Translator: Thingnam Anjulika Samom
Do you still remember me?” The complaint tinged with all the tenderness and love of the world hit my ears and my heart. I don’t know how I replied. She continued again, “Life, isn’t it sweet? Didn’t you once desire that I do not forget you for a single moment?”
She laughed. Maybe because she recalled my unbridled manner of saying whatever I wanted to her. It is that smile of hers today too. Now too I felt the stab of jealousy.
“Tell me, didn’t you remember me even once all these days?”
What should I say? What if I replied, “All this time I didn’t forget you for even a single moment?” Those who used to walk together on a single road, the birds which used to feed together in the same lake, where have they flown away, in which directions? Which partners did they meet and where did they reach? If I give this reply now, would it be appropriate? What if she finds it funny again?
“Haven’t you written anything? Do write something or the other. If not anything else, just write down what you are thinking.”
Why won’t I write? Look … the cupboard in my room, the bed, the table, the chair, everything which my eyes rest upon, I write there. My sunken cheeks, my pale face, look at them, there are many stories written here too. Everything written here is your story, how can my lips reveal it?
“Hmm, don’t look like that.” She waved her hand in front of my eyes and broke my gaze. “I have been doing all the talking, you haven’t given even a single reply.”
True, it seems I haven’t given a reply to any of her questions. I am afraid to give an answer. And then, what rule is there that says that the reply to every question should be given by the lips? That I didn’t reply – that in itself is a reply. In it, for a single question are given a hundred replies.
She asked again, “What dish would you like to have? Today let’s eat together.”
This bond which only
my heart saw as
beautiful has however
no place in our society.
Except as an ugly bond
in which others can’t
see anything beautiful,
by which they are disgusted
I recalled those times in the past when we used to eat together. In a single plate, how lovingly, how happily! She had said then, “The doctor said I shouldn’t eat too much of protein-rich food. But when I eat with you, I always eat it.”
“Humans are destined to die one day,” I replied with an all-knowing attitude, “Why fear death so much?”
“It’s not for fear of death that I say so; is it good to invite bad health?”
What I utter foolishly she would correct. One day too, true to my nature, I had complained sullenly, “It seems you only remember me when I remember you. You never call me.”
“I could call if the phone was in your house. All that calling back and forth as it’s your neighbour’s … that’s why I don’t call.”
She must have surely wanted to laugh at my innocence. But I never saw any sign of it in her. I wasn’t able to know her at that time too. I don’t know her today either. It is amazing. I wanted to laugh at myself.
“Why’re you laughing like that? I’m just asking you what dish you would like to eat.”
Oh! It seems I had laughed aloud. The past which refuses to be unremembered makes me drown in a nightmare every now and then. That which is past. It is the story of the past that keeps me alive. And again whenever I ask myself for the meaning of this existence – to continue living and thinking about the past … heart-breaking and impossible, I want to cease living. It must have been two or three times that I tried to kill myself. But they’re guarding me so closely. They’ve made it impossible to even die freely.
“What’ll I do if I continue living? It has become difficult to continue carrying on with this joke of a life.”
“Asssh! The things you say …” She continued in a changed voice and tone, “Didn’t you say, life is beautiful?”
One day I thought thus – life is so beautiful, so lovely. But today, how can I still say that life is lovely, the way I am living now, the way I am enduring life? What a difference there is between that time and this day! At that time there was lots of hope; the heart was filled with love. There was trust. I believed in myself; I believed in love. Because of that, what did it result in? I remained drowning alone.
“One thing which cannot become possible in our undeveloped society has become my nightmare. I am caught, I am still caught in that nightmare … never waking up.”
“Eh! From where did that come from? Why are you saying all these unconnected things?”
Saying so, she folded the couple of clothes lying around in my bed. The bangles on her wrist jingled as she moved about. I looked at her hands. I recalled a time in the past. I wanted to hold her hands.
She stretched out her hand as usual. Like this, I had hold her hands and read them so many times. Palmistry, zodiac signs, I didn’t believe them much. By chance I had come across a book of palmistry. Cheiro’s Guide to the Hand, I think it was called. It became an addiction. I don’t know whether she believed it or not. Sometimes during a conversation, I would read her hands. And recalling some of the things in the book, I would foretell. How happy I was at that.
“Ey, tell me, what is there in these lines? You once said there is a huge accident in store for me. How long before it comes?”
Something written in the book had resembled something that was there in the lines on her palm, and so I had said it. What is an accident? Isn’t every happening that occurs everyday an accident? That she had come here today and met me, this too could be an accident. For that matter, this accident of the heart that had occurred to me, could there be any other bigger accident than that? Sitting with her, talking with her, participating in literary functions, telephone, eating together – I wasn’t able to see another world besides that world. I floated along in it, floated endlessly. But suddenly the news of her marriage came. The great accident occurred in my life, on my head.
“Ah, I forgot.” Pulling back her hand from my grasp she took out a book with a colourful cover from her handbag and gave it to me. “This is my new publication. You must read it and say whether it is good or bad.”
Was there ever a time when I had said that her book was bad? Even a single word that she wrote used to be beautiful to me. The first time I had been caught in her dream was her writing. How beautiful it was! What this heart felt, but which I was unable to write out myself, how I had found it all there. In her style of writing which saw the weak and ill, the poor and impoverished with sympathy … I saw the uniqueness in her. That drew me to her. Not only me … it seems many others were drawn towards her. She had narrated many stories about those men who had asked her to be their life’s partner, regardless of whether they were her match or not, big or small … She might not have known what turbulent waves rose in my heart then?
“You don’t want to read? Why are you just staring like that? Here, take it.”
I stretched out my hand and took her book. I saw her name written large on the cover of the book. Life is very funny. Funnier than that is the mind of people. Of all the words in the world, I found her broken name the most beautiful. That was the depraved nature of the mind.
When God created the world, two types of human beings – men and women – were made. Along with that, there is a natural rule between men and women – of captivating each other. But from time to time, there are errors in God’s creation, this I do not doubt. I myself could be an example of this. The error that God made while creating me is my heart. This bond which only my heart saw as beautiful has, however, no place in our society. Except as an ugly bond in which others can’t see anything beautiful, by which they are disgusted. Therefore, this bond which is of the hearts has continued to exist only as a deceitful bond. I know – she too will not like this bond which the society rejects. At that time she might also find me repulsive. So, I have continued to deceive her also. As this deceit grew, her life also gradually grew farther and farther apart from me and one day, it vanished totally. From that time, through the days and the nights, my mind has not been able to rest. It started thinking wildly, randomly, started worrying.
“I’ll leave, it’s late. There is another function at 2 o’clock.”
Leave! See, this too is like an accident in my mind. I looked at her helplessly.
“Sister Bimola has received an award; it is her reception function.”
How surprising! And also how funny! It is she who knows Ichemma Bimola, her writings. At that time none of us believed that Ichemma Bimola will receive an award. But our society has given its blessings on such impossible things becoming possible. Does she also accept this? One day, she had said, “Our literary circle is very dirty, but we are also helpless about it. Tomorrow when we become the leaders let us try to change it, let’s not incorporate any of the wrongs.”
What a huge hope that was built! That could also be a dream.
“Get well soon! Don’t think too much.”
No, if I don’t think what else will I do? The long afternoons, so many endless nights that I endured unable to sleep, thinking unconnected thoughts. And she says, don’t think. Amazing, doesn’t she know me even now? She knew that I do not like not thinking. And from that time I think more now. It is without wasting even a single moment that I think. It is only my thoughts that have built a world for only the two of us – she and I! What a happy, wonderful world, just the two of us, in solitude, in the moonlight, in the rains, in the mellow light of the mornings. When my dream, my thoughts veered slowly towards the impossible, my bond with people also slowly diminished.
“It’s late. Come out, what’s up?”
She sat up abruptly at the voice coming from the next room. It seems to be the man who had come with her. He must surely be her husband.
“I’ll go, get well.”
Without waiting for my reply, she went out hurriedly. I looked at the door through which she exited. So this must be parting, becoming apart. One day I had said to her, “Let’s never
part; lets remain close our whole lives.”
She had laughed. She must have known earlier that this won’t be possible.
“You are so alike.”
“What time is it now?”
Her voice, “It’s early. I couldn’t just …”
“You’re so comfortable with that madwoman. How many friends like this do you have? Should we go and see another one also? If you meet each of those inside the mental hospital everyday you’ll be able to write a beautiful novel.”
I couldn’t hear her reply to the angry tirade of her husband. As the voice faded away in the distance I realised – my world has not only snapped links with hers but also with the rest of the human world.
This story was first published in Manipuri as “Samnadaba Mari” in the anthology Ithak Macha Machasinggi Wari published in 2007 by Khorjeiroy Khutmarup, Thoubal