Thursday, November 16, 2006

Submission - 2

This is one of the submissions I had made to the CBA Short Story competition. As might be known (http://www.cba.org.uk/competitions/short_story.html), the better ones won.

Deceit

Calcutta arrived after a display of wide tapestries of landscapes changing rapidly, tossed around the train like saris at a shop. I also heard tongues change and conversations becoming less meaningful with every passing station. Now I was here, where things hardly ever seemed to change but the constancy was most unhelpful. This numbing sameness was matched only by my belief that hope could replace the lack of an address or contacts in an alien city.

The city gave me food, wild guesses, frivolous misdirections - ending in stifled giggles - and little else. After asking at South Indian caf├ęs and homing in on a South Indian ghetto, I had finally gotten information about "A pretty woman with a betel nut sized birthmark on her jaw. Yes, from Madras and with long black silk for hair! Oh! She must have cut it recently." I reached the wide roads of Shakespeare Sarani where I was told that I'd find someone who fit my description. "There is a Madrasi couple at house 1521."
"And… their daughter?" I asked.
"I don't think they have children."
That left me puzzled and less hopeful of ending my search at that house.

In the dark, the road was defined by lazy silhouettes rolling over each other like an overturned pot of molten lead. The silver crackling spark above a passing tramcar was the only life here. House numbers stood ailing under the dusty yellow of the sodium vapour lamps. I noticed that I had nine more houses to go and each step thumped heavier in my breast. I clasped my hands which, after endless washing and bathing, hadn't lost the warm feeling of her hand on mine. Such warmth, like love, wasn't fatigued by flitting time and season.

I wasn't sure what those seven years did to her face and I kept conjuring images of possible aging contours and caricatures that might have affected her visage, though I always ended up with that strained face - honey shards for eyes, curved blood for lips - which pulled away with the speed of the train just after she had held my hand. 1521 greeted me with shouts and falling vessels while the whole world surrounding it with yellow punctuated blackness, lay calm and ignored the turbulence inside. I saw her clothes drying from a balcony above. Against the ebony skies her saris appeared like sheets, but there was a familiarity that only a lover's heart could recognise. I walked up the short flight of stairs and was about to knock when I heard a loud male voice with the raspy edge that alcohol is known to provide.

"Get out of my house, you whore! This is my house and I will do as I please."
Sobs broke out in reply and metal and ceramic crashed haphazardly in a grieving cacophony.
"This is common occurrence in this house, babu. Nothing to listen to so eagerly."
I turned around sharply to notice an old lady near the foot of the stairs. I slowly jogged down to her.
"I came to meet an old friend of mine. She was… is very special to me."
"I hope your special friend is elsewhere, babu", she said and walked away into the yawning shadows of the trees that lined the road.

She was right. The sheer repugnance of searching her out here pushed me onto the street. She couldn't be here… god, never! even though the figure against the French window, now clasping her mouth, now shielding herself, now crumbling, resembled her. As I fled, I caught a glimpse of the sheets fluttering outside the balcony.

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