08 April, 2014

Love Story













He sees the washerwoman kill her son and then wash the soiled cloths.
When the work’s done she’ll bring her dead son back to life again and take him home.
All these girls keep alive when needed, and kill when necessary.


Will you be able to come?
Perhaps no … why do you ask?
Damn, if only you could understand without it being spelt out …
Then do spell it out …
As if everything can be spelt out …
Saying so, she pinches his stomach and with the smart of the pinch, Love
cooes, ooh, aah, and rolls around.


The boy sat beneath a tree. He wore a whitish trouser and a Hawaii shirt. His hair was combed quite artfully. The girl wore salwar-kameez. Her shampooed hair blew in the breeze. Her notebook was on her lap. The boy’s name was Kashinath, the girl secretly called him Love. The girl’s name was Asha. Asha says to Love: Love, you’re going to your village house during the holidays aren’t you? Oh don’t talk about that Asha – Father’s sent a couple of letters in the last few days. I just have to go. I had thought I’d spend a few days of these holidays with you. Hearing Kashinath, Asha broke out in titters of laughter. And then she said, Love, so what if you’re an engineering student, you’re still just a village bumpkin. Saying so, she put her hand on Love’s lap. The sweet sunlight of a winter’s evening. With her left hand, Asha pulled Love close and kissed him on the cheek. She laughed, hee hee. Kashinath sprang up: Hey, what the hell are you doing – there are people all around – can’t you see … Asha promptly feigned anger. Let there be people! I’m kissing my lover so what’s anyone got to do with that … Really, you’re a … you’ve remained a village bumpkin. It’s best that you go home and look after your father’s land and so on. Kashinath laughed a bit and said, you know it, I feel somewhat ashamed unless it’s in private. It was just yesterday, in the restaurant, for a long time … But that was only because I said so – Asha says, snatching the words from his mouth. And as she says it, she pinched him hard on his elbow. With the smart of the pinch, Love cooes, ooh, aah, and rolls around. It was Asha who then began; Listen, it’s best that you go to the village during the holidays. I’m not going to be around. Where are you going? Asha now says: Why, didn’t I tell you … my uncle lives in Delhi. I’ll spend a few days there. I love spending time with Parimal-da there. He’s a very smart boy. When he’s in jeans and a T-shirt and comes around on his bike – how can I tell you how handsome he looks. I’ll spend a few wonderful days there. Kashinath now turned very grim, he said: Who’s Parimal-da, Asha? Oh – I suppose I haven’t told you … Parimal-da is my cousin Kallol’s friend. He’s very interesting. He can go on talking for hours – one never get’s bored. Very open-minded. He’s good in studies too – he’s a scholar of Delhi University. Kashinath now gulped, after that he said: Oh …


Love

I always saw only darkness in my eyes. Perfect darkness. No one anywhere – I’m falling into a huge, black pit – I used to feel that way quite often. Everyone advised me to stop drinking and concentrate on my work, but all that talk never entered my head. I used to feel that I’ve come and stood beside a mountain. A deep abyss on one side, someone gave me a gentle nudge and pushed me down. As I fall, I turn blue in fear, even in my sleep I could surmise that if I ever fell down, there’d be no trace of even my bones. I used to scream out in my sleep. And just then I’d see Mother come towards me, as if floating through the air, she stretches her two arms and takes me to her bosom, there’s a smile on her face. Asha looked exactly like Mother. And her face was so sad-looking that one spontaneously wept looking at her. Mother used to hug me to her bosom and scold me, as she used to when I was small. I’m alone – terribly alone … Why do you go the wrong way like this and sadden me! People wouldn’t believe me if I said it, but in my dream I could clearly see that drops of water rolled down Mother’s eyes and fell on my head and on my face. Mother would then hug me to her bosom and kiss me. I would see an amazing dim light all around her face, in the dream Mother looked like a Goddess, and then on the touch of a pair of fair-skinned hands I would wake up, I’d see the light in the room burning, and bending down over my face, Asha ruffles my hair and touches her lips to mine. Truly, at that time I had gone to ruin.

Asha

She pinched himself. Rubbed her eyes with both her hands. No, she was quite awake. It wasn’t a dream. There was a mild smell all over the room. The smell was a very familiar one. Her Love drank once in a while. There was Love standing in the middle of the room – he was looking at her and smiling away. And then he came running and hugged her. Bit by bit, he had lost himself. The door was shut. But then how did this man come insider her room. She wanted to say: You shouldn’t have come here. I’m married, I’m someone’s wife. With a smiling face the youth replied: No one other than you can see me. As soon as he said it, her Love became invisible. Was she dreaming? The whole room was in semi-darkness. Only a zero-watt lamp burned. Once again, bit by bit, the youth emerged from the darkness and advanced towards her. Aren’t you happy to see me? He came closer. Why are you ruining my life? What’s my fault? I have a husband, I have a family. Love puts his arms around her and hugs her. It was as if the bones and ribs of her chest were being pulverized. Could this be told to anyone? Her body was melting, just like a wax doll. She didn’t stretch her arm. Didn’t scream. Parimal was lying just beside. Curled up small, he was sleeping peacefully. Call him? So who was in the room, who? Love? How did he come?

Many girls secretly giggled about him. One day, after the college vacation, he had come out. Suddenly someone called him from behind. He turned around. Excuse me, do you have PD’s notes from yesterday? He could gather that the girl wanted to get acquainted with him on this pretext. But I didn’t come yesterday. Someone or the other told me you had come yesterday. That you were sitting beside Mahuya. No – he had turned grim. The girl promptly said: Why do you always make a bear-face like that! A bear – he was astonished. The girl laughed gently: You are indeed a bear – saying so, she walked away briskly. And just then, hearing Kashinath, Asha tittered in laughter, like a little girl. She said: Love, you’re a jackass! Saying so, giving him a gentle pinch and placing one hand on Kashinath’s hand, she began: Love, there’ll be nobody in our house tomorrow. So you can come there in the afternoon. Kashinath asked, why, where’s everyone going? Asha replied: Father’s going with Mother to an aunty’s house in Salt Lake. They’ll only return at night, after dinner. And Brother’s been away from Calcutta since the last two days. He’s gone to Digha with his college friends. The house will be completely empty. I’ll just give ten rupees to the servant and send him to the cinema … Now she went twice or thrice a week to the joint that had come up on the sixteenth floor of a twenty-two storeyed high-rise on Camac Street. Common people did not come here. But one or two newly-rich did come once in a while. The girl said: Here, you are my client. I’m your entertainer. Nothing more than that. Stubbing the cigarette in her hand in the ashtray, she bent down and poured whisky into a glass. Then, after some time, the green zero-watt lamp in the room would come on, the girl would slowly pull down the trouser zip of the inebriated man, her father’s age, keep doing so. What’s up, Uncle, how are you? Oh my, you’ve come after a long time. Why didn’t you come even once to our house? Tea appeared very soon. Coughing a bit, the gentleman said: My dear, there’s something I have to talk to you about. Tell me, Uncle. What more can I tell you, my dear, you are like my own son. My younger daughter will be taking the secondary exam. If you could help her a bit that would be really good. It was she who spoke about you. No, I don’t take no for an answer, dear boy. Asha came to him the very next day to study. Books in her hand, a smile on her face. Standing at the door, she said: … may I come in? Come in. He lifted up his head and looked. He had never looked at a girl in this way before. Because of his grim and shy manner, the girls and wives in the village avoided him. May I sit down? Putting her books down, Asha sat. She sat on a chair facing him. The desk lay in between. Are you taking the secondary exam this year? Yes, she said, with her head down. Which subject would you like me to take up? Whatever you’d like to teach me. He lifted up his face and looked her in the eye. Asha lowered her eyes. The boy brought his face close to mine and asked: If you don’t mind, may I know your name? At that very moment, forgetting all about Father’s severe scolding, I told him my name. Oh, you have a really beautiful name. By then, I too had got back some courage. I asked him in return: But you didn’t tell me your name. The boy began to laugh. Had you at all asked me my name? I said: But I did ask now. The boy told his name: Kashinath. I said: God, what an old-fashioned name – it’s not nice. Your name just does not match how you look. I’ll call you Love – how’s that? Hearing me, Kashinath began to laugh. I too joined him in laughter. As he laughed, he said: When you laugh, you look exactly like my mother. I was astonished. What’s this you say, Love? Just then, Shankar came running and stood beside him. Looking from the corner of his eye, he said: What’s happening, boss, what’s all this I hear? What’s up Shankar, tell me. But you’re a good boy. Don’t mind me, I mean, don’t do this and that with my lover, I swear. Turning grim, he said: But I can’t understand anything, what’s all this nonsense you’re saying? … Look here, boss, don’t pretend. You know very well what I want to say. I’m telling you clearly, boss, if you mess around with Asha, I won’t tolerate that. Now he became very angry: What’s all this you’re saying – I teach her. I view her as my sister. He didn’t remain there. He began walking immediately. From behind, Shankar kept shouting: Try to keep it that way, my friend. Or else … Returning home by myself, I had observed for the last few days that at the spot where I took the bus from, everyday, there’s was a boy standing there, and he stares at me. The boy is quite handsome to look at, and he appeared to be from a decent family. His eyes were very lovely. That pair of eyes used to entrance me in a trice. I used to feel a kind of inner attraction. And so when the boy used to look at me and smile I too would smile back in response. I longed to talk to him. But the very next moment, I would remember Father’s severe scolding. As soon as he saw me, Father asked: What’s the matter Asha, why have you come back so late. I said at once: I went to the library after two. I got delayed making my notes there. Father said: Asha, you’ve grown up now. You’ve learnt about what’s good and what’s bad for you. I trust that you will not do anything that disgraces us. I listened to Father quietly, with my head down. When she comes to study, every now and then she becomes somewhat absent-minded. She had something on her mind. The day after observing this, he directly asked Asha: What do you think about from time to time? You become absent-minded while studying. Oh it’s nothing – please continue teaching. Asha tried to appear normal. He thinks she’s concealing something. He asks her again: You’re concealing something, Asha. Tell me frankly. At first she was silent. After that, she said softly: Shankar-da is always after me. He stands on the road with a group. I’m afraid of them. He turns grim. Without much thought, he blurts out: After the study session I’ll come along with you today. No, no – Asha cries out – I can go on my own. Shankar’s friends are all frightful. They don’t hesitate to do anything untoward. To you too … That’s alright, but I can manage. She tried to appear brave. After all that she had said, it was impossible for her to return. Then somewhat doubtfully, he said: Alright then. From tomorrow, you needn’t come here. I’ll go over to teach you. Then, after some time, bringing his face to her ear, he said, almost in a whisper: Come on, Asha, let’s go away somewhere together. What’s that – where shall we go? The two of us will live together somewhere. We’ll be a happy family. Do you think that can happen – where shall I go leaving my husband and family behind? Why, what’s the objection – that man suspects you. Instead just you and I shall start a new life together. After a while, she said: In that case, whom shall I live with? Why, here I am … But that’s only once in a while, secretly … If you had me fully, you’d get rid of me in two days. One doesn’t like the same old thing everyday. I do know you. As she said it, she pinched my cheek. Quite hard. My cheek was smarting. That day it rained heavily the whole day, and a stormy wind with that. I don’t sleep well when it rains. I become depressed suddenly. It was almost twelve at night then. I was lying down silently, staring at the ceiling. I remembered Mother. After dinner, before falling asleep, she used to read the Kathamrita of Sri Ramakrishna for a while. It was an old habit with her. But where was that Mother! Why, Asha has come in place of Mother – hasn’t she? The next room was shut, completely still. Didn’t meet any friends today. Who on earth would venture out on this disastrous night. The rain became fiercer as the night advanced. I was lying curled up under a thin sheet. Suddenly there was a knock on the door. Not moving the door-ring, but yet making a sound. I pricked my ears. Again a sound. Who on earth could have come to call me on this disastrous night? Getting up from the bed, wrapping the sheet around me, I went, one step at a time, and stood near the door. Once again there was the same knocking sound. I asked: Who is it? From outside, a female voice whispered: It’s me, open the door! Asha – I clearly heard Asha’s voice. Asha! So late at night! Before I could think anything, again came the whisper, which was nonetheless clearly audible, hastening me : Open the door quickly – I’m getting wet. It was raining so heavily outside that it was impossible for anyone to hear her call. She rushed into the room as soon as I opened the door. Draped in a raincoat from head to toe, a mysterious smile on her face. As soon as she entered, she said: Shut the door first, I’m cold. I was vacillating. Looking me in the eye, she said: I said, shut the door first. I’m feeling very cold. I shut the door and said to her: Coming to my room so late at night – like this. She said: What terrible rain – I wasn’t being able to sleep all alone. He had night duty, so I thought I’d play Ludo with you and while away the time. You have Ludo and Snakes and Ladders don’t you? I love playing Ludo and Snakes and Ladders. After that, pausing a while, she looked me clearly in the eye and said: You don’t mind, do you? Then Shankar shouted and called out to him: Hey, my friend, where’ve you gone? He turned grim. He said: Shankar, whatever you’re doing isn’t good.  Hey, don’t lecture me, boss. I know all about that. Being too friendly with Asha isn’t right, pal. But I’ll clear the way. Two or four days, that’s all. Alright, we’ll see about that. He put on a brave front and affected a boastful manner. And then he left the place speedily. About a month later, he was once again returning home from college. He was tired. Shankar came and stood in front of him. There were three others with him. Hey pal, you got angry and left that day … He was grim as usual. Yet, smiling synthetically, he said: All’s well. Suddenly, Shankar’s friend, the one who looked like a goonda, put his hand inside the open front of his shirt and scratching the hair on his chest said, Hey boss, is it still brother-sister or have you reached Laila-Majnoon? He looked once at him. A complete loafer. He was looking at him and smiling, exposing his teeth. Not getting any response from him, he muttered and said: Hey, get each of us a sister like that, I say. Now he lost his cool. He turned around and landed a tight slap on the boy’s face. As soon as he slapped him, he realized he’d made a mistake. No, he wasn’t as brave as that, whatever he might have done hot-headedly, he did not have the strength to stand up against Shankar’s gang. They were ready too. The boy had taken out a bicycle chain by then. Shankar sprang and held his arm, he turned around and spat out in abuse: You bastard, son-of-truth Yuddhisthra … You look as if you haven’t eaten all day long … would you like to eat something? No, forget it. Alright, Love, can I ask you something? What is it? Can you strangle and kill me? What the hell are you saying? Tell me first whether you trust me or not. But where are you? I don’t know. Tell me truthfully, where are you? I’m lost. What will I survive with? With whatever you survived with so long. But that’s lost. No, I don’t believe that. Don’t be sad, Love, whatever had to happen happened. But you have to survive. Darkness. Great darkness. He casts his eye and sees Asha lying down obscenely. Love picks up his sheet and covers all of Asha’s body. After that he parks the scooter and at once comes in front of Asha. Hello! Meeting you after a long time! I’m sure you’re terribly busy with husband and family. Tell me, how are you? Surprisingly, there was no more hesitation in Love’s voice. Although earlier, he used to falter when he spoke. Asha was astounded. She felt a strange sensation inside. Somehow or the other she said: I’m fine. She herself realized it wasn’t her voice. For that matter, she even forgot to ask, how are you. Love suddenly shifts to the second person intimate. You didn’t ask how I am. Tell me how are you? Can you tell me how I am – what do you think, looking at me? As he said it, he looked her in the eye. Asha looks down. Yes, the funny thing’s that right now, a lot has really happened. Parimal had once come on a holiday together with Ashok. Suddenly my head began to reel, I pressed her against the door and began to kiss her, and then, unseen by anyone, I lifted her up and entered the bathroom. Asha was shouting, but my body was full of an ogre’s strength right then. Fortunately, I did not latch the bathroom door from inside! After some time, the door opened, the people in the house entered and rescued Asha from my clutches. Pulling and dragging, they took me to the tap, pressed my head down over the wash-basin and opened the tap. Even after all the commotion, Parimal had dropped me to my house. I was in the rear seat, almost lying down, my eyes shut. I vaguely remembered Mother’s face. After dinner, Mother had sat down with the Kathamrita. I could hear, everyone was worrying about me. Friends were repeatedly saying that I had supposedly gone astray soon after Mother’s death. Later I had gone to Asha’s house and apologized. Seeing her looking at me with a smiling face, I was stunned – why do I keep mixing up Asha’s face with Mothers? My head was spinning, I held the door to support myself. Asha took me by the hand and made me sit. She asked: Would you like to eat something? No, my dear, not at all. I didn’t mind anything the other day. The offer had come, to go over so he could have a look. The middle-aged MD was terribly lonely. Had to give him company from time to time. A girl from the same neighbourhood had given her the lead casually. She had said: Take life easy, a lot of this is happening nowadays. I had thought it would be rather simple, but it was just the opposite in the workplace. On the specified day, dressed up and adorned, I turned up, together with the friend, at the man’s flat. A well-decorated flat in a posh locality in central Calcutta. Going into the room, and after talking directly to the MD, her dear friend brought her into the room and went out – she said: I’ll be back after a while. Her feminine awareness made her sense danger just after this. After shedding stupid tears about his loneliness, and sometimes casting a spell with his words, when the man finally offered her a drink – even then she hadn’t been worried much. After this, the distance between them, dictated by decency, kept diminishing. Despite being in an air-conditioned room, her whole body was covered in perspiration. But she had to survive. She wouldn’t ask anyone for help. For that matter, not even Love. In a theatrical voice, with that MD who was her father’s age, stroking his neck, rubbing her lips against his, bringing her face near his ears, she had whispered: Hey – please, not today –  … today I have … the coming Saturday will be for you – for you alone – okay? … But the man’s desire was not quenched so easily, she had to sacrifice a bit, but nevertheless, she could more or less get away that day. Must survive, and again, decency had to be maintained. Another funny thing had taken place, in Asha’s own flat, on her birthday. Someone had removed my lighter. Going to light a cigarette, I found I didn’t have the lighter in my pocket. Asha was then cooking a special chicken preparation. In the kitchen. I thought I’d certainly find matches in the kitchen. But I didn’t find anyone in the kitchen. I looked this way and that, everything looked kind of disheveled. Suddenly, someone said from behind: May I know what’s happening here? Startled, I turned around and saw Asha with her friends beside her. Everyone was watching my antics silently. I said I came to look for matches, I’ve lost my lighter. Too look for matches – Asha said, her eyes flashing – and so you’ll enter my bedroom without asking me? Don’t you know you shouldn’t go into a woman’s bedroom without consent? Does one find matches in a bedroom? I suddenly came to my senses. I realized I had entered the bedroom mistakenly, thinking it was the kitchen. By then, many had begun to smile embarrassedly. After that, Asha took me aside and took out my lighter from her clenched fist and said to me: Here’s your lighter. When you were having a drink, I took this out of your pocket, silly goat! She pinched me gently on my cheek. I stared at her face in astonishment.

[1992]


This is a translation of the original Bengali story, "Premer Golpo", by Subimal Misra.

Translated by V. Ramaswamy. 

21 February, 2014

The Mosquito





















A long-standing desire, for a ceiling fan, in the bedroom. But every month, there's never any money left. Finally, I couldn't take it any more, I bought one a fortnight ago. In today's newspaper, the same fan company has advertised that a 15% discount is being offered on their fans. That means the fan bought for 360 rupees is now cheaper by more than 50 rupees. After seeing that, I felt terribly annoyed. I don't like the boring drone of literature. Instead let me now tell the story of a mosquito. This is the mosquito that at some time, unknown to me, sat on my left lung and punctured it, and finally took my all –

This mosquito now flies over Victoria Memorial. It's shadow falls on Victoria's head. The colour of the fairy changes, the shadow keeps spreading in the direction of the Maidan, leaving behind the vast human settlement in the south, it began to encircle the Maidan. The last of the day's sunlight was there now, sticking to the leaves on trees. Moloy Bhattacharjee lies with his head on Chandana Sen's lap. This is the Moloy Bhattacharjee who stuffs Number Ten cigarettes in a Wills Navy Cut packet, lighting it carefully in front of his lover, to show that it's Wills. And the whole evening, the rubbing of face and neck with a half-wet gamcha. To get a reddish tinge. On the cheeks.

And this is the Chandana Sen who, even at the age of thirty one, seeing the lack of effort from home towards getting her married, willingly or unwillingly fed honey to the Moloy Bhattacharjees, regularly, when darkness descended beneath the tree, but she wasn't able to hook anyone. Now the mosquito goes and sits on Moloy Bhattacharjee's cheek. It lowers the proboscis, sucks it up, yes, that's right, blood. Then it flies off after some time. Chandana Sen looks at Moloy Bhattacharjee lying with his head on her lap, here, but despite the proximity he was not quite there, from the corner of his eye, again and again, he was looking intently at a buxom young woman walking with her blue sari blowing in the wind – the mosquito now flies northwards, further north, it then goes and sits on the elbow of a middle-aged conjurer, who was performing for a thousand people beneath Shahid Minar. This was the conjurer wearing a black achkan over a jet-black silk lungi, who speaks in a fabricated language made up of an amalgam of Bangla and Hindi, he makes a skull speak and shows simple-minded folk the way to reach Ramrajya.

The mosquito sits on the conjurer 's elbow and keeps sucking blood, as the people stood encircling him, after a while, looking at the conjurer's face, they sense something, and then each one goes his own way, they keep leaving.

The mosquito flies off, and with it goes its shadow.

It comes and sits on Burrabazar's Jagmohan's fleshy thigh. Now he, Jagmohan, with two telephones in two hands, is engaged in discussion about the share market, this is the Jagmohan who can discern at a glance gold and silver buried under ash, who buys the government's goats from the government and sells it back to the same government with a 100 per cent margin. The mosquito merrily sucks Jagmohan's blood through the proboscis, when its belly is full it flies off – the mosquito flies along, taking the large shadow along. It comes and sits on Baghbazar's Jhantu Kayal's shoulder. Jhantu Kayal has then fallen asleep in the stifling heat, in the course of trying in vain to cool himself with a hand-fan, after a whole's day's back-breaking labour. This is the Jhantu Kayal who works 12 hours in a lathe-machine workshop in Bantra, at the end of the month he receives a salary of 347 rupees, returning at night with grease-blackened hands, tears of pieces  of roti and stuffs them into his mouth, labour-fatigued, his eyes shut, the eyelids.

The mosquito goes and sits on his elbow, but there's no blood to suck there. It sits on his back, which is hard and bony, with leathery skin, it can't prick and insert the proboscis. It sits on the forehead, there's no flesh there, it's unyielding, solid, bone, and forehead, Jhantu Kayal is fortunate. The mosquito then flies off. Again. Jet propellers on its wings. Sound. Speed. In the wings. Its body becomes heavy. The shadow keeps spreading. Of the jet propeller. The mosquito's shadow spreads across the entire Maidan, the martyr's pillar is in shadow, as is Gandhi on Park Street and the stone fairy atop Victoria Memorial. A gust of wind blows, clouds gather, the symbolic size of the sun  becomes small. No one can see, or sense, when, it goes and sits, with a quiet plop, on the barrel, of the pipe-gun, held, in the hands, of the 18-year old boy.

THE END


This is a translation of an extract from the original Bengali anti-novel, "Rong Jokhon Shotorkikoron Er Chhinnho" (When Colour is a Warning Sign) (1984), by Subimal Misra.

Translated by V. Ramaswamy. 

02 November, 2013

Will you preserve your chastity, Aparna?
















[For Jean-Luc Godard, of First Name: Carmen]


When Ma was alive, till about a year after my marriage, whenever it rained she would phone me in my office to ask: tell me, which daal would you like me to make you khichidi with? Nowadays, if it ever rains and I mention that I’d like to eat khichidishe get’s irritated. Although we’ve not even been married for 5 years. Neither of us expects anything from the other now.

Hold the PC muscle in a tightened condition for two seconds, hold it there, after two seconds let go, and then relax. Hold it tight again, keep it that way for 2 seconds, let go. Do this again and again. Hold it, let it go, hold it, let it go. You’ll find that your capacity, what’s called retention capacity, has increased greatly.

I hate my mother – the girl said exasperatedly, shaking her bobbed hair, responding to the remote assault. I don’t call her Ma, I say, Mrs Sanyal. Mrs Aparna Sanyal. I find it disgusting to call her Ma. She returns drunk every night – she flirts with each and every one of Dad’s friends. I smoke, I drink, I push drugs, heroine, smack – everything. Who cares about that? Why does Mrs Sanyal poke her nose into my private life? A woman like that has no right whatsoever to admonish or order me. I’ll do whatever I want, I can share my bed with whoever I wish. I am seventeen years old. I’m old enough to know what’s good for me and what’s not. I will do whatever I feel like.

There are women who are unwilling to wait. Even while the party’s on, she takes her companion to where no one can see and pulls at his shirt buttons, kisses his neck, rubs her head on his chest, and when she’s at the peak of excitement, begins to open his zipper with trembling hands. Tchaikovsky then begins to play behind the scenes, and sometimes Rachmaninoff. Twenty minutes are spent in this manner.

The girl began lying for no particular reason. She spends most of her time at home standing at the verandah. She speaks rudely, whether there’s any justification or not. From all her accumulated grievances I understood that the girl was simply suffering from coming-of-age. She had a kind of complex in her mind about me. She used to get very happy when she saw me ill at ease. As if my discredit was to her credit. And she became annoyed whenever she discerned the slightest intimacy between her father and me.

One afternoon, her father and I were both lying on the same bed. My daughter was in the adjacent room. Thinking she was asleep, my husband became very intimate with me. But my daughter had witnessed the whole thing. What rage thereafter! She wouldn’t speak with me or her father. When I found out about the incident, I called her and explained to her that this was the way of the animal world. If she wished, she too could do all this with whosoever she liked. With her father too. From that day, if my daughter ever had any questions regarding sex, she would ask me straightaway.

The face should not be too dry or too moist. Many believe that for such things nymphomaniac women are more suitable. Open your lips a little bit, but not too much. When a man and a woman are standing together, their heights should be about the same. If you have to do it bending or craning your neck, often the neck, back and spine ache. To find out if your height is alright, measure yours and try to see if you have to strain your neck too much.

When I look back to about ten years ago, to the time when I reached adolescence, I realise I felt a kind of jealousy within me regarding Ma. I felt Ma was my competitor. If someone called Ma beautiful – if they said, Aparna, you’re looking great today – I would feel this was a slight on my own appearance. I would get angry when I heard praise about Ma, but again, I couldn’t tolerate any denigration either. I suffered from a narcissus complex. I would stand for hours on end in front of the mirror, I used to think I looked much more beautiful than Mother. But why did Uncle Robi praise mother and not me? Finding a pretext, I would pick up a quarrel and create an uproar.

It is girls who must accord chastity the greatest value. Whereas when it comes to boys, no one opens their mouth. On behalf of those of us who work outside home, I speak openly – chastity and such like are a joke. Nowadays good contraceptives are available even in paan shops, they are sold openly. By giving men company for an hour or an hour and a half, we can get lots of opportunities and benefits, which we use in building our own careers. Is it wrong to build one’s career?

For any girl, her mother is her ideal. She intuits what her role in life would be in future, as a woman, by looking at her mother. Consequently, there is always an intensity here. Either a tendency to oppose, or a desire to imitate. Whatever it may be, the mother’s influence will always be there on the daughter. He had lost his virginity in a bizarre way. And that happened in Bombay, with an elderly woman. The woman had a 24-25 year old daughter too, who studied at university. He was only 15 then, and inexperienced. Hence it was the woman who had to be active. She had asked him to open the hook of her blouse, and it took him a really while to be able to do it. He just wasn’t being able to do it. He didn’t know anything at all then. You are an idiot – the woman had said, laughingly. While removing her clothes in this way, he had felt that he was removing the skin of an onion. As he removed her clothes, one by one, he was startled, and at the same time despondent. He could still remember, quite clearly, how awkwardly and erroneously he had lost his virginity.

Exactly opposite the writing, an exhibition of
Porn films ran all night long.
Long queues of people. Of the third world.
Hungry and angry. And parallel to this,
The writer wanted to test the patience of the readers,
To read something perverted … I
Love him with my heart and soul and
He wants my body. What shall I do – what shall I do, Aparna –
Tell me, what shall I do?

The female character in this story thinks that her daughter should not have any inhibitions regarding sex. And translating this thinking into practice was the most important thing for her. In the Victorian era, men used to get terribly excited if they saw a woman’s ankles or a bit of lace on her tummy. Whether there’s blazing heat, or freezing cold, or a night of pouring rain, entertain your loved one wearing a silky nightie – and if there’s some artistic naughtiness in it, a little bit – then there’s nothing more to add. Yes, plainclothesmen keep watch everywhere. There are people from the security forces every few yards. And in the middle of this, two heroines, mother and daughter, naked, bathing next to each other, oh, what splashing and frolicking around with water. For most of the time, the camera gazes at the splashing water. Exactly behind the camera, at first a hard-core film was played, and thereafter two soft ones, one after another, and finally another hard-core one. Sex-starved masses. Of the third world. They were head over heels. The camera catches them too. Does the camera alter even the reality of realism? At first some kind of lubricant has to be applied inside yourself, and the rubber applicator attached to the vibrator too needs to be lubricated. The pain is reduced thereby, and the intensity of feeling is enhanced. But the whole thing is made of transparent plastic. Its length and thickness can be increased or decreased according to your preference. It is fitted with an electric motor. At the peak moment, or for that matter even midway, the velocity of the thrust can be increased. It is reported that the speedy rotation of the vibrator brings supreme ecstasy in a minute or even less, it can definitely do so. A local daily’s photographer went to take a picture. His camera was snatched away.

Shirley Tomcuse, of the women’s liberation movement
Men want us to wear lace and silk, because apparently these arouse them tremendously.

Ms Gloria Steinem, editor of New York’s Ms magazine
We don’t want to show our breasts to men. That’s why we don’t wear brassieres, because it flagrantly increases the sex appeal. But in the next century, boys and girls will first establish sound physical relations, and there’ll be marriage according to their individual needs. What’s actually needed in marriage is physical compatibility. All talk of meeting of minds and so on is rubbish, a sham. And remember, it’s because of sexuality that human progress won’t cease.

Subhas Roy, age thirty two, married, college teacher
Only married men and women have a right to sex. Men and women are biologically very different. Because the male’s desire for sex is much greater than the female’s. That’s why men can enjoy unhindered sex before marriage. But women should not do that. Because if a woman has sexual experience before marriage, then, for her, the experience after marriage might seem terribly monotonous. The man himself wants unrestrained sexual intercourse, but from the woman he demands virginity, because our social heritage has taught us to think in this way, and it is absolutely correct.

Shailendra Goyal, age twenty six, film director
Most men love to boast about their sexual experience before marriage. And women boast about their virginity. If that’s so, then where did all these men get their sexual experience? Either most of what men say is false, or else most of the girls are actually not virgins, however much they may boast about it.

Tripurari Ghosh, age thirty, married, stage artist
I wholeheartedly support the notion and existence of chastity. Because this strengthens the basis of mutual trust and understanding between husband and wife. Besides, if this remains intact, a woman would never get the opportunity to compare her husband with other men. And that’s what’s best for all. Women agree to pre-marital sex only to blackmail men.

Ambika Patel, age twenty five, unmarried, reporter
The notion of chastity has not become as extinct as we think. The women who decry this loudly, especially unmarried women, actually accord this a lot of significance inwardly. Sometimes for fear that this might come in the way of a good marriage, and sometimes for fear of dishonour. After all, everyone wishes for marriage into a respectable, aristocratic family. The more aristocratic they are, whatever they may profess outwardly, inwardly they are just as conservative.

Aparna
I value trustworthiness much more than chastity.

You’re a writer aren’t you? No, just like that … that’s what I thought as well. If that were not the case, no one would waste their time like this. The way she sat with one leg lifted high, even the lace on her panties was visible. However much of a writer he may be, after all he belonged to the male species. He did not want to poke his nose into other people’s affairs. He was gazing in that direction every once in a while, as he breathed in the fragrance of the French perfume. Even though she knew I was looking at her, she didn’t lower her leg. In the end she stated her view about chastity. I think the girl was Goanese, it happened on a train from Bombay to Goa, at night.

A slender, doe-like body which should emit fire like Vesuvius during love-making. She had to be extremely artful in bed – otherwise men, the male species, could not be held on to. There is a class of women who, whether they are beautiful or not, are very self-assured. Without the slightest hesitation, they quickly take off their clothes and get into bed, and call you.

Measure the depth of your love
(1) Tell me, do your husbands’ fondles and caresses still give you the tingling sensation, or is it just the opposite? (2) Do you think the sexual act is an expression of deep love or is it a duty of marital life? (3) When any other man lavishes praise on you, do you try to draw your husband’s attention to the man’s plus points? (4) When your husband jokes about you with his friends, or relates some intimate story about you, do you enjoy that or do you actually turn grave? (5) Did a situation ever arise when some matter or subject was disclosed to your husband, that you didn’t want him to know, and you became terribly angry?

She wants to establish a sexual relation with the masses
The massacre has to take place as the night comes to a close, when dawn’s breaking. All night long, the youth dithered. The character emerges from a closely-guarded train. Actually it’s a story about the physical relationship between man and woman. He wants to make myth and modern militarism stand face-to-face. He selects a woman from among the masses, one who wishes to establish a sexual relation with the masses … If you don’t obey your Dad, he’ll give you such a bleeding fuck that … Mother says to her daughter, giggling and frolicking as they play with water.

Slip in the two blades together, and spread the handles on the two sides. The two blades find place at the sides of the walls. And with practice, you’ll get a clear view – right to the mouth of the distant womb. With a speculum – which looks a lot like kitchen tongs – one can see oneself well, by oneself. You can and should try it out. At the time of insertion, the body should be as still as possible. It would be good to keep a mirror opposite, direct the light from a table-lamp at the mirror – you can then see your insides in the mirror. Insert it slowly, gently, keep inserting it, like how a tampon is inserted, keeping the two blades of the speculum pressed together, very slowly. Never be in a hurry with excitement. If you like, you can also apply a bit of jelly. After insertion, if you move the two handles apart, and lock it in that position, the two blades move to the two sides, giving a good view of the inside. Look now, right at the end of the passage, the neck of the uterus  – clearly visible. Dome-like, smooth – a brownish colour, engorged, you’ll be thrilled to see it, astounded. And it’s so near, that merely by stretching your hand, you can see the mouth of the uterus – the womb-hole.

I really liked his mouth-work on me. We split up in Delhi. Earlier, he had enticed me with the bait of a good job and called me to Delhi. He arrived, staggering, one dawn. His daughter was with him. He smelt of whiskey. After a bitter quarrel, I returned to Calcutta. Perhaps women want to enjoy their sexuality, while males only want to brag about it.

Want a gigolo? If a woman wants a gigolo, in today’s marketplace they can get one for as little as a bottle of booze, a bit to eat and just a few rupees. The women who set out to hunt prey can easily spot the gigolos. In a secret survey, it was found that, in Bombay, at present, married women engaged in extra-marital relations more than their spouses did. The woman he was with told him that some of the gigolos may be quite ugly-looking – but once you’ve downed two pegs of whiskey, all men are the same – life becomes colourful.

At first I caress her back, I press her earlobes gently, and sometimes I kiss her straightaway. In this way, through hints and signs, I convey my feelings, purely through the language of body, through looks, but not a word even by mistake, no talk at all. Later, if I get the chance, I say: it would be nice to go somewhere and have a cup of coffee. Or: I feel like going back home, I don’t like it here. Eight out of ten times, I don’t have to make the effort to say these things, the women themselves come up with the proposal. To the extent that even if the woman’s come to the party with her husband or male friend, she then evades them most artfully. Initially there’s some shyness and hesitation, and then they suddenly get excited and readily agree to novel means, and what’s more, generously offer up their bodies for enjoyment. Most of the women like my first performance, and I push their face to my groin, some love to use their tongue or lips. Some turn into artists then, and become unceasing inventors in bed. However, if the girl is in a bad mood, she has to be handled very carefully. Most importantly, one must always remain alert regarding the minutiae of the girl’s preferences. And of course, one ought to help her to remove or put on her clothes, take her to the bathroom and bathe her, rubbing soap all over her body, wake up early and bring a cup of coffee to her face. Women are charmed by such small things. One needs to know well what they want, and when they want it – for instance, suppose you sense that the woman wants you to use force over her, then do exactly that. You must always say – don’t call me, I’ll call you, I’ll phone you. At your place or somewhere else, it’ll be difficult at my place. But never in your own house, for you could get into trouble at any time if you did that. For the rendezvous, it’s best to make an arrangement in a known hotel or restaurant.

A handkerchief wound up lengthwise is held in the hand, with 2-3 knots coming down from the top. It looks a lot like that. It indicates the size to the woman. Rich, lonely women love such gigolos.

If you want a gigolo, then come down to the coffee shop of a fancy hotel – between 12 and 3 at night. Alone. After ordering a coffee, look carefully for whether any man is sitting alone. One or two of them are bound to be gigolos. After a while, the man himself will come up to you. If nobody comes, you will have to advance on your own. If even this doesn’t work, be aware that in every elite hotel there’s a list of gigolos, just as there’s one for call girls. But in such matters, bear in mind all the time that nothing happens overtly. There’s code language in all trades. You need to learn that, or at least a few terms. And learning these things is not at all difficult. Someone taught me – it was under him that I was an apprentice – that the first thing to know is how to get out of any situation one might get caught in, especially at the very moment when you feel that you ought to get out. Godard? Of course it’s Godard. The one who imposes Van Gogh’s yellow on hard-core.

His protest is against sex & violence and he wants to protest through sex & violence

Perhaps in this story, Stefania Sandrelli could have acted in an important role, in the role of the mother, the one who openly offers her daughter to her own husband. Amanda Sandrelli would have played the role of the daughter. Amanda is Stefania’s daughter in real life. Mario Soldati’s Lie would have begun in this way. But Aparna, our Aparna, snatches away everything of the character. Whether chastity ought to be preserved or not – that becomes the issue. Through quarrels, fights and all kinds of action sequences, the rich man’s daughter falls in love with the tonga-wallah hero. Mard enters Lie, wholly.  While being screened, the film’s reels somehow got mixed up, kept getting mixed up, on and on. Such incidents occur in a few more spheres. The sex symbols emerge. But rather than sexual intercourse with the one who ought to be slept with, it is sexual intercourse with the one who ought not to be slept with that becomes more manifest. The camera keeps altering the reality. After a reel and a quarter, love blossoms, and as soon as the second reel begins, their song-and-dance routine starts. Aparna keeps saying in an endearing tone: please put the hook on the blouse. The one she says it to is her son’s friend. The hero and heroine are standing in front of each other, he would sit down and shake his knees, and she, who’s now sitting, would stand up. Then the two of them hug each other, a real life kiss is a thousand times better than the kissing pose they adopt. Instead of that, as Subimal says, why doesn’t he shove it in? Love, love and love – have a baby.

In the middle of all this, in the midst of so much trouble, it is difficult to identify the PC muscle accurately, because it is often confused with the sphincter muscle. But of course, there is a way of telling whether you are correct or not. Sit on a stool and spread your legs apart as wide as you can. Now don’t be reluctant at all, start urinating. As soon as you start urinating, you have to hold back the flow of piss. The muscle that you used to stop the flow is the PC muscle. Start pissing again, and then stop pissing the very next moment. In this way, for a few days in succession, if you hold your piss every time you urinate, you’ll figure out how to tighten the PC muscle. In the first week, you should do this at least seven times, and then do it ten times before you go to bed, having removed all your clothes. Do it about fifty times whenever you want, at any time of the day. In the following week, increase the duration of the exercise, until you are able to loosen and tighten it a few hundred times. Each time, you must hold tight for at least two seconds.

Parallel to this, as an epilogue to all the physical techniques and exercises, there’s the film Sacrifice. At the height of the threat of nuclear war, a perturbed Alexander makes a sacrifice by destroying his own beautiful house. On the other hand, his own infant son, Little Man, protects the environment by watering the plant that father and son had nurtured. They had watered it at the time of planting. Sacrifice was Tarkovski’s final film, he dedicated it to his son. Sex for the sake of the son, or son for the sake of sex? Yes, so it was that till the end not an extra kiss was planted on his cheek. After a point the camera, which deceives the writer on and on, begins to deceive reality too. Word gets around that there’s a strong dose of sex in Love Me Physically. What a boy actually does with a girl is shown openly. The tickets were to be sold from nine in the morning, but there was a queue from noon of the previous day. Fuck, what hot stuff … must see it! Great turmoil on the day of the show. Stones rained down on the hall. The police were unable to control the situation. Para-military forces were called in. The assembled masses kept declaring their demand: We must be permitted to see this film. Such a hot film had never before come to this city. A cigar in his mouth, Godard of First Name: Carmen smiles wryly, with lips askew. He wants to protest against sex & violence and he wants to do that with sex & violence itself. Unseen, unsaid. The real becomes unreal, reality embraces the unreal. Someone secretly smears butter-acid on the screen. When the projection began, the screen would erupt in flames. The screen keeps burning, Godard lets it burn. What sex would the masses like to see – they sit agape as the naked niece swaggers, spanning the entire screen. The sex-starved masses of the third world are left astounded by such a presentation of the naked female body – in such Van Gogh-ian yellow. The screen keeps burning, not because of butter-acid, but with Godard’s sex. He flings sex at our faces – at all the agape faces of eunuchs. Sex comes down like a whip – sex, whoosh, whoosh. It fiercely scorches the skin of those of us who secretly, furtively, watch hard-core. And then, together with the camera’s realism, you keep testing and observing whether or not you have been able to correctly learn how to tighten the PC muscle, by yourself. Unknown to you, the hand goes – yes, it goes there, in the most suspicious way. If there’s any doubt, shove it in, inside your … thing, insert a finger and then tighten your PC muscle and see, whether you can feel the force of the contraction. Everyday, before going to bed, each time, do this for a few minutes. The biggest benefit of doing this is that, once you are used to it, you can do it whenever and wherever you want. Even if you initially feel somewhat ashamed, eventually there won’t be any reservation. Father and son will gleefully go hand-in-hand to watch hard-core, and that will be called progress. A cigar in his mouth, Godard keeps smiling wryly, his lips askew. He’s the one who wants to question the very notion of progress in today’s civilization, the biggest lie of all. If only you can slip your finger in there, it’s done. Whether you’re lying in bed, or reading the Anandabazar Patrika, or watching television, or for that matter even while sitting on the pot, you can shove your finger into that part of progress, at your ease.

THE END

……………………………………......
Lots of cuts have been taken from popular women’s magazines. I acknowledge my debt for informational assistance from the two books, My Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies by Nancy Friday, and Human Sexual Response by Dr William H. Masters & Virginia Johnson.

[1987]


This is a translation of the original Bengali story, ‘Sotityo Ki Rakhbe, Aparna?, by Subimal Misra. Translated by V. Ramaswamy. The translator gratefully acknowledges the Ledig House writers’ residency for enabling the translation.

29 October, 2013

Calcutta Dateline












It is easy to point to the Tata Centre tower and identify the class enemy. But it is not so easy to recognize the culture that loves to denigrate the son of a peasant, who becomes a civil servant, as an ingrate, for concealing his father’s identity, and at the very next moment, has no hesitation in jesting with another about his being a peasant’s son and imagining he’s actually an IAS officer … All of us believe equally in democracy, but then the responsibility of running the country can’t be handed over to a peasant’s son, a block-headed son of a peasant …

Bitu
I hate the word ‘tradition’. That my father’s correct merely because he was born before me – I don’t think there’s any logic in accepting that. If one must talk about tradition, well, then I’ll say that my generation is far more progressive than the earlier generation. I openly read Playboy, of course I do. I enjoy reading porn, much more than reading the classics. Playboy is like a bottle of champagne. An adult needs pornography like a child needs fairy-tales.

Somprakash
You’re making a mistake in one respect, Bitu. Sex is not related to pornography but to health, and to enjoying sport. Actually our society is afflicted with bed-sores. Something rotten in the state of Denmark … And my own life, my responsibilities – I just act out everything. I’m greedy to live on even after I’m finished, so that I can transform even my downfall into another acting experience.

Bitu
In these 19 years, I’ve realized that the male is indeed a peculiar creature. When a man doesn’t have a relationship with a girl, just observe his behaviour when he pries into her affairs. When for all you know, he may well be treating the girl that he has, whether through marriage or some other means, rather badly. But when he doesn’t have any such relation with a girl, he uses every opportunity to behave well – I wonder what’s the reason for this kind of mentality in the male species. Perhaps it’s not wise to wager too much on personal relationships.

In the course of this conversation, the massive staircase becomes visible. The wooden planks, by which Bitu descends elegantly, fully naked. She climbs down to the door on the landing. Perhaps it’s a solo exhibition. Meaning, a nude female body, being shown for a long time. A mid-shot of nakedness from breasts to feet. Only the head is not visible. Just the head. By being present in front of our eyes for a long time, this raw nakedness makes sex dull and insipid. It also revolts against the male conception regarding women’s liberation – the view that relegates the whole issue of women’s liberation to merely a fad for discussion.

Somprakash
He once had a dream that he was standing in front of the throne of the Great Adjudicator. But he was not at all afraid. What can you do to me, boy – sitting in peace on the seashore, you carry on playing chess with Bergman; the sea, the lifeless sea, roars on behind you, as if it’s merely an arid backdrop. I have survived for 44 years, after all that the world has done to me, what more can you do? The night advances, I get drunk. Rats emerge in stages from the darkness, hordes of them, green-eyed, they come and keep nibbling and eating me alive – every night. And I, a hired killer, out to reach another form of existence. For which I can murder my own daughter. I can even poison my blood blue for survival. And the red-masked man snatches away everything from him, everything for which he struggles so much. He exists, wherever I might go. He is there, my rival, a king above everyone else, supreme monarch, a looter, universal and cold as death. It’s very real, all this, a terrifying thing, but yet, whatever I am, what’s there to be ashamed of? I don’t think we have done anything wrong, anything for which we need to be ashamed or hate one another. Believe me Bitu, there’s nothing in the world that’s more meaningful than life, there can’t be. That’s why, for me, our relation is not something frivolous or reproachable … And it’s because it’s not that I don’t consider myself wretched or corrupt – no reason at all to think that way. Not even after seeing the array of green eyes, staring intently at me.

Our protagonist Somprakash is an affluent, sociable man who has pushed his way ahead through the crowd of ordinary people. He has a fridge, a colour television and a guitar at home, and what’s unthinkable, a huge collection of books. A middle-class Bengali, a product of the managerial revolution. The story pursues him and sees his typicality, his connection with the masses, or the lack of it. The personal tragedy of this apparently well-to-do person, with his office, bar, club and sexuality, surrounded by oppressed humanity, is actually the tragedy of every half-conscious man in the third world, who is unable either to rise above his prejudices, or to accept it. Ambivalence manifests everywhere. At a glance, it may appear to be a cheap story of perverted taste, but this is a story of the society in which one destroys human relationships and moves rapidly towards the lowest station, to a culture based on unequal competition, where even mother and daughter are merely mutual rivals, and nothing else. Normally society accepts this inhuman competition as a pre-condition for success, it’s seen as part of the warp and woof of unseen social forces. At the end of the story, when he wishes to reach the final stage of the relationship, but fails, then in order to find a rationale in favour of his morally compromised life – he tries to lend his attitudes and conduct a rational basis. In this way, then, society selects him as an object of collective hatred, ‘Thinking is the greatest pleasure known to mankind’ – he cries. Self-centred sorrows and pleasures find a multi-dimensional hue. The death scene is rendered keeping green nature as witness. The screeches of vultures in the crematorium are audible, beside the body of flesh and blood. Water continues to flow in a gentle stream. And but for that, all is silent, like the white of bones. As the night advances, his teeth become sharper. One cigarette after another burns away, dangling from willing fingers.

In the next scene, Somprakash and Bitu are shown in close-up. They move fleet-footedly through blueness, across a blue-carpeted bedroom, where curtains of smooth silk are drawn in all directions, and hold each other tight. From behind, the dim light of the inner-quarters floats into focus again and again, illuminating different parts of their faces and bodies, their blue, amorous moans on the silver screen. The characters behind the curtain seem impervious to all this. After about fifteen minutes, setting clothes in order, Bitu nudges Somprakash. Nobody knows who reaped profit from the game. Music then plays to a fast beat behind the sheet of glass. He looks at them through a window –
Do you think it is creditable to become pregnant at nineteen?
Mother was also nineteen when she conceived.
But she was married.
You mean she had a fucking-license!
A dog stands over a dead body and tears out and eats the flesh.  It wouldn’t have been proper to show this scene too clearly. Why does the moon cast so much light on the dry riverbed on the night after the new moon? Bit by bit, the past arrives and becomes meshed with the present. Bitu had then just finished reading Slaughterhouse Five, furtively. Feeling hot, Bitu took her shirt off and lay down beside Somprakash. Only a beer bottle lay between the two of them. Such a fragile and transparent barrier! After some time, she comes closer. She whispers: ‘It’s hot – what intolerable heat and humidity today … In another scene, Somprakash stands in front of the door, wearing a lungi, his hands covered in blood – ‘The bulb broke in my hand’ … “Oh God, so much blood …’, she is frightened and somewhat nervous. Drops of blood fall on the floor, with splashes. Bitu comes running at once, ‘Come, let me bandage it, don’t worry.’ As she shuts the door, the whole episode vanishes from the room. Leaving behind only the blood stain on the blue carpet.

The next film begins with a rape scene, which runs for almost twenty minutes, in a film within a film. The entire incident takes place in a desolate room, on a winter’s night. Later the girl who was raped is interviewed. And one after another come little girls, young women, middle-aged matrons – who had at one time or another been abused by men. When we hear the immaculately-dressed little girls, adolescents and young women utter, one after another, ‘I was first raped by my father’, then the vulture on the dead body tears and eats flesh. Images, and images after images. It could instead have been that this 19 year old, buxom heroine, Bitu, prances and dances around throughout the story, under soft light, with the hero … TDH. But it’s not that. Now even the deep green valleys turn grey, even the closest relations lose brightness, steadily.
………………………………………………………………………………………
Murder for Salt
Jalgaon, 22 September 1982

Too much salt in the food – for just this grouse, mother-in-law and brother-in-law
beat a 27 year old, newly-married bride. While cooking, the recently-married young woman, had put a bit too much of salt in the vegetable curry. There was a terrible furore as soon as the family sat to eat. She was taken to the hospital with severe injuries after being assaulted by her mother-in-law and brother-in-law. She died in hospital.
…………………………………………………………………………………..

The face in silver colour, the moustache and its environs, till the throat, are blue, only the inside of the wide open mouth is red. The square of white lines on the four sides steadily becomes larger and goes out of the frame. On one side, an orange-coloured moon hangs from the sky. Children hold hands and dance, among trees and shrubs, the trees are deep green. Our unease mounts. We move forward. The episode begins. The scene, made up of things collected bit by bit, is one of completely disorder. It takes some time, naturally, to get used to the jolt of this introduction. A bathroom fully done in pink porcelain comes in view. Bitu with her body immersed in lukewarm water – the water is still, and Bitu’s eyes are shut. A herd of wild buffaloes graze away among the tall green grass atop the hill. One has to admit, he has aesthetic discernment. In the disorderly background, with artful brushwork, string-like, linear, coloured snakes have been released. Men, trees and rocks wriggle on the lines. One is informed that in a specific version of the tale of Rama, Sita was Ravana’s daughter. Ram lured her away from the forest. Thereafter, Ravana steals her away from Rama, with evil designs.

Through discussions like this, the story begins to get written. The descriptions and dialogues are written out on a page at first. It is read out to Bitu from time to time. If there are to be any changes, there are more discussions and arguments. After that it begins to be written again, anew. If Bitu is displeased, she changes it herself. The task is so complex and mutual that it can’t be explained in words, there’s no formula here. Simply writing and cutting, and cutting and writing. Sometimes it attains such immense depth that one is unable to comprehend exactly what’s happening. It is necessary to observe how Bitu acts in each and every scene. One has to watch, alertly, how she brings a character to life.

Despite all the impediments, the desire to write out the story is born. It is necessary to sit with pen and paper. Do you like it, Sir? A very difficult question indeed. Summer around the corner. There’s so much soot in the lantern that hardly anything is visible, everything is shadowy, only gloomy darkness. We are all born socialist and they have to work very hard to change us – a wry smile on Somprakash’s lips. As a college student he used to frequently quote this line from Engels. The stairs on the right side, the door on the left side, and in a corner, Bitu’s room, the door ajar. She sits with one leg propped over the other, the hem of her skirt had risen considerably above her knees. What’s in her hand – Barbara Cartland even now! Somprakash gasps and says, there’s a terrible ache on the left side of my chest. Bitu, please hold me and take me to the room. The story begins in this way. After that the attack on the story begins. It is challenged, it is broken into smithereens, its story-ness lies in pieces. Questions are asked about our way of reading. For instance, in one scene, Somprakash and Bitu, with great √©lan, watch a blue film, freshly acquired from Denmark, on the video cassette player. As she gets tired, the girl wipes beads of perspiration from her nose. Such an excess of all that everyday that there’s no more excitement forthcoming. Right on the tip of her nose there’s a bead of sweat. The wildness is subdued, the bead of sweat becomes clearer than the image of the bra being undone. And furthermore, this has no physical meaning any more. The sound of music playing lacks sweetness. The sound is used as the seventh note, consequently, every composition loses its meaning. A vast wetland can be seen through the window of the bedroom of the huge apartment. A forest through the window of the living room. Childhood’s butterflies enter through the open window in the east, they keep flying around the room. Somprakash thinks the colourful butterflies are like … the pattern on the border of a Dhakai jamdani sari, that floats in from the recesses of his memory. What had the jamdani butterfly begged from him? Absent-mindedness shows in his eyes. The butterfly touches the wobbly study table in the room, it touches the time-piece with its feet and then flies around, working its restless wings. And in the middle of this shot, a 3-4 year old girl, very dark-complexioned, wearing only a red string around her waist, dances animatedly, singing the love song –
Crooked your flute, crooked the melody

Hold and play it crooked, dear
Cast your crooked eyes crookedly
And steal this maiden’s heart, my dear

Wonderful socio-economic explanation can be included in this. About what rural life is like, about Somnath’s childhood, the destruction of village life, and the rapidly growing immorality of the metropolis. She has no objection to being completely naked. A very fashionable drawing-cum-dining room. Abba and Runa Laila play all day on the stereo, and Bitu dances, wearing bright red jeans. The very loud sound of a harp playing, continuously, the sound of stones being broken, the shriek of a vulture, the roar of thunder, the splashing of a waterfall, and Bitu’s amorous moan – which is natural, like the rhythm of the breeze or the blue of the sky. Remembrance: on a night of the 70s, a pregnant woman’s body had been cut up into pieces and left in a flat in Jodhpur Park. And the scandal of raping a minor girl. Later, it was found out her age was nineteen, she wasn’t a minor after all. All this clotted darkness, the environment of memories mingled with terror, is never a matter of pleasing romanticism. All the ups and downs of his own life – childhood poverty, terror, dreams, memories, pains and yearnings – all of it, everything whatsoever, gets mixed up as they are written out, they become hazy. In his own married life, is he exactly what they call ‘happy’ … or something else? He had married for love, Joya and Som both liking each other, all those things of college life. But nothing’s too clear or illuminated to be probed or justified. Does Som now inwardly desire the death – Joya’s death? Nothing whatsoever is reliable and dependable. ‘I don’t fear defeat, or suffering, that’s why Dostoevsky’s hero is to me much braver than James Bond.’ Somprakash thinks, in my eyes he’s a hero, because he is on the verge of defeat – a man, a tiny, insignificant, imperfect creature in the vast expanse. In this way, incidents and characters move simultaneously in dream and reality. Place, time and character all become entangled.

McNamara pops his head out from a pile of old newspapers. At one time, when he came to India as President of the World Bank, oh, what an outburst of protest by the communists. ‘Go back … go back.’ He returned after a long time, precisely during the regime of communist ministers, to West Bengal itself, to Calcutta. There was no protest at all. No one said ‘Murderer of Vietnam - go back.’ The newspapers report that the murderer now looks at the communist ministers in Writers’ Building and smiles wryly, and listens to their various demands and appeals. There is an abrupt sound, the line gets disconnected, Calcutta Dateline Heavy Damage. Somprakash thinks that socialism is not just the language of protest, it is also a rich lifestyle to him. So far as he has understood. When the shameless god comes around dawn, hobbling on his crutch, piercing the veil of carbon monoxide emitted gustily from chimneys, Bitu is sleeping in her room, lying naked on the bed. Her mother makes tea and calls her.

Here, when Somprakash talks face-to-face with the author, the story remains the same, although Somprakash himself thinks then that he’s playing a radical, left-wing role. The story shows it from a certain angle, but the story doesn’t get into any direct criticism. The intelligentsia have a certain view of themselves, and are habituated to seeing themselves so. Somprakash too observes his role in society, and the effect of criticism on him. But here, the criticism proceeds into deeper territory, drawing the reader too into the equation. In the whole process, the classical form of story-telling is demolished. Again, sometimes, while keeping the process of construction and deconstruction active, the new framework is prepared for emotional reasons. His is a solitary, individual rebellion, against total dehumanization.

The huge, sitting room in Jodhpur Park comes into view, its splendid lamp-shades and bronze-coloured, silk curtains on the window lie in shadow, a Japanese kimono, soft slippers on the feet, Economic Times on the lap. Bitu’s gone to Trinca’s with her friends, and Joya is on a sofa, knitting a golf-jumper for Som. Bottles of whiskey and soda on the centre table. Somprakash was pouring from the bottle for Joya, taking some for himself too. There was no peg measure. When Bitu returned, she too would join and sit next to her father. As the cabaret in Trinca’s begins, the people became excited. Bitu sensed hands on her back, buttocks and thighs, perhaps a suggestive finger signal, but she did not pay any heed to all that. Recently a young man who loved her had committed suicide, by shooting himself. Bitu says, that’s the only thing he did well. She didn’t cry one bit, she went off in the car with her friends to eat ice cream at Kwality’s. Joya said to her husband, the girl has been thoroughly groomed, she never misses a pill.

The three of them set off on voyage aboard three different ships. Thereafter, after the ships sank in a blue storm, they returned, having salvaged the broken stories. A group of 3 persons, mother, daughter and father. Whatever else we might be, after all we are bhadralok, cunning through and through. Once, in the scavengers’ hamlet, a girl, 17-18 years old – she would be about the same age as Bitu – Somprakash had then passed with a first division and gone to study in Presidency College – she was wearing only a gamcha, and seeing me suddenly, not finding anything else close at hand, she had wrapped a torn floor-mat around himself, I remember – as a means to avoid shame. Even after all these days, Somprakash hadn’t forgotten the incident, such a long time ago … Come, let’s go and sit somewhere, let’s have something to drink. Beware, whatever you do, don’t let your own daughter wear punjabi and parallel trousers. A smile at the corner of the lips.

Calcutta’s new culture. Of wearing embroidered punjabis and expensive handloom saris. Attending solo recitals of Rabindrasangeet in Rabindra Sadan. Splendidly flows the unceasing, eternal stream of joy. After that, returning home, the better half dons a nightie, and the girl a kaftan. The bar cabinet between the two windows. Pull the long wooden handle, and rows of expensive scotch whiskey, cognac and bottles of wine. A dark-skinned aboriginal man, wavy hair down to his shoulders, plays a dhamsa like a crazed man, who knows for how long. 6-7 feet long, the dhamsa is as tall as a person and a half, made of ancient buffalo hide. People had carried it on their weary shoulders and brought it. Dark-skinned and muscular his appearance, bare-bodied, he keeps assaulting the dhamsa in drunk intoxication with two saal sticks, and with the assault of the sticks, awakens the clan god, Sing Bonga …

Kudchi flowers, kudchi flowers
Blooming in bunches everywhere
Tiger ate the landlord in the forest

The rays of the setting sun penetrate through the treetop and spread in all directions. The girls supporting Women’s Lib, the ones who burn their bras, attend the enchanting programme, wearing thin see-through tops and jeans, despite it being a winter’s day. The jeans worn below the navel, and the two ends of the shirt knotted together four inches above the navel.

– Could you eat the flesh of a corpse?
– No!
– Your own urine?
– Not at all, Baba-ji, I didn’t learn all that.
– But I can. I’ve learnt Hathayoga. I practiced the occult in the crematorium for 12 years, sitting on the five-skulled seat. I can turn brass into gold.
Then one day, the Guru came home. Like making offerings to the gods, lichis on a stone plate and Kissan squash in a stone cup, with ice. The Guru, clad in saffron-brown silks, an India Kings lit in his right hand, his drooping eyes gaze fervently at the shishya’s buxom maid-servant. An 80-year old hag had commented: Lord Shiva is always aroused, don’t disturb him too much, dear …
– Bearer, bring the bill please.
Someone said: it’s the self-made men, meaning those who had risen from humble circumstances, who despise the poor. A long time ago, quoting an American sociologist, Nehru had written: Politics is the beautiful art of obtaining votes from the poor and money from the rich through giving assurances to both the rich and the poor about saving one from the other. And he was a great artist in this respect. In a country of 600 million people, 70 per cent of the world’s illiterates were Indians. And in 1969-70, class struggle and class conflict were dominating the minds of even 19-20 year old boys. The well-paid journalists in big newspapers gave it the name, ‘politics of annihilation’ … He does not know whether power flowed through the barrel of a gun, but he did know that the number of illiterates in the state of West Bengal alone was greater than the number of illiterates in the whole of Europe. The lady speaks in a voice as soft as muslin. Giant posters requesting tax-free saving in the National Savings Fund, right next to Nirodh posters. This huge world was God’s farmhouse. All the people would be judged by his inviolable law here, for as long as true could be distinguished from false. In human society now, the chaff was more than the wheat … Yes, one by one, each one of them was killed, before being killed their eyes were gouged out, nails were driven into their skulls with a hammer, their argumentative tongues were pulled out, and the breasts of young women were sliced … using a sharp cleaver. Seeing that terrifying scene, loud screams can be heard in the cinema theatre. In the wintry night, the flowing river and the mysterious forest nearby, deep in intimacy, side by side.

Bitu had then passed out.

Other than a few drunkards, no one was awake in the hotel. In the middle of a herd of buffaloes, the bullet-riddled Balthazar, that donkey of Bresson’s. It is dying by the minute. Before that it had participated in the religious procession.

Atolyus stole Sisyphus’ sheep. Sisyphus eloped with Atolyus’ daughter Anticleia. Salmoneus occupied the throne of Sisyphus. Sisyphus raped the daughter of Salmoneus. Tyro murdered Sisyphus’ son. Salmoneus was accused of the murder and was expelled from the country. Tryro married Uncle Graham. Sisyphus got back the throne.

– Where are you
– Somewhere in the dark
After that came the tittering sound of laughter.
All the while, something happens inside, in this way. He changes, he experiences. He experiences the change himself. After losing God, a huge void was created in his life, now he fills that void with experience. Nothing was contemptible to him anymore, human greatness as well as human bones and filth, were both the same and as natural. What has Bitu given me? I have to ask myself this question, and I have to answer it too. I got life’s secret from her. If I have to fight against life, I’ll fight, and this very life will then select one of us. And Bitu, you probably won’t believe me, but my sliding and falling in this way is not shameful, there’s nothing to be pained about. This is how I lie in wait to ambush life. That’s how I survive. The survival is not of the everyday variety, like others, to whom life only shows its fangs, to whom life appears as mundane, bloody and hollow. An acute strangeness develops in every individual. It grows. As he wakes up, a terrible hangover. He can’t see properly, a headache, a nauseous feeling. Through the mist, the tall trees on the sides of the road take on a ghostly appearance. Pictures hang on the walls, oil paintings, such refined taste. He pulls them down and throws them away. The sound of breaking glass shatters the silence. Mother and daughter titter in laughter. I’m not jealous, am I? It’s not clear whether it’s the mother’s voice or the daughter’s. Somprakash, tall and lanky, had taken her out. At first she was quite curious: oh … no more, Som, please. How the two of them had cavorted! The tips of the blades of grass pricked the bare back like needles. I forced her to drink quite a bit of brandy. My mind wandered to the desolate hotel on the sea coast. She stands on the balcony, gazing at the endless stretch of sea, still and calm. After that a cigarette, gentle puffs. Bitu loved strip tease. She had performed too, a few times, at private parties, on the request of friends. Somprakash knows. On the last occasion he had seen it with his own eyes. A yellow woman, naked, on horseback, and behind, on the vast backdrop, sunset. This picture becomes clearer and vivid. If one strained one’s ears, the neigh of a horse can most certainly be heard. Right underneath, beneath the supreme teacher Mao’s picture, mother pulls out lice from her daughter’s hair. The party wanted the masses to learn to respect the leaders. On the right side, the local arts centre. The subject of the exhibition, Socialist Realism, of course devoid of any hint of nudity. On the left side, a classroom in Sweden, projecting a ‘blue film’, the teacher conducts a sexology class. Joya nudges and says: Hey – what do you think … Isn’t Bitu there … the door’s open … So what? Bitu’s grown up now. Joya keeps thinking that Bitu would become even more beautiful. She suddenly remembers her own age. What does she give to Som?  ‘Shh, quiet. Can you hear that?’ ‘Really, amazing’ … They spent a few days at the hotel, lying under the blanket on the soft bed. There was hardly anyone else awake in the hotel, other than a few drunkards. Something fell from Joya’s hands in the kitchen, something made of glass. The sound of shattering. When the sound entered the room, Somprakash was proposing to Bitu that they watch a blue movie. But she doesn’t feel like doing anything at all, its terribly monotonous. When the whole system was false and devoid of morality, then it’s idiotic to stick to some bloody old sentiment … Wonderful aroma from your cooking, Somprakash forces himself to make the compliment. The scope for acting was quite limited here. The dialogue begins like this –

My friend Tiya had an abortion, but I don’t want to do that. After all, contraceptives are there. And even if I don’t have it, so what? I don’t make a fuss about sex. I like him, so he’s my father. But I like him. And I like Subroto too. But then everything depends … I don’t mind sleeping with anyone. Actually, I don’t love them at all, I just want to own them. Are you talking about the London Observer? I’ve read that article, very interesting –


…………………………………………………………………………
LOVE ‘DOCTOR’ HITS THE JACKPOT
[From Peter McGill in Tokyo]

Sex and education have long held pride of place in the Japanese list of obsessions, but until the arrival of the Junior Health Club in Tokyo, no one had tapped the enormous potential of joining them together to make money. An enterprising businessman called Yasuo Ishii recently hit the jackpot by offering evening classes in sex ‘counselling’ as well as a chance to improve sexual technique, and to work out frustrations with stimulating sex with hired ‘models’ …
………………………………………………………………………………

Here, a class of affluent readers would definitely support me. They would support this so-called unethical relation. But they will surely take from me too, in another way. ‘They’re human too, they too are rational’– they’d like that to be said too. Actually, they compliment me in the hope that they, this class, can employ my support as capital to legitimize their own doings.
– Am I going too far in trying to help you?
When I recollect past conduct that is fearful, I try to get busy with any kind of work. The condition becomes dangerous – it would be wrong to call it fear. I don’t feel like doing anything. I become like stone. If I had a blade nearby, I’d commit suicide. But if I have to do that I’d have to go to the bathroom and search for the blade and get it. But eventually I don’t do even that. Bitu, give me company, let’s get a couple of beers and sit in the lounge. A bruise steadily becomes clear on the girl’s breast, from where pus oozes out and trickles down, an angry red sore – is that a symbol? However, here, in these parts, instead of seeing something or showing something, understanding it is most vital, of course. Trying to show something to her, till the very end, seeing where it will reach, is all very complex. But one advances and then leaves it, leaves it to others to understand. It all depends upon the person who can understand this endeavour. Not all of it may be true either. Apparently it may seem no one has any relation with anyone else. That may be, but it will all still continue; these characters, in the way they have crystallised, the incidents that they bring about in the normal course. And another point, what the writer wants to bring about. And yet another point, what the reader thinks. A fourth element would be added to this, the way the whole thing is presented, meaning, the relation between sexual repression and social repression. And another element, perhaps an emotional reason – why perhaps, definitely so, and at this very moment. Someone enters the bedroom. She makes her clothes alright, with hard thumps. I heard what you said, Joya then said. Setting his clothes right, he saw Joya standing at the door. He clutches his two shoulders with his hands. Resolute, he brazenly, advanced towards Bitu. Putting on the shirt in her hand, Bitu moved to the other side of the bed. She then stood near the window, a cigarette lit in her mouth. The mother standing at the door, the father standing with his back to her, with only a dressing gown worn hastily, Bitu had only a partially-buttoned shirt on. Suddenly, in front of her very eyes, Joya saw Somprakash grab and rip Bitu’s shirt. Bitu tried to hold on to the ripped shirt, somehow or the other. The jeans and everything else lying beside the bed. Father and mother were in the middle of the room now. Both were looking at one another. Joya saw the father advancing towards the daughter. She pushed him hard. From the corner of her eyes, Bitu saw her father fallen on the floor, mother bending down over his head, what is it that one sees – violence or vengeance? She smokes and blows out smoke absent-mindedly, as if unaware of where she is. The cigarette dangles out of the corner of her lips, blood from a cut on the lip, blood on the tip of the cigarette too. Don’t touch her, Joya repeats. Somprakash came face-to-face with the girl, the cigarette dangles, face turned slightly in the other direction. He extended his left hand to the girl’s shoulder, his other hand was moving near the front of her shirt, its shadow falls on the wall. Bitu’s willing, he says. Joya drops down. Right there. On the doorstep. The shadow of that too, there. There was no more scope for over-simplification, one incident on top of another incident, one ingredient on top of another ingredient, all becoming so saturated that no tendency is separately identifiable any longer, in an immaculate way. The whole scene needn’t have been seen in slow motion so far, but this shrill poison-blue incident is employed to scorch and nail our conscience. Although the particular incident is about the debasement in a specific section of society, once it’s shown as a still image it enables one to discover its links with the general crisis in society. Again, the ethicality of the act can be evaluated. Here is someone who tries to bring about a balance between two opposing forces. A stone of appropriate size always reaches the fist of the one who dares to defy, as soon as the muscles of him arm are stretched. The whole room is in a disheveled state, the mattress and pillows lie on the floor. On a corner of the bed, Bitu’s bra. While ascending the stairs, a large reproduction of Boticelli’s Venus on the landing. It comes to mind. As he ran for his life, it was as if his bones hands had turned to water. Not finding booze he drank two gulps of oil, by mistake. Hair oil, Joya’s, Bitu wasn’t born then. And then vomiting. Don’t think I missed the stories about you on the walls of the college bathroom. As he vomited, he said, I saw the writing: Som + Joya – the two come here … at night. You think you’re very beautiful – isn’t it? I also remember, it was written on the wall of the college urinal – how many times had Somprakash noticed it: ‘I want to see Joya’s – .’ In place of the dash, a vulgar word denoting the private parts. As he fondled Bitu, that line floated into mind. The two of them were active in the Students’ Federation then, and then love, and love marriage. So who did Bitu get the disease from? He strokes Bitu’s body. Flirtatious whore. And wasn’t it imaginary – but higher mathematics too was imaginary. The bad times made me realize even more than before that life was in every way rich in infinite variety and beautiful, the value systems about which we keep thinking unnecessarily, all those have no significance for life’s necessities. The trees themselves burst into new leaves. He saw, the dark clouds on one side of the sky were rapidly spreading across the other side. For the last few days, there had been kaalboishaki-like gales and thunder-showers at this hour. Through the window with open curtains were visible many well-dressed men and women who had been invited there, plates in the hands of many. Suddenly, like a gust of wind, a burst of laughter, bright lights, the fragrance of the bunch of rajnigandhas on the table. The gentleman looked completely different wearing a dhoti and a silk punjabi. A thick garland of bel on his neck, a dot of sandal paste on his forehead, he looked just like a bridegroom should. In the course of doing physical exercise, there had developed in Somprakash a kind of narcissistic restlessness for full satisfaction from the ‘taste’ of his own body. Within this obsession with his own body lay an intemperate wildness, which in another sequence is manifest in Bitu and Somprakash’s intimacy. If one observed closely, one could see that it was actually like a wild game they played with one another, resembling animal sex. In the delight of the game, Somprakash gets the taste of the satisfaction of unbridled freedom of his body, and the bodily right over another body. There’s no element of love or such like, or surrender attached, in any way. In the shot with which this scene reaches a climax, Bitu is lying on top of Som’s supine body, he lies in carefree pleasure, sheltered by the softness and warmth of the body; Somprakash’s supine body, his sexuality submerged in narcissistic ecstasy. In Somprakash’s own language, of that time: actually this is a battle against one’s own body, in which the body becomes very eloquent, as if every nerve is a string of a melodious harp. After that, the scene of the final farewell is a grand one, when Bitu, without saying anything, tiptoes away slowly from the room, and, he lying in bed, pretending to be asleep, is silent, knowing that neither of them would ever meet again in their lives. Thereafter perhaps they would meet once again, 50, 60 or 100 years later, for only half an hour. Bitu’s body would then be ugly and deformed, one leg shorter than the other after a failed operation, her body become bent. Just here, in the middle of this, after the sex scenes are shown, a negative is placed on the opposite side, and the two things become clear: what you see, and how you see your seeing – on which the whole matter depends. Meaning, this exciting sexual movement – one in front, and one behind – the seeing itself, to a great extent, and how it is shown too, will determine the process of your classification, which way you are going, and how far you are able to come away from your class-determined situation. You are looking at a 19 year old girl, who, at particular times is nothing but a pleasure object to her father, and at other times, she is different, normal and sensitive, and in that sense complex too. Again, there’s the father’s side, who breaks social codes, at least that’s his boast, and from that point of view he’s radical, and he too keeps a sharp watch, on how he’s being presented, what his flaws are and why, the symbols and such like are observed minutely, and the endeavour to extract meaning is undertaken. The word ‘endeavour’ is necessary here, because his mental make-up has compelled him to see the exploitation that has gone on in level after level of society as on par with sexual exploitation. And so he too did just that, and did it expertly. In this way, through all this, Bitu is brought down along the massive staircase, taken deep down, to the spotlight of civilization, which chases her and brings her down. It was as if the light that for all these days had been a symbol of liberation for her, had provided her sustenance, that very light was now attacking her, reducing her to utter nakedness, from which emerges the distressed wail: What does he want from me, am I only a woman, a female body? Pieces of the future come and become one with the present. She is lifted up and clothed in a red robe. She is marked out as the sacrificial offering to God and death. Gradually her body becomes limp. The final piece of her clothing falls off. The body is exposed, blood, flesh and bones. Both life and death come and receive her in the same hand.

THE END

[1982]

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