Here’s a story that I wish I had written — one of the most intense, disturbing stories that I have ever read. It has burned a hole in my brain that has not healed since I read it in early December 2006. Hate. The churning of acidic bile in my stomach makes me want to lash out at the world, at you, at everybody The Beginning That was my grandmother, doing what she did best. Nagging and cursing. My grandmother was one of the few people in the world whose touch, feel and look reminded me of frozen ice. From her snow white mane of disheveled hair to her chalky white-gray cotton sari, she was a vision in white, albeit a dirty one. I did not mind though. Since I was never sent to school regularly, I had come to hate it anyway. In school, I was the odd one, the truant. I never could get used to the low giggling and nasty snickering that followed me around when I walked into the school premises. You would wonder why I have not yet spoken of my mother, why, I have made her appear to be so inconsequential as to be spoken of last. After all our Indian sensibilities call for a greater respect to bestowed on the woman who has given us birth, who had cushioned us in her womb for nine painful months of her life The Limbo I was seven when it began. My lifelong hatred towards moths. Those fervent, winged creatures that filled my mouth with a bitter, acidic, loathsome taste. 'What you oat?" 'Dai, what is the bee doing, Dai?' 'It's a moth you monument to foolishness. Oh! Why my Holy One? Why? Why could you not bless my poor son with a clever boy? Why did we need to suffer on account of this brainless pound of cow dung!' Dai's voice was woozy. She was speaking fitfully. I knew, for the night, Dai's tempest soul was laid to rest. That was the day I started despising my mother. That was the day I started hating her for not fighting it out, for choosing the path of least resistance. I started hating her for bearing the blows like they were meant only for her, for silently hearing out the poisonous words like they were music to her soul I hated her for the muffled sobs, the pitiful cowering, the cowardly whimpering I hated her for not being strong. I hated her for letting Baba, Dai and Kanchan Bua have their way I hated her for letting them trample over her like they did on dry leaves, crushing and destroying their very essence What I found out, brought me back to reality with a jolt. I did not bother to open my eyes. I was too tired, too scared. Also, another dawning had just wrenched my guts. Another reality had sucked my breath. I was almost choking, choking on my thoughts, choking on the realization that had just filled my mouth with the metallic taste of red-hot-fresh blood. I knew then, just like you know your most primal, insidious, evil desires. The ghost, yes, my mother, she had just begun her journey, her preparation for for the Final Lust Needless to say that her mother hugged her to her bony, dying bosom and they wailed howled and wailed with a thick, bloody sound that was like a call for death. A wail that heralded the black doom that lurked somewhere in the woods. 'Your mother wants to talk. Just you. Just you.' I walk with close eyes. Their shutters glued together with fear and nausea. I know I'm in her room. The smell Oh! So horrible smell I open my eyes. My legs give way. 'Amma ' a deep anguish finally cracks inside me. The oblivion melts. I no longer see a charred ghost. I see my mother. My Amma, the woman that lulled me to sleep and asked me to go to school, just so that I may have a chance All she wanted me to have was a chance 'Guddi ' she croaks. 'Amma ' I stand fixed to the ground. The distance between us like an ocean of time. I swim. Duck into the ocean and gulp huge mouthfuls of fresh, unadulterated water. Spring water. Salty water. Her fingers trace the contours of my tear-wet face. Her lips, rubbery and molten, turn into a lopsided, grotesque smile. They don't let Hindu girls visit the Burning Grounds. They say it's unlucky for women to walk such grounds. Bad Omen. Now they rest, Amma and her Final Lust.
It’s by Firdaus… you know, fishyisfishy.rediffiland.com.
You’ll find her name among my favourites, although she ain’t one of my friends (Ha! Not by far! She never even drops in for a friendly guestbook ’Hi’ or an occasional comment. But that’s okay — each to his or her own space.)
You know, what really irks me is that nearly two months since she posted this story on December 8, only two bloggers have read and/or commented on it — Sandhya Suri and I.
And so I’m taking the liberty of re-posting it here, in the hope that more bloggers will read it and genuinely appreciate it.
It’s one of those stories that must be read very slowly and patiently, preferably with your mobile phone switched off.
Blogger buddies, if you like the story, please don’t neglect to leave a comment at Firdaus’ iLand.
the final frontier of…
When I speak the word hate, the first image that burns in my mind is that of a small, inconsequential, harmless, yet so hateful, moth. Yes, I hate moths; I loath to set my eyes on all the vile moths of the world that God created in some insane frenzy. Sometimes, the very existence of moths makes me question God's presence, God's prudence. I wonder how a God so great, a God so wise could create such a dumb, insouciant creature If God were judicious, how could he infuse breath into a creature so full of lust ?
Lust ? eh lust? How lust you ask me. Let me tell you all you will ever need to know about lust.
The city had come to life. With it, were born a thousand dreams and hopes, only to be shattered and sunk with the setting sun. I was seven that winter morning. Only seven but wise beyond my years.
'Guddi, what do you think you are doing being in bed so late. It's six after all. Have some fear you infernal child. Get up. Get up you curse!'
I did not know if she loved me or for that matter even cared about me. All I know is that I was a prosthetic for her arthritic bones. I was never send to school regularly for 'Dai', my grandmother considered me indispensable for her ailing, acerbic self.
Surprising though it may seem, Dai was the only real friend I had. We fit snugly into the parameters of friendship though the scale tilted slightly in her favor. From bringing her, her morning chai to braiding her greasy hair at night, I was her constant companion as she was mine.
To describe Dai would be like describing an ancient, bitter, gnarled trunk of a tree that was fast sinking into an abyss of its own making. Truly, there was nothing kind and good left in Dai anymore.
Sometimes I wondered if she really was a woman, if she really was human. I wondered whether her ample, pendulous bosom was carved out of the same stale wood her heart seemed to be made of. I wondered if ever milk flowed from her bosom as amply as it flowed from my mother's, for Dai was truly wood-dead, she was truly evil.
Except Dai, my hours were filled with the voices of my drunkard father, his malevolent sister and a frustratingly docile, apparition like woman, my mother.
To describe my family would be like willfully, purposefully painting a gruesome picture. One that was full of shades of gray and black. One where insidious, inimical eyes peered out of a grey-black chasm and stared right into your soul, corrupting it, causing you to break the stare and look away.
In few words, my family was pathologically dysfunctional. As my seven year old eyes observed, there was nothing right in a family where the octogenarian was evil, the son, a compulsive drunkard, the daughter a promiscuous cast-away and, the daughter in law, an apparition.
My father, it seems, was not always a bad man. I remember when I was small, three or four probably? he used to wheel me into the air while Amma, my mother looked on in glee. Higher and higher he used to propel me, thrusting me into a make belief world of childish, infantile hopes of an unblemished world.
As I grew older, Baba, my father, he seemed to how should I put it?
Its like while I was growing up, some strange power, some evil force, was pulling my Baba away into a dark, dismal universe of inebriated funk From being a huge, burly, happy father, Baba turned into a grotesque caricature of his erstwhile self, with swollen eyes and huge menacing lips
My silent, 'nagged' days would be dealt the final blow when the drunk, lowly-cleck-look alike of my father would come and poison the evening. A slap here, a nudge there. While I hid behind the infamous Dai's ample girth, my poor mother cowered in a musty corner of the dim, smelly kitchen, counting on all her blessings to tide her over this one more evening Needless to say, I guess my mother almost always fell short of blessings.
By the time I was five, I was almost fatherless.
Kanchan Bua, my father's sister, was a woman who was caught in the merciless whirlpool of life's 'what-if's'. More beautiful than any other girl in the neighborhood, she was once the substance of every roadside Romeo's dream . With black, kohl laden eyes; luscious, wet, red lips; black, velvet soft mane of shimmering hair Kanchan bua was a vision. Life was almost good to her, until
Until Kanchan bua decided to entice her seventeen year old brother-in-law. She was married to a man, well to do by our standards. A Bank Manager, he was Kanchan Bua's ticket to a life free from claustrophobic spaces, shared toilets and the famous naggings of Dai. Only if, in a moment of reckless lust, licentious heat she had not laid the foundation of her own ruin.
Yes, she was caught. Yes, she was branded, labeled and stigmatized. Her detractors we very verbose. It would be too crude, ever for me, the hate-laden one, to mention the names my little six year old ears had heard her being addressed with
Often I would accompany her to the grocerer's shop across the road. I may have been only six but the jeering Kanchan bua was a target to, was not lost on me.
I guess some children are born adults. I guess I was one of those. When those evil looking men with alcohol on their breath 'accidentally' brushed Kanchan Bua's breast, when those zealous youths whistled and hooted her, with their hands provocatively slithering down to their groins I felt Kanchan Bua stiffen. I could feel her body temperature rise as blood rushed to her white cheeks In my mind, I could feel Kanchan Bua's humiliation. In my heart, I could feel her shame. When the goose bumps grew fresh on her skin, I interlocked my fingers with hers, hoping some empathy from my little heart would seep into her brutalized soul and give her comfort
However, just as Dai was beyond and goodness, Kanchan Bua was beyond and goodness, at all. She could neither give nor accept kindness, love or sympathy. As I grew up, I came to believe, she was genetically malevolent. I came to believe that Kanchan Bua was a victim. She was a victim of her own evil designs.
My mother, my Amma, well she was not deliberately positioned so. I do not hate Amma to make her appear so inconsequential, so timid, so fraught with anxiety and caution. The truth of the matter is that my Amma, her life included, was nothing more than 'inconsequential'.
Amma. Ma. She hovered around my childhood like a frail, dismal apparition that could not touch me, even if it wanted to. My mother was not always an apparition though. Whatever little harm her dreary fate has not caused her, Amma managed to do unto herself.
Amma was not inherently timid; she chose a life of subservience. Amma was not destined to oblivion, she, by her own accord, embraced her ruin.
If one had an eye for detail, they'd notice that Amma came from a much more superior, financially, intellectually and culturally ' background than my father. Her father was a teacher. Her mother, a kind, comely woman devoted to her two children, Amma and Kailash Mama.
Amma's father was a visionary condemned to a body of a man bogged down by principals, too heavy for his frail shoulders carry. He was a man who wanted his daughter to grow into a woman who would command respect on her own account. He send Amma and Kailash Mama to better schools than he could afford. A rarity amongst his kind, he even send Amma to college. Would it surprise you if I told you that Amma was qualified to be a teacher?
Then why did she not teach? Enter Destiny with its bloodied, bare fangs and evil machinations. Amma's father was untimely consumed by the front wheels of a speeding truck. Along with his ashes, were scattered in the ancient Ganges, the dream of a daughter who could have been
With her father gone, Amma was like excess baggage. What was Amma's loss, became my much less worthier father's gain, if he ever considered it so.
I can't say exactly when it was that Amma's chose to give up on herself. I can make intelligent guesses though
Was it when she, laden with kumkum, a red bridal sari and a bucketful of dreams, entered the one bedroom tenement that was to become her final prison sentence?
Was it when she, a fresh, blossoming bride was subjected to the tyranny of a mother-in-law who was, it seems, born to break her soul?
Was it when Baba refused to let her work or was it when the malevolent Kanchan Bua threw a panful of scalding water onto Amma's back because Amma chose to speak the truth?
Was it my father's decision to choose alcohol over her or was it the child who laid claim to her womb merely after four months of marriage?
Was it the verbal abuse, or was it her daily dose of being nudged, nagged, beaten and pushed around
I really can't say for sure but, I guess, along the way Amma chose to die. And when she died, Amma became an apparition.
On nights when Baba did not come home, (I did not understand then, where he spent his nights. I was not ignorant for long though.) ' Amma and I slept together on the narrow bed that creaked at the slightest movement. I dreaded those nights for in those few interminable seeming night-hours, I saw an apparition heave and sob. Amma would muffle her mouth with her tattered pallu and sob from her soul. She would press me, deep into her ragged bosom while I squirmed in discomfiture. It was as if by holding me against her bosom she was silently, without uttering a word, revealing to me, the pain that was lodged in her heart like a fatal bullet.
After a while, I stopped squirming. I guess, along with other survival tactics, I also mastered the art of laying absolutely still like a corpse. The way I lay, forcefully pinned to my mother's bosom, anyone could mistake me for being dead
When I see colours, I am reminded of Amma. No, they were not bright, sunny colours that fill a drab soul with the hope and promise of better things to come.
My mother was a canvas on which were scattered various shades of crimson, blue, black and purple; the strokes were rude and careless, born out of crude, impatient hands; the hands of Baba, Dai and Kanchan Bua.
Amma would often tell me stories in her ghostly, hushed whisper. She cajoled me to go to school and study. She stopped doing this the day I went and told Dai what Amma used to say to me about going to school. For three days after I tattled on Amma, she could not get up from her creaky, inimical bed.
Since the time I understood my surrounding and the people who filled it, Amma exasperated me the most. Others, however they may have been were still alive. Amma was an apparition; limp, lifeless and flaccid. She had learnt to tip-toe than walk, she had learnt how to hide than be visible. How could I feel for my mother when she was not even visible?
It was a winter night and the power supply had been cut off for the third day in a row. In our house, (if you could call that decrepit brick structure that) the only 'light' we ever got was, artificial. With so many ghosts haunting it moldy portals, even the Sun refused to shine into our dreary catacomb.
The flame of the candle was flickering, it was unsteady. I was massaging Dai's swollen, scabby feet with coconut oil. The faint flutter caused me to turn and look at the flame. A fervid moth was circling the flame with a dizzying frenzy. It's almost inaudible buzz sounded like a mournful whimper. Often, when the flame steadied, the moth would dart away as if scalded; after a second or two, it began again, its grotesque, self inflicted death ritual.
The sight of the moth's flirtation with danger, its senseless orgy, mesmerized me like nothing before. I was dumbstruck by the brazen, outlandish display of this creature's tryst with death.
'What are you doing, you good for nothing tart! Are your sinews jammed? Oh! Give some comfort to my old bones you silly, stupid twit!'
I could hear Dai spit acid venom on me, yet, I could not hear her. I could feel the pain spread across the back of my skull where Dai had rapped me with her arthritic knuckles, yet, I was oblivious to pain
The gruesome display before my eyes held me transfixed.'Dai '
'Dai, why is the moth circling fire? Does it not know that it will soon get burnt? That soon its translucent wings would melt from the heat and that soon it would die?'
A grunt. A shuffle. Dai changed her positioned and closed her eyes.
'Massage my head. Go ask your good for nothing mother for some almond oil. Get up you unholy curse run along.'
A head massage and twenty minutes later I reiterated my thoughts.
Dai was almost shrouded with sleep. Maybe, that was why, for the one and the only time in my life, she gave a lucid reply to my questions; before sleep wholly claimed her body which slumped and rocked alternately, as if, gyrating to the base sound of her snoring.
This is what she said.
'The moth, you stupid child, has a lust. A lust so primal and animal in nature that a hundred layers of modesty cannot camouflage its greedy eyes. The moth, it lusts victimization. It lusts a transient glow, a momentary surge of heat, only, to perish in that heart afterwards. The moth, it has a hunger, it has a thirst, a thirst that can be quenched, only, by the very fiery flame that finally incinerates the moth the flame that turns the once fervid moth into a clump of ashes; a disconsolate ghost, so unlike it's impassioned previous self Do you now understand, you dullard, you stupid clown? Why does a moth does it, she asks me, this stupid twit!'
There was thin film of red in front of my eyes. Dai's words seemed to come to me from a distance. My eyes, unblinking, were fixed at that strange pagan-like ritual enacting itself before them. The moth, its frenzy mounting, was now too close, too dangerously close to the flame.
Anytime now, I thought, anytime. It was a matter of minutes now that the heat from the flame would consume the moth.
An unprecedented, undefined rage bellowed inside my stomach, began traveling up my spine and burst into my skull My seven year old mind was ravaged screams, unnatural and naked were trying to set free through my pursed lips
'Stupid, stupid moth ' they screamed, 'run away, recede, while there is still time. This is foolish, Oh, so foolish you stupid creature. Give up the lust; lust for life, not death, you stupid moth. Back off! Before they consume you stupid stupid '
The moth, it was undeterred. Slowly, eerily, as if in slow motion, the moth was replaced by the face of a ghost, the face of my mother my face was crunched up, I was blinking back tears, willing the face to disappear it stayed put. The face of my mother, too dangerously close to the flame anytime now, anytime
The power came back on. The tired, old fan, creaky and miserable, went about its business. I do not know how long I sat there, by the foot of the charpai. All I knew then was that my mother, yes, my mother, she was lustful. She lusted victimization. It was no one's fault. It was my mother's doing. She just could not get enough of what she lusted for. My mother, she was not an innocent victim of fate's evil design my mother, she was the designer, the choreographer and the actor playing out her dangerous, lustful act I now knew she craved the maltreatment she lusted the colours blue, black, crimson and purple my mother, she lusted her ruin.
Yes, I hated Ma. I hated her with the very cold hatred one feels for something they once loved. Silent, calculated, practiced. I knew she could have let go anytime she wanted. Not to her sissy brother who was too intimidated by society and its varied shams, not to her poor, bent mother counting her last few days before Moksha hit her, right in the gut
Ma could have gathered me up in her frail arms and she could have crossed this slimy threshold, never to look back again. I am sure she would have managed She had a B.Ed degree, she could have taught. As for the wagging tongues, what has ever made them stop?
Now when people in the street looked at her, they clucked their tongues in pity; then they would hiss and snigger, taunt and rally
But Ma, she never did any of this. Ma, she had grown comfortable in the cocoon of her pitiful life and her unquenchable lust for being victimized. I guess she had gotten to enjoy her stealthy-sobbing sessions with me every alternate night
Rude, scathing, but true! Tell me, if what I say is wrong, then why did she not break free, why did she not rebel? Too afraid, too scared, too scarred or too comfortable, too lustful and too greedy
Some would say, it is irrational. How can one lust being victimized? Pain is not a habit; it is a cross to be born! Which sane woman would want to bear such a ghastly fate? Surely, they would say, I must have gotten the whole thing wrong
Really, I would want to ask them, really? I would have believed them if my mother would have been uneducated. Really, I would have understood. But a woman like my mother, educated and born of the seed of a man like her father I beg to differ. This is an open and shut case of a woman gone errant; carried away with the churning waves of Lust.
That was the day I started to hate the ghost. The ghost that hovered at the fringe of my existence, the ghost that was once a woman I happily called my mother, the ghost that I called Amma.
The Final Lust
In those years, while my body was growing up, my mind, it was slowly and slowly receding into a vacuum. I existed in an oblivion which was addictive. On the few occasions when I came out of that drugged oblivion, wanting to enter, once again, the babble of the real world, there was almost always someone around me, waiting to push me back into darkness.
And I fell. I kept falling, with my hands flailing, a small, childlike scream dying on my small, withered lips Till I hit the rock bottom. The rock bottom pit of utter despair, hatred and indifference.
I flitted by life, sometime tending to Dai, sometime walking by life, holding onto the ruthless Kanchan Bua's smooth hands. On the rare occasions when Baba would be sober, he would gently call me, gather me in his arms and place me on his knee. He would not utter a word. He would just hold me, silently and rock me, as if he knew that the nine year old pretence of childhood riding his knee would be lost to any word that he spoke
He would turn around my face and look into my distant, faraway eyes with a look that almost almost reminded me of a man I used to know a long time ago Sometimes, a glimmer of recognition would set his eyes aflame and die He would then set me down carefully and, Baba would be gone for the night.
After the day I started hating Amma, it was as if that she sensed the change. After all she was a ghost. Ghosts have the power to read unspoken thoughts. Maybe Amma recognized the hidden hate in my flat, monosyllabic replies, in the cold, dead-pan look which had become they way of my life
After that day Amma never hugged me and sobbed. Really, I don't remember her crying and sobbing in front of me ever again. That was probably because I stopped sleeping with Amma any longer. I had found refuge in the gnarled, coarse, yet alive bosom of Dai.
I would often lay awake, deep into the night, hearing muffled sobs emanating from the kitchen. Involuntarily, my face would contort into a ghastly grimace; I would plug my ears to block out the whimpering that cut into my soul like a jagged knife
I would often, from the corner of my eye, see her watch me stealthily. I knew she longed for me, I knew she ached for me. I knew she wanted to gather me up in her arms
I wanted to know, then what? What after she gathered me up in her frail arms I was done being picked up and then being slammed back onto the ground I was done being toyed with. It didn't make much difference to me anyway. I lived in the rock bottom pit, remember?
There was something going on that I couldn't understand initially. It was my fault really. My oblivious, dreamlike existence had made me dull. I would catch a whiff here and a scent there; words would flit by my psyche, tantalizing and inviting. I tried piecing together the conversation, the all pervading whimpering and bellowing
Another man, a much older man, wanted to marry Kanchan Bua. He wanted to give her a second chance, to honour and dignity. I guess what he really wanted was Kanchan Bua's still ripe, infamous body.
I could hear Baba and Dai arguing. I could hear Kanchan Bua cursing Baba with her snake-like snide tongue. I could see my mother, cowering into a corner, afraid of being noticed, and punished.
There was an almost unanimous, unconteded decision. Amma was to go and ask her brother for the money for dowry. Rest, Baba would have to arrange by whatever means. After all, Dai would say, in her great-sage like grave manner, it was Kanchan Bua's last chance, wasn't it? What brother would forsake his sister what wife would forsake her husband?
I don't remember much of what transpired between the four dysfunctional adults in my family. I don't care how they squabbled, grumbled and pleaded.
What I remember is the look on my mother's face. The look that almost melted the ice-trap doors of my heart. What I saw on her face that day was not complacency; it was not submission, not reconciliation. What I saw on her face that day was the look, primal and virtually terrified, spreading across her eyes, across her face, like a deadly malaise. She looked like a trapped, infirm animal, caged and about to be shot.
I knew she knew that she was trapped for life. That the road she would be forced to tread would be a one-way route to her ruin.
I heard a tiny, almost indecipherable cry of disapproval escape her parched lips.
I closed my eyes. I was almost close to praying, when
Smack! It sounded like a sharp tug of elastic against naked skin and Smack! Again
Before I opened my eyes I knew what was happening to her. Blue, black, crimson and purple. Three bodies, towering over her, perilous stances, grisly ex-pressions.
Smack! Smack! Smack! Thud! Crash!
A low whimpering. An animal like groan. A predatory growl. A chilly, screeching bark.
Needless to say that, Kailash Mama refused. He even had the gall to ask her to never show him her cursed face.
Needless to say I prayed. Prayed to that wooden God to give her courage to back off to not lust the flame to pull out before her flaccid, shriveled wings melted and the fire consumed her
Needless to say that she was beaten like a rag doll; pinched, spat on, abused and ill-used.
And then, the Final Lust, it consumed her.
I can still smell the thick, molten smell of her charred flesh. Seventy degree burns, the doctor says, and nods his huge grave head. Her eyes are like two black, bottomless, abysmal holes that stare out of wisps of charred and hair and a clump of disfigured flesh. She smells rancid, putrid and rotten. Her groans are like a deep, painful gnawing that rises from the bottom of her stomach and gets caught in her throat.
Baba stands outside the ICU like a man sentenced. He is no longer alive, I know. Baba is now a ghost.
The Police is here to take a statement. They tell Baba that they have Dai and Kanchan Bua in custody. They say they have sufficient evidence that 'they' doused Amma with kerosene and set her aflame
They want to take Baba's statement. Baba walks by me, untouched, oblivious. Good Bye Baba, welcome Ghost.
The nurse walks up to me. I can see the look of naked disgust-pity in her swollen red eyes.
My legs feel leaden. I am woozy. It is difficult for me to stand, leave alone walk. That day, the distance from the visitor's waiting area to the ICU was the longest, most-unwanted distance I've ever mapped.
Bile was rising in my stomach. I was all set to throw up any moment. No screamed my insides. I did not want to see the moth consumed by the final lust I did not want to see the moth, charred and incinerated. Surprisingly, today when I saw my mother's face, I did not flinch. All I could see instead of her face was the frenzied moth (Stop! Stop! Before it gets you!) ' so unlike the day when instead of the moth, all I could see was my mother's face.
'My child, my precious, precious child ', and, Amma dies. Really.
And this time, there are no ghosts.
I know, today they are going to burn Amma. Really burn. With a pyre and a Priest chanting incantations & verses for the peace of her soul.
I want to tell them, Oh! She's at peace anyway. She doesn't need your verses and prayers Priest, she's at peace. Didn't you notice, how peaceful she looked; her bridal, red blood sari wrapped around her molten, charred body ? Didn't you see she needed no prayers
Her only, one prayer has been answered. I know it, and it's my secret.
Amma's lust has been fulfilled.
Hate. The churning of acidic bile in my stomach makes me want to lash out at the world, at you, at everybody
That was my grandmother, doing what she did best. Nagging and cursing. My grandmother was one of the few people in the world whose touch, feel and look reminded me of frozen ice. From her snow white mane of disheveled hair to her chalky white-gray cotton sari, she was a vision in white, albeit a dirty one.
I did not mind though. Since I was never sent to school regularly, I had come to hate it anyway. In school, I was the odd one, the truant. I never could get used to the low giggling and nasty snickering that followed me around when I walked into the school premises.
You would wonder why I have not yet spoken of my mother, why, I have made her appear to be so inconsequential as to be spoken of last. After all our Indian sensibilities call for a greater respect to bestowed on the woman who has given us birth, who had cushioned us in her womb for nine painful months of her life
I was seven when it began. My lifelong hatred towards moths. Those fervent, winged creatures that filled my mouth with a bitter, acidic, loathsome taste.
'What you oat?"
'Dai, what is the bee doing, Dai?'
'It's a moth you monument to foolishness. Oh! Why my Holy One? Why? Why could you not bless my poor son with a clever boy? Why did we need to suffer on account of this brainless pound of cow dung!'
Dai's voice was woozy. She was speaking fitfully. I knew, for the night, Dai's tempest soul was laid to rest.
That was the day I started despising my mother. That was the day I started hating her for not fighting it out, for choosing the path of least resistance. I started hating her for bearing the blows like they were meant only for her, for silently hearing out the poisonous words like they were music to her soul I hated her for the muffled sobs, the pitiful cowering, the cowardly whimpering I hated her for not being strong. I hated her for letting Baba, Dai and Kanchan Bua have their way I hated her for letting them trample over her like they did on dry leaves, crushing and destroying their very essence
What I found out, brought me back to reality with a jolt.
I did not bother to open my eyes. I was too tired, too scared. Also, another dawning had just wrenched my guts. Another reality had sucked my breath. I was almost choking, choking on my thoughts, choking on the realization that had just filled my mouth with the metallic taste of red-hot-fresh blood. I knew then, just like you know your most primal, insidious, evil desires. The ghost, yes, my mother, she had just begun her journey, her preparation for for the Final Lust
Needless to say that her mother hugged her to her bony, dying bosom and they wailed howled and wailed with a thick, bloody sound that was like a call for death. A wail that heralded the black doom that lurked somewhere in the woods.
'Your mother wants to talk. Just you. Just you.'
I walk with close eyes. Their shutters glued together with fear and nausea. I know I'm in her room. The smell Oh! So horrible smell I open my eyes. My legs give way.
'Amma ' a deep anguish finally cracks inside me. The oblivion melts. I no longer see a charred ghost. I see my mother. My Amma, the woman that lulled me to sleep and asked me to go to school, just so that I may have a chance All she wanted me to have was a chance
'Guddi ' she croaks.
'Amma ' I stand fixed to the ground. The distance between us like an ocean of time.
I swim. Duck into the ocean and gulp huge mouthfuls of fresh, unadulterated water. Spring water. Salty water.
Her fingers trace the contours of my tear-wet face. Her lips, rubbery and molten, turn into a lopsided, grotesque smile.
They don't let Hindu girls visit the Burning Grounds. They say it's unlucky for women to walk such grounds. Bad Omen.
Now they rest, Amma and her Final Lust.