04 July, 2012

Two and a Half Gangas

or the Picture of the Crowd Whizzing Past a Man Who Ducked His Head and Took  a Plunge

And all realism itself
Has to be realised from imagination

1. The Death-Line Dweller

The blackish red colour forming on the white basin immediately drew both one’s eyes. It was like a proper abstract painting. The picture of the stomach’s secret sickness rapidly exploded in deep colour over the white surface.

They patrolled, blowing whistles, over the wall that was some five feet above us. When they came near us, we stopped our work of opening the chain and fell silent. But there was no need for such caution. Because it simply wasn’t possible for the watchmen patrolling at that height to discern the presence of a person submerged neck deep in water. The chains in the water continued to make a monotonous clinking sound. Concealing himself under the boat, he advanced and whispered something to me. There was the sound of water lapping the boat, the continuous sound of the water, nothing that he said could be understood. After a while, the ring holding the chain came loose in the fist and pulled by the hidden current the boat too left the shore and floated further and further away. Clutching the chain in my hand, I began swimming along with the tug of the floating boat. After that both of us climbed in. The boat then drifted away from the bank, and steadily made its way to two and a half Gangas. Knocking on the floor-boards, two planks had to be removed, there may be a need for something to paddle with. Not worrying about which direction we were drifting towards, they just tried to ensure that the head of the boat was pointed towards the opposite bank. It was as if he understood our question, right then, as if a navigator’s skill was his birthright. It seemed the rope laid out by him through iron ring would completely secure just this boat.

Hopeless torment and the same detached  despair. The use of the word ‘guerilla’ makes a writer-worker a proletarian and definitely, substantially accomplishes the extinction of the intellectual elite. Because he was of the view that violence, crime and destructive activities were all, in the current world, actually words that reinforced, peace, orderliness and normality. Slowly, like this, he kept exposing this civilization’s pawnbroking and the accumulated hidden games, apparently …

In the middle of all this talk,
suddenly, as if materialising from thin air, a
teenage girl emerged. Clad in jeans and a T shirt,
she looked like something one only saw in Playboy. He stared
greedily. The country’s India, Kolkata.

Tile-roofed slum hutments made up the entire area of Atabag Surkikal. So densely packed together that even daylight couldn’t fully enter the neighbourhoods. Lanes after lanes, ever narrower lanes, a veritable maze of lanes. In an eight feet by nine feet room, enclosed with bamboo matting, fifteen women were cramped together, elderly, young and children. At night they slept by turn. There wasn’t space for everyone to sleep simultaneously. The old father and mother also lived in that very room, besides the two elder brothers with their wives and children. The younger son got married and entered the 8 feet by 9 feet with his new bride. Babies were born, babies died. The children and youth set out at down, in search of wages. Gambling, illicit liquor and drug dens every ten minutes. They grew up in the climate of bomb and bullet battles, abductions and counter-abductions. Video parlours in lane after lane. Pornographic films were shown in broad daylight. Sometimes a scintillating two to five minute clip was added to a current Hindi film. 10-12 year old boys too went in there to appease their curiosity. Sitting beside them were people their father’s or uncle’s age. Even before hair sprouted on their upper lip they became aware that in this line it was very easy to earn. If a few small packets of heroine could be delivered from the main den to the small dens, a crisp, large-denomination note was obtained. Wearing their school uniforms, if they went out with the pouches concealed within the pages of the school books, the babus of the citizen’s committee could not easily suspect them. The police wouldn’t catch them, all that was dealt with by the dealer, through monthly payment arrangements. Lots of easy money lay ahead, as a smuggler, heroine-peddler, supply-man or penciller. To them, all this was part of life, no crime at all.

Two brothers, 10-11 years old – it was three at night then – were playing teen patti under the light of the lamp-post at the head of the alley. Yes, gambling for money. And while gambling, no one was anyone’s brother, the one who won took all the money. Not a penny was spared because someone was a brother. He said: Brother and sister-in-law are asleep now. When they woke up at dawn, he and his brother would get a place to sleep. They whiled away the night in this way, playing cards and so on. No, the police were afraid to enter this lane, so they had no fears on that score.

Firoz did not drink alcohol. However, from morning to night
he kept smoking ganja. Under the banyan tree, immediately behind the
workers’ quarters. He was always surrounded by the
Class IV workers of the slaughterhouse. One of them, Chote Lal, was Firoz’s
right hand man. From morning to night, there was a medium sized jute bag
in Firoz’s hand. The bag was filled four times.
Chote Lal kept the accounts. He made bundles of the rupee notes. After that
the money reached Maqbol Mia’s meat shop
outside the slaughterhouse. Everyone knew Firoz. The operators
were also duly terrified of him. Someone in basti no. 292 called me to the shadows and said: Ganja Firoz is the local Sai Baba. The unofficial agent
of the upper echelons. Even the babus make sure they don’t ever mess
with him. We’re just supply-men! But
his real babu – even if you sat here and undertook penances,
you’d never catch him! He lives in Barrabazar. Money
flows by itself into his bag. Doesn’t have to ask for it.
Firoz also had a side
business. You’d find out if you made just a few inquiries. But
be very careful. I can’t tell you anything.
Where should I look? Try to find Daal Bhaat under
the bridge. He begs, a skinny boy.
You’ll find out from
him. You’ll have to spend a bit of money. Daal Bhaat
was found right under the Lohapul bridge. His actual name
was Baldy. A twelve year old boy. He spoke Bangla
fluently. A restless look in his eyes. One could sense
at first sight that he was very clever. Hey, are you Daal Bhaat?
Cut that out … just say which one you want.
Hmm – smartass … hurry up you! But …
you want a shot, right? Yes. Are you new or what?
Yes brother. Oh, that’s why … There’re three types. For 55, 75 and 100 rupees.
As you’re new, take the 55 rupee one. After buying the stuff, looking this way and that, I gave a crisp 20 rupee note to him as
baksheesh. Found out a
lot of things. ‘Pata’ meant heroine. For the last few years,
Firoz Sheikh had been running this business in the Tangra area.
The stuff came from Altaf,
of Garden Reach. The main hub was the slaughterhouse. Other than that,
Baldy, alias Daal Bhaat, was the medium of sale. I started to leave.
Suddenly Baldy held my right arm firmly,
looking helplessly at my face, he said:
Babu, promise me, you won’t tell
anyone else. Why, brother? That bastard, Firoz, will kill me.
He’ll thrash me and kick me out of the locality. He’s very
powerful, babu. A lot of big folks come in their cars to meet him.
He pays me 15 rupees a day. That’s what
my mother and I survive on. He beats up
my mother too. He forces himself into mother’s bed at
night …

Yes, do you know, this country of ours, India,
became independent 16 hours after the birth of Pakistan.
It was supposed to become independent on 14th August, but
because the planetary configurations on that day were
not convenient, Indian leaders
decided upon independence at 12, midnight.

I observed a lot of girls standing on the balconies of the houses at the corners of the lanes. As we went by, a girl looked down from the window of a house and said: Oh young babu, I say, are you new here? My husband communicated something to her in signs, I couldn’t understand what exactly it was. After a while, he entered a house together with me. A three-storey house. We climbed up a narrow staircase. A medium sized room. Although it was still afternoon, a tubelight was on, the window was shut, it was completely covered by a curtain. A fat, matronly woman sat on the cot, chewing pan. Seeing us, she stood up. Taking out a handkerchief from his pocket and wiping the perspiration around his neck, my husband said: Here’s Middle Aunty. And this is Reba. She will be working here in this place of ours from now on. Chewing away on her pan, Middle Aunty replied indifferently: Okay. After that, looking once at my husband and then at me, she said: You sit down for a while. I’ll be back. Middle Aunty left. Setting the fan speed to maximum, he said: You’ve legged it such a long way ever since morning, you must be very hungry. Just wait a bit, I’ll be back with some food. He went out of the room. Although the fan was on full speed, I still perspired. After about five minutes, Middle Aunty entered the room carrying a steel plate piled with food. Eat up, dear girl. After setting down the food, Middle Aunty left the room again. To tell the truth, I was very hungry. I hadn’t often seen so much food at once. At home, two bare meals of dry rotis and gourd curry. I devoured all the food on the plate. There were large sweetmeats, kachoris, chop. The size of the jalebis – pink in colour – dripping syrup! I licked and lapped up and finished everything. We had set out a long time ago, in the morning – travelled by train and bus – hadn’t eaten anything really. After a while, Middle Aunty entered the room with a glass of water. Offering me the glass, she said: Take it. After I’d drunk the water to my satisfaction, she took the glass and plate. You rest here for a while now. There’s work to be done. Before I could ask her anything, Middle Aunty left the room and went away.  I was all alone in the empty room. I wondered where my husband had gone. Would I get the job! As I was thinking about all this, suddenly Middle Aunty arrived, pulled the door shut, latched it from outside, and left. A strange fear seized me. I hoped I hadn’t  fallen into a bad place. I had come through so many narrow lanes, the whole place had seemed strange to me. Thinking along these lines, I wept. Then I began to knock on the door. Where are you – why did she shut the door – do open the door, Aunty … oh Middle Aunty – where has he gone – open the door … I fall at your feet. I banged at the door. Finally, using both my hands, I pushed and shook the door. In a little while the door really opened. I saw a huge man standing in the doorway. Bushy hair on his head. A thick moustache. Bare-bodied. His chest covered in black hair. He wore a short dhoti, tied like a loincloth. Looking at him, it seemed his body was made of steel. He pushed me and threw me on the bed. Why are you shouting? From his speech, I made out he was a non-Bengali. I began to cry, and said to him: Where is my husband? He brought me here saying there was a job vacancy in a company. Oh yes … so what if he brought you? Why don’t you sit quietly? I began to cry even louder, and said: Let me go! I don’t need anybody. I’ll go by myself. The non-Bengali man laughed and said: But you can’t go away! As soon as he said that, the man lifted me up, threw me down on the bed, shut the door and latched it. I trembled in fear. Even my tears dried up in the face of the fear of the worst. The non-Bengali man said: What’s your name? I remained silent. Hey, why are you silent? Why don’t you tell me what’s your name? Full of fear, I replied: Reba. Tsk, tsk, what a sweet name! Re-ba! I broke into tears again and fell at his feet. Please let me go! I beg you, let me go! The man began to laugh. He said: Let you go – oh no! This is Ali Baba’s cave. It’s not easy to reach here. And going away is also very difficult. Once you enter this place, you can’t leave. Do you know what the name of this place is? I shook my head. The man said: This is Sonagachi. Where women … I mean … Shocked, I mumbled: But my husband told me about a job in a medicine company … As if he were robbing even my words, the man said: Yes, of course, this too is a medicine company. The babu who gets you will come to you, and you will keep that babu happy with medicine.

A branch of a dead tree had been planted.
on the stony earth of a
hill.  A sanyasi
came everyday and watered the base of that dead
branch and prayed that
it came back to life. After a long time,
one day the dead tree did actually come back to life again,
living branches covered with leaves spread out
towards the sky. In the beginning of his film, Sacrifice,
Tarkovsky tells us this fairy tale.

On the 26th of July, a senior officer of the Reserve Bank of India, Mr Krishnatre, went to receive his son, at half past nine at night. He drove his car to Howrah Station and parked his car in the parking lane between platforms 8 and 9. Almost at once, a black Ambassador car arrived beside his car. Just as Krishnatre and his wife and daughter got off from their car and advanced a few steps, four youths sprang out of the Ambassador, with daggers in their hands. After three of them pounced on the three family members, they resisted and began shouting out. The girl was struck by the dagger of one of them and wounded, but she hung on to the sleeve of his shirt. The wife too frantically resisted another. So that no one from nearby came forward to help them, the fourth person raised his revolver, threatening anyone who dared. This incident went on for over twelve minutes. A crowd formed all around, but no one dared to come forward to help. Despite their utmost resistance, the gang took the mother and daughter’s valuables and left. The distance between the spot where the incident took place and the office of the railway police was 15-20 yards. Even though there had been so much of screaming and shouting, over such a long spell of time, no policeman came there. After the incident, Krishnatre ran to the police and identifying himself, said: They are running away! If they’re chased they may well be caught! The police didn’t pay any heed to that, and after questioning them for half an hour, finally snapped out: Why do you set out wearing so much gold and ornaments? Theft and robbery is bound to happen.

On Tuesday something fantastic happened on the first day of the law examination in Calcutta University. The examination was to start at 12 noon. Around half past ten, a bunch of students, both male and female, could be seen clambering up a drain-pipe beside Asutosh Building, making their way up to the first floor. Climbing up to the verandah, they would make their way to and enter the examination hall and occupy their preferred places in advance. They would tear up the pasted seat numbers and sit wherever they wanted. Boys and girls entering the examination hall clambering up a drain-pipe – what’s so great about that scene – see a lot of that in films. Within a few minutes after the exam started, the gates of Asutosh and Hardinge Buildings were closed and locked. There was a sizeable police deployment outside each gate. But from the direction of Medical College, from across the street, books were supplied, one after another, via a rope line. Pedestrians stopped and stared in astonishment at the scene. A crowd formed. Another group standing outside went about distributing the answers to the objective questions. The police on duty, their backs turned to the scene, were busy kneading tobacco in the palm of their hands. A few exam candidates could be seen standing on the verandah and writing on their answer sheets. At the meeting of the University Syndicate, one member raised a question about the law examination. The spokesperson interrupted him and said: The exam took place quite peacefully. There was no trouble anywhere.

The fourteen year old boy, wearing a checked shirt, looked quite clever and smart. It was evening and Teddy, sitting in his pad on Mirza Ghalib Street, introduced me to him, puffing on his long, imported cigarette. I wanted to know what he did. Without any hesitation from seeing a pyjama-punjabi clad Bengali babu, he answered in fluent Bangla. He ran a business. However, the business was a bit of a secret. He had with him whores of all ages and races. Of all ages from 15 to 30. He ran the business through them. When I asked to know what this business was like, at first he looked suspiciously at my pyjama-punjabi. Then, finding reassurance in Teddy’s eyes, he said, twirling an almost imaginary moustache: These aren’t ordinary streetwalkers, Sir, all are pedigreed females. Contacts are made with babus over the phone. I supply girls regularly to garden-houses, parties, and even in offices. Taking out a bulky envelope from his pocket, he said: I have photos – do you want one? A college-educated, beautiful girl? With a sexy figure – can sing Rabindar Sangeet well. A person like you will really like her. Take her and go for a weekend to Diamond Harbour or Digha. Go and have fun. No diseases, Sir – no AIDS.

2.  The things that enrage me –
     All the things that make me sick

22nd of November, 1988.
In Khatra 2 Block, of Bankura district,
In the primary health centre
The day Sriram Bauri’s wife’s newborn child
Was eaten up by dogs …
What’s the use of such momentarily enraged writing – after just a while
the anger would wane
Put your arms on the two sides and lie down on the ground. Yes, on the ground, because … because in this country, there is the touch of the soil in your advance, this fact has always to be explained to the people. Oh, how alluring the term “touch of the soil” is! From politics-wallahs to intellect-wallahs, everyone is instantly captivated. This time you have to lie down and walk at the same time. That means raise your arse from your hips and as you bring it down again forcefully, keep raising it up. Ra-i-se. Observe how, in this country, to be in front, continuously, to attain progress’ highest peak, you can advance simply by lying down. Are you thinking of keeping your image bright? There’s no point in thinking about that, the image shall be there once you’ve progressed. If there remains a nagging doubt in your mind, then just have the juice of raw turmeric everyday, regularly, and on an empty stomach. From time to time, mix cucumber and lemon and smear it on your face and let it dry on its own. Scrub and wash your face, first with slightly warm water, and then with cold water. Observe how bright and radiant your darkened face has become. Gaze at the full moon that’s risen today, it’s so large.

From the sweepers’ colony, late this evening, the loud screams of a pig being slaughtered float down. Surely a red hot poker was being inserted  in the pig’s anus right now. Dinu Thakur began to clean Mother Kali’s tongue, using oil paint. Kali puja every Saturday – and Kali Puja is our public festival … Where’ll I find the kerrysin to light the lamp? What does the gormin provide? Utter two words and you are labelled a naxalite. Yes, of course, it’s been a long time since man went to the moon, and brought back moon soil. Was shown in this very Calcutta. Yes, Mr Editor, I feel repulsed by your mention of ‘interview’, it’s like the daily piss and shit that I don’t care a fuck about, about which bastard said what. Basically I am not a bhadralok, and the biggest tragedy is that I have to put on the appearance of a bhadralok all the time. To show my subjection to my wife, I wear rings with huge gemstones on my fingers, or else there’s disharmony in the family every day. For me, the word “India” is just another word – actually, I have no experience of its existence – and yet one has to express one’s belief in an undivided India – otherwise the police will catch you, they’ll make you forget your dad’s name. And to tell the truth, you know what – this is what’s called surviving like a fucking asshole.

When Erendira’s grandmother is murdered, you see a green tent floating away, green blood …

I pressed the face down and then I landed a kick on the stomach. The writer person had been frightened by the sudden assault. As soon as the kick landed he was thrown on the street. A groaning sound emanated from his throat. The jhola-bag on his shoulder had landed a few feet away. Books and papers scattered here and there. The pen in the pocket on his chest had also fallen away. The way it had been ordered – running my hand under his pyjamas, I squeezed it very hard. So hard that it burst and just after that …

3. Awaiting Human Relationship
    The very complexity of relationship

Interrupting Avinash, Abhay babu asked: Where’s the lady now? Not there. What do you mean not there? She’s gone out, Sir. Gone out? Yes, she told Maheswar that she was going to the riverside for a stroll. When did she go out? Oh, that would have been at about a quarter to six or so. For that’s when Maheswar mops the verandah. She had told him before leaving. What did the lady look like? Oh, you could say she was quite beautiful. Slim figure. An intelligent look in the eyes and face. What would be the lady’s age? You can’t be sure with women – let’s say 24-25. She was wearing a brown and white, printed, silk sari. She looked nice in that. The most exceptional thing was the lady’s hair. Although there was a faint line of sindur in her centre parting, the plait of her hair … I mean, reaching past the buttocks … not just long but also so neatly tied. When she was walking away, with her back to me … Will you stop! Don’t you have anything else to say other than describing the lady’s body, hair and buttocks? But Sir, you told me then … Tell me what happened after that? Oh, nothing much. In the evening I spotted Harihar babu and Titir Devi in front of a paan shop. Harihar babu was buying a paan. After that? After that I didn’t see anything to speak of. But at about 10 at night, Arun came and infomed me that the gentleman was apparently sitting at home and drinking. I told him not to talk about it. After all, anyone can drink, people do drink too nowadays, but if they don’t engage in any drunken behaviour, there’s nothing we can do. All these babus waste their money according to their whims and moods. Drinking itself is a ’tatus symbol now. It’s best we don’t bother ourselves with such trivial matters. Another thing Sir, I was absolutely right. They didn’t create any commotion. Rather, they had Arun get them some mutton curry at night. That’s enough, you don’t have to jabber anymore. Please send Arun. As soon as Arun entered the room, Abhoy babu shouted at him: Hey boy, how did you know the gentleman had shut the door and was drinking inside? You have a habit of eavesdropping, do you? Oh no! What do you say, Sir! It was I who fetched the soda and the potato crisps. What was the lady doing there? She was sitting on a chair and swinging her legs. Do you know this lady, boy? She’s a frequent visitor when boudi isn’t around. And? And what – when I bought the soda and crisps the gentleman said, do shut the door when you go out. I don’t know anything more than that. What did you see in the morning, boy? When Maheswar asked me to delay fetching tea, I did not attach any significance to that. For the babus do guzzle booze and so on at night, they sleep like buffalos till eight or nine in the morning. And as soon as they wake up, they say, get me a cup of strong coffee, will you. Did I ask you about all that, boy? No Sir. Then why do you jabber such nonsense? Tell me what you saw when you went into the flat in the morning. As soon as I opened the door, I saw that the fan and light were on. And then my eyes fell on the bed.

As soon as their eyes met, she called the boy with a gesture of her hand. Sarala had gone to get milk. The door was open. The boy galloped up to the flat. What’s the matter, boudi? She stared at him fixedly. Like Mithun, he too had a well-toned body. The boy felt shy. Boudi, were you saying something to us? Oh … yes … I mean, would you please exchange my book from the library? Why wouldn’t I do that? Give it to me, I’ll go and do it. Come, come inside. She called the boy in and took him inside. She made him sit right on the bed. Appearing to look for this and that, she asked: What’s your name? You didn’t mind that I called you, did you? What do you say, boudi – I’m an unemployed fellow – I while away the time chatting at the kerb of the neighbourhood. You’ll get Siddharth whenever you call. And you’re not supposed to come unless I call you, is it? No, I mean you are all alone the whole day, so for me to come out of the blue … It’s because I’m all alone that you should come. Time just doesn’t seem to pass for me. Your dada leaves early in the morning and returns at ten at night. Besides exchanging books, you could also surely come to chat for a while.

Tell me Ghosh babu, did you hear any altercation or fighting or any kind of sound from the adjacent flat last night? I did hear something. Sitting up on his chair, Ajoy babu asked: What did you hear? Quite a bit of noise, like a scuffle. But not too loud. Despite hearing it, I didn’t pay any heed. At that age there’s bound to be some scuffling sound when a boy and a girl are in bed. When one’s older … What else did your mistress tell you in the morning? She just said I’m going for a walk along the riverside. Yesterday night your babu had a pain in the chest. He went to sleep very late. Don’t bother him now. Give him tea at about nine. I’ll definitely be back by then. What was your mistress wearing? Oh, a brown silk sari. Carrying anything? A bag, I mean a ladies handbag. Okay. Do you suspect anything about the woman? No Sir, everything seemed to be alright. As always, her hair flowed down her back. Of course, my mistress’ hair is something to see. What else? And how women adorn themselves. But she hadn’t put any lipistick. It’s lipstick, boy. That’s all Sir.

On that ill-fated night, the man returned quite late. Handing me the tea kettle he was holding, he folded up his umbrella and put it down. He shut the mat-door of the shop carefully, took out two cups from inside, with handles gone, and poured tea and held the cups out towards me. Here, sip it while it’s hot. There’s no milk, I brought liquor tea with ginger. The wife made it, on a dung fire. There may be a slight smoky flavour. But don’t worry about that. You’re wet, you’ll feel better. He himself sipped a cup of tea first. Making an ‘aah’ sound, he said, the tea’s really well made. Strong and sweet. It’s hot. Here, take it, take a sip. It won’t be nice if it’s cold. Middle daughter came a few days ago. There was just a little bit of milk in the morning for my grandson. I said the milk was needed for tea. The wife said, on a cloudy night like this, it’s better to have strong liquor tea with ginger rather than tea with milk. So as soon as I heard that it’s better I brought the liquor tea.

Mark today’s date on the calendar. If we get married 2-3 months later, the baby will be born 2-3 months earlier. Don’t suspect me then. I said: Yes, mistress, I’ll remember that. Wrapping a towel of mine around herself, Titir went into the bathroom. But she didn’t latch the door. There was the sound of the shower. Titir was humming a tune. After about half an hour or three-quarters of an hour, she emerged. She looked like a marble sculpture. The upper part of the impossibly fair-skinned breasts was wet. Changing into her clothes and swathing her wet hair in the  towel, she came and sat beside me. She said: I’m terribly hungry. But I don’t want anything hot or hard. Just a Thums Up. I was about to get up to order that. Titir held my hand and drew me towards her. She said: Sit down. I need to talk to you.

Boudi! Oh boudi! Subodh entered the room, panting. What happened? You don’t love me any more like you used to. Why? What gave you that idea? Because earlier you used to talk to me in an intimate way, but now you don’t. Oh, is that it? But are you still a little boy like you were before? You’ve grown so much – why, after a few days you’ll bring a colourful, sparkling bride home! Is it appropriate to be so intimate now? It is! If you really love me then it is appropriate to be intimate. Okay, okay, … now, tell me, what news have you brought? There’s two things. The first is that Dung-lady is dead. And I’m leaving, taking a train tomorrow night. Oh no! Dung-lady was such a nice person! All day long, she wandered around gathering dung, rapt in herself, and at night, lighting a lamp, she used to plaster dung on the wall till 10 at night! Tell me Subodh, the day I too suddenly die, what will you do? Yes …but only if I let you go, isn’t it? I’ll hold you so tight that … Saying so, Subodh hugged boudi with both arms. What are you doing … crazy boy … let me go … it’s hurting … oh yes, where are you going on the night train? To Tatanagar, as part of the office team, to play. I’ll return after a week. What will you bring me? A load of iron! Why’s that? What’ll I do with iron? There’s no alternative. Nothing’s available there other than iron. Okay, I’ve got to go now … a lot of packing to do.

Mummy … hey, mummy, see what sister’s given for Anasuya Didi! Where, let’s see … but this is a very expensive sari! That’s what I said too. Sister said you don’t have to worry about that … take it and go. Alright, go, don’t be late returning. … I miss Mummy terribly today. From the day she first learnt about their love, she explained so much. She’d say, nobody is happy after a love marriage. All that’s a couple of days’ allure. Youthful attraction, pure and simple. Mummy used to say clearly: After enjoying you for a few days, that love shall not remain. What you’re now crazy about, that very thing will in future seem to be your biggest mistake. And so it began. After that, for several months, like a seasoned actor, I went on acting with him.

Ultimately, on the pretext of having some fun, I dragged Barun to a hotel in Sealdah. Before that, in conversation, I had tried to explain to him that I was glad Titir had left. I reasoned that she was jealous of this love between Barun and me. My succinct words, repeated day after day, had such an impact on Barun that on that very night, after drinking heavily, he couldn’t control himself any longer. With consummate acting, I revealed more and more of the alluring feminine form to him. My skills of deception drove his excitement higher and higher. At the man’s vital moment, drawing myself away, when I repeatedly asked about Titir, in his intoxicated state, Barun blurted out a lot of things to me. Emptying the last dregs of the bottle in Barun’s glass, I carried on my consummate acting. I pretended to drink from the same glass. Then I held out the glass to him. Barun badly wanted to have me close to him now. I pretended to go close to him. I went into his arms. It seemed Barun wanted just this all along. Trying to show manly recklessness with my body, he easily lost all control. I just gnashed my teeth and waited. A man like this, those who usually drink once in a while, for pleasure, after so much of alcohol went into their stomach, they could not be normal at all. I knew that. I quietly observed that gradually Barun’s limbs were turning cold. His speech slurred. The acrid fumes of alcohol made me nauseous. Yet I waited patiently to fulfill my objective. Within five minutes, he lay sprawled on the bed, snoring away noisily, like an animal. The drawstring of his pyjama was completely loose.

I gather you have lots of questions. Take Burroughs’ writing. It’s composed of a kind of cut-up. What happens if I make that cut-up into my kind of cut-up? Again, even if I did the cut-up following the normal process of cut-up, where would things stand? How much of difference is there between the two?

No one is visible but the gate opens slowly. The inner circle and the inner most circle. The starter’s gun explodes. In the flash of an eye a group of three or four crossed the first hurdle. He was not among them. He found it extremely difficult to cross each one of the hurdles. Even before crossing the thirtieth hurdle, I saw two or three people had finished the race.



This is a translation of the original Bengali story “Aarai Gonga” by Subimal Misra. The story appears in the collection Sotyo Utpadito Hoy (Truth is Manufactured), published by the author, Calcutta, 1997.

Translated by V Ramaswamy

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