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Malay Roychoudhury

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Supermundane Conjugality
By Malay Roychoudhury
Wednesday, December 03, 2008

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A magic-realist short story originally written in Bengali which draws from the Hindu Purana and places the narrative of love in modern pagan perspective.

     Twenty years back on a flashy noonday, in front of the city'spococurante railroad station,  I had picked up from the road, the sliced off forefinger of a young blonde lady, bloodless, with bluish glass-tinted nail-polish on, warm jewel still alive on her indolent gold-ring, the ruby from which even today, paw-fragrance of summer-time Kenya's polygamous lion recalls me to two-three hundred years back in time, when my corpulent ancestors had departed as purchased slaves locked in ships to islands of the blacks to bear twisted whiplashes, and live on half-hunger.

     Two charming icy hands are shamelessly holding me from behind, arms daubed in feminine perfume, wearing several ambrosiac gold bangles, today, twenty years later, on this wintry mild-dark morning, the same jewel-ring on her right forefinger stuns me. Mysterious arms grappling desperately my forty-plus unmarried being, in such a fashion, in so unfastening embrace, i try to glance back but am unable to make out.

'---please set me free.' i told her in Hindi.

'---Please release me'. I repeated.

     In an attempt to disentangle,I felt pain all over, drained of strength.. I am seated on grass-peeping pebbled slope and semi-wet kulekhara leaves, holding me from behind an unknown reckless woman; all around me, fresh bodies of men-women-children, lifeless, silent, are lying scattered , half-open blowplast suitcases, torn cotton sprouting out of sick mattresses, papers. 'Happy Journey' inscribed dew-drenched leather-rexin bags; dried injuries on several bodies have turned terracotta coloured; army of ants returning to their civil life along with collected resources.

     The twisted chassis of the blue-striped passanger bus as tumbled far below in to the ridge, sheets of tin-aluminium hanging awkwardly. It appears that for a pretty time since the last rainless wet night we are coupled here in this condition, when this past-evading accident occurred, at hairpin bend of darkness, our mountain top ascending bus fell down with shattering sound in to the gorge from the encircling ashen road on the green hillock.

     Everyone, those who are lying around crushed and shapeless, are dead. This full-moon lady behind me as well, may be.

     I try to stand up, like a middle-aged load carrier, or a caged orangutan. Such heavy weight of a lady! What am I ought to do now? I try to step ahead, but fail. I relax my body on the soft-flesh armchair. I feel better, this way, in winter dawn, unconscious or dead, on the emotionless bosom of an un-named woman----a memory that I can not recall, someone protecting me, like a female monkey her offspring. It is the festive carnival of about thirty ant-stricken dead bodies, I win over the raptness of love from her corpse. Cold blissful arms of woman, icy adventitious torso; as far as I could see her, indifferent blood blobs on green garment, her hardened teats touching my back, my sexuality gets a bit perturbed, i feel quite wholesome.

     '---Just good luck that you have died, giving me this opportunity of a well-knit introduction.' I told her, allowing the pale secure morning to listen, when everybody around me appear dead; only I appear to be alive, no one could know our infalliable news. 'Your heart has stopped. You are not thinking about me. But why then are you loving me?'

     ':...  ...' I could listen to her light murmur. May be this is what is called silent billow, unmanifested chirping, peacock's numbling call.

     '... ...' She goes on talking endlessly.

     '... ...' I close my eyes and listen to her. I bend backward and touch her cold lips with my cheek. My warmth enchants her.

     I keep on talking to her:
     ---You wouldn't have even stared at me when alive.
     ---Day after day I have thought of searching you out to return your forefinger with the ring.
      ---Now you are able to understand  my language. Am I right?
     ---Inside the bus, I had looked at all the ladies but didn't see you.
     ---My good fortune, among so many men, you favoured me, a middle-aged undertrial.
     ---Earlier I had unpetalled ideas about women.
     ---I've never had candid relations with any woman so far.
     ---I've never talked so humanely to any undefinable lady, not even to my mother or grandmother.
     ---After shedding off human scent, your body has become so relevant.
     ---You are holding my waist so tightly, an act everyone aspires for but fails. Not only me, in life nobody may prefer to be grappled. Everyone is on the lookout for newer lives for holding on to.

     An army of black brittle bumbling ants have hollowed the leftside left-side red eye of an old man after carrying away flesh particles from it. By now the eye crystals of the old man are having a look at the tunnels of ants, colony of mud houses, pillows of white eggs, sugar from prohibited forest flowers, damp darkness. Black polka dots on whit skirt, dry hair tufts of a rib-smashed girl are swirling in morning's multi-delight breeze. A chopped-off arm with the blouse on is resting on a soft branch of a small chinar tree. Countless apples lay littered out of a broken crate. I picked up one from near my feet and bite it. Sour. My mouth turns tasteless. Had the apples been sweet the ants would have preferred, leaving raw flesh aside?

     Soiled and dirty bundles of two and five rupee bank-notes visible inside the broken lid of a briefcase reminded me of my filthy bank-note burning job some ten years back, kerchief tied over my nose, shoes dirtied due to removal of mean vile toothless nail-less brittle or tattered hundred rupe curancy notes on both sides of office corridors, and jerm carrier whooping cough  brought home along with my shoes and dress, eyes irritating, pill after pill to get rid of headache, morose lungs, while the blonde finger with ruby-studded ring used to be kept in my table-drawer, in order to protect me from any calamity; the calamity without the arrival of which, between sunrise and sundown and between sundown and sunrise, people feel disgusted with their life. Impenetrable smoke of burning bank-notes through the alluminium chimney used to broadcast the news of millions of kneeling men's suppressed pain and despair which had ultimately been closed down by government on grounds of polluting the horizon.

     Sight of bank-notes in bundles did not overwhelm me with greed, though I could have merrily pilfered all those ownerless money and jewellery.
     ---But they are worthless compared to your embrace.
     '... ...' She approves. Free from mannerism.
     ---I've heard that women consider wealth and treasure to be the foundation of security. Have you ever believed in it? If you did, then why are you holding me!
     ---I no more feel liketelling you: 'Please let me go'.
     ---Relation between man and woman do not last without deceipt. You are dead. I do not know exactly how you look like. Our relation is thus without deceipt.
     ---I do not know when you hugged me. That was my moment of unconsciousness, and you were desperately trying to stay alive.

     The torn tin sheet of the passanger-bus hanging from a boulder which  looked like a flag of some neutral country, got itself disengaged, and with a few tumbling hoots reached the narrow shivering gorge stream, where chubby little stones have eroded themselves to shape up as round balls. Had there been birds, they would have soared. A few pebbles did try to fly but failed and are lying on the stream floor with their mossy belly upside. The rotton leaves are embarrassed as well. When I resided in the city I already knew about these matured pebbles, nameless moss, swirl-happy leaves, these emotional mountain ridges, philosophycal ruminating streamlets, huge boulders wrapped in towels of decoction, erect aristotelian poplars with raised timeless hands and rows of melodramatic pine trees. Entire environ is unmindful, supererogatory. The breeze here has been practicing dance for several generations, but has never been afflicted with an infirmity to construct through deconstruction. Feeling good seem boundless. This is what is called eternity..
     I feel sad with the thought that you will not hold me in this fashion for ever. After a while the pedestrian village folk or a police patrol may discover us, me, the site of accident. I do not know whether I would be able to convince them that you are my woman. But in our present state no other explanation would be plausible, even if your socially recognised man is somewhere among the dead. I am struck with grief that the villagers and policemen may make fun of you.
     I would have to make another attempt to free myself from her firm seizure. Nevertheless, as long as possible I would stay motionless in this state, on the shoreline of the forthcoming scandal, or feign to be unconscious, listen to escited banter and outcry and unassuming soliloquy of a small crowd. i am sure we would not be lifted on an ambulance stretcher in this interlocked state. People may try to separate us. I am stricken with fear that someone may take a photograph, publish it in newspapers, convert an eternal moment into a span of timed relationship.
     ---You have put me in trouble.
     ---It is sheer betrayal.
     ---You have definitely disrupted my life withour consent, yes, without your own volition; for whatever you have done I am grateful.

     Like paper aeroplanes flown by children, a pair of yellow birds descend on their purple feet beside the stream. Their black-white feathers sheathed inside their wings have made them graceful. They hop, skip and disperse the army of ants with their shining black beaks and swallow heartless sour bodies of ants along with tasty particles of human flesh. I evesdrop and try to listen to their conversation, though the birds are avioding me as if I am a leper. I could decipher their secret communication:
     Vyangama: This bugger is a niminy-piminy.
     Vyangami: Yes, unnecessarily suffering from knowledge of reality.
     Vyangama: He should be touched with magicwand and madwaterfall water.
     Vyangami: He could be redeemed with fun-mantra of conch-mountain.

     Vyangama: He has already won the princess; the pink princes.
      Vyangami: But will not be able to free himself from curses of the witch.
     Vyangama: Why?
     Vyangami: He will have to go back.
     Vyangama: Where?
     Vyangami: In the world of the kicked-out. To revolution. To struggle. To defeat. There you get the excreta of elephants in stables, iron shoes in horse farms, boats on roof-tops, donkeys on thrones, crows in orchestra rooms, spiders in conference halls, cow turd in treasuries, ash heaps on ironsmith's stithy, cockroaches on divans, rainbows constructed of bamboo btidges, politicians raised on alimony, breadspread for funeral in place of the dead.

     The birds may be Suka and Sari or Chaka and Chaki, I am not sure, because, earlier I have not come accross birds intelligent than me, seated so close with an ignoring show off, talking face to face like serious bureaucrats, and destroying communication links so meticulously built up by ants.
     Earlier whenever I have secretly heard the songs of birds, who appeared to have deliberately concealed themselves, year after year tuned to same notations, unchanged for boy-cuckoo or boy-nightingale, I could not decipher any meaning, similar to human songs, and that is why I love songs of birds. Birds do talk, I knew. However, forcing me to listen thereto, just because I have been seized, like a seed within a fruit, a reprimand for sinless existence, I fail to comprehend, I never knew that their songs would be so meaningful, would be so needless, would be so professional.

     'He possesses Sati's finger'
     Doubts erupt in me at Suka's utterance. Was it in Chittagong? At Prayag? Or was it at Mansarovar! Memory gets frightened. It means that this dead lady has been with me at Jessore, Bakreshwar, Nalhati, Mithila, Prabhas, Vrindavan, Kurukshetra, Kamakhya. It means my phallus is made of sand. It is eternal.
     This is not therefore an accident or a mishap. It is an event, mythic and historic, similar to widow-marriage or the timeless bachelor on the cross, everything preordained, known, such as which train departs at what time for which place!

     That man, who is tightly held in a dimlit embrace, who has positioned his thoughts at a stand still, during this etiolated dawn, overcoming the whispering promises of ant-pickers, if we enter the matrix of his insufferable circumstance, we would learn that the man, who even after repeated backward glance, is unable to look at what he wants to see, has confused pleasure with pain, self-satisfied, like the aqatic kalamia weeds or sushani shrubs, like railroad tracks or field dykes, like colourful pollen of water lily or cucurbitaceous flowers, engrossed in self-built world, like a leading Hindu god, like unmatched roots and aerial tentacles of banyan tree lost into each other, that man, who is claiming himself to be marriageless from the very begining, though the present which he is in, reveals opposite arguments, who is keeping himsel continuously immersed at the sight of a stream-streak, almost at an exorbitant cost, accepting life to be immediate, that handsome man, deprived of opportunities to be careless, when he can not claim to be a protagonist by excluding the incorrigible mechanical lady, because, he is not free from any variety of intention, trying to prove himself to be the rich other or the lumpen other, as a descendant of an ancient slave.

     'The corpse is going to rot'. I could hear the warning chorus from a group of people at the hill-top road.
     Corpse? Dead body? But then wherefrom is the soft palmyra kernel like fragrance of sweat of a woman coming? Mild whiff of breath on my neck. Hypnotic scent of spit. Warmth from her constant companion teats. I hold both of her seizing arms and can make out that each of her limbs is socketed one with another like a rubber doll. I have had myself constructed the whole after gathering them from roads or river shores or court compound or such places.
     I had discovered the central pore of the palate from cottonfields of Hingula, navel at the seashore of Utkala, lips in the walnut garden of Bhairava hillock, knees at the untouchable-caste village of Magadha, shoulder blades on sand dunes of Ratnavali, spinal chord from the market of Kanchi, Buttocks in the water of Sone river. nape in the rice field of  Sylhet, hairlocks in haystacks of Tamaluka, feet at the refugee colony of Calcutta, skin from temple walls of Cuttack, toes from Kshirgram village of Burdwan, I had brought her stomach from the from the flows of Haridwar, heart from Deoghar's deer park, cunt from the suburb of Guwahati, back from Kalikashram, tongue from wheat granery of Punjab, chin after breaking open the stupa at Sanchi, throat from a jar placed on a tin-roof of Kashmir, shapely nose from Gandhi ashram at Barishal, ears from fishbelly in a pond at Bagura, ribs from Kopai riverbed near Santiniketan, I found her elbowa at Ujani, tight breasts from the source of an waterfall at three hundred feet height on Chitrakoot mountain, silky shoulders from military cantonment at Vrindavan, and collected her eyes at Karabipur.
     I am unable to remember the places right now. But I myself, had constructed the charming lady with own hands from out of abandoned body parts.

     'It is getting late. It is not advisable to retain her further.'
     Up, above, from where the blue-striped passanger-bus tumbled down after knocking off the lime-painted milestone, my grandpa, maternal-granny, elder aunt, little uncle, dad, mom, sister's husband, pinky aunty, all were waiting atop, as if in a posture of enjoying the obstinacy of my youthful days. I looked around but could not trace out where the broken milestone has weltered to. After a few days another milestone with same digits would stand erect at the same place, summer autumn winter spring, stupefied in fossil fume, as if over the same road horsemen of Chengis Khan had not trotted after looting slave girls belomging to another language; as if the pedestrian army of Cornwallis had not marched over it.

     '... ...' She said something.
     '... ...' Assuming I could not comprehend, she said it again. But even then I could not understand. Probably I do not know this language.

     I did not notice, the yellow birds have kept me languishing after completing their ant-breakfast. Black armies of ants in shining armour are swarming in millions all around me over the slope. The ants have licked off the flesh of all mutilated corpses, pink flesh from skulls and ribs. Spring-time happiness of a multicoloured flower garden all around me, half eaten eyes, blood stained earlobes appear like mashed petals, skinless kneecups like half-open lotus flowers, busy lightfoot ants from one blood oleander to another, flocking and unflocking in their swarms. A mobile carpet.
     To her, to the lady, this woman, however, the ants are doing nothing. Isn't she construted with parts of the same feminine body, the limbs of which i had carefully gathered from unknown vicinities of known towns and villages  and locations? I built up with body parts of various women! My throat chokes in bewilderment, beads of cold sweat blossom on my instep and palm, dry bitter tongue shrink within my mouth, guersney soaked with sweat despite winter.
     This lady and I, we are seated on the mobile carpet designed by ants with bone and flesh and blood, knitted with undulating soft black pearls. The designing-changing mobile carpet creeps toward the cloudy mountain-top carrying both of us along. Instead of my choking throat an instant earlier, I now feel free, liberated. The world is in calm composure, but I, that means we, she and me, seated on the mobile carpet, we move toward the mountain-top, occasionallly the design of the living carpet changes, blood oleanders shape up as roses, or in a novelty of an unknown flower; we, that means I, become dynamic and spirited. Ant by ant, we are approaching the long-distance road.

(Bengali title of the story is ALOUKIK DAMPATYA which was written in 1986. Translated by the author in 2001.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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