell ringing! Oh! There comes Shreya! We loved each other like two pieces of chumbells. There was nothing that we hide from each other yet it was spelled with some invisible written ink that my pain was always felt as if it was her pain. We hugged each other tight and shed the customary first drops of rain, our heartfelt tears that carried an ocean of unsaid words. She loved me but apart from each one of us was given up to two men whom we were tuned to fall in love and accept as our fleshy lords of the universe.
Ma would say “Patihiparamodharmah”. When Shreya got married it was as if a part of me was getting amputated without my consent. She said “Lata! I am going to miss you but a corner of my wholesome cake called marriage will be yours always!
Society might have shredded us apart, but inside we belong to ourselves! To be touched by a man with his insurmountable urge to rule your body without your consent was sanctioned rape of my psychedelic marriage contract. Whatsoever was the cost of violation of human rights, marriage was conveniently named as conjugal bliss. So much so that even during your four days of painful bleeding if your husband is drunk and gropes you for a bite of that flesh he brings home, you surrender like an onion pulled off its layers shred by shred.
Lata opened the living room window to the idyllic expanse of the virgin sea!
My dearest Shreya! what’s the point in stressing so much? They hugged each other again! Lata! It’s not about stress, the fact is why us? Are we anyways any inferior to these men we have tied our anklets like pets? The silences between me and Divya is widening. The housework consumes my attention and subsumes the attachments. The world is about his life, his priorities, his family folks their credibility, and the circle of the customary parbaparbani.
Just the other day, I was forced to leave the house at 11 P.m. at night as he decided to stay one day more on his field trip. A dripping line of blood on my child’s forehead, hugging her to my chest, I ran to revitalize the last cell in my arthritic limbs to a wily mother trying to save her child. The pain is mine, the child too belongs to me, and the gusty woman that I am supposed to be breathed her last. Just as me you are also leading your life in this open house reminding yourself of the lonely helplessness we felt on this very beach on how to face the future.
While they were just talking about the sadistic delays and fecund original emotions it occurred to Lata she was passing the Sandhya time. She broke the melancholic stupor the conversation was leading to and excused herself.
The ringing of ghanti and “Dipang Jyoti Janardhana” reverberated in the moist air inside the house. Shreya culled herself from her despotic thought process for once and soaked in the spiritual effervescence of evening ritual. It was a forced effort but a welcome one.
While the essence of the moment was spiritual, the photos taken out of the suitcase caught Shreya’s attention! Oh! That’s the jagged jawline of the beauty she loved to dream so dearly would remain hers forever.
That was the last night they spent together in the old house, two-storeyed and with enough extra clothing, mattresses, leg space on red marble floors that housed internal soirees of laughter and tensions in the household holding her last aunt’s marriage in a large wealthy household.
Nobody in that big ruckus was bothered about who was waiting and sloping in into the common luncheons and dinners. Community of workers from the village was up in the school tent-house making garam breakfast for all and under the supervision of one Nana who was planning the grocery for the next meal. Each day the meal size was getting bigger, and so were the pouring population for feasting.
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The bride and her needs were secondary and everybody was hovering over the materials gifts one was so used to getting in return. The gold ornaments which were to be gifted as Bedibandaana was a talk of the gossip mongers.
Naturally, the senseless traditions and its bohemian spirit asked for some titanic escapade on the coir knitted cotton left spare for extra guests. They slept and woke up all night till the hormones said enough is enough but what to do with the gnawing pain of departing was too much to bear.
The explorations won’t stop anywhere on mere kissing but were laced with the girl’s gasps of ecstasy and pure abjuration of the institution called marriage that was being silently disobeyed.
In defiance, one stopped the thrusting nipples to the other’s backbone, sweaty and warm with the rush of the bloody moment. Why should I offer myself and lead such a wasted life with a wastrel just because my parents don’t approve of our relationship?
Lata’s life was at the altar. I am going to create a real problem for this man. How could he say yes to me, when I know our cousin has already seen both of us together for so long! What will his acres of land bear me? A bunch of blue-blooded children who will pose pretty and idle away time in a palatial mansion and get many wives in various towns that they get to visit. My body is for you and that’s the final truth. Soulfully, they parted and were soon sleeping entwined to each other in fatigue.
But what a shameless way to revisit the same phase. The passport photographs that Lata has so assiduously preserved in her pink plastic purse, wore the innocence of that timelessness that both of them embraced and cherished as their whole truth. It had stood the test of time like a rocky sandstone but how one has still not come to terms with it!
Shreya, had with these thoughts reached out to the open sea in front of Lata’shouse.
Lost in her thoughts, she was startled when a chubby girl’s arms came around her neck and toppled her walk by the sea beach.
“Aunty” Why are you looking so sad? I just came back from college and mama told me you are at home? So nice to see you!
Is saw your trademark cotton bag hanging on the dining set and realized how your taste has not changed over the last so many years! Your love for bags and jholas is still intact! So how have you been?
And the college lectures? The students are pretty much the same aunty. No scope of compromise on these hooligans! Mama says “Don’t be a tomboy!” You tell me what other option do I have? It’s been two years since I am seeing this girl who loves to mingle with boys just to polish and rob their pockets. If you were to see and look the same in all selfies, why take so many selfies in the first place? Who is interested in your various pictures when they are looking at hundred more good food friends each hour?
Shreya wasn’t surprised that only Lata’s daughter could be so rebelliously questioning her times! In her long courtship, she always felt this dilemma of how she was the girl from the uncultured lower-middle-class family and Lata was well-bred.
Lata’s daughter, Meera had her hazel eyes, a little swap of curly hairs till the top of her head, and then cascading swirling thick hairs!
For a moment, Shreya went flashback and felt the urge of kissing one portion of the brown nipples and savoring the tingle of flesh between her lips! She was soon lost in the various love experiments she carried out on Lata as a guinea pig! She forgot Meera was around! Her far-away mind meandered into the space that chose to grasp the moment within herself.
Meera nudged her, as she had by that time collected some Jhalmuri to eat from a sea-farer!
Why so grim, aunty? What happened? Leave it! As I was telling you, I am in love with this pretty girl in the second section, who has given me mere indication that she is egged to be mine!
Do you think I should proceed ahead or wait for some more time! She is too pretty to lose! I find her totally committed to getting trapped. Should I be, even talking to her?
Lata was sent into a stupor that made her giddy! She looked at Meera in disbelief and transfixed and wanted to yell her heart out! For the poor child has no inkling, as to whose genes, she was out to display and what will they as mothers advise her! Time stood still in gathering the broken pieces of the shattered imagery!