Monday 25th oct,2011; 3 a.m:
“HOTEL SWAGATH, Sarat Bose Road”
The sharp demanding voice seemed to hurl past the otherwise waning tympanums of the ‘taxiwallah’. Not that he jump started, but as his battling eyelids allowed the cornea a glimpse of the olive crumpled note I held in front, he could manage a yawn mixed grumble:
I could have booked a conveyance or made use of mine, but I knew I’d be lucky.
Today, I must be lucky.
A taxi waiting at Khalpar (south-east Tollygunj) and willing to board a passenger at such wee hours can only happen in a Perfect world. I checked for one last time if I’m still followed.
Nope, not a shadow, except for two disgruntled street dogs, too sluggish to continue after the 3rd growl.
Sigh! lowered my hood & earphones as I slammed the door shut. Lending my keen ears the pleasure of the exact click of gears engaging, declaring a perfect shut by just a considerable arm-force, at only the first go! This had been my wont every time I’d hire a cab in Kolkata. Sometimes I forget, my ‘Poor Newly Rich’ Kolkata has long jettisoned the age-old ‘lorjhore’ locomotion. Surprised, that I still draw pleasure in such trivial things.
VENGEANCE was on my mind. I could feel its caustic pangs since even before I managed to escape the incarceration tonight. Heh! Smiled my conscience, a wry smile. That much blamed moral cesspit, could not even emanate a twinge of remorse from its abyss.
Took one of those long deep breaths as I leaned back comfortably; don’t know who stank mustier or more pungently of alcohol. Whose eyes in the mirror were more weary, red and eh defeated??
I tried my best to be impeccably discreet while I dodged an unexpected escape tonight. Nada- not a shadow behind. Silent empty streets weren’t new to me but as the cold, lighter refreshing breeze ruffled my hair- I didn’t close my eyes like ever. For those needed to be on constant alert & fixed askance at the taxi mirrors every now & then. The taxi took on the D.Sashmal Road. The 40 mins stretch had 4 police stations in between, at Tollygunj, Rashbehari, Bhowanipore & Hungerford street, leading towards our destination. My hands dug inside the waist under-pocket only to feel more confident by a re-assuring touch of the steel.
There was nothing anomalous on the street. The beggars lining up the pavements, stairs, empty ‘ththelas’ etc, with the dust, the uneven and sometimes sharp surfaces chafing against their skin, some…stark naked. Nothing unusual in those slow breathings, lagging yet rhythmic movement of the chest lying supine. I tried to count the prominent ribs and match in pairs again.
‘They have not the slightest idea about what’s gonna happen this day ( in 40 mins to be specific) or may be it’s me who’s living one of their distant desultory dreams. Either way: they’d never find out’.
SHE calls me often a street-freak, and that I could never quite distinguish life from the incongruously surrealistic world I feign myself to live in. she loathes me when sometimes I’d spend the rest of my insomniac nights trying to sleep by the footpath, trying to write, ponder, introspect and more importantly lie as impassively as a rock like my fellow habitant survivors in the street. Sometimes alone at a distance from them and some fortunate times, sharing a portion of a meager (patchwork)‘chaddar’ with a street urchin. It’s when I’m labeled a phoney, a hypocrite. An uncontrollably inebriated being, who should be abandoned for the better good.
SHE shudders at the thought of my holding those naked, slovenly little bastards, kissing their wet rough cheeks or smoothing those thick strands she refuses to call hair. And when they climb on me, my shoulder, waist, lap, knee; sharing the brown/black & colored grains mixed with sweat, nose slime, tear, pus, often with hints of blood- happily rubbed against my clothes, body. She says that I defile the environment she’s in. Heh! Little do we care? For I’m nothing less than an abhorrent ogler every time I gawk at those naked beggar breasts feeding a ravenous nude infant. Invariably a pervert, when I stare/shoot them bathing and queuing up all giggly before those roadside taps. And when I jot them down they become to her more of those worthless baloneys wailing in a beggar’s cant, all of them in a sulking circle of jeremiads.
Hands on impulse tried to save me a major head bang with an unusual alacrity.
‘ Whoa What ? Not so early…not so early’
“randi Sali chashma kharid ne ka paisa nehi mila?” He yelled.
Our car was in the middle of the street, just a few seconds off Kalighat crossing. I recognized as I first checked behind & then around.
A tall slender woman in her mid 30’s sashayed past with her head hung low. The engines started again, god knows why he seemed to be in a rush more than me.
‘Do I know her?’
I must have seen her before, wearing this pristine white saree with glittery gold borders, this bottom heavy, strutting ahead with those swaying unsupported bosoms complementing the swaggering gait. Dashes of powder, mostly coloured, perched unevenly on the same dark skin. The identical clanks of gaudy accessories distinctly audible amidst all the usual hubbubs of those busy streets she’d frequent. I was 11, on one of those pre-puja tag-along sessions with parents to new market/esplanade/park street, while gawping through a luckily ajar bar-door at the brief moment of a man’s entering, when one ends up wide-eyed at the dim red light, billowing smoke, loud beats and blurred fast moving images vanishing in a blink as the door shuts……
”look there, ‘IT’S’ an evil woman, never come to this road without elders, if you don’t wanna be kidnapped” maa scowls looking at the woman standing outside the bar, tightening her grip on my hand.
Right, we all know her, ‘IT’s’ still and forever a prostitute.
But I know now what those careless dabbing of powders at strategical places conceal. The signatures of the ravages, the tales of the plunder those lucky and not so lucky nights bestow upon them.
The bright blue large neon board read “sadharan sauchalay”. Oh, so this was his little reason for all the rush that could dissuade a taxiwallah from the lures of a squabble with a whore (the only reason that could let this miracle happen).
“Sorry, emergency hai…main abhi ata hoon, aap wait karoge”? I nodded a yes.
The KMC maintained public toilets are strangely bright lit and manned 24*7. A sight it becomes at busy hours, brimmed with a motley class of commoners, a contrasting juxtaposition of the images of people entering and leaving. It always used to catch my notice without fail,when the traffic perchance stopped my vehicle by. I smiled for the first time today.
He came out, jumping off the stairs bearing the same lingering expression of relief, almost caught him humming a tune. He beamed an awkward sorry smile and after a deep breath hit the road. 15 mins more, as I bring forth the comeuppance of MY brazen whore, this night.
Countless calculations, reasoning and counter-arguments that had substantiated this final decision are sure fated to reach its culmination today. This bloody hotel had always been the place where her brat packs would dump the dipso middle of the night, early mornings, after their drunken revelries. SHE and her coterie of sycophants call them ‘partays’. I know, I’ve known it all since long. The jaw muscles tightened again; I touched the thing…..relief. Sigh!
I feigned to ignore the surreptitious stares from over the mirror, a voyeur’s sardonic smile at catching me touching myself. This is what was left to experience this day!
25th night, party must be over by now.
Closed my eyes to calm the persistent throbs of the nerves, glands; heart beating at its fastest pace. One final time I allowed the din that’d always fill my ears to scream out loud and into my senses.
“Liar, failure, uncouth, street-waif”, SHE shouts with gritted teeth. The words flushed through my veins making the skin swelter hot with rage.
Wait,chagrin is it?
All these years of blind acquiescence, all those efforts to please her night and day, had left me with the esteem of a crippled idiot, rather a puppet.
I have long hit the Rubicon, but today I must unfetter myself free.
Opened my eyes to the huge welcome sign of the front gate -“ahem…andar chalo” cleared my throat off the choke.
The throbbing has increased by leaps and bounds. I shoved the promised note in his hand as I got off the taxi, before the entrance. I must have stopped breathing or it was too rapid to cognize.
The hotel has got a decent interior. The big-clock hung at the visitor’s lounge tick-tocking at its usual rhythm, I walked my nonchalant self towards the reception desk accompanied by my reflection off the shiny white glass-marbled floor. A long walk it seemed as my insides screamed for a run. The guy manning the desk looked least tired; just a guy his age (mid 20’s) should look at this hour of the night! Dipak, so his chest badge suggested, handed me the card without uttering a single word. Was that a cognitive smile that crossed his face in the blink I looked up into his eyes?
The lounge clock presented its 4’o clock reminder.
Now I rushed, insides burning with the same vengeance, could feel Dipak’s eyes on me following still as I took on the stairs instead of the elevator.
2nd floor, Room 301
Panting hard, the clammy hands fumbled with the card while swiping, till a few frustrating seconds later it lit the green light. Took out the loaded .32 colt from the waist pocket, it felt hot now.
SHE was standing in front of the mirror, strangely not a bit tipsy from the night’s proceedings, facing me. SHE uttered not a word, that stolid countenance betraying not an emotion. SHE was not oblivious to her fate then, she knew it coming?
Not a tinge of fear/horror, not a will for retaliation/confrontation, nor a sign of remorse. But the blank gaze couldn’t quite camouflage a silent laugh.
“déjà vu” SHE thought.
SHE checked her left pocket one last time, SHE was ready?
…..Hell… pulled the trigger.
The moribund silence between her & me danced around resounding, a deafening noise. The earth skipped a rotation perhaps, the throbs, and the lub-dubs fainted, no trace of the sword of Damocles either. Or perhaps the adrenaline surge overreacted as everything blinded to naught.
HOTEL SWAGATH, 5:00 am :
Room 301 was filled with people, mostly with men in khakis. And there was Dipak with two other blue-white uniformed hotel security-guards. There were shards of glasses lying scattered around the victim, soaked in blood that’s slowly becoming dark and thick; the weapon lay loosely dangling on the victim’s hand with the fired bullet in front of the now shattered mirror.
The victim was shot point blank.
The thick accumulated puddle of blood trailing from the hood barely revealed two entwined earphones. Strangely, the ipod contained only a single song set in loop. It was still playing.
“Na thha kuch to khuda thha, kuch na hota to khuda hota,
duboya mujhko hone ne, na hota mein toh kya hota.
Huya jab gham se yun behis to gham kya sir ke katne ka,
na hota gar juda tan se toh zanu par dhara hota.
Hui muddat toh ghalib mar gaya par yaad ata hain
Woh har ek waqt p kehna ke yoon hota to kya hota?
ke yoon hota to kya hota?’”
A note was recovered from the victim’s t-shirt pocket that could somewhat help ease the creases on the forehead of the police. It read:
“Not so breaking news:
It was nothing like one of those impulse decisions, nor did I contemplate it for long. I kind of knew it will come to me one day without much warnings and I’d embrace it without surprise, without any confrontation. It was imminent since first I saw the lights of the day, since first I realized I was alive. Not that I had any predilection towards it!
I was so caught in the dichotomies- my thoughts and actions got divided into, the kind that separates one’s mind and soul. There was not a moment’s silence. The voices inside derided my actions, accusing them to be SELFISH, egoistic. I pushed and shoved ahead of the rat race, made plenty of superficial acquaintanceships that’d party with me and religiously drop me at hotels when I’d pass out. I was never lonely, nor was I tired. But in the end it is my conscience that won’t party to my evil designs.
But what I did was never enough for what I had wanted or thought I’d like to do. I did want to get rid of the ever hanging sword of Damocles, which haunted my entire life. I turned into a hedonist although I never craved to become one. The moral rectitude could no longer spar with the self-criticism. I turn 22 tonight; I wish to end this duality in me at once and for all.
I take my life at my full senses without an iota of extraneous influences( alcohol,drugs,hash,human etc i meant!). Hope things’d be propitious enough as I proceed to end it myself.
I, Anamika Roy Chowdhury, my nemesis!