Sunday, March 13, 2011

Through the mists of time-II

Three years ago when her sister died, Bina had stood alone in that dark stenchful corridor of the tiny government hospital, with newly born Minu in her arms, and a soiled and crumpled photograph of a dark, mustached man. On the back there was an address written in a scrawling hand. Bina knew the hand. It was Nina's. She knew the man too. He was the one with whom Nina(her sister) had eloped--much to her fathers chagrin. For some days the neighbourhood was rife with rumours about their whereabouts.  Finally, Binas employers, the kind Baruahs, managed to trace Nina to a brothel in Kolkata. Apparently Naresh was a pimp who had lured away and sold her to a trafficker for a few thousands. But unfortunately the young man had already fallen for pretty Nina. And so, when the Baruahs had Nina brought home, to Assam, Naresh too followed and after a dramatic change of heart managed to win everyone's heart. Since Nina had already fallen for him once, and had by then discovered that she was  pregnant, marrying the pimp-turned-lover seemed the best way out of infamy. Her family too agreed. And thus, exactly five months and twenty-eight days after Nina had eloped with Naresh the two were married with much fanfare.  It became the most talked about wedding in that impoverished neighbourhood. Even the rich Baruahs came to bless the bride and groom. There was a feast (adequately paid,  once again, by the Baruahs) and everyone went home happyfor many, it was the first good meal they had had in a long time. The brides family was happy with such a 'good-looking' son-in-law [let it be added that when he had returned to woohis lady love , Naresh was armed with several red and yellow  saris and gold ornaments, that was enough to win over the broken family] --and thus Nina got married. The first few days passed off happily. Naresh ran a pushcart chat stall and Nina, crooned love songs all day. However, a few months later, Naresh was back to his old ways. And one dark  afternoon, when Nina could already feel the baby kicking inside her , Naresh quietly packed his bags and disappeared. Next morning there was a news in the papers which announced that the police were searching for one Narendra Kumar, a small time crook and trafficker and the main accused in the murder of a money-lender in Patna. It soon transpired that Naresh i.e. Narendras  change of heart was caused by the need to hide himself under a changed identity. But his greed pulled him back to his former accomplices. He got into trouble and fled. Heart rending cries shook the creaky doors of  the Prasad's. By then, Nina found herself in the hospital bedand  since it was a weekend and the doctor had to attend an important meeting (which however was  his former girl friend's  birthday party), the compounder and a nurse performed the delivery. Bina could still vividly remember that sordid night. It was well past-midnight when an unconscious Nina was pushed inside the operating room, rather the corner of an empty ward hidden by faded green screens. Despite her repeated pleas, she had been asked to stand outside the room. Moments dragged slowly. After what seemed like ages, a feeble cry crept out of the faded screens. Bina sighed in relief.  But when after standing anxiously for a long time at the edge of the room, Nina didn't appear, her worries were renewed . Why were they taking so long? Illiterate though she was, Bina knew that Nina or the baby at least ought to have been brought out by then. Dawn was breaking. I wonder whether baba-ma could sleep last night, Bina wondered as she sat down on the broken bench in the unswept verandah. She could see the first birds setting out for the day, chirruping the little  nestlings bidding adieus with their tiny squeaks. Bina was jolted when the nurse called out  her name. She quickly wiped away her thoughts and got up, and cautiously entered the big room (this room was as big as their hut). The faded screens had been removed. At one corner, she saw her sister. Bina smiled and waved to her. Nina didn't respond. A sudden fear gripped Bina. Hey bhagwan! She hastened towards the corner. Bina could feel her heart wrench. Nina was lying still. Her eyes were shut. And her face wore the pallor of  death. Bina's pleading eyes burned into the compounder's . What has happened to her, sahib? she said, voice quivering. Rubbing his hands on a soiled kerchief, the compounder hesitated. We are indeed very sad, but your sister lost so much blood at the time of delivery, we tried but couldn't save her...
But the child is all right, don't worry,he hastily addedThe betel-stained nurse came in from somewhere inside and grumpily thrust the baby into Binas hands. Daughter she mumbled, and went away.  

For a few seconds, the world closed in on Bina. A strange silence  poured into her ears. She could hear nothing. Scenes from their childhood floated before her eyes. Unknowingly, a tear fell and was blotted on a wrinkled skin. The silence crept up her knees too, and Bina was about to fall when she remembered the bawling bundle of flesh on her arms and balanced herself. She didn't know for how long she stood that way. Finally, rousing herself Bina stepped out of the room, holding the baby close to her heart. The sun was shining brightly now. But for Bina, the sun had already set. As she stood all alone in the dark stenchful corridor, waiting to take Nina home for one final journey, tears blurred her eyes. 
 Finally, Bina's anguished cry merged into the tiny one's.  

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Through the mists of time

it was a cloudy Monday morning. A five-year old, with an orange-black bag on her back, and a red mango water bottle dangling from her neckwith wide limpid eyes, dragged the few steps from her doorstep to the car standing at the gateclutching a fathers hand. It was a distance that on other days this kid could cover easily with a hop, skip and jump.As her mother dressed her in an odd grey  skirt and a white shirt (and even tied a red tie with a black elastic band around her neck—oh! the tie was so bad (the black elastic pressed at the depression of her throat) it was clear that they were not going a-visitingindeed, today was different. Today, she almost tripped over as her tall father strode, holding her hand. As she looked up to her tall(long actually, because the ladder too was long) it occurred to her that  baba nowadays seemed to grow shortershe wondered why as she looked upto see her fathers facenice shaved chin and two holes that were his nose—he had such big holes it made her giggle each time, hers were nice and small,; but he seemed dark today…oh! he was standing against the daylight but how could there be daylight when the sun was hiding behind the clouds I think they will tell that too in school, she thoughtover the last few days, each of her umpteen questions were answered with the same wait till you go to school, then you will know everything’s-- but suddenly the thought of school clouded her mindschool meant getting up early:and she lo-v-ed sleeping till late--when the sun was frowning angrily on everyone outside, and inside maa was busy with her books. And she could have as many ices as she wished; and then there was Minu too. You don't know Minu? Why Bina ayah's niece, that tikli whose nose was running all the time, like the twisted water tap outside the servant quarters. Minu was three-year-old. they played  house-house, all the time, and always Minu was the servant; and she could do anything she wanted. It was so nice...And now, a frown increasingly clouded above her brow, Minu can play all the time and I have to go to school. The world blurred before her eyes...

"Wow what a beginning!" Swati exclaimed, "Megha you're seriously good. Just work on this, and you'll have such a good novel. Seriously man! Let's do one thing, let's call ..."
"Hell no" Megha snatched away the phone , "It's too early to call Ashok. This is, just, something that came out last night, in a flow. That doesn't mean this will be a good story. I don't even know what to do next".
"Aw, c'mon Megh. Don't say this. A talented writer like you, saying that you don't know what to write next is....I mean..silly!"
"No, sweetheart, try and understand. This is not something I cooked out of thin air. No. This is somebody's story, a life, a world is at stake. I can't simply write all this for the world to read. I told you, it's.. something that came out in one gush. You may even say that I tore a few pages out of my own life and placed it before you..."
Swati was silent. A thin soft veil of distance descended, as Megha drifted into her past
a phone rang somewhere
"You know Swati, this is to do with my past, some people from my past"
 a pause "...whom I love..."
the shrill phone tried in vain to pierce the silence

a tear rolled out of an eye, and quietly kissed the floor...   
Realising that she was now far away, Swati softly closed the door behind her.

(to be continued...)

Friday, March 11, 2011


this watery-yellow afternoon
sand--laden winds
left behind
their imprints
on a parched city.

*faagun  ('falgun') the eleventh month of the Assamese calender. characterised by strong winds and dust 'faagun' is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Hindu god. 


lurks at the corners of his eyes
a snaky chill brushes past him
he breathes
but the air turns prickly
an averted gaze
he suffers ignominy of loyalty
of love for a cause
a cause, as harmless as his frail widowed aai
unable to bear any longer
the forceful kicks on his shins
the repeated assaults on baiti's  honour
to bear
the pain of not committing a sin
konpona decides to walk away
leaving the plough to  bhai
maloti's love to saru pitai
konpona drinks death.
next morning
newspapers carry front page stories
of a terrorist succumbing to his sin.

baiti-elder sister

[this is not a is outpouring of an anguish i have been feeling ever since i saw the news of a young man committing suicide  because he was being deemed a the same time this isnt a political comment.its just that i had been wondering ever since what might have gone through that young man.]

Sunday, March 6, 2011

the broken fence

i seek
to mend
a broken fence,
each time
a  swift swirl of wind
thwarts my efforts;
and yet
i pick up
the scattered fragments
of love
and seek once again
to mend
the broken fence.