THE LOVE OF ANONYMITY
THE LOVE OF ANONYMITY
" Monsoon doesn't arrive in our colonies dressed like a poet's mirage, But like a wicked landlord.
When your wind chimes mingle and sway,
The monsoon in our colonies is not about earth smelling
our roofs are windblown without mercy. more lekker than the flowers, but wet benches and untrimmed grass in the public parks seizing beds from the homeless.
I found a black and white photograph of my mother's ultrasound,
Indeed nameless children never have coloured photos " ,
Nani's first page of the diary muttered under the breath.
Nani had never believed in afternoon naps, but it was there in the afternoon and she was laying on her side having draped an extra bedcover on herself. Things had changed with time, she would say and days had started getting longer somehow. It had nothing to do with age, she would staunchly argue.
She had managed to fall asleep despite the sounds of the construction work going on outside. She had dreamt that ,.....
All of them went to the same school,
Huge, vast and breathtakingly beautiful.
The more you learn about it, the more you shall be fascinated.
Chemistry was one wondrous place.
The school was excellent in all aspects that "mattered". Pictures of proud alumni who had taken over the world in hexagonal frames - insulin, milk of magnesia, baking soda in his chef's hat - all of them besides others whose existence contributed to the school's reputation, adorned the walls.
The 'pop' sound indicated that the first period has begun. The students settled in their pre-determined seats which by now they knew as well as the back of their hands. The roll numbers allotted to them were well-known in the campus and determined their seating arrangement. The furniture in the class needless to say was impressive too. One big table instead of too many little ones called the " Periodic Table", stood in the middle with more than a hundred little empty places to accommodate all of them.
The alkali metals all huddled together, laughing and gossiping as they settled in the first vertical column of the table - which were their regular seats looking at each other. They were a cool group 3 of friends popularly called Group I. "Vibranium" is so cute, Lithium blushed . "Stop crushing over fictional characters, will you?", chuckled Potassium. They all looked at Sodium and shot each other emphatic glances. Everyone knew he had been problematic lately . Being a rich kid who has more electrons than he needed, he always got into fights because of his "unstable" mind and an characteristic habit of over reacting. Infact, he stopped talking to everyone altogether. Most of them avoided him too, except that one girl, Chlorine, a girl with a pretty face always dressed in yellowish green clothes. She used to always look at Sodium from the further end of the table next to the "nobles" halogens sat. She never thought of Sodium as the delinquent but someone who could make strong bonds with people and be useful to the world once he got the right guidance. "Poor little So", she pointed out to Helium. Helium didn't react. He was perhaps too noble to reply to petty class issues just like all of them were excessively introverted, emotionally stable and immune to pain. They acted as if they were too mature to be seated next to her. But in spite of that, she and all the others are secretly wished they could have the exact configuration as cool as one of them.
Chlorine sighed before she smiled to herself and walked up to Sodium, "Hey, So", she cheered. "Hey are you here to mock me?", snarled Sodium. "Oh dear, Lord no! I was just wondering if we could go out sometime", she said,as she offered him a chocolate.
Sodium was dumbfounded. Before long a smile broke out all over his face and then he did something which he has never done before. With enormous force and speed like light, he plucked out one of his electrons and offered it to the kind-hearted girl standing in front of him. "Here, take this" he said smiling. Chlorine smiled knowing that she had made the troubled child happy again but owing to her of not being "electronically stable", she politely refused the gift."Hey, I might be troublesome and a misbehaved student of the school but if there is one thing I knew, we are always better together", he said with a smile and placed the gift in her hand.
The scenarios kept tiptoeing in her dreams, meant a certain degree of subconscious acceptance which she might not have liked to otherwise admit.
The noon grew stronger and the bookshelf somehow started morphing itself into absurd objects. She jumped out of her reverie and opened her eyes. She scrambled to fold the bed cover and positioned it at the foot of the bed. Glancing at the clock, she realised that it was almost evening.
She hurried to the other room to check up on Nana. He was still fast asleep, his mouth slightly parted open. She found herself marvelling at the sight of him sleep, silent on the foreground of the bustling city. She had always wondered where he went when he fell asleep. She wondered if he was caught up in an adventure or a crime or an autopsy or just a simple conversation. But be that as it may, the only thing she now knew for sure, was that she wasn't a part of it.
She placed herself beside him and quietly patted on his cheek to wake him up. He groaned at the sound of her voice and turned away his cheek.
"You need to wake up now, or you won't be able to sleep at night", she said , her voice becoming stern.
Nana always had trouble falling asleep at night when he overslept in the evening. She has tried many a times, to discourage him from his mid-day siesta, but he and never heeded her. In turn with time she found herself quickly sliding beside him to rest her eyes.
" What's the noise? No,no, tears are amalgamating with the red, diluting it. Ugghh!! She is ruining my art. Seems like it's time for another dose of Alprazolam. It keeps my performers compliant and slows down their blood flow, giving me more time", Nana exclaimed, in desperation .
" She had then conceived a child in the evening, on a storage room, by the roof of our building, littered with wet laundry, across the clothesline and over the pigeon droppings that plastered the parapets of our rooftops or scrubbed scales of fish; after I learned that a forensic criminology department had hired me", Nana's heart thumped with fright.
Beads of perspiration galloped along his chin to the fat dollops of his neck, "I have made hundred and two meticulous incisions from her face to her ribs. I need to be extremely methodical otherwise she will die and dying means game over. She made me realise that while a knife can cut through the human skin as smoothly as it cuts through a doll's, a doll can survive thousand cuts but humans cannot. It was still glorious, though. Her carotid artery bursts and the shade of country wine ; i.e. blood is all on my face, on my hands . It was everywhere. The memory still makes me grin.
Time to work on her arms.
I can feel the excitement building up. I'm no maniac but this definitely makes me chuckle, I take her hand in mine. Her feeble toned arms will soon be a watermelon ice pop, like a parting-line of a bride's hair . I sterilize the skin on her right shoulder and arm. I then pick up the scalpel #16 from the surgical kit, I was using scalpel #11 but my cuts needed to be deeper now. I'm slowly moving horizontally along an invisible line at the top of her bicep. As I tear her skin, I see her teen days of womanhood, feels like menarche is spilling out. Sighing deeply, I relish the moment. It seems like the pain had cleared away a bit of the haze . I can feel her staring at me with her glassy eyes. With great difficulty, I take my eyes off and smile at him. Oh!! hair looks beautiful dyed in the last tint of, alike menopause. She doesn't smile back. How rude !! Can she not feel the splendour of the moment ?" Nana yawningly grinned and snapped himself out of his dream.
"Well atleast you are awake", she scoffed, picking herself up from the bed and heading outside. She stood just outside of his bedroom, witnessing as he ferociously circled the space, shooting angry side-glances at her from time to time, muttering gibberish which Nani failed to decipher, " If you can control the want, it's called desire and if you let the want control you , it becomes an obsession " . Nani knew that his physical exercise was to be accompanied with a barrage of perplexing questions. Well today, Nana wanted to know who she was.
Nani had known Nana or 50 years now, forty-five of them, as his wife, yet this simple fact never sounded enough of an answer to even her, let alone his mind buzzing with the jolting suspicions accompanying typical Alzheimer's.
In these moments, she has always believed that his pain was greater than hers, the pain of being a lone ranger in the barren island. But no matter how hard she tried, the lump in her throat when he asked her who she was always threatened to choke her. She saw Nana writhing in agony, unaware of where he was, and even who he himself was.
As days would pass, he would look at himself in the mirror and not recognise who it was. But she knew that in those moments, she would be standing beside him, reminding Nana, his name over and over again. But here she was, apparently unable to even repeat her own name, for words, as she discovered start sounding meaningless if one repeats them too many times.
Nani watched him palpitating as he settled himself to catch his breath, unconsciously blabbering under his cigar infused breath,
" It's all around me. It's dripping , gushing and oh it smells so sweet. It's metallic, tangy flavour, I can almost taste it in the air. A blurred is staring at me from the floor, silent. I like it that way. Quietness suits her. Human bodies are so fascinating, so passionate. Just a little incision and it would effuse it. It is the colour of Phoenix and every time I make a cut , " I feel reborn "."
All of his little episodes had the tendencies to leave both of them out of breath. Hers was more emotional, than physical, for it was heartbreaking for her to imagine that the person she had respected for so long, couldn't even be called a person anymore.
It was more than just the toll of him not recognising her. It was literally as if a person drifting away bit by bit, in front of her own eyes.
Our love was a dose of insulin ; a constant reminder of how too sweet is fatal.
The narrative questions of the history of marriage - not based on love - institution of marriage - thrived over the cause of paternity, inheritance and property.
Mixed reception ::- "The story could hardly, it would seem, give pleasure to any reader, and to many whose lives have been touched through the dearest ties by this dread disease, it must bring keenest pain. To others whose lives have become against heredity of mental derangement, such litera contains deadly peril. Should such stories be allowed without severest censure?"
Isn’t it frustrating to recall dreams vaguely, in bits and pieces, and struggle to weave them back together? What must have been those dreadful dreams that Nana envisioned?
The plot line also reflects upon the issues mostly ignored - mental health, unhappy marriages , desires of the elderly. Glassy steel buildings and high rises hold a towering presence over a sea of chawls, forgotten; rustic furniture never forgetting their colonial past house corporates and migrant workers all at once; the former sit coolly indoors, while the latter fight for space between pillars and pedestals.
It is at once clear that any love story is never contained solely within partners in a relationship, but dictated by the agency. The plot shows the dual orientations of power and powerlessness, through the perspectives of women who negotiate space, agency, and love. essaying a character in crisis. Marriage and motherhood have consumed Nani, rigid gender norms mean all care work and responsibility fall on her.
It would be also interesting to trace where this introspection of the self happens. As I suspect the plot to tweak itself at the end , Nani takes the train, and wistfully strolls through the city. As we see through her memories and regrets, there is greater mobility in spaces, experiences, and opportunities.