Aug 24, 2010
In the beginning, everyone had been convinced that Amit would return to Calcutta within ten or fifteen days. Naren Mittir had speculated substantially on seven being the threshold. But a month, and then two had gone by, and there was no word of homecoming. The lease of the lodge in Shillong was up. A landlord from Rangpur had taken it over. After a lot of search, a cubbyhole was found near Yogamaya’s place. Having once housed the gardener or milkman, it had sheltered a clerk - thus endowed with a slight touch of poverty stricken gentility. The clerk was now long dead, the chamber rented out by his widow. The frugality of doors and windows provided little leeway for the elements of light, air and sky. Only the treasury of unknown cracks and crevices ensured excessive entry of the element of water on rainy days.
Yogamaya started on witnessing the state of the room, exclaiming, “Son, what is this test you are putting yourself through?”
Amit answered, “Uma indulged in a pledge of fasting, giving up even leaves in the end. I am undergoing the pledge of furniture – or the lack of it. Bed, cot, table, chair, stool – renouncing everything I have ended up against the empty wall. That had taken place in the Himalayas, and this in Shillong. There the girl had wanted a groom, and here the groom is hankering for the girl. There Narada was the matchmaker and here we have Auntie herself. Now if some Kalidasa does not turn up, I’ll have to take up his responsibility as well.”
Amit said these laughing, but it pained Yogamaya. She almost said, come stay with us – but she checked herself. She thought, god has designed a drama, our intervention will only create knots that cannot be unravelled. From her house she sent some necessary items, and alongside, her compassion for this godforsaken guy doubled in magnitude. She kept repeating to Lavanya, “Lavanya my child, please don’t have a heart of stone.”
After heavy downpour on a certain day, having gone to find out about Amit, she found him with an English book sitting alone under an unstable four legged table. Plagued with the arrival of unwelcome drops of rain across the length and breadth of the room, Amit had made a cave with his table and had sat down spreading his legs under it. At first, he had laughed out to himself … and then proceeded to literary criticism. His soul had raced towards the house of Yogamaya nearby, but flesh and blood had resisted. In Calcutta, where it was seldom required, Amit had indulged in an expensive raincoat. However, he had not remembered to pack it to the place where it was always necessary. An umbrella had accompanied him for a while, but in all probability it had been left in the premeditated destination or under some old deodar. Yogamaya entered the room and said, “What is this, Amit?”
Amit quickly emerged from underneath the table. “My room is reveling in incoherent rambling today. Its condition is worse than mine.”
“To be precise, the way of my house is almost like India. The relationships between the parts are weak. Hence, if there is disturbance from the top, there are tears in all corners. And if there is a storm which rushes from outside, there are heavy sighs all around. As a sign of protest, I have made a stage above my head. An example of peaceful home rule against the misgovernment of the house. There is a core theory of politics perceptible here.”
“And what is the core theory?”
“It is this – it is better to be a poor lodger in a nondescript hole than under the rule of a householder, no matter how powerful, who does not live in the house.”
Today, Yogamaya’s patience with Lavanya was tried. The deeper her affection for Amit grew, the higher was the pedestal she put him on. “Such knowledge, such intelligence, such qualifications yet so simple at heart. Such extraordinary power of articulation. And if you talk of appearance, in my eyes, his good looks strike far better than Lavanya. It is Lavanya’s luck that at some planetary conspiracy Amit sighted her with enchantment in his eyes. To this blue eyed boy, Lavanya gives such pain. Just for nothing, she states she will not marry. As if she is some princess of princesses. Who has promised to marry only the one who can bend and string the bow of Shiva. Why should such ego be tolerated. Ill-fated as she is, she will have to drown in tears.”
For a moment Yogamaya thought she would drive Amit to their place. However, after some thought she said, “Wait a while my son. I will be back soon”
On returning to her place, her eyes were greeted by Lavanya leaning against the sofa, feet covered by a shawl, leafing through Gorky’s Mother. This apparent luxury infuriated her even further.
She said, “Let us go out”
Lavanya replied, “Ma, I do not feel like it today”
Yogamaya did not quite understand that Lavanya had taken shelter in fiction taking flight from herself. All afternoon since lunch, a disquiet had shimmered through her, wondering when Amit would turn up. Her mind had kept repeating, any moment now. The boisterousness of the wind outside made the pines shudder in torment. In the tumultuous showers, the springs were so rife as to suggest haste to catch up with their tenure. A desire inside Lavanya gave way to unrest. Let all barriers burst, all wavering take wings … pressing the two hands of Amit, let me say, across lives and births I am yours. Today it was easy to say. Today the firmament was frenzied, heaven knew what the heavens had proclaimed in pouring passion - in that tongue, the forests and woods had found voice, the rainswept mountain peaks stood laying their ears on the sky. Let someone listen to Lavanya in the way of the mountains, with that grandeur, with that silence, with that all encompassing attention. But periods merge into each other and pass by, no one comes. The auspicious moment to voice the right secret of the soul passes. Now when someone ultimately appears, then words will cease to flow, apprehension will cast its shadow, the encouragement of the doubt destructing deity will murmur to silence. Years come and go, and at some chosen moment expressions come knocking at the door, at that instant if the key to the lock of the soul is not found, then the divine gift of words to speak the unsaid is never found again. The day the voice is found, one wants to spread the tidings to the entire world – listen to me, for I love. I love – these words, like the unknown bird from overseas, come from miles and days away. The guardian angel was waiting in the soul for the selfsame words – I love. The words have touched me today – my entire life, my entire world has turned true. Hiding her face in the pillow, Lavanya kept saying to an unseen audience – truth, truth, there is nothing as true as this.
But, the moment passed – no guest appeared. The weight of expectation and vigil strained the strings of her heart. Walking out onto the balcony, Lavanya for a while got drenched in the stray splashes of rain.
Then a wasting weariness spread its shroud over her mind – a dense despair. She felt that the spark of her life flared up for an instance before extinguishing into nothingness. The boldness to completely accept Amit with the truth of her soul departed. The conviction of a while back was soon overcome with fatigue. After a long silence, she pulled the book from the table. She took some time to concentrate, but after that did not realize when she was lost in the flow of the tale.
At this moment Yogamaya suggested going out. She did not feel enthused.
Yogamaya pulled a stool and sat near her. Looking at her with keen eyes she asked “Tell me the truth Lavanya, do you love Amit?”
Lavanya got up hastily. “Why do you ask such a question, Ma?”
“If you do not love him, why not make that clear to him. You are cruel, if you do not want him, then do not hold him back either”
Something welled up inside Lavanya, no words formed on her lips.
“The condition in which I just saw him right now is enough to break anyone’s heart. For whom is he living such a beggarly life. Do you not realise how fortunate is the one who is sought by a man like him?”
With effort, Lavanya spoke past her choking heart. “You are questioning my love, Ma? I do not think there is anyone on this earth who can love more than me. I can die for love. All that I was till date has all been taken away from me. From now on, I have a new beginning, a beginning that has no end. This wonder within me, how can I even tell someone? Has anyone else known it in such a way?”
Yogamaya was amazed. She had always witnessed profound peacefulness in Lavanya. Where had this unbridled emotion hidden for so long? Slowly she said, “Lavanya, my child, do not suppress yourself. Amit is searching for you in the dark – reveal your all to him, do not have any fear. If the radiance that is within you illuminates him as well, he would have no dearth. Come, child, come right now with me”
The two of them went to Amit’s place.