09 August, 2016

The dagger

Someone called out from behind: Hooeey Sudas! Where’re you goin pal? He didn’t look back. The dead body still hung from that tree branch, feet bound, head downwards. Blood poured steadily from the nose and had dripped and wet the place. He saw the wizened-old bird sitting in its cage. It tested the iron mesh with its beak. Every once in a while it fluttered its wings and screeched: Sudas! Hooeey Sudas! Where’re you goin pal?

He had stolen the dagger from his friend’s house. It belonged to an earlier age. Sheathed in a purple muslin case, the dagger’s grip was of ivory, shaped like a horse’s head. Every now and then, making sure no one was around, he felt its sharp edge. Jackals howled from the clearings between the trees and shrubs in the dark night. He heard his mother say: Why do you look so worried Sudas? Startled, he replied: Where? Not at all! He ran, with the dagger concealed in his pocket. He ran through fields, banks, woods and forests, until he finally reached Kasim Mia’s stable. He stood panting. The cage swayed with the bird’s fluttering. It cried out: Sudas! Hooeey Sudas! Where’re you goin pal?

Kasim Miya’s stable was deserted. The horse carriage trade didn’t quite exist any more. Stroking his grey-streaked beard he said: The city now wants motor cars, we’re done for, and together with us this trade will come to an end… Do you know young master, what a grand thing this double carriage used to be! It was a matter of pride for the masters. Fluttering the pleats of their dhotis, fragrant with attar, the masters and mistresses used to go out for a spin …, and now … Kasim Miya lamented, and absent-mindedly stroked his beard. Strewn all around him were the parts, relics and broken wheels of forsaken carriages. In one corner, like a lone symbol, a horse, blinkers over its eyes, chewed grass from the mouth-bag hung on its neck. Every now and then it stamped its feet on the wooden floor, every once in a while it neighed, Aayn-han-han-han!, as if to register its protest against something.

Blood dripped from the body hanging on the tree and wet the place. As kids, some people used to kill tomcats like this. They’d tie a rope round its neck and hang it from a banana tree. It would cry and mew all night as it tried to free itself. The cat would be dead the next morning. A group of them would go in the morning to see the dead cat. By mid-morning, thousands of big black ants would have trooped in and devoured its eyes. At night fireflies could be seen glowing around the dead body.

Sudas panted. Kasim Miya was saying something: What’s happened to you little master, why are you panting like this? Pressing his hand over his pocket he replied: No, nothing’s happened. He said: Do you know Kasim uncle, a wild animal’s possessed me, and it’s completely restless. Right here - and he pointed to the centre of his chest. He continued: Beyond the road, on the creek-side, I saw a dark-skinned, lanky man roaming around, creeping on all fours. He was going around sniffing the dirty places at the creek-side. Kasim Miya replied: What’s new about that little master, the people on the other side have declared war, they say, we want means to work and survive, we want to live with dignity.

The stable-bound horse, ribs protruding, eyes blinkered, stamped its hooves on the wooden floor. Every once in a while it neighed, Aayn-han-han-han! An eerie sound, as if it was protesting against something. The sound startled Sudas. He gripped the dagger concealed inside his pocket. Sudas had no desire to steal the dagger. But as he stood amidst the old knives, daggers and swords laid out inside the room, somehow something happened to him. His heart beating fast, he was about to run from there when he saw a huge buffalo head with the horns raised; and to his right, a complete tiger-skin with the head frozen in a snarl. Kasim Miya was an old man. He puffed at a bidi. Outside, the darkness thickened and in that darkness Kasim gazed vacantly.

He felt very uneasy in the semi-darkness. Absent-mindedly, haphazardly, he cleared woods and forests. He saw humans and dogs ferreting for food from the same garbage bin. The bird called out. It fluttered its wings and screeched: What’ll you do with this dagger Sudas? Return it! Return it! He didn’t know what he’d do with it. He had kept going, leaving behind all the people, settlements and trees. The weapon was held firmly in his pocket. Every once in a while he took it out and examined it. He gazed at its purple muslin case, embroidered over in red and green. He drew it out with its ivory grip.

With the horse’s eerie neigh, Aayn-han-han-han!, the silence of night was shattered. It almost fell out of his hand. He said: what will I do with this? I didn’t want things to turn out this way. He looked in all directions to see if anyone caught him unawares, and then he hurriedly concealed it inside his pocket.

Two youths with serious faces emerged from somewhere and said: What’ll you do with that Sudas? Give it to us. He held it firmly in his grip. Grave–faced, they returned to the dark lake-side in the same way they had emerged from the darkness. Only the fireflies glowed dimly. Jackals howled from somewhere faraway. Blood dripped steadily from the nose of that dead body hanging upside-down on the tree. Big black ants gathered there.

The long country road snaked away past the creek in the dim moonlight. Every now and then the muffled sound of someone crying floated by. And sometimes the sound of someone laughing. As he went along the red-brick road in twilight’s darkness, passing cyclists cried out: Where’s it you’re headed in this darkness towards the desolate ruins of the fortress Sudas? Startled, Sudas said: No, nowhere at all.

Kasim Miya stroked his beard. His emaciated horse, blinkered, chewed away at the grass from its mouth-bag. He said gravely: The times are frightful young master … be careful where you go. Don’t go near the lake after dark. Why, what’s happened there? Oh nothing at all. Kasim Miya seemed to be withholding something, as if he wasn’t bold enough to say it. He saw his bird fluttering its wings in the cage. It didn’t eat the grains given it. He saw the old beggar woman sitting at the station with her hands laid out in the hope of alms. He saw the cunning jackal with the stolen hen swiftly slipping away from the homestead light into the brown darkness.

As his throat was parched, he went towards the lake’s ghat for a drink of water. The moon rose in the east over the Radha-Govind temple. He saw the reflection of the moon in the lake’s water. Gazing at this, he wondered whether he should throw the dagger away into the water … that would bring matters to a close, won’t be troubled any more. But he held on to it as if to dear life. He didn’t throw it away. That ancient engraved dagger’s blade gleamed in the moonlight. He said: How can I throw this away when I’m the one who’s brought it in the first place! But soon enough he began to wonder what he’d do with this.

At Romen Deb’s house, there were many daggers like this laid out on the walls of the drawing-room, including several much larger than this one. There were so many kinds of guns and pistols. Romen’s father, twirling his moustache explained: All these are so old, had been used in war. History, full of history!

Standing beside the lake and looking at the moonlit water, he wondered why he took it. Why? Crickets chirped. The entire lake-bank was redolent with the fragrance of mango and bel. The steps going down to the water were old and completely run-down. Tramping over dry leaves he emerged.

From its cage, his pet bird kept calling from behind: Hooeey Sudas! Where’re you goin pal? Hooeey Sudas! Mother asked: Why’re you so late Sudas? Just like that, I was sitting at the lake-side. Do you know Ma, nowadays some people come there, a band of them, to hear the blue-throated cuckoo’s cry. They have dry blood on their hands, red and blue feathers on their head. You’re full of trouble! Don’t be going there! Why Ma? After a pause, peering into his face and his eyes, she said: You appear kind of strange today Sudas. He then replied: That’s not surprising Ma, for I saw humans and dogs ferreting for food from the same garbage-bin. He then showed his mother the place wet with blood, where blood had been dripping endlessly through the nose of the dead body.

The horse neighed in Kasim Miya’s stable, Aayn-han-han-han! Kasim just sat in the darkness, swatting mosquitoes, puffing a bidi once in a while. He said: All those days are gone little master. Won’t come back! Used to gallop, clip-clop! clip-clop! with the master and mistress along the road going to the old fort, the people walking on the road would step aside. Master’s double-carriage! Stand aside! Stand aside! I’ll be gone, and with me everything’ll be over.

Sudas just couldn’t sleep at night. He heard someone whispering at the window: What’ll you do with that Sudas? Give it, give it to us! He had hidden it, buried it under the mango tree at the lakeside. He thought, now I’m at peace! No one will find it. In the middle of the night he saw a few jackals digging up the place in search of the dead body. He ran out, and screaming out he hurled stones and chased away the jackals. Their eyes like burning coals, the jackals hovered nearby, they didn’t go away.

Sudas’ heart thumped. I shouldn’t have taken it. His sleepless eyes scanned the sky and he ran his hand through his dishevelled hair as he roamed the lakeside all night like a madman. He kept seeing the sight of humans and dogs together squabbling and eating bones and remains from the same garbage bin. He heard his mother’s voice from faraway: Don’t go there Sudas, don’t go, Suuuu-daaaa-s! His pet caged bird screeched: Hooeey Sudas!

Ill at ease, Sudas said: Do you know Kasim uncle, I’ve stolen a dagger. And do you know, I don’t know what I’ll do with that! Then, absent-mindedly running his fingers through his hair, he said: I didn’t really want to steal it you know. Don’t know what happened all of a sudden … Do you know, in Romen Deb’s house there are fabulous daggers, swords, guns, tiger skins, buffalo horns, just like in a museum … He felt an ache inside his chest. He turned blue in the face in agony. His muttered words were muffled by the sound of the horse’s neighing, Aayn-han-han-han!, that emanated from Kasim Miya’s stable. Just that one skinny horse in Kasim Miya’s stable, it silently champed on the grass from the mouth-bag. Every now and then it swished its tail, every once in a while it stamped its hooves, thok! thok!, on the wooden floor, every now and then it neighed, Aayn-han-han-han!, as if it wished to convey something. Kasim Miya said: Its time, I’ll go, my horse’ll go too. He threw away the bidi, rose and stroked the protruding ribs on the horse’s flank. He said: Be very careful little master, terrible times now, don’t stray from the road and go to the lakeside!

When he felt the ache in his chest becoming more acute, Sudas stepped out to the road and walked distractedly. A cool breeze blew in the night’s darkness, bringing with it the gentle fragrance of mango and bel. Their eyes glowing like torches, a few jackals hovered around him constantly. They had soaked in the blood dripping from that dead body and returned blood-crazed. He felt awful. And occasionally he felt pleased. Every once in a while he thought he hadn’t wanted all this to happen. Every now and then he remembered those people who had come to hear the cuckoo’s cry. Stale blood staining their hands, they had come to hear a beautiful birdsong.

The whole place was desolate. The moonlight lit up the ruins of the crumbling ancient fort and the undulating, once-royal, red-earth road. He was not at all afraid. He walked along, the dagger pressed in his pocket.

Agitated, absent-minded, he trudged on. Every once in a while he heard the faint cry of his mother, O Sudas! He then tried to bring to mind the following sight: beside the same garbage bin, humans and dogs were fighting over food. Every now and then his pet bird fluttered its wings inside the cage, Hooeey Sudas! Where’re you goin pal? Hooeey Sudas! He wondered where he’d go to ease the pain inside him, where could he go? Every once in a while he remembered Romen’s father’s words: Do you know Sudas, all these knives and daggers, guns and pistols that you see displayed on the wall here had made history at one time. History, full of history!

In Kasim Miya’s stable that solitary symbol-like, emaciated horse, eyes blinkered, occasionally stamped its hooves on the wooden floor and occasionally swished its tail to drive away flies. But nowadays it neighed frequently, Aayn-han-han-han!, as if to declare its protest against something. Puffing on his bidi, Kasim Miya said: Along with you all, our times are also coming to an end little master! Be very careful! Don’t you be going to the lakeside after dark!

After walking for a long time Sudas eventually began to tire. He saw himself walking through an unending confinement of moonlight. Ahead of him lay the ruins of the old fort. He advanced mechanically in that direction. He then remembered the corpse. He felt a constant unbearable pain inside his chest. He decided he would get rid of the troublesome weapon in this desolate moonlight, in the ghostly precincts of this old fort, and leave. After I leave I shall join that band of people, those with dry blood staining their hands, who had come to hear the cuckoo’s call …

Tired, he sat down in the majestic environs of that ancient fort. He recalled Romen’s father saying: History, full of history! He recalled Kasim Miya’s lament: It’ll all end with me, I’ll be dead, and this old horse of mine will be dead too! Tears streamed down from the blinkered eyes of the horse. Kasim stroked its bony side and comforted it.

All the tears and blood came together and became one. Clouds shrouded the moon briefly. Darkness enveloped the stone walls of that ancient fort. Tearing his hair out with his two hands, Sudas screamed out like a madman: I didn’t want this! I didn’t want this! He feebly took out the dagger. As he was about to hurl it into the darkness of the fort, he saw countless hands on the stone walls of that ancient fort. Countless agitated hands had left their individual palm imprints, in syllables of blood.



This is a translation of the original Bengali short story “chhuri” by Subimal Misra, a Bengali writer of India. The story is anthologised in Subimal Misra’s chottrish bochorer rograragri (36 years’ scuffle), published by the author, Calcutta, 2004.

Photo: By Mariano - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=265811

01 May, 2016

Reviews of "Wild Animals ..."

Two-part interview in the Dhaka Tribune:

part one

part two

A review of Wild Animals Prohibited, by Nilanjana S. Roy, in the Business Standard.

Article by Amitava Kumar in Hindustan Times.

Essay by Kushanava Choudhury in Caravan.

Review by Kingshuk Chatterjee in The New Indian Express.

06 December, 2015

The real detective of the mystery beneath the skin

Holding his own male member in his hand, he points at himself –
what part shall I play tomorrow?

 Ami[1] had developed a kind of bodily relation with the books, which was both gradual and incessant, and just after that, problems arose. They survive now by eating each other’s flesh. Violets are blue, because another body emerges from the body and walks in front of mute Grushenka[2], in the vicinity of Khalasitola[3]. As it is the girl was beautiful, colleagues flatter her calling her a ‘paragon of beauty’, right from her college days she had been seeing only entrancement in men’s eyes. Perhaps it was this girl who came to meet Ami. He said spontaneously: Come, come in, I was just thinking about you. But the girl has interpreted this in a different way, the eighth colour of the rainbow was about to be discovered. Girls are extremely possessive, for sure, but he was of the opinion that boys were even more possessive than girls. Now Ami says he is very tired, an infinitude of tiredness. He had been tired for the last three decades, it had gone on for even longer than he had been alive. And just then, after talking about this and that for about an hour, as he’s leaving, he hugs Grushenka. She does not resist, releasing herself slowly she says: You’re a rogue. He laughs: And you’re a treasure trove. What rubbish – Grushenka says – Tell me, why do you come so late – don’t I suffer? Good and evil are one, evil is merely the wrong choice at the moment of truth. If the life I used to lead is a dream then this is a nightmare, until it’s transformed into complete insanity the nightmare isn’t concluded. Ami had just turned forty then. Double the girl’s age. A face covered over by a red beard, two weak legs, a short, fat body. His female friends smirk, they say: the kind of appearance that’s eager to establish bodily relations. When he has no other work he makes models of bones. Doing that on and on he had made a complete human skeleton. And just the same way, whatever he wrote, over an entire year, page after page, one night something got into his head and he tore everything into shreds and let it blow away in the wind. Even before an incident is prepared one must reach another incident, and from there to yet another incident, perhaps with diametrically opposite thinking, all of which would be made with another arrangement, unconnected, hence ambiguity is created, is bound to be. Because, perhaps, Ami, in a particular sense, was a writer, just like some other writers, but also the end-writer. He began to lose touch with the external world, he was also steadily losing his mental balance. He stopped meeting his friends, he used to say that he didn’t have clothes to go out in, didn’t have shoes. And when he did get some money he called all the people from the streets and organized a grand festive feast of food and drink. Towards the end Ami lived all alone in a one-and-a-half-room flat. His body had come to resemble that of an old man, although he was only forty his face bore the stamp of age. And when idle, immersed in dreams, he could see Theodore[4] staring fixedly at him through the darkness. He had sent people to kill him. Theodore was passing off the pages of writing stolen from him in his own name, one day he said that a maidservant had mixed a sleeping potion in his tea and stolen some pages from his new work in order to sell it to Theodore. But the funny thing is that the man who is visible has almost reached the flyover by now. The boy is consoling the girl, just you wait and see – everything will be alright. The car waits. The girl says: You must help me, I beg you, Alyosha, help me. Ami leaves. The girl stands gazing at the door. And then she goes and lies down on the bed that’s wrapped in darkness. The sound of a motorcycle starting and then going away can be heard. Who was it that had said that life was full of surprises – who used to say that, Theodore or Alyosha – or was it both of them? Grandma used to say that when I was a little boy I apparently used to run around with my arms spread on two sides like a bird’s wings. People say, when you dream about flying it means you’re growing up. Ami used to fly even when he was awake and yet he could never grow up. Leaping off a mountain – flying along over the ocean – Ami sees such dreams even now. Snatching his words, Theodore says – How amazing, I too was thinking of exactly the same thing at this moment. At one time, here, on this bed, there used to be a youth, whose name was also Theodore. Everyone used to call him Alyosha in jest. When he was asked he used to reply: I’m floating over the clouds. That was quite normal for those who had a problem in the head, as soon as they wished they could lie beside clouds. Many people ask questions about sending Ami to hospital and the subsequent incident. Was it at all necessary to send him to hospital? Even if he was sent to the hospital once, was it correct to keep him there for the rest of his life? Erasing the difference between the selfness of future and present, I constantly reconstruct myself anew. How can I become what I have not yet become – all my hopes and desires are only a ceaseless attempt at this rearrangement. This circle will never be complete. My separation is eternal, Ami’s nothingness-like unbridgeable distance. Within my existence there is always a distressed scream of nothingness, but this void is the kind of force, the force within one’s existence – which makes man dream of being elevated to a certain and well-knit future from an incompatible and uncertain condition. Many of Ami’s friends used to declare that Ami did not behave like a lunatic at all. Yes, he was paranoid, but one often comes across people suffering from persecution mania who live with their families without causing any damage, leading regular lives. Maybe his neighbours had raised objections about him because he was not like other people. Ordinary people are bound to express their doubts about a man who only goes out at night, just scribbles something all day long and then tears it up, who doesn’t talk to anyone. It is love for people that makes Ami anti-human. Perhaps because of this, Ami exacted a great revenge on himself. Conformity means death, only protest gives a hope in life. Yes, Ami saw that a man constantly gives him company in the course of daily life, enriches him, sometimes more than a woman. Together with this, he creates a certain madness within me as well, because I too am a man. I had to ascertain whether I was really a man in various ways. I ascertain that by placing myself beside a man, and not just beside a woman. Through this, I understand his way of thinking too. Trying to know oneself without being too clever. But, being alone, continuously, gradually, going on being solitary, did not merit blame. After spending the night with Grushenka, the wild-mannered Ami – then, in those days – became endowed with some human qualities. In thought and feeling, another dimension has become manifest. And unlike in his youth, when he used to physically win over many women, he constantly stays beside the girl. In his earlier writings, a specific dimension of power, courage and madness used to be expressed, he had a wild exultation regarding man’s aboriginal tendencies. After Grushenka’s arrival, a lot of it becomes gentle. There is restraint at the perverted presence of flesh, a self-orientation enters his thinking. And the veiled melancholia in the later stage attains a much higher level than before. Towards the end Ami started living with the girl. That’s why a melancholy countenance enters his final writings, concealing everything else. The two of them lived together then – Grushenka and Theodore. The gossip was that she bore his child in her womb, but the girl had just not been willing to having an abortion. Having changed into a sari, Grushenka comes and says, tell me how I look. … Lets go, where shall we go? He suddenly holds her face with his two hands and says: Do you know something, Grushenka – do you know … Notwithstanding her married life with her husband for so long, these words of the man who was her lover make Grushenka’s whole being giddy, but she says: I’m not that great-looking. Ami looks at her and becomes serious: If you were a man, you’d understand the fire – the fire you’re playing with, Grushenka, standing between father and son. The other layer beyond this first layer, where he had tried to reach, where there’s no compromise, was sexuality. Here you can never be successful with pretence. That means you want to experience the worldview of that layer through your instincts. Your instincts tell you about your ordinary experiences, which are outside the world of the mind, through those you enter the world of the mind by means that are bestial or anything else like that – you realize the worldview. For this, every now and then you must sleep with other girls too. You have to sleep with them both actively and positively. Only then will you find yourself. Actually I liked this too. I liked it with utmost honesty. I stayed back. I was trying to search for something, I’m still doing that even now. In such matters, we either become slaves only to our joys or accept the girl’s happiness as the final word. Both of these are a kind of lie. And lies do not lead to any investigation of truth. I am able to take this risk. Through the very girl you can enter another secret world. Do you know in what respect you are different from everyone else – Grushenka says – you know how to listen. Men never listen to what women say. They only think about going to bed. I don’t mind going to bed, but that you heard me all this while, that’s what’s amazing. The truth cannot be realized through words. It’s correct to say that the moment of pure truth cannot be expressed in the language of any specific person, but it’s also possible to create new kinds of signs, which are not used by people, through which the individual in the moment of pure truth can be identified. It is this that can be called, in Ami’s view, characteristics of the self – meaning, one reflects one’s own characteristics. The characteristics of the self, or looked at in another way, non-characteristics – whose form cannot be expressed in any language in currency. Perhaps only that part of our logical method of arrangement, which people cannot easily accept, is the real truth. He lies in bed, away from Calcutta, unwell. He muttered: I want to see the girl. His wife was beside him – his wife of twenty-five years. Those who were near him said: There she is, right beside you. He got annoyed: No, no! Not her, Grushenka. I want to see Grushenka. Bad times have begun for me, brother, I was just recovering from kidney inflammation and now I’m writhing in spinal pain all day. For over a year now I’ve been unable to sleep in bed. All day and night, I sit with my back resting on a pillow, the hour or two that I sleep for is by resting on the pillow. At first a lung X-ray was taken but nothing was found. It’s a week now since the spinal X-ray was done. A collapse of the third dorsal vertebra was detected in that. Ami comes and stands at the door. He stands with his head raised high, towards the sky that had become dense with darkness. Down below, the road going up and down the flank of the mountain recedes into the distance, keeps doing so. Dogs supposedly eventually start looking like their masters. At one time, I used to think that this referred to a resemblance of nature or character. But later I realized it was not that – gradually the dogs began to look as ugly as their masters – the insides of the mouths of both were terribly filthy – a horrible, red, gaping mouth. In this way, Ami died one day. According to the hospital records the cause of death was an apoplectic stroke. After Ami died, when his desk was opened, a large envelope bearing Dostoyevsky’s name was found. But it was completely empty. At least Ami’s case was different. He was merely a trapeze artist. Dressed in gleaming red satin, Ami floats around – swinging on one hand and then the other – from one end to the other end – even when he frees his hand, emptiness, he is held by an invisible bond. He does not have the capability of severing that tie, no one has. And as he floated in that momentary emptiness, he saw his own defeat with his own eyes. His writings condensed and took over his life at some point, it was the blown-away pages of the writing that determined how far the writer was there or whether at all there was anyone called a writer. Or the term writer was actually nothing but an imaginary notion, which has no existence in reality. The unexamined life is not worth living. The only way to deny everything that was absurd in the world was to lead one’s life in an absurd way. With every new thought, Ami knows, he has to attain death again and again.



This is a translation of the original Bengali story, “Twoker Niche Rohoshyer, Ini-i Ashol Goyenda”, by Subimal Misra. Translated by V. Ramaswamy. The author gratefully acknowledges the Ledig House writing residency. The valuable assistance of Nilanjan Bhattacharya is also acknowledged.

[1] “Ami” means “I” in Bengali, and is also used here as a character’s name.
[2] The names Grushenka and the subsequently referred to Alyosha bring to mind Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.
[3] Khalasitola is a country liquor bar in central Calcutta, also known for its association with a section of intellectuals, poets, writers, film-makers, theatre-persons etc.
[4] The same as Fyodor.

02 November, 2015

Interview in Dhaka Tribune

A two-part interview with V. Ramaswamy, translator of Wild Animals Prohibited, by Subimal Misra, was carried in the Dhaka Tribune of 29th and 30th October 2015.

Read the interview here:

first part:


second part:


29 October, 2015

Book release: Wild Animals Prohibited

The book Wild Animals Prohibited: Stories, Anti-stories by Subimal Misra was released on 28 October 2015 at a function held at the Max Mueller Bhavan, Kolkata. The book was released by Dr Mrinal Bose, physician and writer. It was Dr Bose who first mentioned the name of Subimal Misra to me, back in August 2005. For me, he was the most apt person to release the book.

Clips from Basab Mukhopadhyay’s video documentary on Subimal Misra (2010) were screened.

Probir Ghosh and V. Ramaswamy read from the book, while Nilanjan Bhattacharya read from the original Bengali texts.

There was a discussion about Subimal Misra’s writing, moderated by Nilanjan Bhattacharya. Procheta Ghosh (Lala) & Tapas Ghosh, joint editors of the little magazine, Jaari Bobajudhyo, Moushumi Bhowmick, singer, music researcher & writer, and V. Ramaswamy participated in the discussion.

Finally there was a musical presentation by Moushumi Bhowmick and Satyaki (sarod-player and singer).

29 July, 2015

Throbbing Lust

A team of cricket illiterates from Champaner suddenly learnt the game and defeated adroit rivals.

There’s nothing to be shy about, it’s only between you and me
There you go with your rubbish early in the morning, no, it’s better not to, besides I can’t sin
Not a bad idea if husband and wife jointly run an enterprise, do you understand … no one ever has too much money ... good food, fine jewelry, every girl wishes for that, doesn’t she … look Maya, whatever I’m saying is the truth, if you go around the neighbourhood you’ll understand, there’ll definitely be a case or two
I don’t know, dear, I don’t go around the neighbourhood, so how would I know
A lot of people do all this, I know it, those who are the quiet types are the ones who’re most cunning … alright, don’t men look at you, tell me my dearest
Of course they look, and they look in such a way
Do you know, a gentleman lives in our neighbourhood, I’ve heard he’s a military man, he isn’t married either, he’s tall and stocky in appearance, you’d be frightened to look at him, I’m acquainted with a relative of his, he’s sent messages through him several times
Okay … when I went past his house last month, he had called me, oh baba, I was so scared … the gentleman lives all alone in a rented flat
Eesh, does anyone squander such a wonderful opportunity, be a bit clever, Maya, people starve to death unless they’re clever, tell me, why did you run away, you could have heard him out, what he says, what he wants to say
Peeping through the hole, I saw the police were exchanging fire
As if I don’t know, he’ll ask me to sleep with him, what else could a man have to say
You made a terrible  mistake, Maya, you could have spent half an hour or an hour with him, he wouldn’t do it just like that, definitely for money, any other girl would have simply
Alright, please tell me the truth, are you trying to test me
Not at all, there’s nothing to test, I’m telling you the plain truth, if ten out of ten girls in society are bad, how long will you stay good, perhaps inwardly you want me to stop you, but that’s what leads to turmoil, if you have your husband in hand, then there’s nothing whatsoever to worry about
I got that, lets say I bring someone, where will you be
Why, don’t we have two rooms, I’ll be in one and the two of you’ll be in the other one, just get rid of your inhibitions and then everyone will be happy
What do you mean everyone will be happy
The great crematorium in Nimtala will be beautified to resemble the Gandhi-ghat in Delhi
No Maya, that’s not correct, however wealthy women might be, if they don’t get proper satisfaction down below
Whatever you might say, since you want to hear I’ll talk, all these years of being married to you was quite alright, but now I don’t feel there’s anything inside my darling
So tell me that I’m lying
Look, if you’re willing
But I’ve already told you
If you don’t create domestic turmoil about this, then there’s no need to get the military man, there are so many rich guys here, the half-old man in the provisions store devours me with his eyes, if I just give him a hint … besides that contractor chap has a lot of cash
The senior students had stripped him naked and poured hot liquid wax in his anus
How much will he pay
That’s what’s more problematic … nowadays you can get girls on the streets, men don’t want to spend much, but if you’ve got what it takes and can appraise the situation and strike accordingly, then, if not five hundred, he’ll definitely give two hundred
Let’s see how it goes, but I know there’ll be no shortage of men for me
If you can squeeze out money
Just you watch, when you’ve put me into the business I’ll conduct myself accordingly … get up now and start cooking, let me go to the market
Alright, go … I have evening duty … tell me, how will I know
Why, when you see the door bolted from within, then you’ll know someone’s in there, the food will be kept in the other room, eat quietly and spread out the floor mat
I warn you, don’t try to peep or anything, the man who spends money and comes for satisfaction must not be annoyed
Binodini ascends from the waters of the Ganga and comes directly towards Bihari
Hello Boudi, it’s been a long time, do tell me what you need
I need a lot of things, but where’ll I get the money
What do you want to say, Boudi, please tell me frankly … if it’s money you need
We’re needy folk, if we don’t need it then tell me who does
How much do you need, tell me
I’ll do that, but how will I repay you
Pay me when you can
Why don’t you come to our house at night, nowadays my husband has night duty, we can chat for a while, I’m all alone and don’t have anyone to talk to
You say
I’ll tell you then how much I need
I too wanted
Do come, I’ll make you forget all your sorrows
Really, Boudi
On the charge of stealing a bulb, a deaf-mute girl was stripped naked and was branded on her genitals with a hot skewer
Do come from time to time, no one will mind
But your husband
He won’t say anything
The neighbours … the neighbourhood
Makes no difference whether they’re there or not, it’s just a half-domestic neighbourhood, in fact people come in the afternoon to the house next door
Amazing, I didn’t know about that
So much happens inside the basti homes, do outsiders know about all that
Alright then, but I hope I won’t end up getting thrashed
Oh no, my husband and I will take care of that, but I need five hundred
Immediately after word of the murder got around, the incensed mob began to damage and vandalize the nearby locality
You’re asking for too much, Boudi, if it’s about two hundred that’ll be okay
Not two hundred, make it three hundred, once a week, four times a month, at the same rate
You’re very clever
Did I ask for too much
It’s alright, but I can’t pay you now, come at night and take it, when I’m closing the office
Alright, when will you come … who knows when the old man from the provisions store will come
The language of love was the language of his protest
Uncle, when will you come
After I close the shop
Will there be something then … I can’t spend the whole night, at most till eleven at night
Okay, I’ll cook and keep food ready
Oh no, there’s no need to cook, if I eat outside there’ll be a commotion at home, I can’t stay away at night, can’t eat outside
When you come, how’ll you recognize my house
I know it well, I’ve been observing it for a long time
I hope you can remember it
The leader of the People’s War Group has been arrested in the jungles of Goaltor
Dada, could you please give me a couple of things quickly
What’s the hurry, you’ve come after a long time, hey, you rascal, get a nice cup of tea, tell him to make it a special one, tell me, what do you need
Oh, I need lots of things but I can’t get the things I need, like oil and soap
Is that all, chee-chee, when I’m there
No, no
I’ll give you the whole month’s provisions, later, when you have the money
Oh, how can that be, where’ll I get such a lot of money all at once, I know you’ll give the stuff, but unless I pay in time, does anyone give anything, tell me
I like you, that’s why
Exhibiting the male body is the latest fad now
I like you too, Uncle
But the matter of liking is of a different kind, I’m sure you understand, I won’t let you lack for anything
I got it
When I’m with you, all deprivation will fly away
All this is sinful, besides I’m scared, I’ve not thought about the husband aspect, and there are neighbours and the neighbourhood
Don’t talk about neighbours, as if neighbours matter in such neighbourhoods, if you’re without food would anyone come to feed you ... listen, do something, go home, I’ll send all the stuff in a rickshaw, my shop’s closed tomorrow
Alright, but do think about my side
Patriarchy does not depend merely on the individual bearing the father’s name, it creeps into every possible level of the man-women relationship, at home and outside
What’s up, how far have you got with the cooking ... what’s in the pan ... oh, only some vegetables ... listen, please cut this fish
I can’t cut such a big fish, why didn’t you have it cut
We’ve got to eat haven’t we
Why did you get such a big fish, won’t we need oil
You don’t have to worry about all that, how much oil do you require, make some tea first, a rickshaw-full of stuff is on its way ... when you’ve given your consent, just you see how and what I do … look at these two crisp hundred rupee notes, there’s a rickshaw-full of goods, that’s from the provision store
How will you pay back so much money
Don’t I have the capital … why aren’t you cutting the fish … the contractor won’t stay the whole night today, only till ten at night, and tomorrow’s the old man from the provisions store, each one comes once a week, you can keep watch if necessary … we don’t need anything more … can you go outside and look, I think I can hear the rickshaw horn
A woman phones the fire brigade in the middle of the night: there’s a fire in my heart, please come and douse it
Yes, my dear Maya, a rickshaw-full of goods
Go, go and get the stuff … bring it carefully
As if I ever create any trouble
No one looked at them, everyone comes happy and content
Baba, where’ll I keep so much rice and daal
Put everything under the cot, I’ll arrange everything tomorrow morning … did you pay the rickshaw now
He didn’t accept it
Why’s that
Look Maya, the receipt’s for four hundred and twenty rupees ... really Maya, in just a single day you’ve managed to organize this
You just keep quiet henceforth … arrange everything properly … quite a good amount in cash and then there’s the relation
But that would mean a lot of hardship
You idiot, the hardship won't be every day, just for a day, and then everything’s familiar … here, take your fish
After paying a huge sum as ransom the kidnapped businessman returned
Those who know the body know how to pay the price
Instead of talking, if you can, try to arrange the things on the shelf ... let me fry the pieces of fish, and then I’ll make the gravy, just enough for the two of us
Here, do you think it’s done
It’s okay, but there’s more stuff in the bag
There’s a lot of stuff here, every kind of spice, he’s sent all the household requirements
Go and have your bath, won’t you go to work
Let it be, I think I won’t go today
What on earth do you think, you’ll eat and go to work like everyone else, you can’t eat off the money earned by your wife, I’m telling you, you have to go to work everyday, bear in mind, I can get along even if you’re not there … taste it and tell me
What can I do, have I learnt cooking
Learn to cook too, those who’ll spend the whole night with me will extract full value for their money
Howrah’s starving workers now want to take revenge through the ballot
They pay for the quality they see
How’s the fish, do you like the gravy
The taste of fresh fish is something else altogether, I’m eating a big fish after a very long time
Baba, my stomach’s really full, when you return from work today remember to buy condoms, the last packet is still there … who knows what diseases people have, got to be careful
Alright, baba, one burden’s gone, now for a cycle … so I’m off, but do be careful
Yes my dear, you go now
Then Rohini Hattangadi looks for and picks up a stone, and meditating on Shiva, begins to perform puja
Hello Boudi, I’m sure you’re waiting for me
Yes, do come in, sit in this room, let me shut the door, it’s a small room, no cot or anything, you won’t be very comfortable, Uncle
I will be, for sure I will be, keep this relationship in good shape, and why only a cot, you’ll get so many things ... do you know Maya, if a boy’s cunning it’s very dangerous ... I can’t sleep with your boudi anymore, but of course your boudi has no more sex … where are you, come to me
I want to sit on your lap
Come, let’s do that, if you sit you’ll understand
I don’t allow that, if they’re squeezed too hard they’ll begin to sag … yes, like that, use your hand
Maya, can you ever forget me
I’ll try, Uncle, we can chat later, but finish the business first
I don’t have the patience to sit any more, fold your legs
On Children’s Day, we vow that we will not let children be deprived of the full development of all their inner capabilities – Department of Women & Child Development, Government of India
No, don’t do that … where’s it, put it in … why do you delay, how much longer, Uncle
I don’t know
Why’re you acting like a teenager
Don’t I get aroused
Take it, will it run away this time too, you shouldn’t do that
Believe me, Maya
No great damage is done by that, why are you getting up, lie down beside me for some more time
In order to blow up the Rajdhani Express in an explosion, a time-bomb has been placed on the rail line
Where do I put it
You don’t have to get up, who’s stopping you
Would you like to eat fried fish
Is there any
Baba, why wouldn’t there be any, the taste of fresh fish is something else altogether, do you get that, let me make tea, fried fish and tea
You’re stupid, fried fish goes well with booze … I drink now and then
But the taste of fresh fish is something else altogether
No, not today, next week, around nine, the shop’s closed on that day, you see I have to keep up the home front as well as the external front
Whatever you wish
In Burdwan, a sick child was given another child’s injection
Yes, my dear, this is the first time I’ve earned, but if you don’t like to see that
I’m all aflutter inside, you know, I’m really happy, you know what you want
So what if there's some hardship, there’s happiness besides the hardship
That’s what’ll be, Maya, I hope your wishes are fulfilled
How long before the next visit
It won’t do to be so crazy ... hey, it’s ten-thirty, tell me what I should bring for you, make a list and give it in the market
You’ve already given all the stuff from the provisions store
I have to get up now … stuff to do at home … this door’s open
Oh baba, he hasn’t even come in ... don’t be standing at the door, who knows who’ll
I’ll see you around
You’ll live long, dear, I thought you’d have come home and gone to sleep
What are you … didn’t anyone come …you had said he’d stay all night, I’m sure you lied to me
No, my dear, not a lie, you see he has a grown-up son at home, it’s not possible for him to stay all night, he left just fifteen minutes ago ... here, take off your shirt and trousers, I’m terribly hungry, have a wash while I put the rice to boil
Globalization and patriarchy – it’s because of this link that in the forthcoming World Social Forum of 2004, one of the ten key subjects for discussion is patriarchy
How many times
At first twice in succession, and then once more before leaving
Is that’s all
Just the three times made me forget my dad’s name … what’re you doing … has the strength of an ogre, hey, please massage my body, just see how it’s swollen from squeezing
Baba, it’s really swollen … will I get something
You’ll get it, my dear, but massage my body first
You just carry on, Maya, just carry on, there’s nothing to fear, if required I’ll opt for the night shift, I’ll do all the household chores as soon as I wake up in the morning
That you have to do, my dear, I’m earning now, look here, it’s in my interest to give peace to those who come, isn’t it, they’ll give baksheesh
That must be extracted
If you’re at home, I’ll be panicky … terror in the mind
Alright, as soon as I can I’ll take the night shift
A complaint was made against a promoter for deploying hijras to evict a tenant
What happened, why did you get up
I have no clue about what you did when
You’re lying
You’re terribly naughty, hey, I’m sleepy now, let me go to sleep, when you wake up in the morning, wash the cooking utensils, sweep the rooms, make tea and then wake me up
Alright, let me sleep now
The ballot papers were torn in the booth itself and the box was dumped in the water
Hey, Maya, wake up, it’s nine, don’t you want tea
What time is it
It’s nine
Nine … have you done all the work, have you filled water ... where’s the tea, give it to me, I’ll lie down in bed and have tea, I can’t get up before I have tea … do you know, I slept so well, my whole body feels light … light the stove, I’ll have a bath and then cook today, god, what an ache, dear
Is it bad … listen, it’ll relieve you if I give you a hot compress
The seven-year-old girl, Rinku, searches among the ashes of the burnt hut for her Kisalay book
It’ll be great if I can get it
You’ll get it, but go to the toilet now, you’ve been farting away all this while, take your bath and come out
I’ve lit the stove, let me sweep the other room
We should get some good mosquito nets, pillows and quilts now
There’s money in hand, so we can buy it
Do you think I’ll buy it with my money, are you out of your mind, it’s those who come who soil our bed-linen, and it’s they who’ll buy it
Hey, can you hear me, where are you, please give me the towel, what a lovely fragrance in the soap, what soap is this dear, what’s it called … this is the norm, Maya, as long as you’re young, just grab it
Come out, let me take a bath ... I have to sleep a while after eating
Nowadays, in private parties, women openly hire male dancers and make them strip naked
Boudi, are you at home
Who is it
It’s me
Oh, it’s you, it’s so dark outside, what time is it, just wait, the light’s not turned on, how on earth did I sleep so long, it’s seven, if you hadn’t called me … come in, come, believe me, it’s terrible, I’ve never slept so long
Is that so, what did you dream about
A lot of stuff, please sit down, let me just go to the wash-room, god, I badly need to pee
A boy died leaping from the roof, imitating Spiderman
Would you like to have some tea
Yes please make it ... hey, silly girl, I have a family too, I know what all is needed in a family, just maintain the relationship with me and you’ll never know deprivation ... listen, your nightie’s in the cloth bag
Here’s the tea, but there aren’t any biscuits
Take it out and see
Alright, I’ll wear it and come
Why, wear it in front of me
Okay ... it’s nice ... do you like it
Hearing about the death due to a wrong injection, the Superintendent said, but he would have died one day
Not in this room, come to the other room … I did up the room today
Whatever you wish, take me wherever you want ... oh, such a lovely room, absolutely secluded ... is your husband alright
Yes of course, why shouldn’t he be alright ... I say, weren’t you supposed to come at nine o’ clock
I just came by
Whatever you think’s right ... so where shall I sit, on your lap
That’s right ... you’re even younger than my daughter
Look here, love doesn’t heed age
Buchanan and company won’t allow Sourav to recover from his injury
Maya, that’s what I think when I look at your face
Oh baba, what have I sat on dear
How on earth did you land on your husband’s fate
I don’t know … maybe it’s so … where’s your thing
Let’s see where you’ve hidden it
The colour can’t be discerned in the light from the bulb
A manly woman has been arrested for disguising as a man and marrying an eighteen-year-old girl
So you’ve snared me
What do you mean
There’s nothing to fear, there may be a little bit of hardship ... hey take a look, I hope there’s no piss anywhere, I don’t like it
I’ve put on some scent for that reason ... don’t worry
I won't hurt you
Not like that
In today’s world, dreaming of surviving as a gay is a purely personal matter of yours
So that’s what makes the guys happy, they get pleasure when you inflict pain
There’s no other worry, you stay this way and you won’t ever have to worry about difficulty
Go to sleep now … what happened, do you want to
Can you take a risk regarding whatever’s connected with your home
I’ll give you more
There’s no point giving you unnecessary trouble ... lift up your head and look, look at me, keep looking
Take my love … don’t get lost
What are you saying, Maya, my head will go in
Try to put your head in and see … I’m not lying
What do you mean
It means nothing
It was as if a baby was being delivered



This is a translation of the original Bengali story “Madankotkoti” by Subimal Misra.
Translated by V. Ramaswamy.