Friday, November 03, 2006

When he loved...

Are you lonesome tonight...
Arbind stretched himself on the easy-chair and squealed, only to rapidly contract himself with the laughter that shines out of the happiness in returning to child-like freedom. He darted a quick look along the long corridor to ensure that no one caught him in this act of abandon. He smiled: how long could he cloak himself in the garb of propriety. Well, he had learnt that ever since he had met her and loved her. Sweta.
He rose from his chair and ambled along. Doors yawned on the side of the corridor as if to tell him something and then vanishing into the space of the room. He always felt as if the threshold moved to tell him something, something he thought he knew but not as clearly as the wooden beams had known over the decades they had held up this bungalow. Something he didn't want them to tell him, because he would hear nothing censoring his love for her. Sweta.
"Arbindbabu, do rush in. Time for the puja. Chotorani is waiting for you," cackled Binnomaashi between her incessant criticism of the increasing prices of the marigolds and how girls of this generation wasted away so much under the assurance of their husband's or brother's bottomless pockets. He reached out to hold her, but the wrinkled frame shrank away from him and kept moving farther without attempting to do so. He cringed at the thought of how he always managed to let dear ones slip by, especially her. Sweta.
He entered through one doorway which held itself agape wanting to say something but reluctant to do so. Sometimes, words of wisdom only re-kindle the flame one tries so earnestly to put out. But how could anyone or anything expect to put out this flame which burned on the fuel of his blood and memories? What water could put out these pure, white flames? The water of a socially acceptable marriage? She had thought so. She had convinced him too. But he knew better all the while. Some things are not for man to make or break. Such love is not an ephemeral thirst which could be quenched by anyone. In the desert of life, only the thirsty knew who bore the pot of life-giving water, who could quench his thirst. Sweta.
The laughter within the inner chambers stopped him in his tracks. Melancholy had no place in the chambers of festive gaiety. He leaned on the door and smiled but not of the cheer that filled the space beyond this threshold. His joy sprung from the Durga Puja celebrations like these, several years ago. She had made him some wonderful nikhuti payesh and brought it to him in a China bowl with a golden rim. The sight of her walking down the stairs, dotted on alternate steps with a chirpy diya on either side, announcing the arrival of a more beautiful flame decked in the traditional white and red of a married woman, with the bright red circle warding off wicked men and intentions - that sight made his hair stand on end and filled him with a sweetness that couldn't be contained in any bowl from a Bengali household.
"Arbindbabu, payesh for you", she said and left the bowl on the side-table. She stood there for an extra minute letting him soak in her entire beauty and relive the love he felt for her. She swayed to the beat of his heart but quickly shook herself out of it, shuddering under the sudden cold air of reality that enveloped her. She smiled and said,"I must go, Arbindbabu. Isn't it the mark of a well brought-up lady to know when to leave?"
"Isn't it the mark of true love to stay long enough to say that?"
"The heart of a bachelor is always brimming."
"What then can we say of one who has known your love?"
She smiled again and walked away. Their love was in danger during festivities when everyone was alert. They would have to wait till everyone returned to the routine of life.
A silver tumbler falling to the marble floor, brought him back to where he stood; in the dark confines of the room unable to walk past this threshold into the cheer and laughter of a well-lit and correct world of his family and righteousness. He smiled and watched his wife arrange the diyas on a large brass plate.
"Anmolika is the luckiest woman."
"Buss, badima enough. All the devils gather during dusk to collect a list of happy souls which they can trouble. He has given me all the joys of this world, but let us keep it to ourselves."
"Who has?" teased her sister, Munmun, who was twirling flowers and threads deftly on her fingers.
"Chchup, mishti", Anmolika exclaimed and threw a few helpless wicks at her.
He watched his mother breathe a deep sigh of relief. All her fears of several years and the suspicion which plagued every waking night of hers, was laid to rest in the form of Anmolika - an honourable daughter-in-law. She rose to leave for the inner prayer room.
Munmun watched her leave and then rushed over to her sister and threw her arms around her neck.
"Tell me didi, how much does he love you?"
"Chchup, naughty girl."
"Come on, its only us, and badimaashi can barely hear us."
"Haan, I can barely hear what you girls are talking."
They burst out laughing and Arbind couldn't repress a smile. Badimaashi got up and left the room to the young girls. Was this what she was talking about? An honourable life, peace, uncensored joy and mirth... social sanctity?

"Arbindbabu, love is not of this world but relationships are."
"But I will come and marry you, Sweta. Let me settle down and be rid of obligations, and I will come and take you away."
"When Arbindbabu?" she had sighed, "When I am slipping into my deathbed and you are still forty?"
"Before that."
She smiled and cupped his cheeks, "Respectability is of utmost importance, Arbindbabu. Don't underestimate it."
"I will need nothing from this world then. I can renounce it all. Not you."
"I will wait, darling."
She's always a woman to me
"Chchup dasyi!"
"Come on didi, tell me. Do you people.. ummm... ummm... every night?"
"Enough, Munmun, enough."
"Come on, didi. Please. I won't tell anyone."
"Haan baba haan. Oh! God! What has become of me? A sister like you and the devil come to everyone."
They laughed and hugged each other. Arbind smiled and thought: Anmolika wouldn't hesitate to exaggerate especially if it put me in a more sparkling light.
"But more than that, mishti, is how much he makes me feel wanted and loved. He takes so much pain in ensuring that I am happy and cheerful. He has so much love in him that I am not sufficient vessel to gather it all."
"Then maybe I can marry him, too. Sisters forever."
"Hatt. I'll kill you with my own hands. I will kill anyone who even looks at him an extra second. He is mine."
"Who?" teased Munmun.
Anmolika looked around and Arbind hastily hid himself behind the door.
"What babu-shabu and all. He is your husband. You have full rights on him."
She breathed in deeply and Arbind watched the nervousness tremble on her lips.
"Arbind", and she quickly hid her face in the pile of flowers beside her.
"Yeaaaa!" Munmun screamed and covered her sister with the love she deserved.
But what about her? Sweta?

"Arbindbabu, no woman will like to be shared."
"But why should I be torn apart? I shall remain a bachelor."
"Listen to me. Get married to that girl they found for you. She is delicate and beautiful."
"But she is not you."
She smiled and sank to her knees beside his easy-chair.
"Arbindbabu, our love will always live and grow. I will wait for you. Complete your obligations and come to take me."
"But why must you leave Kolkatta for that?"
"She wouldn't like any woman to lay her eyes on you."
"But I love you."
"Arbindbabu, you have enough love for this entire world. Giving her her due will not lessen it nor will it deprive me of anything."
"But only you can contain the love I feel."
"Hence, you can never give it all away and there will always be what you wish to give me."

"But, Munmun, I always think there is something, some part of him I can never reach."
"You, his wife, can reach every part!"
"No, mishti, I am serious. There is something which is always closed to me."
"How does it matter? If it is closed to you, its closed to everyone."
"Hmmm. True. Chalo, let's get the diyas and torans ready."
"What about the fire-crackers?"
"He doesn't like it."
She shrugged her shoulders.
"All he likes to do is eat payesh and hold on to that book wrapped in raw silk."
"How boring!"
"Only on Durga Puja. Otherwise..."
"Oh! Wife to the rescue, huh?"
They laughed and flung marigolds at each other.

"Arbindbabu, I must leave tonight."
"Why now? Why today? Please."
Her lips quivered with the love she didn't want to stain with words. She came closer to him and he felt their toes touch. The fabric of her starched blouse scraped against his kurta and he leaned towards her but stopped. She was crying and he never thought he would be responsible for her sorrow.
"Be happy, Arbindbabu."
"Only with you, Sweta."
"With everyone... and me."
And as a tear sadly rolled down her cheek, he watched the rising fireworks sparkle in that descending drop. The drummers rent the air with the helpless beats of his heart. Arbind remembered the one thing that crossed his mind then and thereafter: What exults others, saddens me. What completes me cannot be accepted in this world.


  1. Simple, Perfect and quite Lovely - the story and the style that you have adopted to write it.
    Whereas the actual theme of the post has a very rich and inviting emotional content, and shines like a bright and beautiful jewel, the style is just right - not too ornate, nor too embellished/wordy, but sweet and (cannot help but say once more) simple!

    Keep writing for ever, Eroteme. It seems to be your calling in life.

  2. Yes, I liked the style - in which the story was narrated.

    Some tears, never come out...some scars, never leave,
    Just like particle,that's fallen in the eye,
    Waiting for a breeze, that never passes by....

  3. some bonds are best left un-named, undefined,unexplored...
    something lingers- something that remains quite un touched by the mortal world...which defies societal sanctions...

  4. Dear P,
    Glad you liked it. :-) Well, one needs to experiment with different styles of writing, and I am still learning... :-)

    Dear S,
    Beautiful lines you wrote in there. Extempore? Glad you liked the style. :-)

    Dear A,
    True and I think the human conflict between truth and what is imposed will always continue...

  5. WOW.

    She smiled and said,"I must go, Arbindbabu. Isn't it the mark of a well brought-up lady to know when to leave?"
    "Isn't it the mark of true love to stay long enough to say that?"
    "The heart of a bachelor is always brimming."
    "What then can we say of one who has known your love?"
    She smiled again and walked away.

    Loved it.

    What exults others, saddens me. What completes me cannot be accepted in this world.

    No preaching. No emotions. Just the truth. Lovely. I hope what I intend to write comes at least close to this :) Wishful thinking.

  6. simplicity at it's truest form

  7. Dear S,
    Thank you. Welcome to this blog. :-)

    Dear S,
    Glad you found it so. Welcome to this blog. :-)

  8. Your style is simply superb. Why dont you consider writing short stories?
    I love the story. Especially the narration.
    You are gifted. So put it to the best use.Write something which can inspire wannabes like me to not get crunched under office work and still have that li'l spark inside us at the end of each day which gives a boost to life and our imagination..
    Loved reading it.
    Hope you'll pursue writing

  9. Dear M,
    Thank you for your kind words. I do write short stories but publish them elsewhere... :-)

  10. Dear Eroteme,
    Happy new year!!
    My name's munmun only, not 'm' :-)
    Can you tell me a few of your publications? online if possible..
    you write so well.. no words man.. hats off!

    why dont you use google analytics? It will really enhance your site's performance.

    And do visit my blog at
    I also write a bit.. Not as nice as you, but i also try to do something creative :-) check it out and give me some tips as to improve my writing.
    Thatll be gr8.
    keep blogging!

  11. Dear M,
    I find it easier to simply mention the first letter alone, so please bear with me! :-) You are very generous with your compliments. I did visit your blog and am waiting for you to write more... I am not good enough to give tips, but I would very strongly recommend two things to you:

    1. Write a lot. Keep producing.
    2. Read a lot more. Study the masters, learn how they transformed their thoughts into words and the images they invoke... Once you realise this, you will be quite comfortable writing your thoughts down. You could also read/study books on writing by Sol Stein or Jerry Cleaver (Writer's Loft).

    Most importantly, do not write to be a good writer. Write to be an honest writer and you will metamorphose into something satisfying... Sorry if this sounds like advice.