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THE MILKY WAY

THE MILKY WAY

Sentinel Digital Desk

By Gitali Bora

(Translated from the original in Assamese by Snigdhamalati Neog)

The darkness of the night is thickening gradually.

Like a lonely flower blooming under green leaves, a quiet star shone in the greying sky in the north. You cannot see but I do see — that radiating star with its sharpness throwing darts of light at me with all its intensity, like a flash of lightning for a second it brightens up, splitting me up, piercing me, the darts extinguishing in me, in my heart.

You may ask, why such enmity with a star, a star lost in itself? If you ask I will say — enmity does not throw such minute, such glorious spears — spears that allow men to live painfully, slowly.

Enmity murders men, it does not kill and life goes on. The darts that separate us from death and lay us in a bed of thorns — these thorns are not of enmity but of love.

Bahni's Story

There is nothing — no beginning, no end — her time has suddenly become meaningless. The beat of soulless music. Mounds of dust fly in the wind. The rivers are like drains carrying dead trees, hyacinths and mud.

Something thicker than grief chokes her insides. Suffocated she looks up — oh, even the sky looks pale and colourless like is a huge aluminium bowl.

She notices that even after sleeping seven hours in the night her eyes showed dark circles — like a mark made by a snail in a muddy ground. A little perplexed, a little distressed she realises that in order to live men need waves and shivers — zigzag turnings of happiness and sorrow — otherwise the endless path of life becomes unbearable.

If she could have swallowed Marquez's hundred years of solitude in gulps! She stands in front of the gate and waits for Beckett's Godot. Clanging his cycle bells either the Nepali milk boy approaches or the garbage man comes blowing a sharp whistle pushing his cart.

She walks into her room. A drop of time has melted in Dali's big wall clock and like a speck of dust she hangs on for some time. She stares at the painted canvas for some time and with sorrow realises that colours are only colours. Over all the colours who has spread a screen grid of purity? Who? She wants to tuck her head on her favourite songs — sufi, baul, Rabindra sangeet, Ghulam Ali and Mehdi Hassan's ghazals. A sort of distressed, unsatiated sameness. She puts back her Pablo Neruda. Even those Japanese haikus which emotionally stirred her soul once upon a time now no longer touched her. The sound of frogs leaping in a silent pond — hills buried by fog — scarlet flowers of spring and yellow leaves of autumn. And after that? After that?

(Is death not preferable to such a life — she asks herself.)

Emptiness is insufferable. Happiness is temporary. Sorrow can give man the real taste of living. She ponders and in a posture like begging, she joins the palm of her hands. As if she would go and put her joined hands before somebody. She knows — in the heart of this temporary happiness abides the threshold of immense endless sorrow. She puts aside her utter frustration towards life and the world and looked up at the sky with great hope. The garden blooming with nahor and togor looked rich and full and the moon above looked mauve like tengesi leaves. She told the man about the mauve moon — she whispered about rubbing their bodies with the mauve light of the moon. She became a new and shiny guise like a snake that has changed its slough. She spoke about the glory of the lustrous moon. Men always want to catch the trembling of women with a net of passion. He too wove a net and also stepped on her net.

After that the story is short. Like passion, hunger and sleep. The way man can increase or decrease his hunger or sleep, the growth and decline of passion depends on him. She kept blowing the balloon of her passion and one day put her lips on his. The simple man saw a primitive stream on her lips with all the virtuousness of the world.

The man became a panipiya bird.

One day she found out that the sky is not only a dust-dirt laden globe. She observed that her world which otherwise bore a dreary sameness has changed and wonderful waves gushed in. Colours of love made her pliable — made her think that life is indeed very beautiful. The waves on her heart made the wind absent minded. The rhythmic melody of her mind built nest on the wings of the bird and the disturbed birds took flight. She thinks how melodious is the chirping and warbling of birds at dawn — what illusion lies in the depressing light of the evening. How mysterious is the darkness of the night!

Placing her head on the man's shoulder like a little girl, she looked at the smoggy concrete town with flashy silver and gold lights and realized — yes her thirst is growing — the thirst of the body. Of the mind. Of emotion. Of hope. Like a tree laden with fruits — a tree with a brittle trunk she is bent down with the weight of love. This love, this insanity beyond her blood, the touch of the lover carved on her flesh became unbearable. Again her rollicking world became agitated and made her mind restless.

"Let me go and see the sunset on the river!" she said like a pampered child.

"To the Brahmaputra!"

"No, not there. To a small river. I want to sit on a small rock with legs dipped in water. I want to see the sunset — the flight of birds."

The man took her to the river on the outskirts of the town. Black rocks embracing one another and silently covering both side of the river.

"Beautiful!" she exclaimed and like a bubbly little girl sat on a rock dipping her legs in the water. The sun was setting gradually like shiny silvery fish.

"Come!" With outstretched arms she beckoned and took the man in her arms.

It is not from the nearby forest but from her bosom flew a flight of birds towards the west. The sun hesitated to touch the river's breast.

Her cavorting legs suddenly touched something tender, something soft. What is it?

Very enthusiastically she dipped her hand in the water and like an inconceivable dream she picked up on her hands the corpse of a newborn baby.

The echo of her scattered shrill cry reverberated on the bank of the river and broke the vista into fragments.

**************

Like spattering a drop of blood from the tip of your nail you cannot simply terminate a relationship that is entwined with your soul. But this is exactly what she did and this hurt her — gashed her. The heat of these excuses has burnt her and distorted her world of truth and lies. She sits beside the debris, the devastation created by the earthquake and finally she gets ready to celebrate a long season of sorrow.

This season was also over one day. Again life became meaningless — the world colourless. Poetry became words, the songs became noise. The paintings on the canvas became a delirium of colours.

Layers of dust in the wind, the river became a drain carrying dead trees, hyacinth and corpses.

(Is death better than such a life — she thinks. Again she joins her hands together.)

**************

The process goes on. As if it is a water-mill — from cloud to rain — the rain turns into vapour — again from vapour to cloud.

Like toys, like lakhs of truth and delusion she allowed herself to be destroyed. At that time also she knew — that she is what she is, the maker of her own destiny.

Futility is insufferable. Endless happiness is irritating. You cannot always venerate sorrow. Then where is satiety — fulfillment?

(In death? She asks herself)

She and her life is clear like a natural scenery painted on a canvas.

For a long time there was no news from her.

Once I went looking for her and found her sitting in the dark stairs of an art gallery. She looked thin. But there seemed to be an incomparably infatuating steadiness like never before.

"How are you? What season is there in your mind now?" Teasingly I asked and sat beside her.

"Vicky is stricken by cancer," she said. "Need a lot of money for treatment. Given the needful treatment, perhaps he will live — at least for some time. I am trying to collect some money."

I felt helpless. She showed me her hands all smeared with colours.

"You know, day and night I am painting — trying to put up an exhibition. Got some customers too. This is not fancy — to put up this painting to find out the truth of life — I've to comb the thoroughfares and the lanes — seen people without hands and legs lying on footpaths and I tell you, what desire they have from life!"

I try to remember who this boy Vicky is. But I could not recollect.

"Vicky is Mazida's son. She works in my house. Such a sweet boy. I have sold my scooty for his treatment. Mazida's husband left her. If I can put some money together, I'II take them to Chennai for treatment."

I liked her largesse. I peered in the darkness and saw that her face showed a feeling of life — a feeling of light and grace.

The Star of Love

I told the North Star Bahni's story — in the way I tell you about the stories I pick up from wherever I go.

You ask me how and when I met the star. A decade ago — no, perhaps before that, when the earth was not dirty at all — when people's relations were selfless and fragrant — just on such an evening I sobbed. The darkness was so thick and peerless that you cannot see your own shadow. Deuta has gone out to enjoy his gambling bouts. The intangible, and extra mundane voices in the darkness bound me and wanted to take me far away. In fear I covered my eyes.

In a moment my destiny was ascertained.

Listening to Bahni's story, the star said, a little of Bahni's existence is there in each one of us — sometimes alive, sometimes extinguished. If we open the closed door of our heart, the wind from outside fans the extinguished fire and turns it ablaze — and the truth and delusion of our wishes instantly flies in sparks towards the sky.

You are another name of the spark of my longing which flies towards the sky — the momentous shine of which wipes out from my eyes the glowing nectar of my star. The music of the crackling of the sparks covers the meaningful silence of the star carved deeply in my heart.

But you are as persistent as these sparks — and unceasingly I take one step after the other.

There — the raining of lights from thousands of miles away where my identity and imagination cannot touch my star that throws luminous darts with all its might. I am wounded and bruised — I pull your hands towards my heart as if they have pain killing ointment — I know, this time will also become future one day — and like all the glory of yesteryears, it will shelter itself in some corner of my heart like a star.

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