লেখক: Jaya Thakur
The class was over. She was supposed to go now. To home. To that place where a man thinks he is the king. That he can do anything, he wants. And the woman who shared the home with him was only his slave. A toy, which was compelled to do anything he wished. And be his punching bag when he was angry. He was the breadwinner, right? Who brings food to the table? Him! She should be thankful. Those three brilliant daughters of her, whose blood does they carry? His! She couldn’t even write ABCD, for God’s sake! And if he brings a few other women home, it is SHE who is to be blamed. That boring woman! Always nagging about not having enough money to run the family. If he brings a few others home, it is SHE who is to be blamed. A man has needs, doesn’t he? Needs she is too old to fulfil.
Yes, she has to get back to that home. That man loves him. That man loves his blood. The same blood that runs through her body. And her sisters’ too. That man is eagerly waiting for her beloved daughter. To bring the excellent mark sheet, she is carrying today. He is one proud father. And proud teacher too. It is he who taught her the brilliance of Shakespeare. Introduced her to Shelley and Keats. Read her Far from the Madding Crowd. His eyes glowing with a heavenly glare. Surrounded by an angelic aura. An aura that makes her feel safe. That makes her forget all those screams of her mother.
Her father has arranged a feast today for her success. He never had doubts she is going to pass with flying colours.
But who left this notebook? An odd-looking one indeed! She couldn’t remember anyone carrying this thing in the class. She is absolutely sure anyone carrying this thing in her class would have proudly flaunted it. She inspected it. Yes, Made in England, written in very small letters in the corner of the back cover. She thought so. This is not a local thing. She felt sad for whoever had left it. She opened the first page, trying to find anything about the owner.
“I feel I am stuck in a dark cave. Lost in the labyrinth of its passages. Without air. Water. Light. Hope.
Sometimes, when he is with me, I feel I am in seventh heaven. His arms wrap around me, and I feel that warmth. I couldn’t ask for anything more. I wanted that moment, those moments to be eternal.
Yet I knew they would pass. And he will behave in a way I didn’t exist. Sometimes I think if he at least acknowledged me, even if like a piece of rag one uses to cleanse the water from one’s feet, I would have been happy. At least he needed me for something. I wouldn’t feel like this worthless, stupid shit that I am. I do everything he wants. I give him everything he needs. Still… Well, he is not expendable for me… I am for him…
After that, when he hits me, I feel better… I want him to hit me more. I want him to bruise my whole body. I deserve it. I must have done something wrong! Otherwise, why would he hit me? Why would he ignore me? Yes, hitting is better than ignoring me. When he had left, I looked at those bruises. Those marks of love! Oh, he loves me. He makes time for me whenever he can. He even cooked for me. I guess he felt guilty for making me bleed that night. But he was just wild in love.
I wish he hit me every night like that. At least I would have his touch!
He loves me so much. He is the first man to love me. The only man. After all, who would love a girl who is not good-looking or more interested in books than domestic chores in our society?
But now a day, I find nothing interesting. Not even books. I just wait for him.
I can’t blame him for bringing them home. They are far good-looking. I don’t mind preparing his bed with them either. He loves me, and I love him. I can do anything for him.
But… If this is love, why does it make me feel empty inside? Why can’t I get out of this cave? This dark cave?…”
She put down the notebook. Her hands were shaking. Her eyes became hazed with tears. Everything was swinging. Even the sketch of the sand clock on the cover. It was gyrating within its glass sphere. Her frail hands touched it slowly.
And she could see them. Unseen by everyone. Unseen by society. She saw them in prehistoric forests. Saw them in ancient villages. In cities that are still hidden in the womb of not-yet. Stuck in that very same cave. Trying to get out. But not being able to. Trying to breathe. But not being able to. She saw her too. The girl was writing in the strange notebook. She was not dressed in a saree like her. Rather wore something like a pair of half pants and a black banyan. She was writing as tears flew down her cheeks. There was a picture of a bird in her banyan. A bird made of fire.
And then she saw her. Standing alone in the corner of the cave. Holding a bottle of slipping pills in her hands. The very same hands that rocked her cradle.
– You are an incompetent fool. The most incompetent bou (wife) in this whole para (neighbourhood). Look at Bose babu’s wife. Always cooking scrumptious dishes. Always managing the home responsibly. Not clumsy like you. And what is this? This mutton is not even cooked properly yet.
“Please don’t remove the lid. It is…still cooking”, the lady of the house murmured.
– What? You have the audacity to talk back to me, do you? You will learn a lesson when a farm slap reaches your ch…..
The slap never reached its destination. It had been stopped by the hand of a frail girl.
– Do it again, I dare you, dad. The first thing I will do after that will be to go to the police station. You know me. I will do that.
The hand was lowered.
– And if I ever see you treating my mom like this, I swear to God, I will take her and my sisters and I will be out of this house. I will make sure you can never come near my mom ever again. I will make sure you never get to see any of your daughters’ faces in your whole life either.
The voice became lowered. Trembling.
– Is that how children these days talk to their fathers?
– Father? You are not worthy of being called a human being. You are nothing. Someone who treats my mom like that….someone who treats anybody like that is a monster….you are a monster…..
The shadows of a shattered monster slowly moved away from the room.
She called him. Three times he didn’t answer. He will not, she knows. But he will call. She knows. He will. Right?
She threw the cigarette butt out of the window and then she discovered what had happened…..
The notebook was gone.
She loved this notebook. Her best friend had brought that one when she came home last year from Cambridge. Raya knows she is a Harry Potter fan. She specifically chose that one for her. It was a collector’s edition.
It had a beautiful drawing of a Time-Turner on it.
– See. It’s three-dimensional. You can see it move. Turn. Do you know I got that from Diagon Alley?
– There is no Diagon Alley in real life.
Raya burst out in laughter.
– It’s a shop, silly. Near our dormitory.
– But (Raya shrunk her eyes as if telling something secret) they say the owner herself is a real witch.
– Jah! That’s just…
– Well, she stays alone. Drinks a lot. Smokes, well, everything. Not married, but in her days, had liaisons, if you know what I mean. Earns a lot of money and owns a lot of cats.
– In that sense, I am also a witch.
Both of them burst out in laughter.
– Mom? Have you seen it?
– I might have. Depends on what “it” is.
Her mom said without raising her head from the exam papers she was checking.
– The new notebook Raya gave me. What? Is there anything on my Tee Shirt?
Her mom was looking at her shirt, without blinking.
She looked for any stains. It was new she just bought it last week. Pitch black with only a pattern. A Phoenix rising. Something drew her to that shirt. The warmth of the fire in darkness? The hope of light? Is there any hope at all? It was one of those few items she packed in her bag before she left her flat.
Her or his?
Her mom was looking at her. With a peculiar look. As if she was not looking at her but something beyond, far, far beyond.
– Are you alright, mom?
“Nothing,” she brushed it off, “What was it again?”
– A notebook. It has a Time-Turner on the cover. It was just here on my table.
– Time, what?
– It looks like this sand clock thingy enclosed within a sphere… Mom, are you really alright? You are not looking very well…
Her mom looked pale. As if all the blood has departed her body. She left without saying anything.
And at that moment, she knew. That woman has read it. She has read her diary. Shit!
– Is this the one?
– Oh god! What happened to it? This looks drowned in coffee and dragged in dust… Must be Mau Mau or Mini. I told you, mom, not to let them enter the study. Hell! This feels like something collecting dust in the attic for decades.
– Jojo? Do you have anything to tell me?
– Chill, mom… It’s just a story I was writing. Nothing to worry about.
Her mother gave a gloomy smile.
– I know you are a big girl, dearie. A strong woman now! But if you need to talk, you know I am here for you, right?
– Ummm… Mom? Isn’t it just a story? No need to push yourself over it! Thank you anyway.
– I like the ending.
– Your story? The one you are writing in the notebook? I like how you ended it.
“….Why can’t I get out of the cave? This dark cave?
I looked at the ceiling. And kept looking at it. I couldn’t move. I have not moved for three days. For three full days. I have not moved. Have not eaten. Have I even slept? I don’t know. I just closed my eyes and kept praying to God, to anybody to make all these a dream. A bad dream. I wanted to be woken up by him. By his kiss. His true love’s kiss. I knew he had left me. I didn’t know if he had truly left me. I asked him if he had left me. He said I was being childish. That there was nothing to leave. There was NOTHING there. There was never anything there. I had imagined all. The crush. The love. The love-makings. The beatings. Almost bleeding to death. All of it! We were good friends. And we can still remain one. JUST GOOD FRIENDS! And he will call me when he has time. I could check our chat records. It was only I who kept talking about a relationship. He only replied with a, “Hmmmm.” Always. It’s true.
I needed to vomit. Everything was dark. I tried to put on the light. Still nothing. Power cut. Mom and dad are sleeping. I don’t want to wake them up.
In the darkness I tried to use the torch on the mobile. Not enough battery. Less than five percent. In the faint light of the mobile screen, I made it to the bathroom. And as I stepped inside…
I had stepped onto something. Something slithering, wet, alive, and moving. It coiled like lightning around my left ankle.
Then as swiftly as it coiled, it left my leg and slithered back into the crack it most probably came from.
I froze for a moment. My nausea has literally evaporated. In the faint light, I had seen what it was. A Russell’s Viper. Chandrabora, we call it in Bengal. Very few survive its poison.
I came back to the room. Somehow, found a candle, and lit it. I was still shaking.
Why didn’t it bite me? I know I stepped on it. But more than that, what crept in slowly was the fact that I was alive. I AM ALIVE. After everything. The beating. The ignoring. The forced guilt trip. The isolation. The “Please don’t tell anybody.” It was not love! It never was! It was worse than the poison of a Russel’s Viper.
But now? The slithering creature has given her a chance. She is still alive. Now, what?
I didn’t know how long I stayed like that. But then, I heard a hymn being chanted. I recognized it. It was the morning Azan. Is it morning already? I feebly went up and opened the windows. A strong smell entered the room. The smell of a new day.
I went up. Brushed my teeth. Used the toilet. Had an hour-long shower. Dressed for the University. Then I called him. He picked up. Strange!! But good! I am really happy that he picked up. Today is my lucky day.
– Hello? How are you?
– Hi …er…Addy ?
– Do you want to tell me something? If it is not anything emergency, we can meet later and have a chat… a cup of coffee maybe? At my house… I am free tomorrow evening….
– Nop! See, it’s really serious, OK? I wanted to tell you that you are a real shit of a person who never loved anyone but himself. Who can never care for anybody, let alone love. It took me time to understand that, but I can see what kind of a bastard, no, that’s a sexist slang, slithering blood sucker, yes SLITHERING BLOOD SUCKER you are. You want a slave whom you won’t even admit you made a slave. You are a sexual predator who preys upon vulnerable minds.
So I am calling you to let you know that it’s over. No chat. No booty call. I am blocking you and also deleting all of your contacts. Don’t try to contact me. Or I will kick you in the balls in front of all of your fan club.
By the way, you are a shitty writer, an extremely bad poet, and you get frustrated in bed because you can’t even keep your thing hard for 2 minutes.
I packed my bag and got a taxi for Karunamoyi. I had already booked return tickets for Siliguri. Goddess Kanchenjunga is calling me. The air in the mountains is calling me.
Mom wouldn’t mind if I took a solo trip.
I went into that dark cave again. And held hands. My own hands. And started moving. One of these meandering cave lanes will take me to the exit. And if I get afraid of the dark, I have my own hand to hold. I am not alone now. I am with myself. And I won’t ever let myself go.
She closed the notebook. She was shivering. This was not her handwriting! Not even her mom’s! Who wrote this? Why? When? But one thing it brought, as she touched it, the ink the letters, she felt the cave walls breaking. She felt the light bursting in. She felt the touch of an angel.
She didn’t know how long I stayed like that. But then, she heard a hymn being chanted. She recognized it. It was the morning Azan. It was morning already! She feebly went up and opened the windows. A strong smell entered the room. The smell of a new day.
She went up. Brushed her teeth. Used the toilet. Had an hour-long shower. Dressed for the University. Then she called him……
– Hi mom! How was the office?
– Hectic? Where’s dad?
– Dad’s still stuck in the studio. Let me get that.
– Thank you. How was college?
– Strange! Here is your fruit-infused ice tea.
– Ummm! How did you make this thing? It’s better than Denmark Tavern!
– Don’t thank me. Dad made it. Might have dropped a few drops of Vodka as well. You know, dad!
– Delicious! By the way, what did you mean by strange?
– See, I was in the library during the Creative Writing period…
– You were in the “library” during a scheduled period? Don’t they do anything nowadays for students who don’t have enough attendance? When I was in college…
– Ya ya, I know… “everyone used to be chained to their benches.. blah blah blah” …I already have enough attendance, and the professor is really creepy. Keeps ogling and touching the girls.
Her mom’s face hardened.
– Ira, this is a serious issue. You shouldn’t joke about this. You need to seriously report this. Did he do anything to you? I am going to kill that bastard…
– Arey, chill Lizbeth Salander… That is the problem. He never does anything to me and targets those nyaka girls who will die but never report. See, he is the professor, na! They are afraid he will fail them if they report. As if they wouldn’t fail anyway!!!
Ira chuckled. Her mom didn’t.
– Point, young lady. You were in the library…
– Oh yes! In the library. So I was reading. After an hour, I was coming out when I saw this antique notebook.
– Does kids use notebooks to write these days? I thought every one of your classes used those fancy tab things.
– Duh, mom. I do! And there are some other retro-enthusiasts like me as well. There’s a big group. Retro is cool.
– Yes. So! I was looking for the owner, but it didn’t have a name. What it did have was a story.
– What was it about?
– It was something-something metaphor, something-something depression…What I got out of all of it was, there is this lady, she is in an abusive relationship, and she can’t get out…
– Really? Did you find out whose notebook it was? Sometimes people write their own experiences as stories, you know. Someone might be going through that in real life.
– I know, right? And it really felt like that as well. Just reading it gave me depression. So, I did something. I started where the writer had stopped and finished the story. Now, when she reads it, she might, might look at the ending and get some positive vibes.
– Or just kill you for ruining her or his story.
– She or he won’t. It is a really good ending. I am satisfied. And you know, usually, I am not satisfied with anything I write. You read it and decide for yourself. Tomorrow is your birthday, na? Let this piece be my birthday gift to you.
– What? Didn’t you submit it to lost and found?
– They steal things. No one ever got back anything from our lost and found. And the holidays are starting tomorrow. When everybody is back after the new year, after a week, it will be lost among the dust of time. And nobody was in the lost and found desk anyway. You know our college. It’s your college too. Something’s never going to change. And I wanted you and dad to read the story. It is my best one till now.
– Enough excuses. Show me the story.
Ira kept searching her bag.
– Strange! I kept it here! I vividly remember. Where did it go? Nop, not here. Asra di? Did you see my notebook? It was just here, inside my bag or maybe beside….. I don’t remember… Shit, mom…I specifically brought the notebook to show you. It was one of those antique-type Harry Potter thingies you like. With a Time Turner on the cover.Tags: Jaya Thakur, kalpabiswa y7n1, Ronin, science fiction