Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Empty eyes (A short story)

Bidisha latched the door from inside and jerked it twice just to be sure. The room was a complete mess. The old wooden bed was laden with unwashed clothes and bedsheets. The same old black-n-white television in the corner, the flickering tubelight and the images of Kali on the wall.

The room stank too, actually. Bidisha knew the smell well. It was the rains. The dreaded Kolkata rains that washed over the very spirit of the city. They had manged to creep into ever nook and corner of the room. 
They established their reign over the skies and the sun. And they lashed out with fury against everything that moved. For some people, rains were romantic. For Shonagachi, there was nought but ruin.

The streets flooded, sewers got choked and rubbish floated everywhere. The mosquitoes bred as quickly as the dogs. Clothes wouldn't dry and their moisture would soak the insides of the room as much as the water dripping from the walls.
Load shedding was a part and parcel of life, so were food poisoning and diarrhea. Customers and clients were few and the inflow of cash dwindled. 

Bidisha could hear Moni didi singing "Jabe rimiki jhimiki jhare bhadarer dhara". It was as if Moni could read her mind.
" On rainy days
When it rains in pattering sounds
I cannot tell how I feel
So bewildered is my mind."

Bidisha almost tore off the cloth that covered her old trunk. Beneath that old threadbare cover, lay her treasure. She threw open the lid and the edges creaked with the effort.
Right on top of her pile of clothes, lay the small notebook. Brown, rough cover and adorned with three simple lines. The kid of notebook you would find in any school bag. But, it was in Bidisha's trunk.

Bidisha turned over the pages swiftly. Scared to look at her old sketches. Afraid that their memory might erase the new one from her mind. As one of her hands flipped the pages, the other one's bangles jingled as she sought her pencil.
She threw the notebook on the bed and jumped, pencil in hand. The dark room, the sodden air, the creaking fan, the pitterpatter of rain and the sound of maashi screaming ..all disappeared. 

The arms first, lean and muscled. The kind these rickshaw pullers have. Maybe he was one. The right one had a black 'taweez' tied to it. The left one had a mole near the elbow. Not too hairy though, although the armpits were hairy. Yes!
Hands? Rough. Very rough. Smelling of bidi? Or was it hash? No. Bidi. The nails were uncut. Dirt beneath three of them. The right hand was relatively cleaner. She could still feel the grip on both her breasts. And on her thighs. 
The legs? Both muscular and hairy. He hadn't given her time to observe those. If only she had been on her knees, she could have observed better. All the legs impressions were from the five minutes he spent panting on top of her, once he was done.
The stomach? Flat, almost concave, a trail of hair in the middle. The nipples were tiny, the hair on the chest were sparse and very rough. Flat and bony. Not like those pot-bellied alcohol addicts.
And the face? The face! She screwed her eyes tight.
Thin lips, thick greying moustache, two of the side teeth were broken and all of them were stained yellow. The nose was prominent, hawk like and sprouting hair. Hollow cheeks, bearded and pock marked. The hair were gone from the centre. Flat on his head, probably due to the rain. And smelled of fumes. 
The eyes? Big, not very heavily lidded and round in shape. Popping out and staring. Like those men who had a swelling in their necks. And empty. Empty eyes she liked. They did not scare her.
It was the pained eyes that tortured her, the lusty ones that made her recoil and the angry ones that bit. Thankfully, empty eyes this one had. 

"Aaaaaayyyyyyeeeee Bidisha!! " , Maashi knocked hard on the door. Another customer? 
She threw the pencil back into the trunk and banged the lid shut. Jumped over to the mirror and plastered her lips with lipstick. One quick effort to straighten her dress and she bolted out the door.

The notebook lay on the bed. It's pages fluttering, each containing a different figure. Each capturing a different set of eyes. Moni didi was now humming softly somewhere,
"Kee phul jhorilo bipul ondhokare"
(A bud waned in the endless dark
Her fragrance like an unfinished cue
Penetrated my slumber)

Friday, November 1, 2013

The slaying of Madhu and Kaitabha

The story has been taken from the first chapter of Devi Mahatmaya.
When King Suratha asks Rishi Markendeya, as to what is the "Nature and origin of Mahamaya". The rishi tells this tale to him.
I have tried to translate the original texts, to the best of my abilities. All the faults are mine, all the brilliance is hers.

'tvam svāhā tvam svadhā tvam hi vasat-kārah svara-ātmikā
sudhā tvam akasare nitye trithāmātra-ātmikā sthitā'

The entire Kalpa had come to an end. Water was everywhere. The seas had swallowed whatever land they could find. The mighty waves had established their reign over the three worlds.
Lord Vishnu was asleep. He had taken to his mystic slumber (Yoganindra) upon the sesa-naga. And as everything appeared calm and at peace, there emerged something from his ears.

Madhu and Kaitabha sprang to life, born of Vishnu's ear wax. Both of them looked at each other and laughed maliciously.
"What must we do, brother?", one of the them asked (for they were indistinguishable from each other)
"Come! We must take advantage of Vishnu's slumber. Let us go slay someone. someone mighty and powerful."
"Why not Brahma then? he shall be the easiest one to overtake. We could pounce and Him and finish Him off forever"

And they patted each other on the back. Delighted at having reached a mutual agreement, they sauntered off to finish the newly appointed enemy.

Brahma sat on the lotus that had emerged from Vishnu's navel. Lost in meditation and contemplation of the world, he stirred from his deep trance.
He could feel them coming. The shift in energy was palpable, so was the invincible force.
Brahma closed his eyes again and the entire scene passed before Him. They had been born of Vishnu, the preserver himself. And only He could destroy them.

To rouse Hari from His deep eternal slumber ...Brahma focused his prayer on the great Yoganidra residing in His eyes.
His deep, sonorous voice resonated as He extolled Her virtues,

"You are Svaha, and Swadha. You are the Vasatkara (the vedic Yajna) and the embodiment of Svara (you the sacrifice and the Heaven that can be attained through it). You are the nectar.
You are the emobidment of the threefold mantra ( A,U,M). You are half a matra, though eternal. You are Savitri (referrign to the Savitri hymn in Rigveda) and the Supreme Mother of the Gods.

You are the One who has created this world, you sustain it and you are the one who shall preside over it's destruction.
You enclose the creative, preserving and destructive forces within you. And you change them at will. Whenever you deem it necessary to do so.
You are the great knowledge (Mahavidya), the great delusion (Mahamaya) , the great intellect( Mahamedha) , the great contemplation (Mahasmriti), Mahadevi and also the great Asuri.

You are the primiordial force that gives life. You are the dark nights of dissolution. You are the Goddess  of good fortune, the ruler, modesty, intelligence, satisfaction, tranquaillity and patience. Armed with gleaming mighty weapons ... you are terrible and yet beautiful.
Your beauty is beyond compare, O great Isvari.

You are the soul of everything. The inner force that pulsates inside all things real and imaginary. How much more can i praise thee?
Even the One who created and sustaisn and devours the world, is put to sleep (by you). Who can praise and describe you, O Devi?
You, who have formed all three of us ...Brahma, Vishnu and Siva.
Emerge! O Mighty One. Release Vishnu from his slumber. And let Him slay these two demons who are wrecking havoc"

And from the pores of Vishnu's body, emerged a blinding light. A force of such magnitude that his eyes, mouth, nostrils, arms, heart and breast ....glowed with it.
She extracted herself completely and appeared in front of Brahma. And as Brahma bowed before her, Vishnu finally opened His eyes.

And then followed the war. For five thousand years, Vishnu fought with the two asuras. Using nothing but his bare hands, He clashed with them again and again. The dance of death continued over the mighty ocean.

The Mahamaya had already cast Her influence upon them. Deluded by Her, they looked Vishnu in the eye and asked him, "You may ask us a boon"

ShriBahgavan smiled at their question and secretly bowed to Mahamaya. He then answered, "If the two of you are satisfied with my skill in battle ... give me the humble boon of killing you both"

Both Madhu and Kaitabha looked all around and smiled inwards.
"You may slay us. But you can do so only in a dry place. Find a spot where the Earth isn't submerged beneath water. And we shall hand ourselves over to you"

Then the Kamalnayan smiled, and patted his thighs. And upon his loins he laid both their heads.
Then He picked up the divine Sudarshan-Chakra, the very force of which could turn universe to dust. And slayed their heads.

And therein lies the glory of Mahamaya. The wielder of the great Maya, that binds us all.