Thursday, February 16, 2012

Installed desires...continued 7

"Hello Aunty! How are you?"

It was Mithya's call from the US. Ritwika's mom had picked up the phone.

"Arey Mithya Beta, such a pleasant surprise! We are good. How are you doing?"

"We are very good Aunty. Wanted to talk to Ritwika. Is she around? Her phone is unreachable."

"Oh! Right now she isn't. But i shall i ask her to get back to you when she returns."

"Thank you, Aunty. And take good care of yourself. I am coming to India on the 22nd next month. See you around then."

"Alright beta. Will cook your favourite Malpua then."

Mithya could chirpily add a "Love you Aunty" before she hung up.

Mithya and Ritwika were the closest buddies in college. They shared this beautiful chemistry of understanding each other's state of mind by just hearing each other's voices on phone. They were the most daring among the gang when it came to taking up challenges on 'Truth and Dare' and the most out-spoken of the lot when it came to abusing those Romeos on road who tried to act too fresh for their age. However, this 'we-are-so-outspoken-unless-we-are-home' image that they boasted off with elan was a shared fakeness they had inherited in their individual lives. Harshika, on the other hand, was this dreamy, introspective girl with ideas to see herself change the orders around her, move out of the luxurious comforts of her inherited South Delhi life and do something 'meaningful' with her life. Each one among them was learning to search and hunt for 'their' meanings, their definitions, their adjustments before time parted them yesterday.

Mithya could not fight it out enough. She agreed to marry the NRI in US after she broke off with her guy. It seemed like Anuvansh and Mithya loved each other a lot. But as the romance post-college life dies at the first whiff of reality, so did the chemistry between them. Further, the strict decorum of the Ahujas who sold their souls in promises and alliances made were too strong for Mithya to break.

And anyway, love is all about a safety nest, all about a comparative degree of mental, psychological, emotional compatibility of an individual with the other. Things like romance, depth of feelings etc etc follow once the guy in question is rich and mature and the girl sensible and sexy at the same time. This manufactured romantic love is more often than not a fidel slut who tries to be virginal each time a new, true affair falls in place unless the tiredness of the same old things repeated all over again makes love a boring exercise to be fulfilled. If at all there is an emotion it is respect, and nothing fancy and dreamy beyond that. Anuvansh taught Mithya to love but the subject of her love for the rest of her life socially and culturally was to be Mr. Kaushal Wadhwa, a leading entrepreneur in the NRI community settled in the US.

Harshika finally broke off from her comfort zone. She moved out of Delhi, lived a few months in Chhattisgarh and saw lives at the Salwa Judum infested areas, a few days in the Kashmir valley, wounded and festered with the hoarse cries of 'hum kya chahte, azadi' and a few more in Manipur, waking up each night with the shrill cries of the bullets and women. It was then that she decided she would work in the education sector. She joined an NGO and had been working as a sahayika in various part of the country ever since.

Ritwika settled for the first central government job she got in the education sector. She desperately needed to settle with a career to shut up voices pitching out from all fronts criticising her family's moves to allow a girl to study so much. She had seen her parents being so passionate about her studies that they left their society, relatives - almost everybody they called their own, at the cost of even snapping up familial links with some to stand firm on their passion and resolve. Ritwika owed a job to them to help them answer some of their well wishers.

Vihangam could not fulfill his dreams of getting into lecturership because at the time of his PhD degree he was hinted to grease the palms of the HoD to assure a seat in college. He was this principled man who believed in merit and did not compromise on renting it out on lease. In front of his own eyes he saw his brother-in-law, Neena's brother, Chkradhar Pandey rising up the educational business ladder by shelling out a couple of rupees to get into lecturership and later grab the position of the HoD. He even married the daughter of his guide in lieu of the strong favour the latter did in setting up favourable contacts for Chkradhar in the department of sociology.

As it turned out, his guide was of the same 'illustrious' brahmin caste who was pretty jihadist when it came to settling twin scores - one with his romance-stung daughter and the other with a bloody bhumihar who could dare date a brahmin girl. Apparently she had run away with a Bhumihar guy and married him. How could his daughter decide for herself who she wants to marry? He had already maimed one of them when she got pregnant with one of his students,a brahmin guy again.

But the very fact that a girl could decide for her own self was too much for his male ego to take. The prof along with this favourite(brahmin) student of his searched and hunted the couple and asked the student almost at gun point to marry her. In turn, he assured him his job and thesis as done things with lots of dowry and property around the fast developing areas around the university. Chkradhar Pandey, the brother-in-law, could ask for nothing better in life.

So when Ritwika gained a position in DU as a lecturer, it was like Neena's answer and a tight slap to her natal family who had for long jibbed at her and her status as the wife of an unemployed researcher, merely a school teacher. In that part of Bihar, a person who isn't in government service is unemployed and socially poor, however accomplished he might be in terms of his intellectual capital stock or however sound he or she might be in their entrepreneurial ventures. Nothing except a 'lal batti wali gadi' is the best for them. Ritwika's parents too suffered from vestiges of this colonial and feudal hangover but thankfully, to her relief, were not as drunk as his other relatives were.

After college, life took complete U-turns for all the three girls. Between years in experiments and observations and inferences they could merely figure out one thing. Life was too short for any stable relationship. There was always a time to move on and out with bondings and emotions. And so did they in their own individual ways. On her bachelorette, Mithya spoke all she had festered inside her for so long. The gin and vodka had taken out the honour about the Ahujas. Harshika had talked teary eyed about her own harassment by her own brother at her household. Ritwika had broken down at her own accord realising how lucky she had been being the only child and having had the luxury of a small and modest building that she could proudly and safely call a home.

Life moved on and so did theirs. All that was left for them were aromatic whispers of these memories they shared inside. Ritwika was returning to India after seven years in the US.

"Hey Mitthu! Waasup ya? Maa said you called. How are you? When are you coming? I need to talk Mitthu. I will go mad with the vortex around me."

"Hey hey hey! What happened, Ritz? You are so not ok. Are you alright?"

"Mmmmmm...ahaan! Yeah i am. Just that was too happy to hear you would be back. Could not control myself."

"I might shift base to India."

"What? As in? Oh my Gosh! You guys are coming back Mithya? To settle here."

"Well, i am."

"What do you mean?"

"Ritz. I need to talk. This is just not working out. I tried for so long. But as it goes, i failed."

"Oh honey! You sound so miserable. Of course things are not ok. But what is it?"

"Ritz, i am coming back on the 22nd. Meanwhile, can you arrange for a job for me? I don't want to stay with my family. I do not even want to see them."

"Mitthu you come first. Job and such like are secondary issues. Looks like we really need to catch up."

"Take care, Ritz. And just hold on till i am there."

"Yeah. I will have to. I am so so lonely Mithya. There is none i can talk to and share all of this. You too take care."

They hung up. While Ritwika wondered if Dhritiman was as good as he appeared and if she deserved someone as good as him, Mithya wondered if it was wrong for a woman into seven years of an abusive marriage to call it a day? What was to happen to the commitments she had made for her own self regarding monogamy if Mithya walked out now? Divorce and a society to answer to? How will they take it? How will Mithya justify this to her past now? Is there a language the world could create about explaining things like these to a soul already wrenched apart to different calls of value systems? Is there no balance at all?

To be continued....

Installed desires...continued 6

It was a warm Wednesday. After a two hours long lecture on her favourite poet, Keats, Ritwika was unwinding with her coffee on the parapet. Vihans walked upto her and asked her if she had anymore classes for the day. Ritwika could merely mumble a no. He asked her if she wanted to accompany him to Humayun's tomb. She looked at him with a questioning air. He merely gazed at her for an answer. In a helpless yet careful response she said she had to meet Dhritiman, her new suitor. Vihans nodded and gave her a squeeze on her shoulder.

They sat there sitting for hours on a stretch. The sun had cast a soporific opiate on the senses by now. In the yellow, red, orangish, brick vision of the grass from the parapet one could see the February sun melt and mould the morning mist on the blades of the grass into a moistened expanse. The college was busy with the annual fest. The parapets were abandoned in want of serious mugging up sessions during exams. Vihans sat with Kafka on his lap while Ritwika drank the dewy wine of the nightingale's voice in the Keatsian ode. She looked up to find Vihans immersed in his world. May be he was looking for K or searching for a meaning in the Kafkaesque prelude of the funnily ordered universe. May be he had already mounted on his existential sojourn into the hundred years of damned love/lust/affection/romance. The stubble on his gaunted cheeks looked green and inviting.

Ritwika leaned in and said. We can go for a short drive around the city before i meet Dhritiman. Vihans nodded and they moved out of college. In the car neither of them spoke. The song 'Bawra mann' floated around this strange yet familiar air between the lovers(once?). Each word in the song seemed to mock and tease and tempt and cajole the girl sitting near the window. Her kohl had spread around her almond eyes. Ritwika could only feel her incessant tears wet her face. She did not know for how long she had been crying. All Vihans could say was a sorry. On descending down the roads on the outskirts of the city, Ritwika gently pulled him towards herself and kissed him on his lips. With each delicious touch of her tongue on his skin, he could almost feel her detach herself in these intense and passionate gestures. Each nibble on his chin and each caress on his bare hands and shoulders make him almost frightened by her insanely cold conclusiveness. It seemed as if in each of these deliberately calculated moves she was articulating a finality, signing a good bye note.

This woman at once seemed too unfamiliar to him. Vihans had once told her that each word she breathed became a delicious feast in her mouth. He said her voice had that velvet, silken quality that lisped and relished each word to articulate all she wanted to convey in her deftly controlled intonation. At the moment, in the here and the now, he could almost see that savoury language unravel itself to him. But when have words been fidel to what they ever wished to convey? Ritwika spoke and unspoke at the same time. The hot flush of blood on her cheeks, the thin, almost translucent veins on her wrists, the crevices on her neck and shoulder blades drew Vihans in and by the end of their passionate love today, he was convinced that Ritwika had made up her mind in this act of her allownace. He was convinced that he had lost her in the very act of possessing her like this.

He kissed her and asked her to take care of herself. He said he would wait for her as always, and that he was always there for her, mumbling a sorry yet again in a choked, apologetic voice. Ritwika could merely give a mirthful, full throated laugh.

She said, 'Vihans, you were an awesome lover until today.'

It was already past two when Dhritiman and Ritwika met at the UCH in Connaught Place.

To be continued...