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 daysWhen 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)