19 October, 2013

Dance, Miss Snub-nose
















At the back of the human body, there’s a particular region where no hand can reach. Neither the right nor the left, no hand can in any way reach all those spots.

1.

On Saturday, for much of the night, there was a different kind of rain in the Kalipur locality of Madaritala. The colour of the rain was green. Seeing the green rain, terror spread everywhere. Thick, slimy, sticky drops began raining down around midnight. Close to dawn, it rained again. The same green rain. There was an ancient Kali temple in the locality. The temple compound was covered with dense clumps and bushes, and no puja was ever performed there. An eyewitness said, the rain began inside the compound of the Kali temple. It then spread across the nearby areas.  When phone calls were made to the police station to ask for more information, they were told: We too have received reports about green rain. A section of people have started getting out-of-hand because of this. We have received reports about that too. But if the public becomes agitated, tell me, what can we do? After all, we can’t fire upon the unarmed masses. That would be against the Constitution.

After this, when asked about the green rain, the Alipore meteorological office responded that they did not know of any such reports. Nothing could be said until tests had been conducted. However, if a mixture of copper and chromium was present in the air, the colour of the rainwater could be green. In their view, if this incident had really occurred, then an in-depth investigation was definitely called for. Going to Kalipur, one saw all the houses turned green. The impact of green colour splashes. As if green colour had been sprayed there. The marks were so sticky that they couldn’t be washed away with water. A science teacher in the local school said: the more water is applied, the greener it becomes. Look to the west, the colour of ogres and evil spirits is also green. All the ogres in those countries are green. This calls for in-depth investigation. And if it wasn’t something supernatural, then why would the rain centre around the Kali temple? We believe in science, but there are many things which science cannot explain.

2.
Bratindranath was seated on a chair, leaning back a bit, his two hands behind his head, the two palms reversed, his head resting on them. His elder son hesitatingly called him: Baba! At once Bratindranath looked at his son. Ajoy said: everyone wants … I mean, today, all of us … Bratindranath remained in the same posture, he said: tell me clearly. I mean we want to have a party, that’s all. That’s great, but one doesn’t get good bhang nowadays … At one time, in front of Tiwari’s ship in Burrabazar … No, I mean everyone thought … I mean everyone wants to drink beer … Beer! Bratindranath seemed to be taken aback a bit. So who all are going to be there? Everyone, three sons, three daughters-in-law, two sons-in-law, and four grandchildren. Grandchildren will drink beer … they’re thirteen-fourteen years old … the words burst out of his mouth! So what of that … all of them study in English-medium schools. They move around with boys and girls from good families. And in the west, no one thinks of beer as alcohol. They drink it instead of water. Notwithstanding his age, Bratindranath had his wits about him. He understood all there was to understand. So there are about fourteen of you. Where will you get so much beer now! No, no … we won’t need more than fifty bottles. I can arrange for that in a jiffy … you don’t know anything. A lot of middle-class families stock alcohol nowadays. Phone them and they send it across. They charge a higher price, but at least one can get it at any time. And as it’s Holi, why only whiskey and beer, you can get any kind of booze you want. It is Holi today, so all of us, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters want to get together and forget about everything and simply have fun. If anyone passes out, so be it, but we’ll all be at home after all. You have done so much for us, and borne so much hardship to raise us well, we won’t do anything without your knowledge, Baba, we’ll drink only after letting you know and getting your blessings. We want to have a day of fun – and relax, that’s all – so please don’t say no. You don’t have to take the trouble of coming upstairs. Bhojua will bring you the milk and bread at the appropriate time. You can eat right here and then go to bed. You could listen to the radio. There should be nice kirtans as it’s Holi.

3.
A resident in the women’s hostel on Dilkhusha Street fell ill, and centering around this, there was a public disturbance and a lot of tension. The residents complained that the matron of the hostel had locked the hostel from outside and left. She did so everyday. When the girl suddenly fell ill, it was not possible to call a doctor for her. Her condition progressively deteriorated. One person was thoughtful enough to phone the police station. But there was no clear response from the police station. The bold girl then scaled the rear wall of the hostel and went out, broke the lock on the front door and sent sick Ameena to a nursing home. When the lock was being broken, the old wall of the hostel, on the Dilkhusha Street side, began to collapse. Wooden supports had been placed there. The girl was the only one who voiced protest: they were locked in like this in the evening everyday. If any male family member came for some important purpose, he was not permitted to meet the resident. They were told to come in the morning, during visiting hours. All the other girls stood by silently, they did not utter a word. The matron, Gulshan Ara, announced that it was for the girls’ safety that they were locked in. When the student by the name of Ameena Khatoon fell ill, she had left to call the doctor, and meanwhile the watchman had gone home to eat. Hence they were not at fault at all in this regard. Gulshan Ara stated that Ameena’s illness was nothing too serious. She had not done anything wrong by locking the girls in. It was better that the girls did not go out after dusk. Otherwise their character would be spoilt.

4.
On the pretext of getting her a job, an uncle of the young woman sold her in Sonagachi two years ago. Before that they had stayed as husband and wife for a few days in a hotel in Sealdah. She was not permitted to leave her room in Sonagachi. Even if she so much as stepped out to the verandah, the madam thrashed her. She had to sleep with customers from noon till four or five the next morning. On some days the number of customers exceeded twenty. And no one could be turned away. One day, at dawn, the girl somehow managed to escape and hid in the verandah of a local youth association. Come morning, after people heard about everything, she was handed over to the Burtola police station. Later, the police presented her at the court. The court sent her to the government home for women in Liluah and issued instructions for her family’s whereabouts to be ascertained. Even after a lot of search and enquiries, the police were unable to find any trace of her family members in the address provided by the girl. Later, seeing the incessant wailing of the girl, they went a second time, and searched out and found her parents. At first, they did not want to be identified as the girl’s parents. Later, the police identified them with the help of neighbours. Both of them, the father and the mother, said in a single voice: we can’t take the girl back. Her chastity has been destroyed.

5.
Twelve policemen, including the officer-in-charge of the police station, were beaten up by the local people when the police went to demolish an illicit liquor den. The incident occurred on Saturday night, at Dihi Bhurshoot. A sub-inspector who was seriously injured when the villagers attacked the police, was taken to the S.S.K.M. Hospital in Calcutta. Because of the tension in the area, police patrols were deployed. In Dihi Bhurshoot, which is near the border of Howrah and Hooghly districts, the illicit alcohol trade flourishes. An illicit alcohol market runs openly during the day. Vendors come from far-flung areas to buy the booze. On the day in question, around evening, 22 plainclothes policemen, led by the officer in charge, carried out an operation to destroy the illicit alcohol den.

They left their police jeeps at the bus stand and entered the village. When they were taking an illicit alcohol seller with his jerry-can to the police station, some villagers attacked them. They got together and fell upon the policemen and began raining slaps, punches and blows on them. They screamed obscenities at the officer-in-charge and beat him too. In the process, they managed to seize a sub-inspector. At first he was dragged and taken into a shop, and then his hands and feet were tied and he was given a sound thrashing. After some time, a huge police contingent arrived, surrounded the village and began combing operations. They picked up and took away many young and middle-aged men. The villagers were now seething with rage. Their complaint was that the police repeatedly let off the real culprits and oppressed ordinary people. The culprits were informed about the police operation in advance, and they escaped. The police arrived and began arresting innocent youths. None of those who were taken into custody that day were present at the spot, they had got off the bus after returning from their jobs in Calcutta, and were walking home. They were arrested midway.

6.
‘Marilyn Forever!’ ‘Immortal Marilyn!’ ‘Remember Marilyn!’ ‘Dying to kiss Marilyn all over!’ ‘Love you Marilyn’ – all these were the names of various fan clubs. All were devotees of Hollywood’s entrancing blonde-haired star, Marilyn Monroe. Even though it was 40 years since the mysterious death of the beloved star, all of them gathered at a particular place to commemorate 5th August. Specially-made life-size mannequins were also sold in these places, for some secret purpose. Not ordinary mannequins, mind you. The breasts were formed artfully, the butt as well, there was a hole in the vaginal region, and the pubic hair was also put in place skillfully. Nowadays nothing was secret anymore, they replied, without the slightest qualm, we badly need the mannequin in bed. Especially married men unhappy with their sex lives. This year too, a few thousand devotees arrived at Marilyn’s crypt. They had come from many faraway countries. Their contention: they wanted 5th August, the day Marilyn passed away, to be declared as ‘Love-making’ day. They appealed to all the heads of-state in the world to accept the demand. Otherwise they would launch a large-scale movement. And women supported this.

7.
The next Saturday too, there was green rain in Kalipur, at noon and at night. Experts from the Pollution Control Board went there to investigate the cause of the green rain. Green rain fell in front of their very eyes. They collected samples, but could not provide any clear scientific explanation. The colour of the rain that night was dark green. The preliminary response of the experts was: such incidents are rare. We have pored through the scientific literature. But we could not find any information. Soon after word of the green rain spread, queues of people formed in Kalipur. They dug out and carried away soil with the green splashes. They took away roof tiles from houses. Swarms of people in all directions. Queues of people – spotting an opportunity, some people mixed green colour in water and merrily sold it off as green rain. People paid fat sums of money and bought it. Ordinary people, for sure, but officials from the government also arrived for inspection. Many bought the leaves of trees which bore the stamp of green rain. For them, this was a divine substance in this Kali Yuga. Science could not explain it. Puja commenced in the ruins of the Kali temple. A minister who with his wife by car, stood afar and out of sight from everyone, paid obeisance to Mother Kali by knocking his knuckles on his forehead, and also got his driver to buy a glass bottle filled with green rain. Meanwhile, the experts investigating the phenomenon suspected that this may have been caused by some fuel substance used in the brick kilns. They went to some of the brick kilns nearby. But when they went there, they found that the wind blew in the opposite direction there. The experts were of the view that some such fuel was being burnt in the vicinity, which caused this kind of rain. Finally, they split into two or three groups and they went on providing their own explanations.

8.
From our own correspondent, Kanthi – Villagers beat up a school teacher for allegedly sexually abusing a female student, they thrashed him and smashed his testicles. The incident occurred at the Betua High School in Betua village on Saturday. A female student of Class 6 complained that on finding her alone in the school premises, the teacher sexually abused her, and destroyed her virginity. The school had half-day on Saturday and so had given over, there was nobody there. The girl went crying and informed the boys in a local youth association. The boys from the association and the villagers created a commotion and got together, entered the school, caught the teacher and blindly rained punches, slaps and blows on him. The girl’s father picked up a whole brick and smashed the teacher’s testes with it. He was admitted in the nearest hospital in a severely injured condition. When he regained consciousness after about a week, he spoke in detail about the incident.

He tutored the girl, Gitali, in English. Because she had failed in and repeated every class, he did not want to teach her anymore. On account of the girl, the other boys and girls in the tutorial home were also going astray. I asked her to stop coming. The same night, her father came and right away proposed that I marry Gitali. He said: she has loved you for a long time, but she wasn’t able to say it. When he immediately turned down the proposal to marry the student, her father was enraged: you made a mistake, teacher. Within a month, this incident occurred.

9.
Every day, at least two or three hundred drug addicts rushed to Dakshindari. Just as there were school and college students among them, there were also people who were well established in society. Some people came by car, parked the car at a distance, and then walked. This was a marketplace for smack. Daily labourers, workers, rickshaw-wallahs, rag-pickers, and even mendicants, everyone was equal here.         25 rupees for a pinch. Good stuff for a good price. People came from Diamond Harbour, Burdwan and Hooghly – for that matter, people came here evn from as far away as Assam, to buy smack. Both retain and wholesale markets operated together. Going to Dakshindari on Monday, I saw pinch-quantities of smack being sold openly, albeit somewhat out of sight. All this happens with the knowledge of the police, they regularly receive the collections. Not exactly like a market, but people came, bought and left. A crowd under an abandoned tin-roofed shed, behind a lathe machine factory. Some were sitting there and smoking the stuff. There were window-dressing raids from time to time, the stuff was removed in time. Yet, unless two or four persons were taken into custody and charged, the police couldn’t uphold their dignity. Two or three small fry, who ran away when they saw the police jeep, were caught, in possession. Bapi from Metiabruz, Mohammad Ismael and Shankar from Rajabazar, and Bhola from Dum Dum. A 16-17 year old, jeans-clad girl from a decent home was also caught at the same time. The girl pleaded fervently: please release me, my father is a minister’s PA. Why do you have all this? I can’t live without having it. Many boys and girls from my college have it, boys and girls from decent homes, like me. Hearing she was the daughter of a minister’s PA, she was scolded a bit and then released. Her boyfriend was standing not so far away. Bapi makes tea crates, age 24. Ismael said that for the last two years he was compelled to rush here, pulled by the drug. He had to get 3 pinches everyday. Bhola sold sattu. He was Ismael’s friend. And 11-year old Khasti was a rag-picker. Sometimes he begged for a living. Whenever he got any opportunity, he also stole whatever he could. He broke down in tears: I have to steal to get money for smack. I’m not a thief, Sir. When I feel the need – I just don’t know what I do … I lose my senses. I steal anything I find.

10.
The name of the arrested youth was Shankhu Mukherjee (34). Shankhu babu lived near a cinema hall in New Alipore. The youth belonged to an educated family, and he too had been a good student. He had graduated from I.I.T. Kharagpur with a first class first. After he was arrested from his home on Monday night, he was taken to court on Wednesday and released on bail. For quite some time, the officer-in-charge of the New Alipore police station had been receiving a strange kind of complaint. Women walking in front of the cinema hall or on the pavement on the opposite side, had suddenly experienced a stinging sensation, either on the back, or on the exposed waist, or even near their breasts. They looked to find the spot bleeding. Going to a doctor, it was found that an air gun pellet was lodged there. After repeatedly receiving such complaints, the police got down to investigating the matter. But they were simply unable to find the source of the air gun pellets. On the basis of information from an anonymous source, on Tuesday evening, the police raided Shankhu Mukherjee’s house. It was a close friend of his who had telephoned the police station and disclosed everything. An air gun, together with forty or forty five pellets were found in his possession. He said he had never intentionally aimed and fired at any woman. His hands did such things against his will, and continued to do so. His hands never aimed at any male, but as soon as he saw any exposed part of a female body, his hands became fidgety. He became restless. The hands fired upon the exposed backs, waists, and also on the visible, half-exposed region of the breasts. He had no control over his hands. He also admitted that in his childhood, after he had been gifted an air gun during his thread ceremony, he had become attached to the gun.

11.
Question: I am 40 years old. About a year ago, I fell in love with a young woman. I am a band musician. She used to sing in the same band. But people in my family did not like the girl at all. They were of the view that this could never be a happy marriage. That a meeting of minds between the girl and me was extremely unlikely. Anyway, we got married. Very soon, I realized that, in truth, in many parts of my life, I could not be one with Subarna. First of all, she had innumerable former lovers. She flirted with other men night and day. On some days I returned from work to find her with a male friend, behind closed doors. . Neither did she have any remorse about all this. She did everything with my full knowledge. For many days, I tried to bring her around. But I’m unable to. I don’t have as many lovers or friends. On the other hand, it’s not as if she doesn’t love me. Even after all this, she makes love to me all night. I just don’t know what I should do. Answer: After marriage, girls usually become somewhat restless. Win her over a little bit. Perhaps there’s a flaw somewhere within your personality. Because of which it’s difficult to sustain the attraction. Do something, sleep with the first girl you find. Do it right in front of your wife. When you have sex with her, make such amorous sounds that your wife can guess that you are in a state of supreme bliss with the girl, that you are enjoying the whole thing tremendously. Sleep with the girl everyday and make her pregnant. After that, call the girl over and pay her a lump-sum as compensation, take her yourself and get an abortion done. You can get such girls nowadays, who’re willing to do anything in exchange for money, who’re willing to get anything done. They have made this akin to a profession. But do everything with the full knowledge of your wife, do it without the slightest qualm. One has to learn how to keep one’s wife in control. It’s possible to get nuts-and-bolts training for that. Practical training is imparted on how to give supreme satisfaction to your partner, and on what you should do to achieve that. The advertisements for these things are published openly, perhaps with some beating around the bush, with some suggestive phrasing. You just have to keep your eyes and ears open, and stay that way.

12.
The images are lifted from the altar, carried on the bosom and then arranged on the wooden boards. One group pushes from the rear, and another group pulls and hauls up from the front. Most of the time, one found that Balaram and Subhadra were hauled up to the chariot without any difficulty, but all the hassle was with Lord Jagannath. Moving him was not at all easy. Everyone was worried stiff lest he stood up athwart. At first vedic mantras are recited with calm pronunciation. If that did not work, recitation is begun in worldly language. The assembled pandas chant the mantras with gusto. Even if that doesn’t work, the session of enticing the Lord with sweetmeats is begun. Rows and rows of huge lumps of the choicest sweetmeats are brought and arranged in front of Jagannath, so that he is lured by the khaja, goja, nadu and other assorted sweetmeats to move, and be standing straight. If that does not work either, the limits of patience are crossed. Some people, some senior pandas, let loose a stream of vulgar ditties, one has to shut one’s ears if one heard that. All that foul language does not reach the ears of the masses in the distance. If even that doesn’t work, then a senior panda, while singing out the vulgar ditties, strikes a few blows with the stick in his hand. The stick rains down, there’s a flow of invectives and vulgar ditties, and Jagannath finally begins to move and rise. The masses in the distance can’t really guess anything, they pull the ropes as if their lives depended on it. God has begun to move. The excited masses scream out: Jai Jagannatha Ki Jai! The devotees now have the ropes of the chariot in their hands. At an unseen signal, the ropes begin to be pulled. With a roaring sound, the chariot advances along the principal thoroughfare, carrying the armless, maimed Jagannath, the People’s God.

13.
After lots of inspections and tests, scientists realized that the green rain was actually shot – bee’s shit. The minister made a speech about this and forbade the people from being directed by superstitions. He said the experts had examined and tested the green rain and not found any trace of harmful chemicals in it. Only pollen from parthenium, coconuts, mangoes and ordinary flowers and grasses had been found in the green rain. There need be no apprehension about any serious damage from all that. And of course, there was no apprehension whatsoever of end of days. People were getting scared for no reason. As soon as they saw reports about green rain in the newspapers, the minister instructed experts to conduct an on-the-spot investigation and submit a report. The experts had got into a car and rushed to Kalipur. They were there when the green rain fell. The car’s windscreen was plastered with the green rain. They busied themselves collecting samples. After conducting tests, the four kinds of pollen were found in the green rain. And it was only bees that consumed such large quantities of pollen. The green rain was only the shit of airborne bees.

14.
A cut-out of clouds in the sky. On the math teacher’s blackboard, water just keeps leaking from the secret hole in the reservoir, simply keeps leaking, it fills up only a little bit.

THE END

[2002]

This is a translation of the original Bengali story “Nachbi Khendi” by Subimal Misra. Translated by V. Ramaswamy. The translator gratefully acknowledges the Ledig House writers’ residency for enabling this translation.

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