Aug 24, 2010

07. Matchmaking

ঘটকালি



Amit approached Yogamaya and said, “Aunt, I have come for matchmaking. Please be generous while tipping.”

“Only if the match is to my liking. First tell me name, abode, description”

“The price the groom does claim is not attached to his name and fame.”

“I then see a reduction in tips for the match-maker”

“That’s unjust. The more renowned a name, the greater is his world and the smaller his home. He spends more to preserve his fame than to attend to his dame. Only a part of the man falls to his wife, not enough for a full marriage. For a famous man, wedding is nano-gamy, as condemnable as polygamy.”

“OK, slight be fame, how about form?”

“I hesitate to say, lest I exaggerate.”

“So exaggeration is necessary to market?”

“While choosing the groom there are two conditions. The distinction should not step across the door and neither should the looks the lady.”

“OK, let’s leave aside name, fame and form, what about the rest?”

“The rest that remains is in summation the worth. Well, the man is not worthless.”

“Intelligence?”

“He has intelligence enough to make people err into thinking that he is intelligent.”

“Education?”

“Like Newton himself.  He knows that he is picking pebbles on shores of the great ocean of truth. Only he does not say it with the same candour, lest people take him literally.”

“The list of attributes seems to be rather short.”

“To prove the plenitude of Annapurna, Shiva put on the appearance of a pauper, no embarrassment in that.”

“Then do introduce him with a little more clarity”

“Familiar household. The prospective groom’s name is Amit Kumar Raaye. Why do you laugh aunt? Do you think I speak in jest?”

“That fear I do have my son, lest it all ends up in jest”

“This suspicion is tantamount to accusation.”

“Son, to lighten household with humour is no mean feat”

“Aunt, that feat is feasible for deities, which renders them unsuited for marriage. Damayanti came to realise that.”

“Do you really like my Lavanya?”

“What test do you want to put me through?”

“The only test is to know for sure that Lavanya is already in your hands”

“Please elaborate.”

“One who knows the true value of a jewel acquired cheap, I will know him to be a jeweller”

“Aunt, you are making it a bit too refined. It seems you are sharpening the psychology of a short story. The truth is actually quite blunt. In keeping with the rules of the world, a gentleman has become crazy about wedding a lady. Summing up virtues and vices, the groom is passable. About the bride it goes without saying. In such situations, the tribe of normal aunts generally get busy with the husking pedal, pounding rice to prepare joyful sweets.”

“Fear not son, the foot is on the pedal. Assume you already have Lavanya. Even after having her, if your desire runs deep, only then will I know that you are worthy of a girl like her.”

“You have managed to amaze even a modern man like me.”

“What signs of modernity did you see?”

“I see that twentieth century aunts are afraid to marry people off.”

“Here’s the reason. Those that aunts of the previous century married off, were play-dolls. Today, the candidates for marriage have no attention towards fulfilling the playful wishes of aunts.”

“Have no fear. To have and to hold does not cut short having, rather the ardour accumulates. Amit Raaye has come into this world to wed Lavanya and affirm this theory. Else how did the inanimate motor car of mine, in this inappropriate place, inauspicious moment, involve itself in this incredibly inept incident?”

“Son, your words do not yet tune to the melody of eligible age for marriage. I hope it does not all end in child’s play”

“Aunt, my mind has a self propelled specific gravity. With its quality, the grave words from my heart rise lightly to my lips, but doing so, they don’t lose their weight.”

Yogamaya went to arrange the feast. Amit flitted from room to room, not finding anyone conspicuous. He came across Jyotishankar. He remembered that the day had been marked for Anthony and Cleopatra. From Amit’s expression, Jyoti had understood that the code of fellow feeling dictated a day off. He said, “Amit-da, if you don’t mind, I would like a day off. Have to go to Upper Shillong.”

Amit was delighted, “The ones who don’t know how to take days off during study are unable to digest the lessons. Why do you dread the impossibility of my taking offence if you take a day off?”

“Tomorrow is Sunday. In case you thought ...”

“I don’t think like a schoolmaster, brother. The calendar holidays are not holidays to me. To enjoy regular holidays is like hunting chained quarry. That way the nectar of holiday treacles to a stop.”

It was with delight that the root cause of the sudden exposition of leave theory dawned on Jyoti. He said, “For the last few days, you have been sprouting novel ideas about leave-theory. The other day also you advised me. At this rate I will become an expert at leave taking.”

“What did I advise the other day?”

“You said irresponsibility was a virtue. One should never hesitate to respond to the call of callousness. Saying so, you shut the books and ran outside. Perhaps irresponsibility had transpired somewhere outside, I did not notice.”

Jyoti was touching twenty. The waves that were carrying aloft Amit’s soul also rippled in the shores of his mind. Till now he had known Lavanya through her lectures, now from Amit’s experience had identified her as a lass.

Amit laughed and said, “One needs to be prepared for the arrival of work. The market value of this advice is high, like crown minted coins. However, on the other side of the same coin should be engraved that idle enterprise needs to be accepted with bravado.”

“In recent times your bravery is being manifest often.”

Amit patted Jyoti on his back. “When the auspicious moment for sacrificing the essential at the divine altar arrives in your life-almanac, don’t delay in the adulation of the goddess, for after that immersion does not take long.”

Jyoti departed. Irresponsibility was wide awake. Unseen remained the one in whose refuge rested lavishness of leisure. Amit walked out of the door.

The rose vines lost in bloom, the crowd of sunflowers to one side, at the other in square pots stood chrysanthemums. On the top of undulating green slopes stood a giant Eucalyptus. Leaning on its trunk, her legs stretched out, sat Lavanya. An ash coloured shawl wrapped around her, feet decked by the morning sunshine. Pieces of bread and broken walnut lay on a handkerchief on her lap. Her intention of spending the morning catering to the creatures had also been forgotten. Amit came and stood near her, Lavanya raised her head and looked silently at him, a quiet smile spreading across her face. Amit sat in front of her and said, “I bring happy tidings. Aunt has agreed.”

Without replying Lavanya flicked a piece of walnut towards a barren peach tree. Soon a squirrel climbed down – one of the few who feasted off Lavanya’s fist.

Amit said, “If you don’t mind, I will snip off a bit of your name.”

“Alright”

“I would call you Bonno – the wild.”

“Bonno?”

“Oh no, maybe this name would lend infamy. That sort of name is more suited for me. I’ll call you Bonya – the flood. What do you say?”

“OK, but not in front of your Aunt”

“No way. This is like a mystical incantation which loses power if revealed. This stays within my lips and your ears.”

“So be it”

“But, I too need an unofficial name of the kind.   What about Brahmaputra? Bonya – the flood – came all of a sudden and overflowed the banks.”

“A tad heavy for calling often”

“You are right. Need to call a porter for calling. You do the christening. It will be your creation.”

“I will also cut short your name. I’ll call you Mita – the friend.”

“Wonderful. It has a companion in composition – ba(n)dhu, the sweetheart. Bonya, methinks, what’s the harm if you call me by that name in front of all?”

“I fear lest a treasure to one ear, loses value entering many”

“That’s not untrue. What is one for the ears of two is a fraction in a crowd. Bonya.”

“Yes, Mita?”

“If I pen poetry to your name, you know what I will rhyme with you? Ananya – the unique.”

“What will that signify?”

“It will signify, you are what you are and nothing else.”

“That is not a big surprise”

“What do you mean? It’s a very big surprise. It is by bizarre chance that one comes across a person who makes me exclaim – she is her own self, not like anyone else. In verse I will put it as –

O my Bonya, Ananya are you
A single self splendored bijou .”

“Are you going to start writing poems?”

“Of course I will. Who dare stop the flow?”

“Why such desperation?”

“Let me tell you the reason. Last night till half past two, tossing and turning as one unable to sleep, I kept turning the pages of The Oxford Book of Verses again and again. A poem of love eluded me, earlier I used to stumble over them ever so often. I see it clearly. The world is waiting patiently for me to pen them.”

 So saying he grasped Lavanya’s left hand in both of his and said, “The hands are paired, now how shall I hold a pen? The best couplet is between the hands of a couple. No poet can transcribe the simple talk that transpires through the touch of our fingers.”

“Nothing pleases you easily. That is why I fear you so much Mita.”

“But try to understand what I am saying. Rama tried to assess the chastity of Sita in external fire, and hence lost her forever. The purity of poetry is tested by tinder, but that ignition is internal. The one whose mind is not ablaze thus, how will he determine the purity? He has to consent to the opinion of many, on many an occasion the caustic of tongue. Today my soul is afire with the flame, I am trying to forge all my past impressions in the fire, whatever little remains. The flare is reducing everything to ashes. Standing in the pandemonium of the poets, I am forced to say – don’t clamour too loud, say the right word softly –
For God’s sake hold your tongue
And let me love.”

They sat wordless for a while. At long last, raising Lavanya’s hand in his, Amit caressed his face. He said, “Think Bonya. At this instant this morning, there are countless who want, and a precious few who get. I am one of the select few. In all the world you are the only one who managed to witness the supremely lucky soul under a Eucalyptus tree in a remote corner of the Shillong mountains. The exceedingly electrifying events of the world happen to be the staggeringly sober, innately inconspicuous. But your Tarini Talapatra, shouting himself hoarse, shaking his fists, spreading the banal words of bent politics from Dalhousie in Calcutta to Noakhali and Chatgan – the news of this nonsensical nothingness soon became the leading headlines of Bengal. Who knows? Probably that is better.”

“What is better?”

“It is better that the meaningful things of the race and realm move freely in the marketplace, yet don’t succumb by stumbling against the gaze of the coarse. The deep knowledge lies in the pulse of the world. Now Bonya, I am waxing eloquent. What are you thinking in your silence?”

Lavanya looked downwards without answering.

Amit said, “Your silence is akin to dismissing all my words without remuneration.”

Lavanya spoke still looking at her feet, “Your words make me afraid Mita.”

“Afraid of what?”

“I cannot even think. What is it that you want from me, and how little it is that I can give you.”

“You can give without thinking. That is what makes your giving invaluable.”

“When you said Aunt had given her consent, my heart skipped a beat. I thought the time to be caught is near.”

“Where is the catch?”

“Mita, in taste, in intelligence, you are way above me. In walking together with you someday I will fall back far behind you, you will not call out to me then. I will not blame you at all that day – no, no, don’t say a word, hear me out. I beg of you, please do not demand to marry me. To unravel in marriage will only create more knots. What I have got from you is more than enough for me, it will last me a lifetime. But you should not delude yourself.”

“Bonya – why worry thinking of tomorrow’s thrift while basking in the magnanimity of the moment?”

“Mita, you have given me the courage to say the truth. What I tell you today, you yourself know deep within. You do not wish to admit it lest it dam the sweet emotion that pleasures you now. You are not meant to be a householder. You wander to quench the thirst of your taste, in literary promenades you stroll, it is for that reason you come to me. Shall I describe it correctly? In your heart, you know marriage is what you call vulgar. It is too respectable, a domesticated delight of those scripture-quoting materialistic men who blend wife and wealth to create their love cushion and sit back against it.”

“Bonya – in the softest of tone you can speak the harshest of words.”

"Mita, may the power of love keep me strong forever, may I not shirk even a little while forgetting you. What you are, do remain that, whatever little of me is to your taste, may it be just that much, but do not take responsibility for more, that itself will make me happy.”

“Bonya, now let me tell you something. How curiously have you analysed my character. I won’t cross swords of words about that. But you are wrong at one place. The character of man is also mobile. In domestication, it is characterised as stationary, shackled in chains. Then by one stroke of luck the shackles are severed, he runs to the forest, then he has another face.”

“Which of those are you today?”

“That which is not in tune with my normal self. Before this I have come across many girls, traversing the canals of society to the posh embankments, carrying the shaded lamp of taste. That way you get to meet, but not to know. You tell me yourself Bonya, is the connection between us the same?”

Lavanya remained silent.

“When two heavenly bodies orbit at a distance, greeting each other constantly, the etiquette is edifying, evasive. They have the pull of cultural consent, not the harmony of heart. Suddenly if there is a fatal collision, the lamps are extinguished, the flame of fusion flares up. That fire is ablaze, Amit Raaye has changed. The history of mankind is similar. What seems continuous is a necklace connected with instantaneous beads. The speed of creation moves along in starts across ages, with the sporadic jolts of the instantaneous, progressing in sharp scales. You have changed the beat of my heart, Bonya. To that rhythm I have entwined your tune with mine.”

Lavanya’s eyelashes grew heavy with dew. But she could not help thinking that Amit’s soul was poetic, every experience rose with a flourish of words to his lips. That constituted the harvest of his life, his source of the joy of sustenance. He needed her for the same reason. The words that remained frozen in his mind, which weighed on his soul but did not reverberate in his life, needed to be melted with her warmth to flow down joyous streams.

After the two sat silent for a while, Lavanya asked suddenly, “Tell me Mita, do you not think that the day the Taj Mahal was completed, Mumtaz’s death was a cause for Shahjahan to be happy. To make his dream immortal, her death was necessary. That death itself was Mumtaz’s greatest gift of love. The Taj is not the expression of Shahjahan’s grief, it is the embodiment of his joy.”
 
Amit said, “You are amazing me every passing moment. You are definitely a poet.”

“I have no wish to be a poet.”

“Why not?”

“My heart does not choose to light lamps of words with the flame of life. Those who have been invited to decorate the festive assembly of the world, words are for them. The flame of my life is just for my work.”

“Bonya, you are denying the word. Don’t you know how your words awaken me? How would you know what you say and what that means? I see I have to call upon Nibaran Chakraborty. You squirm at his name by now. But,what to do? The man is the treasurer of the words in my mind. Nibaran has not yet become stale to himself. Every poem he writes is to him his first. That day, rummaging through his pages, I found one written not too long ago. About a spring. Somehow the summons have reached him that in Shillong I have unearthed my spring. He writes

O Spring, crystal stream
In the aqua clear
To see their faces
Sun and star do peer

If I wrote myself, I couldn’t have described you more clearly. There is clarity in your mind that reflects every light with simplicity. I can see this light of yours scattered across everything, In your face, your smile, your words, in the stillness as you sit, in your steps as you walk.

                   Take my shadow
In flow of yours
     Let it play on
Beside the shores
          Let your ripple
  Smile and join
 The selfsame shadow in song.
 Lend to it that
Voice of yours
For eternity ring along.

You are a spring. In the current of life, it is not only that you flow, your stream joins mine. On the common way, the harsh, immovable rocks that you flow over break into song at your touch.

Shadow of mine, smile of yours
  Images fuse
The poet in my soul sings fervent
With that muse
In every step shines your light
Pours forth speech from soul bright
My speech this day I find
O My spring
Your waves do wake my mind
I know my being.”

With a wan smile Lavanya said, “As much as I have light and sound, your shadow is still that, I will not be able to grasp that shadow”

Amit said, “But maybe one day you’ll find, if nothing else remains, my word forms survive.”

Lavanya smiled and said, “Where? In Nibaran Chakraborty’s notebook?”

“Not surprising. The stream that flows in the depths of my soul gushes through in Nibaran’s fountain pen.”

“In that case maybe someday in fountain of Nibaran Chakraborty I will find your heart, nowhere else”

At this juncture, a help from the house arrived to tell them food was served.

Amit thought as he walked. “Lavanya wants to see everything under the light of intelligence. She cannot lose herself even on those specific turns and crossroads of life where men habitually delude themselves. I cannot refute what she has stated. One has to manifest the deep realisations of the innermost being in some way or the other – some do so in life, some in prose, touching life but moving away from it, as a river meanders from the shore. Will I continue to be swept away from the course of life by the current of rhetoric? Is this where lies the difference between man and woman? Man uses his energy to create, for the progress of the creation, he forgets himself in every step. The woman spends every drop of her energy to sustain, to defend the remnants of the past she restricts the novel creation. Creation is cruel towards sustenance, and sustenance slows down creation. Why is this so? At some place they will collide. Wherever is striking similarity, there is also relentless resistance. That’s what makes me think the greatest thing to receive is not union, but liberation.”

The thought was painful, but Amit could not protest.

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