Entrapment

May 3, 2008 at 4:22 pm (Shiladitya Sarkar, Short Story)

Algae grow over the carved path that leads to her house. At night, away from her, Aniket waters the plants in a small roof-top garden. Each time he passes a row, he concentrates, careful not to water more than necessary. But sometimes he forgets. The spray can, held at a slant, keeps dripping. At such times, with the water trailing near his feet, the sides of his kurta wet, the green of the leaves dark under the muted terrace bulb, he is overcome with guilt remembering his small room. The room where paper-flowers flutter whenever the south wind blows in. Each flower dangles on a dry stem once the fan is turned on. 

 

Evening. On the pavements in the city’s busiest crossing, young lads sell jasmines. His girlfriend buys some, smells them while walking. He keeps himself on the side of the traffic, careful that she doesn’t trip or hit a lamppost. To ease her, he talks of many things, often about the flowers he grows in his rooftop garden: golden marigolds, karabi, water lilies…

 

“Must be a gardener,” she tells her friends.

 

“Bring some flowers for me,” a friend requests. “My vase is empty,” a cousin pleads. “Roses would look lovely by my harmonium,” a neighbour wishes.

 

Aniket’s room is near the staircase landing. On his way up or down, he meets many people. They greet him, say a hello; they ask for his flowers too, those that he grows in his garden. He tells them his stock won’t make stunning ikebana. He has no elegant bonsai to offer.  Maybe, some marigolds or a dahlia.

 

She visits him, often in the afternoon.

 

“Let’s sit outside,” he tells her. She hesitates, her face marked with a frown, as if surprised listening to the flutter of coloured plastic sheets inside the room. He switches off the fan. He wipes off the glue stains on the floor. He insists they sit by the terrace door. But she wants him in his room, by the window. She moves around the space slowly, careful not to miss a step. He grows afraid. What if she finds the touch alien … what if the glue smells give away his deceit? He then talks of many unconnected things: how a snail is different from a shark, a pebble from flowing lava.

 

“Do rolling stones ever gather any moss?” she asks abruptly. He laughs, thinking how the simple word ‘pebble’ has taken her mind towards a proverb. A week before, on a Sunday, she asked if he knew of any landscape artist. He mentioned a few names which sounded strange to her. “Artists,” he said, “wonderful painters.”

 

 

“No … not them. An office colleague will be moving to a new apartment building next August. He wants a landscape designer to do up the complex.”

 

Alone at night, watering the flowerpots on the rooftop, Aniket wonders what it takes to be these unique gardeners, folks who doll up concrete spaces with a green lie.

 

He wonders, notepad in hand, how tiring it would be to tame and trim the nature.

 

 

An old lady, his neighbour, whispers, “What is her name, the one who visits you?” Eyes glistening, the old lady adds, “Isn’t she lovely?”

 

 

“A nice girl,” he replies. “Loves flowers, most.”

 

 

 Shiladitya Sarkar

 

 

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Metaphor

May 2, 2008 at 8:52 am (Shiladitya Sarkar, Short Story)

 

It was a cold evening, and the city lights were all blurry in the mist. My mother dressed me well, with pullovers and mufflers. She said we were going to a strange place and I was to keep silent, not to trouble her. We boarded a blue bus with curtains on the windows. The bus sped through a meandering track, flanked by sugarcanes and grape farms. A song was playing on the audio system. A young girl, her hair tied with a ribbon, was taping the backrest of the seat in front of Ma’s. I wanted to pull at her plait … stick a chewing gum on her dress. I wanted to tickle her. I pictured her getting mad at me. Then I fell asleep.

 

When I followed Ma down the steps of the bus, I couldn’t make out where we were. It was tar dark. She lit her torch, moving the torchlight, here, there everywhere, as if frightened. A night bird kept calling out in a scratchy voice. I grew afraid in Ma’s presence as the torchlight kept illuminating the objects round us for split seconds: a tall tree, unnamed in my consciousness, a church spire, a lean path bordered with small plants. A squat building seemed to run in a continuous line till the horizon. The light caught its roof in patches, which was tiled. The light also hit the sides of a broken truck at the far end of the building, its wheels flattened to the ground. The broken handle of a tubewell sparkled as the light brushed over it. A wind picked up from no where. The leaves rustled. An insect buzzed past the shaft of light.

 

Ma elbowed me. I followed her along the thin concrete strip. I wished I had my toy gun. Its rattling sounds would have driven the fears away now crouching around me. Somewhere in the distance, I saw lights behind a window with frosted glass. I heard voices, faint and disturbing. The concrete track gave away to soggy mud. In the torchlight I saw iron grills ahead of us, beyond which ran a hallway.

 

“Don’t tell anyone what we intend to do this winter. Don’t tell anyone why we have come or where we will go. Now keep walking, or else, you won’t get anymore toys.”

 

She tripped against a raised plinth. She lost the grip on the torch and it fell with a thud. The light formed a yellow pool around a marble slab imprinted with a name and two dates, hyphenated.

 

“Where are we? I asked.

 

Ma’s fingers, cold and  firm, led me away. 

 

– Shiladitya Sarkar.

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Imago

April 15, 2008 at 5:27 am (Poetry, Shiladitya Sarkar)

  Underneath a sun swept milieu, pictures copulated like snakes. At dusk, the same images turned into shrivelled skins. Watching, we laughed; our smile shaded into the evening light. After the crowd thinned from the show, we too decided to move some place else. We hunted, changed tracks, and left behind the familiar signposts that led to our doors. All for another beginning, we smelt of beehives, we stuffed new names within our cramped hands. We talked.

 

The listless moon watched us. Seeing us conversing, the stars smiled. They knew how soon we would grow into an ancient typeface if stray voices seeped into us. Seeing us gnawing on byte-sized beliefs the storyteller also laughed; he knew too, surely, we would puke in front of the victory stand after shouting out our hurrahs. Inside the womb of our waiting, imaginings alone bore the fatigue of lost tongues.

 

Hovering like diligent red ants, we still carried images inside the irises of the onlookers. Seeing us on the move, they parted their lips in a strange smile.  They whispered about death amidst rose gardens.  Meanwhile, slapped left and right, our voices clawed on graffiti stained walls. Our blotchy hands shuffled yellowing oath papers. And the pictures re-aligned all to a new order of alphabet. To talk again, simply, without colouring the wounds, without forgetting the commonplace.

 

– Shiladitya Sarkar

 

 

 

 

 

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