It may have been taller – one could certainly not estimate the real height of Peepal tree before fall, That morning as She pulled the blinds of kitchen window,the warmth fell over – the sink, burners and the space between where she stood everyday with back towards the rest of the house, were brighter, she looked up, the tree stood naked foliage slowly dying the tree was taller and wider than everyday ,through the crisscrosses and peeping sunrays.The forever bolted corroding window framed itself inseparable against the wall and musty air found other ways to enter the kitchen.
The fog of confusions spread grossly over the years were clearing probably it was the last night ( or the night before) constantly differing opinions paved way for a single clear thought which soared from within like the hungry tiger in mangrove swamps crawling after saltwater crocodiles, slowly, churning, her red blood running slower than usual,breath deepening,water bubbles bursting over the hot stove ,lips pursed with fake strength- the words escalated to her throat leaving the marsh of her notions behind, challenging ,threatening the child in her,abused may be dying as if the soft throat was being squeezed with one hand effortlessly, the continuous sound of tap water was was unreasonable, hiding her from anyone witnessing. At the crest She holds platform tightly, her eyes creased and locked, striving for balance, to cover her stripping self and vulnerable body.Her loose limbs wanting to run away, far very far, at the visible end of the highway where no one can be identified. Escalated words are thrusting out of her blocked throat, out of her dry shivering lips – “Today, I leave you”. It was soundless, the unilateral declaration was to self, for her to know. A moment later her eyes open in silent shock, she was startled, intimidated by herself. It was incredulous no it wasn’t she whose mind can form those words, she simply can’t do that, such words never existed in her, she never thought of it before never! She was still holding the platform tightly, grip started to loosen with sweat she hurriedly closed the tap as if it’s late, as if the fraction took a lifetime.She remained evenly poised as if any slight movement will reveal all. She keeps this declaration to herself, in her mind aside. The storm shook her; the rancor haunted her with, two cups of tea- she carried.
Have your tea. Steam rolling up. Saucer on the table near pen. The unruled paper with x’s and y’s following arrows pointing eternity.
The sip soothing the chest. She looked at him and he looked like a stranger thinking. How elegant his face was! clear, set. How feminine he grew in past years.
She finds herself alone for the first time in 35 yrs, the last string breaking apart, breakings of string,own by herself. ! Ah!The blankness of words,like the ripped old letters,the silence the mind carried —– the baggage slipping down her head. Perhaps it was this first decision she took which was followed by nothingness.no pathetic feeling, remorse or guilt. It freed her. It seemed to her as if she was craving for this isolation and so far couldn’t figure out.
They had arguments the last time they talked.It was one of the arguments that recurred all the time since they came together, she was overly confident, since the first time she told she wants to “work” to be able to change her life ,the way she sees herself and regards for her choices,of economic independence or regards for few choices or earning little very little money. What’s little for one can be too much for another. Yes! Perhaps that’s the seed.Seed of colonizing, which allows colonizer to colonize and colonized to remain clueless. Depriving with authenticity! What could possibly be more dysfunctional? The one repetitive thought. The presence of arguments as conspicuous as both of them. As the silence swept in the room they get back to routine. She picked up the flicked crayons and starts whittling the pencil with a knife,faster sharper, balking the shavings all over the trashcan, she sharpens the sharpened one too, four pencils one by one by one.by one.He flips pages.They move along pushing each other for no reason.
It wasn’t this way always, probably since last winter such simple questions started to threaten her. Exactly the day Soft fingers of little hands were holding her, Mishu asked – “how we go to the hospital mama” ? the big glassy, clear eyes of child curiously looking up at her, Osheen was looking down to the concrete,walking alongside her three year old daughter as she felt her own fingers numb,was she really holding those tiny little fingers? It was a mere act of being big and small. Osheen was astound,to see her own self, what answer she had? The intricacies of these words went deeper,deep down as a weed being pulled out, the roots naked. It was indeed an act of being big and small. How we go to hospital? How do we go anywhere? sometimes people holding legendary roles in our lives are clueless.
Mishu was walking slowly, pulling Osheen shawl, Osheen gently picked and held her close to heart,the cheeks kissing, Mishu was always a warmth for her forever colder cheeks.How do she tell a small girl, she holds no authority, she just happened to be your mother, How do she tell “I am not ready to be a momma”.
Osheen was ready for Mishus arrival three years back, Mishu left her mother’s womb fast, she knew sucking beforehand. She lived in the house with the doors closed it felt breathless,unable to stay with closed doors, she thought if the door was open she might stay back, Can she imagine door? It scared her the ideas of unspeakable imagination. She moved from sink to burners than burners to sink, she cleaned and it was never,never clean enough.
Self declaration was a secret, with the strange sense of breaking she discovered she had no more options, the gap between her education and present was too long it didn’t matter if a housewife worked at home day and night, some experiences doesn’t matter unless she wants to be a professional housekeeper and is happy doing the same work elsewhere. She wondered why experiences were distinguished by heads and toes and unless she starts working,how will she ever have. She had no other skill, no money and in due course of time lost touch with her few friends. Friends,her friends seemed to exist only till they were a part of the marriage ceremony everyone seemed to disappear with time, like she herself disappeared for her friends. Girls from her village vanished without any boundaries. Their lives seemed to cease with garland and nuptial knot…yes the date of birth certificate, educational certificates, maiden names,friends, childhood pictures and their signatures, all somehow burnt in the lighting of sacred fire at wedding. “I could have jumped as well”, she thought.
Bondswoman,Vassal or slave that’s what we say isn’t it? When did you turn into one Osheen? Which year? What happened to you babu? Parents voice, child’s inner voice. After baba passed away, he never visited her in dreams, and she was very frightened with this very idea, yes of him visiting her in deep dark, of his curiosities, As if he existed somewhere in this world unaware of her but in her.
Her mind started to draw lines, dissociating everything then on. She never earned so she never bought any object. The big ones like bed, sofa,microwave or her own intimate ones like her red toothbrush and the grey band that kept her limp hair together.Since she married she worked only at home but how much? How do we measure it? How do we assess? There is no tool which defines how much is too much. As if weighing scale which carried red toothbrush and grey band on one side automatically balanced nothingness on other side. So does that mean at least nothingness was hers? She carefully tried to seek any trace of information missing. Why did we gather and set up the place full of big and small objects,cross linking one with other, tying with yarn and then tripping in course of finding way through the maze.
Perhaps it was miserable. There seemed no pleasure in anything at all. My my, how tough it was to realize the easiness of things moving rapidly. To see from distance the journey, the beginning to the end, to anatomize, to find signs,where it started to age, the dark flaws and pits gathering time within, to understand if it was worth at all. She stood near the window placing her palm and five fingers sensing the surface of the glass, all she felt was her own hard skin. My my, how impassioned it was to label worthiness level at finale, like shopkeeper sticking a price tag. She squeezed her lips indifferent to journey, how she attached herself to its self made complexity and called it meaningful. Well back then everyone seemed to be living a meaningful life!
And the complete lack of humour in everything? She herself doesn’t remember when she started living such realistic life. Oh it was scary when she couldn’t smile,the amusement in everything was hammered to only find flat faces.The world outside seemed lost, When she spoke with outsiders, she was always trying to sense if the smile was authentic or fake like hers.She slowly realised that she preferred to find fakeness in reality to feel less lonely.
What to do now? was a big question posing like mom asking, standing next to her! A choice had to be made Since she her decision she was no more bounded to work for anyone, keep cooking and finding fate in the space between sink and burners? Why still eating? Where does she belongs to when she belongs to no place and no one? Damn her clinging nature. .Her loneliness was confining, she started experimenting. Oh and it recurred ,it doesn’t go- the past, how many times we try to start fresh but it clings like the question -”What’s for dinner”? The repetitive question. She began to finish her household chores without any regards for his or Mishus schedule glued by her only obligation. It distant the gaps, and she felt better to see them from far, she could turn and think for herself anytime she wants.The nearness felt sticky. She gradually halted soliciting anything from anyone, to talk to anyone was pain. It appeared she chose to be alone perhaps left alone, or extinct without any traces like a fly out of window.she wanted to feel in totality her immense inner life,for long long hours.There were occasional coitus, like a mechanism to release and keep.It was strange to find she actually started to enjoy after the break, it was devoid of any confusions and expectations, just the vaginal wants with no strings like with a stranger in contract. Where work done becomes as important as the quality of work.
Mishu remained intact carrying both of them.The one symbol holding part of their lives . For Osheen now the time which they spent talking and playing together seemed important for Mishu.Their togetherness as a family, Osheen thought, felt like a company with set objectives.
Where was love amongst all this? What replaced it without any hint? It flew out of the window the moment it realized it’s seen, it’s noticed, it measured in size, shape, weight and parts. It spreads its wings, soars high, gliding towards a place where it can remain hidden,where people do not know about it, the dreams in dreamland. Ah the time ,it’s quick! It all happens so swiftly.
The air was getting worse, carried particulates its killing all of us slowly each one of us, her daughter herself. It doesn’t matter, its killing all of us. Her eyes followed the moving hair ends and wind flowing through, the air is heavy everywhere especially at temples, the bedroom of arranged lovers, at the 6th class of government run school. It was the same air that pulled her down the day She found I belonged and had given birth to the most beautiful girl in the world. Some years back she found herself kneading atta for rotis, ever since she has been doing it everyday without fail. The mounted atta over the kneading plate her fingers drills a hole in the middle, fill in with water, she covers the hole using side flour powder in the plate and give deep attentive look for a moment acting like a stranger who doesn’t know its a fake mount with a hole then slowly proceeds to smash this act of deception, the water bubbles covered with flour rolled viscously down the mount the dough plate.It’s invisible the deception so are many things like the earth still looked flat to her even while she travelled by air, far above heavy air. And you see she found it completely amazing while running continuously she will fall only when her knees will break apart or when her breath becomes air and not just fall into space. What a certainty!
She grew around temples the air inside the temple were much lighter back then.the sky seemed to contain in itself the vastness of our planet..it contained the world for a difficult girl like her. What marked her was count of endless sunflowers gaping at her, her feet bleeding by the sharp stones sleeping under the Tapti River bed. She still found flowing water suspicious, it calls us isn’t it? The beauty blinds us. Its sound lingers for hours after waking up. And yes,once she practiced in her rough notes her signature, precisely she was in tenth class, she tried different ways…and finally settled for one which she could confidently repeat, the big oval O and flowing “sheen” in lessening size and “n” dissolving .Yes She was so glad to see her beautiful name flowing out of her fingers. When Mishu turned three, she took a scissor and chopped her hair short very short, you see it covered her, and then it enabled her to see Mishu’s face clearly.
It was last summer when Baba’s house was sold to a total stranger.The deal finalized through an agent,she had to just sign.Her education was signature. But that too with age frequently changed like her thoughts every time a new one.At times people at bank asked her to re sign, they found it different.The last time she visited the house it was some three years back,it was crippled. Baba, Osheen’s father, Baba’s house, looked older than its age, wrapped in dark webs, floored with chipped paints, coated with undisturbed set dust and powdered woods the ants piled up, the mango tree pushing the house covering the window, wild grass covered it entrance like a mask over face.The seepage through walls after drying made dark designs,the fallen twigs, birds lived there now, free from any idea of relocating. The house required money and there was never enough money to renovate it, it would be a poor investment to maintain it, it was in a village, the kids would hardly ever go there. She could be convinced easily, surprisingly easy to understand the house was a property and after all it was“she”who signed it no one forced her. It was the most practical to sell it. We cannot take care of lot of things when we need money. The unimportant ones are most important when it’s time to raise funds. A sad affair meant to forgotten soon.The country from where she belongs to a Housewife doesn’t earn. She is born with breasts, She feeds babies, stays back home. Everyday lunch at 1:30 pm.
While she actually believed she would soon forgot the it, it became increasingly difficult. She was actually an orphan now ,losing the grip. “Ae Oshi kya hua!”caressing not questioning, Ma used to call her, the voice inside, while Mishu banged the piano keys. It was amazing how voices of dead parents live in us, which no one can hear, any time she could close her eyes and remember the exact words,they talking of vegetables, milk, water, temples, going out, finding papers, philosophy, books, broken phrases hung. The voices seemed to live with her. which they spoke when Ma brushed her said say eeeeee clamp your teeth, say aaaaaaaa wider. Years later they talk in the same tone in her head. Osheen was running away from becoming one more copy of her own clueless mother who always agreed with everything like, even while she was alive she agreed to die! Her father died in sleep dreaming of Osheen standing straight on her feets, like a life size statue at junction. Mishu giggled she moved around the house swiftly. Her little toes tak tak tak. flapping like penguins.
Loneliness was confining, she naturally started to experiment. Her young free self clung like cancer,how once she adored the expression called “fearless freedom of mind”! Where was she? What happened to her? She locked herself in bathroom, her bony frame in the mirror, The faucet running, a new hairdo too would not change the way she looks at herself,nor the faint lines near her eyes, her bones leaving the flesh, she presses the wrist to feel the firmness,some more time it would stay close to the bones, her upper lip showing the maleness in her and most of all the first white pubic hair deep below her navel lost in the plump belly, she was changing ,her mind seeking her body leaving. Mishu was knocking the door she feared the silence in the house, Mishu feared her mother being drained, whirling, curling, gyring through the tiny holes, she bangs the door as her tiny heartbeats running like wheat grinding machine and howls with urgency- “mama I want to tell you something mama mama”( knocks again) .Mishus sharp voice cut her in parts standing still. Restless Mishu was always aware of mother’s mood.(Mishu knew mama,mama knew Mishu. Mishu hated mama silent, her inner voice ) Mishu needed her mother urgently like a blanket around.Osheen unfolding self made her vulnerable to herself. Often her mind ran wild, at times she was pitiable, caching bits of her roles.She quickly buttoned but moved out slowly.
Her confinement after self-declaration was burdensome,the running were more alluring than it appeared as if the morning walk were a glimpse of the day has to be. She walked faster her limbs wanting the slice the fresh air and her mind like a confined rodent trying to escape. Going out were amazing and this day was it, as she walked alone on the street she saw a woman on right taking out the keys of her car, she opened and put in a black purse inside she had bony face, short set hair, a white shirt, her bones in place, sharp moves with control over self so clear, nothing concealing, confident, refined, for a moment Osheen felt like a boiled egg hopping on the street. She was more swift now, perhaps a trial to gain the control, her nerves regulating with the movement of flesh in place, the quick hard steps pushing the blood up, face warmer at a turning, second she plans to change the route she usually takes,towards a deserted quieter way,there were more trees,leaves moving like giggling girls, the bark tough ,the cracks stiff, she looked towards its root and felt a sudden urge to pull the tree out its place, shake it hard and say -“walk, walk faster!” Trees don’t walk they are stuck and that’s its life, people love trees that way quiet, still, beautiful in one place, fruits shades…
The lane was occupied by retired oldies. She found the quiet air in the such lanes averse it made her aware even as a young mother is was not used to so much of quietness. The visible end of the road blocked by turns and bending trees, where was she headed to after all? This question probably was absurd when she already chose to take turn and move ahead.
A middle age man was walking towards her, aloof, clear. The languor stirred her mind, she quickly decides for him, she imagined him coming for her and her alone, sketching mawkish rendezvous, to feel his cheeks , to garner how it feels, someone coming near, for her, her alone, for her for just being herself. She took him for granted till he’s gonna cross her. Her heart beat rose as he neared her. The moment they approached , she garnered his unfamiliar tuned smell as her own, as the space oozed out between, stock-still she imagined kissing him placing firmly her lips.The man, lost in his thought, moved past as a dry leaf in air. Ahhh what moved in her so intensely? What pierced her? Somewhere in her heel, she turned around and swiftly started to walk back home with her extremely aching heel blood dripped…
As she moved past limping the dry Peepal tree in the kitchen yard she glanced at the window and her mind reverberated “when we decide to leave, we just leave”. She quickly moved her fingers towards the bleeding heel and forcefully pulled the thorn inserted deep in her impassively feeling the pain, as moving thorn slowly tore her apart, as her red blood oozed, till it was out in totality and she could see with her eyes the length, breadth and depth of the part which moved in her yes with clear eyes, clear mind, yes, the long white thorn was now red.
Omi Pandey Anish, She lives near Sabarmati River, adores words and records moments with the blink of her eyes. She is raising two beautiful stars, and gets lost in empty rooms.