Aug 24, 2010

11. Union-Theory


The wedding was scheduled to be in the month of Aghrayan. Yogamaya was supposed to make all the arrangements on returning to Kolkata.

Lavanya said to Amit, “Your return to Kolkata is long overdue. Your days went by caught in uncertainty. You can take a break now. Proceed without any hesitation. We will not meet any more before the wedding.”

“Why such strict ruling?”

“To keep simple, the simple pleasures that you spoke of the other day.”

“There speaks truly deep-rooted wisdom. The other day I suspected you to be a poetess, today there is a whiff of a philosopher. You put it wonderfully. To keep the simple simple one has to harden oneself.  To keep the rhythm simple, the pauses have to be firmly fixed. Cupidity keeps us from punctuating the verse of life, so the rhythm of life breaks and becomes a manacle sans melody. Okay, I will go tomorrow. With absolute abruptness. In the middle of these brimful days. It will remind us of that line from The Slaying of Meghnad that stops with a start.

The moment you headed for Hades

I may depart from Shillong, but Aghrayan won’t slip away from the almanac. You know what I will do in Kolkata?”

“What will you do?”

“As long as Aunt prepares for the wedding day, I have to gear up for the days that follow. People tend to forget that conjugal life is an art, to be newly reinvented every day. Remember Banya, in the Raghu dynasty how Maharaja Aja described Indumati?”

“Favoured student in the study of finer arts.”

“The finer arts is the field of conjugal life. Most of the savages consider marriage to be the union, which is why unity lies in such neglect from then on.”

“Do explain the art of that conjugal union you have in your mind. If you wish to make me your student, let us start the very first lesson today.”

“Okay, then listen. The poet creates rhythm through deliberate disruption. Union too gains charm through planned prohibitions. To get whenever one wants, results in fleecing oneself by underrating the valuable. Because the joy of buying dear is unlimited.”

 “So, what’s the processing of valuation?”

“Hang on. Before that let me paint the picture I have in my mind. On the bank of Ganges, the garden sprawls on the side of Diamond Harbour. One can commute to Kolkata within a couple of hours on a small steam launch.”

“Why again the need to go to Kolkata?”

“There is no need now, that is known. I do go to the bar library, but don’t do any business, play chess instead. The attorneys have understood, no eagerness in work and hence no will.  If there is a settlement suit, I am given the brief, nothing more. But after marriage I’ll show them what work is – not for the sake of livelihood, but for the sake of life. In the middle of the mango is the core. It’s not sweet, not soft, nor edible. Yet, that hardness is the refuge of the entire mango, that is what gives it form. So you understand why the gravelly core of Kolkata is necessary? To secure the sweetness with solidity.”

“I understand. Then I too have the same need. I will have to go to Kolkata as well - 10 to 5.”

“What’s the harm? But not for socialising, to work.”

“What kind of work do you have in mind. Without pay?”

“Not at all. Work without pay is neither work nor holiday.  It is three quarters evasion. If you want you will surely get a professor’s post in a girls' college.”

“Okay, I will want that. Thereafter?”

“I see clearly. The bank of Ganges, from down on the shore rises an ancient banyan with aerial roots hanging low. Perhaps when Dhanapati was cruising down the Ganges to Ceylon he had tied his boat to this banyan and set up kitchen under the tree. Towards the south of the tree a worn down wharf, full of cracks and crevices, in some places absolutely dilapidated.  In that wharf, painted white and green, lies our trim little boat. On the fluttering blue flag the name is printed in white letters. What should it be? You tell me.”

“Shall I? Mitali – Friendship.”

“Apt name – Mitali. I had thought about Sagari – Of the Sea, and was slightly proud about it. But, I bow to you. Through the middle of the garden flows a creek, pumped in by the beating heart of Ganges. On one bank of it lies your house, on the other side mine.”

“Will you swim over every day, while I keep alight a lamp on my window?”

“I will swim across in my mind, over a wooden gangplank. Your home will be called Manashi – woman of my fancy. You have to name my home.”

Deepak – illuminating.”

“Apt name once again. I will plant a lamp appropriate to the name on my roof top. On evenings of union it will glow red, on nights of separation blue. On my return from Kolkata, I will expect a letter from you every day. It needs to be so that I may or may not receive the letter. If I don’t get it by eight in the evening, I will curse the death edict and try to concentrate on Bertrand Russel’s Logic. Our rule for me is never to go to your place uninvited.”

“And what about me going to your place?”

“It would be good if the rules are the same, but from time to time exceptions won’t be too extreme.”

“If the exception does not become the rule, I dread to imagine the condition of your home. In view of that I’d rather go there wearing a burqa.”

“So be it, but I require an invitation letter. There needs to be nothing in the letter but a few lines of poetry.”

“And will I not get any invitations? Am I to be an outcast confined to my home?

“Your invitation is once a month – on the nights of the new moon. The night the fractions of fourteen moons culminate in fulfilment.”

“Now give an example of a letter to your favourite student.”

“Okay, so be it.” He produced a notebook from his pocket, tore off a leaf and wrote –
Blow gently over my garden
Wind of the Southern Sea
In the hour my love cometh.
And calleth me

My woods will you kiss
As blow forth in bliss
O breeze from the Southern Sea
At that hour sweet 
My love comes to meet
Needless she calls out to me.

Lavanya returned the piece of paper.

Amit said, “Now give me an example of your letter, let me see how you have advanced in your lessons.”

Lavanya was preparing to write on a piece of paper, but Amit said, “No, write in my notebook.”

Lavanya wrote,
“Mita, you are my life, 
you are my adornment, 
you are my sole jewel 
in the deep ocean of this world”

Amit pocketed the book and said, “It is strange. I have written the words of a woman, while you have written those of a man. And there was no discord whatsoever. Whether it is the wood from silk-cotton or nagakesara, when lighted, the fire blazes the same.”

Lavanya said, “Invitations have been sent, what next?”  

Amit said, “The evening stars have risen, the high tide is in Ganges, the wind starts swinging along with the heart-wood of the tamarisk tree. On every root of the old banyan there rises the sloshing current. There is a lotus-pond behind your house in whose deserted banks you have bathed and braided. Each day is marked with clothes of a different colour for you. I will go wondering about the colour of the evening. The place of rendezvous is not fixed either. Someday it is the paved path under the champaks, someday on the roof, and on another on the vestibule beside the river. After taking a dip in the Ganges, I will put on the white dhoti of fine malmal cotton. On my feet will be clogs carved out of ivory. On arriving I see you sitting on a spread carpet, in front of you, in a silver salver lie two thick garlands,  sandalwood paste in sandal bowl, incense burning in one corner. Around the time of Durga Puja, we will venture out for at least a couple of months. But, to two different places. If you take to the mountains, I will wander to the ocean. So there – my rules of connubial diarchy are presented to you. What is your opinion?”

“I accede to them.”

“There is a difference between accede and accept, Banya.”

“If I do not see the need for what is a necessity to you, I will not object.”

“Don’t you need it?”

“No, I don’t. However close you stay, you will still be afar from me. I have little need of rules and regulations to maintain that distance. But I know, there is nothing in me that will be able to stand unabashed in light of your close scrutiny, therefore in marital life it is safer for me to have our two palaces on two shores.”

Amit rose from the stool and said, “I can’t submit to you, Banya. So, I let go of the garden.  I won’t budge a step from Kolkata. I will take a single room above Niranjan’s office for seventy five rupees. There we will stay, you and I. In the firmament of the mind, near or far makes scant difference. In the six feet wide bed, the left side will be your abode- Manashi, and the right will be my mansion – Deepak. On the eastern wall of the room will be a mirror-attached chest. In it will you see your face and so will I. In the western side will be the book-shelf. With its back it will defend us against the sun, and in front there will be the only circulating library for two readers. Towards the north will be a sofa. On its left, leaving just the amount of space will I sit at one end, and you will stand behind your clothes rack, two paces away, holding the invitation letter aloft in trembling hands. In it will be written –
Above us blow O Southern wind
With the gentlest sway
The moment my beloved’s eyes
Will look my way.
Does it sound too bad, Banya?”

“Not at all Mita. But where did you get this from?”

“From the notebook of my friend Nilmadhab.  His to be wife was still uncertain at that time. Taking aim at her, he had moulded the poem in a Kolkata cast.  I had also joined in. Passing his Masters in Economics, he brought the new wife home complete with fifteen thousand cash and nine hundred grams of jewellery as dowry. The four eyes did meet, and the Southern wind did blow, but the poem remained unused. So, I don’t think he will mind relinquishing the poem in its entirety to his accomplice.”

“The southern breeze will gently blow even on your terrace, but will your new bride remain new forever?”

Fiercely banging the table, Amit shouted at the top of his voice. “Will remain, will remain, will remain.”

Yogamaya rushed from the adjacent room and asked, “What will remain, Amit? I don’t think my table will.”

“Whatever is durable in the world will remain. In this time and space, a newly wed bride is scarce, difficult to obtain. But, if by divine chance one in a million is found, she will remain a newly wed bride forever.”

“Show me an instance.”

“One day the time will come, and I will show.”

“I think there is still time. Till then, come let’s eat.”

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