Here is another short story. Give it a read, please.
At a glance
It was almost the time of Durga Pujo, when I commenced hopping from South city to Forum, Acropolis to Mani square in quest of clothes, shoes and accessories to show off, during those unforgettable days of Pujo. In Kolkata, people wait restlessly for these few days because this is the time for family reunions, hangouts with friends, and mainly, beholding Ma, in different and stupendous attires, spellbound. If you’re a Bengali or if you dwell here, you can relate to what I am narrating.
Saurnali, who is animated every time I come across her, sprang up in the air, “We’ll go Pandal hopping.”
Deesha, with her beautiful, glittering eyes, asked,”Will everyone’s parents allow us to do that?”
I exclaimed, “Come on, the examinations will be over by then.”
Unlike others, we were the couple of girls who weren’t fortunate enough to take birth to lenient parents.
Prerona, who always has a joke or a way to make us laugh in the most fruitless and melancholy situation, commenced shouting thunderously, “We will make memories!”
Rachita, who was the best at making everything hilarious, cried, “I cannot wait. I will go to Rea’s house today, and sleep on the road till Choturthi.”
Sukarna, with her plump rosy cheeks, said, “I need to lose weight before the Pujo. So, I will live on veggies from today. Don’t you dare share your scrumptious food with me, because I will be lured by sirens so efficient at their jobs.”
“I will make it sure, that my mother prepares something delectable everyday. You will have no problem losing weight. I promise to you,” I laughed to tears.
“I am in, Rea,” the unintelligible Deesha smirked at Sukarna.
“You are so ruthless,” Sukarna elucidated.
“You cannot change anyone’s nature,” Saurnali laughed, hysterically.
After the half-yearly examination, Pujo came dashing toward us, as a mighty wind, making cynical creatures replete with bliss and incessant amazement. Sukarna didn’t lose weight, as we had prognosticated. However, she weighed five pounds more, which our predictions couldn’t get hold of because of her inscrutable actions.
The day after our examinations, which were detested to an inexplicable extent, everyone came to my home, to chalk out our whereabouts on Choturhti and Panchami.
“Please, everyone knock at my door, sharp at 10 AM,” I expounded with anxiety.
“Don’t consternate, we will. However, I cannot assure you about Deesha,” the solicitous Rachita said.
“Hey, don’t say that. Rea, I’ll be at your house before ten,” Deesha frowned at Rachita.
“On Panchami, it will be Deesha’s place. I don’t know Salt Lake, so, you guys have to help me out, then,” I said.
“No worries!” everyone screamed.
After the bafflement had consumed our sanity, we reached a conclusion. Our first stop will be Maddox square. Then, Shinghi Park, Tridhara, Mudiali, Shib Mandir, Deshapriya park, Babubagan etc. We yearned to make these the red letter days, because it was merely less than one year before we parted ways, carving our future and attempting to beat others in this race, which is the race for food and a better living.
Mahalya has always been one of my favourite times of the year, when at that pristine time of dawn, I lie on bed, indulged into listening to those mellifluous songs, which take me to an enigmatic world of divinity, a world devoid of abomination, impudence, and complexities of the mind. This is a place, where you can merely love and smile in the most naive way, pretending that your exasperation and distress had been erased for an instant or two, without contemplating about anything that ruins your peace of mind. I feel singular and inexorable when I rise up at dawn and stare at the unending sky, forgetting everything complicated, and attempting to live that incomprehensible moment, which cannot be elucidated in words, but can be felt in a thousand ways.
No sooner did Tritiya come, than we commenced talking over the phone about what we would wear and I made it indisputable that everyone ought to be on time. Although I knew that they were the most indolent beings alive on this planet, it felt better to expound it to myself that everything would be perfect.
Deesha called and said, “I am so excited. I want this to be perfect.”
I replied, “It will be.”
“I am really sorry to hear what happened lately with you and..”
“It is okay, Deesha. It was meant to be. I could never comprehend that he would turn out to be such a worthless person. History repeats itself. ”
“Okay, let us not spoil this. Tomorrow will be amazing.”
That night, none of us could sleep. We were restive. Hardly did the Sun reveal its glistening visage through the gargantuan clouds, when I rose and got everything ready. In the nick of time, I cut off the tag of the new clothes, and wore a bright floral printed crop top with a beautiful collar, and struggled my legs through a pair of printed blue Levi’s jeans.
I waited quite impatiently for the clock to tick ten, and twiddled my thumbs. Out of the blue, my phone screen came to life, and I perceived the name, Tanish, floating across the gloomy screen. I was petrified for a moment, as if I had been fettered into chains by some enigmatic power of the invisible. I stared at the screen, not being able to move. After my mobile had waited impatiently for me to pick it up, it blacked out. I couldn’t fathom this unintelligible situation, when I was paralyzed by something unknown. I was not scared of him. I endeavoured to say this to myself, however, I deciphered that my lips had become immovable and my mind, debilitated. After a few minutes of solitude, I gathered myself and made it sure that I had him erased from my memory, completely. But, it was merely lying to myself, for this precise fact that I was indeed frightened of him, more than I could envision in my wildest dreams.
As soon as I saw the clock ticking ten, the bell rang making me get into a fit. To my astonishment, it was Deesha who had appeared, just in time, as she had promised. She rushed in, and hugged me so tight, that I couldn’t breathe for a second, and I was gasping hard, after closing the door.
“Aunty, what are you so busy with?” asked Deesha, hugging my mother, who was seated on the sofa, scribbling things on the paper, from behind.
“Oh, it is just some obtuse office work, that would not cease aggravating me, even in the holidays. How are you, dear?” my mother replied, having a sip of water from a bright Tupperware bottle.
“I am doing fine. Science sucks,” Deesha giggled.
“I know. But, work hard now, party then, instead of partying now, and working hard then.”
“This is exactly what my mother says, too.”
“Mother are always right! Okay, let me serve you some pasta. I bet you’re exceedingly ravenous,” my mother made way through the hall into the kitchen.
“Did he bother you?” Deesha whispered.
“Not at all. He just called me, lately.”
“Did you answer the phone?”
“Certainly not. Why shall I? The blocking system in my phone has disrupted. I will take it to the store, after the Pujo, and I’ll make it sure that he doesn’t call me again.”
“Here’s the pasta,” mother shouted from the kitchen.
“It has always been my favourite. Haven’t I asked you to build a hill of it?” Deesha replied.
My mother laughed hilariously and went back to her work.
While devouring the delectable pasta, like a monster, I said, “Satisfying your hunger, is the best thing in the world.”
In no time, the others arrived and after listening to a few words about safety, spoken by my mother, we were off.
“Turn on the music,” Rachita said to the driver.
We were all seventeen, and none of us had a license, so, hiring a driver was the least we could do. Singing to the tunes of some comical Bollywood songs, talking about some nonsensical things, and teasing Sukarna, made the journey seem too small. I have always loved the mighty wind gushing against my face, the air in my messy hair, and the picturesque beauty of everything that passes by.
Suddenly, that entrancing music of Dhak, pacified my craving heart. I knew that we had arrived. The atmosphere the envelopes the city during Pujo, is inexplicable. It makes you feel alive. I had my camera with me, to capture these immaculate moments, which would survive the ravages of the harsh time. The streets were full of jubilant people, who had forgotten about their misery, and had decided to feel glee in these few days. Everyone looked so beautiful. However, the poor and the downtrodden could merely see them and imagine how it would be like to be merry. The contrast always remains to be. I couldn’t let myself ponder about them, and ruin everything. Sukarna and Rachita couldn’t cope with us, while walking down the road to where the Pandal was.
“We’re fat people. Please, wait for us!” Sukarana shouted.
As I stepped into the Pandal, I was spellbound. The Daker Shaaj was glittering brilliantly. The atmosphere was divine, and I stared at the weapons, Ma had in her hands. The Trident or the Trishul, in Bengali, always filled me with an anonymous strength, and at that instant, I knew that I could do something, be someone. As a child, I adored Ganesha’s plump stomach, Kartika’s beautiful peacock, Saraswati and Laxmi’s beauty and Ma’s undefined enchantment, that had me, stupefied. I clicked pictures in different angles, and my friends made it sure that they were in it.
“Hey! I am here, Rea. Click a picture,” Rachita said showing a victory sign.
“Oh, you forgot me,” shouted Saurnali.
“Rea, focus on me,” screamed Deesha.
“I am always in the picture because of my zero figure!” laughed Sukarna.
“You don’t love me, Rea,” said Prerona.
“Oh, you all, stop! I don’t have ten hands and ten cameras. You have to do with two hands and one camera. Everyone come in the middle, right now,” I shouted.
When everyone was there, I knew that it would be the best photograph, I had ever taken.
There was an enormous ground, and we found some chairs in front of stalls and had the best conversation that made me laugh to tears.
“See that guy in that white Kurta. He looks like he is about to vomit,” Prerona pointed him out.
“Maybe, last night drinking is the cause,” Saurnali laughed and acted the way he was walking.
“I couldn’t lose weight. I am so not going to be able to do so in another two years,” Sukarna explained.
“We knew that Sukarna. We didn’t say anything because we didn’t want to hurt you,” I tried to control my laughter.
“I am famished,” Rachita exclaimed.
“We just had pasta at Rea’s place,” Deesha said.
“I think my enzymes are secreted at a faster rate,” Rachita smiled.
“Okay, let’s have ice cream,” I said.
After satisfying our hunger, we went back to the car to head towards Deshapriya Park. It was rumored that the most gargantuan Pratima, of about 40 feet, had been built. To my disappointment, it was the Pandal that was forty feet high, which had been made to look like the Durga Pratima. The real idol was below it. Although I was too crestfallen to behold that, my photography didn’t cease. My friends posing in different, unique ways wouldn’t stop me from taking pictures. The next stop was Tridhara. Then came Mudiali, Shib Mandir, Ahiri Tala, Suruchi, Babu Bagan, Naktala Udayan Sangha, Badamtala Ashar Sangha, and Jodhpur Park. Each had a different theme, and I do not know how they manage to adorn Ma and the Pandal in a different way, every year. The Pandals became so crowded with people, that we gave up standing in the line for two or three clubs. It was almost three O’clock, when we had quenched our thirst for the beauty of Ma.
“Let’s go to Hatari,” Rachita said, exhausted.
“But that’s too far from here,” Saurnali replied.
“Yes, it will be almost four, till we reach Hatari. The roads are jammed. And, I know your hunger quite well, Rachita. Then again, I have heard about a new restaurant, Belle’ Pepper which had opened up lately, here. It has got amazing reviews. I have heard that they serve scrumptious Chinese food,” I exclaimed.
“Okay, then,” Rachita answered.
Exhausted, we all went to Belle’ Pepper, and got a table quickly. I ran my finger down the menu quickly and decided what I’d order. But, when I looked up to call the waiter, I saw that everyone except Saurnali, who was going through the menu too, was drooling and staring at me. I deciphered that I had to order for them too, as they were too weary to do anything. Thank God, they didn’t consume me.
“Torino Miso soup for six, and Chicken Fried Wantons would do for the starters. For the main course, we will have Shanghai Fried Rice, Szechuan Rice Noodles, Spicy Dragon Noodles. Please, exclude anything like seafood, pork, or beef from the Dragon Noodles, as I don’t have these. For the sides, I want Chicken with red wine, Chengdu chicken, and..” I said.
“Why didn’t you order any mushroom or crab?” Rachita asked.
“Because, I do not have these, and you didn’t have the vitality to order anything,” I replied.
“Okay, then, include what I said.”
The waiter was standing clueless, what to write next.
“Okay, after Chengdu Chicken, make it Szechuan crab, and Mushroom with vegetables. For desert, we would like three Sundaes, and three brownies with vanilla ice-cream.”
“Any mock tails, ma’am?” he asked.
“Make it two Blue Lagoons, Mockmosas, and Sea breeze.”
“Thank you,” he said as he parted away.
While they were still drooling, I asked to a waiter, “Could I know where the washroom is?”
“Go straight down the hallway, turn left, and there you are,” he answered.
“Thank you so much,” I smiled and headed towards the hallway.
As I was walking, I could hear someone’s footsteps from behind. I slowed down and turned back all at once to see nobody. It was uncanny and I shivered, though it was not at all freezing. To my horror, I commenced walking fast and turned left to see the door slightly ajar. No sooner did I see it, than I pushed it wide open and shut it close. Going to the sink, I turned round the knob and washed my face well with the refreshing water. As I was rubbing my face with my handkerchief, I was astounded to see a lady in a Barkha leaving the washroom hastily. I didn’t think anyone was there. To my disgust, the lights went out. My heart was beating fast, for no reason. However, I felt that someone was there. The footsteps, that lady, and then the lights weren’t coincidental. Suddenly, the door, that had been left opened by the lady, was slammed. I switched on the flash light of my phone hurriedly. Hardly did I put it up, when I saw a man, wearing a black leather jacket. He snatched my phone, flung it across the floor, and wrapped his strong, well-built arms round me, clutching my wrists so hard that in no time, they started to ache. I tried to kick him, punch him in the face, but I had no clue what I was doing, in the dark. After struggling for some time, the lights came, and I saw the ugly reflection of his in the mirror. He had a mask over his visage, which I wanted to peel off, as soon as I could. I, then, had the courage and enough Adrenaline secretion to push him hard on the chest with my elbows. He fell down, surprised to see my strength. However, I knew that running away would be better than peeling off his mask, because he was much brawnier and Herculean than I was, and he could knock me out with ease. I rushed towards the door, to unlock it. By then, he had grabbed my hair and pushed me, malevolently to the tiled wall. As I had an immensely high momentum, I hit my head hard on the wall and for a nanosecond, I couldn’t see anything but stars. I pressed my head, and cried in agony. I could see a rush of wrath in his brown eyes, when he pinned me against the wall, grasping my wrists and placing them an inch or two away from my face. He had leaned in so close, that our breaths mingled, and as he came nearer, I turned my face away from that ruthless being’s masked face.
I was trying to catch my breath, when he left me and sat down on the floor. I didn’t have the vitality to run in the nick of time, unlock the door and get out of there without him grabbing my listless body.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked, gasping.
“Who are you?” I said, when I saw blood on my fingers that had been rubbing the back of my small head.
“I am sorry, Tanish. Please, let me go,” I cried.
I uttered the name, Tanish, though I knew it wasn’t him, because he had green eyes that could be recognized. But, this person had brown eyes, which appeared familiar. I noticed his black, straight hair, I seemed to have touched earlier. I had known his breath. At a glance, I knew that I had known him. But I couldn’t fathom who he was.
Hearing the name, he glared at me. His eyes turned red, and they looked like a volcano which was going to erupt and destruct everything. All of a sudden, he started hitting himself, slapping his face and punching his own chest.
I shouted, “Stop! Please.”
The unpredictable masked figure took out a sharp, glistening knife from his jacket and stared at me and I could see a crooked smile under his mask.
I knew that I had to get out of there. I dashed to the door, unlocked it and ran with all the energy that was left in me.
Suddenly, someone hit my head with a rod, and everything blacked out.
The last thing I heard was, “You know me.”
TO BE CONTINUED MAYBE…
Have a great life.
*Feel free to give your views*