Sunday, August 22, 2010

September Nights

Puwali gave him the orgasm that he wanted and then went to the window to gaze at the moon, on the sultry September night. She was thin and beautiful and one could make out through her thin white slip that she was yet to form full round breasts. Though the moon outside was creamy white and almost round. She thought of the fluid he had spilled on her stomach. At 45 he too looked round like the moon. Like the Big O. That is what he came for to her. Sex and smaller o, he had with others; within marriage, with the women he worked in his office. She neither asked nor really cared to know.

She gazed at the moon continuously, without a flutter of her eyelids. It was difficult to decipher her expression as she smoked the cigarette she had borrowed from him. She didn’t like smoking but she didn’t like doing many other things. A grey cloud veiled her eyes. But even despite this smoky veil her eyes looked blank and still- like the lake I had seen in the Himalayas, and cold. It was not an expression you associate with 16 year olds. Young, lively, cheerful, carefree. Girls should be like this. Puwalis should be like this-like children-exuberating innocence, curiosity, a zest for life. But Puwali was different.

She knew he will leave with no hug, no kisses, and no sweet nothings. Their “relationship” didn’t require these expressions of love. And she did not crave for these or anything from him. She heard the door shut softly after him. He was gone from her room. Then she heard another door creaking. He was now in his room. She let a breath out and started rotting:

30 days hath September,

April, June, and November.

All the rest have 31

but February’s the shortest one.

With 28 days most of the time,

until Leap Year gives us 29.

She was still murmuring the poem when she went to the bathroom to have her shower. A ritual like shower. Nothing made her feel clean; loads of water, perfumed soap, ample doses of dettol and a scrubbing so rigorous that it left red marks on her body.

Did Lady Macbeth feel the same before she went insane? Before she killed herself?

Still in the shower, she recited her own version of the poem.

Thirty days hath September,

All the rest I can't remember.

The calendar hangs on the wall;

Why bother me with this at all?

Her friends had laughed at her this creation and she had joined them but actually the poem disgusted her. She almost puked. There was a fire blazing within her, one she wished could devour her, clean her.

Will Ma ever know why her daughter is as she is? Why she is not like every other girl? Or does she really know that she is not like any other girl? Has she bothered to really know her? Or if she knows something is amiss, has she tried to find out? Ask? Talk? Puwali didn’t think so. Often she had tried to tell her Ma but feared the fingers that would point at her, the blame she would have to bear. Feared that she would be misunderstood and made to carry a cross heavier than she was carrying now.

How can you be so ignorant? How can this happen only to you? What did you do to provoke him? Questions Ma may ask. Questions that had no answer.

Puwali changed into T-shirt and tracks. Drops of sweat fringed her forehead like dew droplets on the greens. Dewdrops are said to be the purest form of water created by the forces of nature in the silent womb of the night. The thought brought tears to Puwali’s eyes.

Puwali was not her name. He called her that. Her name was Dew- pure and serene. That was the expression she bore when she looked at her Ma, at her new world when she was born. And her Ma had said: My darling Dew.

She was 6 or may be little over and had just got a bedroom of her own. She was sleeping, the deep, calm, innocent sleep which only a 6 year can sleep. He had crept into her room like a thief, lifted her mosquito-net.

“Puwali, do you know of the story of Snow white, the beautiful princess or do you know the poem 30 days has September.......” He was on her bed, removing her sheet, lifting her cotton slip. His one hand warm, sweaty, trembling but discovering her with intended force and the other on her mouth.

The room was silent except for his movements. The room was silent except for her muffled, anguished groans. It was a cold night. Cold like death. She could feel the numbness all over her body. A cold numbness that penetrated into her spirits. The only thing that was warm, was the salty tears running down her cheeks, under the mosquito-net in that dark room. A crescent moon shone outside, a mute witness to the forces of the night which ruffled, tore, corrupted, molested, raped Dew.

Ten autumns have passed. The moon often witnesses this gruesome act. Dew carries the burden of guilt, filth, shame with sealed mouth. The web around her has become more stifling, more complex with each silent day. Puwali is indifferent; seems indifferent as she gives him, the Spider, the orgasm he wants every time. But she never forgets her bathing ritual- her survival string.

Her Ma cleans the room every day, after Dew leaves for school. She finds the same note glued to the mirror everyday: Ma, please help clean the web.

Ma looks around the room. There are no cobwebs anywhere. She thinks her daughter is a clean-o-freak and takes the broom and sweeps everywhere. Every day.

( Published in The Eclectic in the September issue 2009)

1 comment:

  1. Expressing a comprehension is tricky. Let's define this piece as 'strong'.