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"I have known music to be her timeless reverberation in a forlorn corner of my soul; just when life was closing down upon me with its pangs of haunting silence."
"Hope is the point the 'world within' comes to an equilibrium with the 'world around'."
"The cold that my body feels can be comforted by pullovers of our choices. It is the winter that comes back each year, inevitably; is how we are connected on the face of time. A sweet suffering of forever..."
"My poverty, I know, was glamorous because trading you, my love, for a better life is outright heinous."
"Love was the day when she drank and I felt quenched."
"Life, ever since, had been one gripping tale. Your happening gave it a genre."
"Want is the soul's desire. Need, the mind's crave. Love, thus, I believe, is a bit of both."
"Art is how you lie to the world without ever feeling sinned."
"Sorrow is true and beyond the powers of healing, when you can taste the oceans on your lips."

The Joke of Being Alive

The Joke of Being Alive
~ Sobhan Pramanik | Thursday, August 10, 2017 |

Indu was in the kitchen, bent over the counter and removing spongy, biconvex discs of idlis onto a plate from the steamer’s belly. Plumes of hot smoke dispensed through the open lid and grazing past her face died on the low, oil-filmed ceiling. The mixer grinder rumbling in a corner on the shelf, choked and crackled to a sudden stop.

‘Aargh.’ grunted Indu. ‘It’s high time I get a new one.’ Grabbing the rolling pin, she, twice, struck the head of the jar, and the motor roared back to life. An unpleasant, screechy clamour of metal blades smashing through chopped coconuts, chillies, grains of lentils and mustard seeds filled the kitchen, literally disconnecting Indu from every other sound of the world.

‘Anu’ she called out, placing the plate containing four idlis and a generous serving of the creamy coconut chutney by the side on the hall room table. ‘Have your breakfast, dear.’

Walking across the dining in quick steps, she threw opened the windows, undid the blinds. Bright sunshine flooded the room, driving away the rancid, late night odour. The pendulum above the closet was caught by a streaming strand of sun and a coin of light, like a restless butterfly, merrily fleeted through the room. It was 8 in the morning.

She headed over to Anuja’s room and softly tapped on the door, before starting to push. It felt immensely heavy at the hinges, as if guarded by sandbags, but Indu, with some efforts drove it open. Her first foot in landed on something pudgy, slimy and then, too stoned to even express her horror, she dropped to the floor. There, lay Anuja—naked, bloodied, and barely breathing.

*****
One Month Later

‘She’s resting. All the surgeries went well, we were finally able to…put the intestines together.’ Dr Mehra lowers his voice, as if trying to sound less grisly. ‘The infection…. haemorrhage…it was too much. Out of danger, finally.’ He says standing by Anuja’s bedside, taking readings of every beeping, dripping, and draining machineries surrounding her.

Indu does not reply. Her eyes are bereft of life, as she feels the soles of her daughter’s feet under the white, medicine smelling sheets—cold with her toes turned inwards. She then places her curled palm on her forehead and almost immediately, Anuja withdraws her head into the pillow. Hostile to the touch, a quiver in her eyes. Unclear words, like a scream choked, bubbles up her throat. ‘No’, she breathes in delirium. ‘Please’, her chest falling away like a pit with every expulsed word. Indu, sensing her displeasure, rests her hand on the pillow for a while, before the motherly instincts gets the better of her. She leans over to kiss her temples that Anuja stiffens in sleep, in her tortured, brutal world where she is still fighting her predator, and shoves her in the face, falling back unconscious; and crying. ‘No. Please, no.’

Gaining her foot against the wall, Indu stands watching Anuja from a distance, now drugged to sleep, and the doctor beside her.

*****
Outside, in the corridor, news played on the television. A content looking, almost smiling journalist reported the news of the rape victim being out of danger, hailing the hospital and its doctors for their tireless efforts and the State for incorporating advanced facilities for its people, before slyly adding about the convicts still absconding—a rather unscrupulous ploy perhaps to brush the matter under carpet. On one hand was this appalling broadcasting for the State to encash on, on the other was her daughter, ‘out of danger’ as they say, on the ICU bed, with her soul ransacked, unable to recognize her mother. The brain-deadness of which rages Indu, and she storms past the corridor towards the exit. Each step a recollection of that fateful day.

Pieces of her dressing lay scattered in the room. A pillow burst open from a long struggle perhaps sat on the disheveled bed, its cotton fill dispersed by the whirring fan. A long window overlooking the main road, generally kept closed, that day, was wide open. Books, toppled from shelves, lay flat on the floor. And there, two tiles away, was Anuja, convulsing in her lap. Her face swollen, a purple clot throbbed under her eyes and her lips, chipped, bitten, forced in, bled in thick drops. There were deep scratches down her shoulder, her bosom mottled in blue and red, as a dying tremor in her legs continued to pulsate blood out of her pubis. On the door knob inside were blood stains from her hands, her desperate, futile attempts of getting away from the barbarism. And all this while she was away in the kitchen, disconnected by the boisterous groaning of the problematic grinder, deaf to every shriek of help or agony that might have been.  

As she unlocks her car and pulls at the gate, it comes to her from nowhere. ‘Teri toh main ghar me ghuske lunga’ (I will fuck you in your own house). Two years back at a traffic signal, she remembers a guy on the motorcycle coming to stop by their car. She and Anuja were returning post a movie at the nearby theatre, that the guy waiting by their window, started to lech at Anuja. A lustful gaze in his eyes, he seemed to look through her, rubbing his groin and blowing kisses. He had then leant close to the window glass, sliding in and out his middle finger through the ring of his index and thumb, right in their eyes. The signal by then had turned green, and Indu, furious at his audacity, had steered left and rammed into his bike, throwing him over the divider.

‘Who the hell do you think you’re?’ Indu screamed getting out of the car as a passing PCR van stopped to intervene and caught hold of him. He had a gashed forehead.
  
They were taken to the nearest police station and in a series of vague interrogations, revealed of him residing in Vasant Kunj. Indu and Ahuja, in a night long explanation to the cops of what had happened and the lecher crying foul, did they slightly succeed in making them believe that the guy had done something wrong for Indu to react that way. Otherwise, for them, it was Indu, who, out partying at night, was probably drunk and simply crashed into the biker. And all the while, the creep sat in a corner, making phone calls to everywhere to get him out. Finally, in the morning they were let off—with warnings and obviously, money.

Outside the police station, a group of guys waited in a shining white Audi car. He walked up to them and engaged himself in a casual chat, before getting into the car. That was the last he said – ‘‘Teri toh main ghar me ghuske lunga’, vengeance peeking from his eyes, before the Audi stormed out of the kerb.

Indu hardens her grip on the wheel with the memory, her knuckles turning white. She guns the car’s engine. The roaring shakes awake the security at the hospital gate. He puts back his cap that had slipped to his face. Another hard press on the accelerator this time, the RPM needle going all the way down to red. The security, furious, gathers his baton and marches down the steps. She slams the gear stick to reverse and flies out of the drive.

‘Crazy woman’ the security exclaims standing in a blast of exhaust.

This time there will be truly gruesome stories for the media.

---THE END---

By Sobhan Pramanik


   

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