Black prism

Shivangee

I peeped through the window trying to figure out what was happening, I could feel a smile cross my face as I heard the cheers and laughter of people enjoying. “Happy holi, Stutee,” said Sneha, gently caressing my hair. “Isn’t it your favourite festival?!,” she asked. I nodded and hugged her with joy. ”Then why not ready yet?” she asked, may be with a confused look. I was trying to get ready but dropped my kajal somewhere. Sneha found the kajal near my foot and got me ready.

Sneha asked me to hold her shades, till she got ready. Even amidst the loud sound I could hear the Koel singing songs of Holi. Mom was busy cleaning the soot, which the diya had left after burning the whole night. Ahh..! I can only picture how beautiful that might be. Dad was busy frying puris in the kadai and serving the guests. Sneha and I reached the hall where the fun was taking place. Oh god! I had to walk extra carefully here as the walls around were filled with charcoal drawings on it. I arched my eye brows and rolled my eye nervously at every direction, trying to figure out things around. I was sitting in the corner and savouring my Thumps Up while, the smell of abeer flew hand in hand with the spring air. I so wished I could play Holi.

There were colours everywhere, making shadows run. The day had ended and evening was already knocking at the door. I had always loved Holi. Imagined colours coming down from the rainbow I had in my mind. Blindness was the only colour I had known and colours had the power to brighten my world. I started twirling my hair and decided to hear the Koel still singing.

sindagi
Photo taken at Sindagi, Karnataka PC. Shivangee Dasgupta

 

Lessons from the unread

“Media! What kind of subject is that? How can girls even study that? What time will you come back home? Who will take care of your kids and the house?….Aa,  forget it. You should have taken medical studies and that way you could have managed both,” said Chaturvedi uncle, who was always a bit too concerned about my imaginary future in-laws and least interested in what I wanted to do at present.

“Do you know how to cook or any household work for that matter?” he asked with scrutinizing eyes .I hardly realized that he had not stopped the interrogation, till the time I felt several eyes on me.

“Manageable,” I replied innocently.

Those eyes had started piercing holes through me now.

“What do you mean by manageable?” he asked.

“Maggi!” I replied, with a sense of pride in my culinary talent.

This time my answer made his piercing eyes turn blind.

“Hmmm”! He nodded his regretfully.

“Dasguptaji, your son-in-law has a very dark future, you see. Maggi is what he will have to survive on or else he will have to marry someone who is a proper girl.”

Of course, dad had to become my savior at that point.

“We never pressurized her about anything. She does everything out of her own interest. She’ll learn everything slowly,” he said.

Uncle still did not want to spare me and dropped a bomb.

“Do you have a boyfriend?” he enquired.

I was surprised, so too was everybody else in the room. Pin drop silence.

Yes, I answered. The bomb exploded inside his head.

Mom didn’t know where to run to, dad didn’t know where to hide and the others chose to bat their eyelids with terrified expression. I expected the next question to be about my virginity, but uncle was way too deeply in shock for that.

“This is the end, I can see darkness all around her. Very sad, chi chi… such a girl! God knows what her college is teaching her,” said uncle.

A damn interesting man I tell you, Chaturvedi uncle.

Chaturvedi Sinha had just returned from The States. He had gone there to visit his son for the first time. He had all sorts of experiences to share including how embarrassed he felt on seeing women with revealing clothes and teenagers crossing the ‘limits of decency’.

Chaturvedi uncle claimed to have the knowledge of the four Vedas and had got his BTech and MBA degrees from reputed institutions. “That country has no culture, you know, every woman is working and kids are left by themselves. That’s why the kids have no discipline. The men also get involved in household work, it is so sad to see that the wives don’t do it. That’s why they have highest divorce rates. Men and women should not exchange their jobs, all should do what they are assigned to. Oh yes! Having a girlfriend or a boyfriend is no big deal there. Control your wild daughter, Dasguptaji or else she will be bringing shame for all after she’s married,” uncle warned.

Other than holding a senior manager’s post and cribbing about promotions in his company, he also ran a shop of advice very successfully.

“Keep it on the table. I’ll drink it later”, he said harshly to Piklu. Uncle had never liked him. He called him the servant boy. Uncle always felt Piklu eyeing his phone and considered him to be a little thief who never got caught. Piklu was seven but we knew him since he was three. He always came along with Lata aunty and waited in the living room till his mother finished her maid’s work. He often had a smile on his face and liked whatever we offered him.

Piklu was a hassle-free and lively little kid. Chaturvedi uncle, after a lot of struggle of picking up the glass and drinking water had also managed to spill some on the floor.

Piklu was busy flipping through his colouring book when he heard uncle call out to him “Hey you boy! Come here, clean the water on the floor”.

“Ji sahib.”

Piklu ran with a cloth at once, he enjoyed helping his mother out. Uncle wore his disgusted look on his face till Piklu finished mopping up. He looked at uncle and smiled and uncle in return chose to look away.

Who cared about what uncle wanted? I was very fond of Lata aunty and she reciprocated. She was very happy when she heard about me leaving for Bangalore and went around telling the news to everybody with excitement. Piklu had even started fantasizing about it and asked me several questions about Bangalore.

Lata aunty had always encouraged me to do something different. Aunty had hardly completed her schooling when she got married and now at the age of 33 already had three kids, Piklu had an elder sister and a brother too. Lata aunty and her husband never pressurized Rima, their older daughter, to get married and had left the decision to her. Rima worked as a sales girl at Big Bazaar and supported her brother Binu’s education. Rima was 23 and that became the concern of Lata aunty’s neighbours. But the family turned a deaf ear to them.

I vividly remember the day when I had been to their house. It was in a shanty and the area smelled of garbage everywhere. Piklu’s house was somewhere in the centre of the slum. His family was the most wonderful family I had ever met. Everyone one including the neighbours had come to welcome me. Lata aunty’s husband had cooked everything that I liked and also promised me to teach me some cooking. The house was small but not their hearts. They did everything possible to make feel home. I was busy talking to Rima when we heard Piklu calling Rima out “look Rima didi I found this ten rupee note near the field. Please give it father he might know whom it belongs to.” I patted on his back felt proud about his deeds.

I heard someone coughing very badly. I turned to see and found Chaturvedi uncle interfering with my thoughts and he was not able to stop coughing like his blabbering. All of us ran to his rescue but couldn’t help. Even while he was getting chocked he kept cursing Piklu for his state. Uncle complained of difficulty in breathing. He got nervous and was not able to relax. This in turn added to his condition. He held my dad’s hand and told him what his akhri ichcha was.

Among the chaos Piklu and Lata aunty came down to help us. Aunty put him down on the floor and asked all of us not to crowd around him. She told uncle to breathe heavily while Piklu was rubbing his feet and hands. After some time uncle showed improvements. Piklu instantly went and helped him to sit up, got him a glass of water and held him for support. Piklu insisted on taking uncle to the balcony where he could breathe better. He sprinted to the balcony and got the chair ready for him. He held uncle’s hand and lead him to the chair. This made uncle felt even better. He was still holding Piklu’s hand and his surmising eyes where gleaming with water. But no one knew whether to blame it on the illness or something else.

Uncle looked at Pikklu with some sort of surprise and Piklu as usual smiled at him and asked if he felt better. Uncle nodded his head and looked at Lata aunty in the room. He had an expression which none had never seen before, like he wanted to say something. He looked at Piklu again but said nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Candle of hope

Citizenship, a crazed ship where everything is out of control.

I have been questioned about my rights, but never been given one.

They told me education is for me when I was born, but never gave me any when I asked for it..

Schools, temples and all the places where the “pure” people go is not for us.

Good food, happiness, fun is not for us. This is taught to every “low born” kid even before he learns “Maa!”

Then what exactly is good for us? Is what I have been asking for long but I don’t hear an answer.

Papa told me that we are Indians and we are citizens of this country.

“Are you sure? Which country papa, Are these people our own? Who is an Indian, what is a citizen?” is what I asked.

And for the first time papa din’t have an answer.

“Citizenship, a crazed ship where everything is out of control,” he said softly.

Even in the amidst of thick silent nights, when I sat alone and stared at the moon without any hindrance,

I could hear screams! Terrible screams. Screams that I have never heard so loud.

“Who is it?” I ask. I asked again “Who is it?!”

Could hear none, but myself.

Worn, torn, rotten, used, impure, dirt, black, poor, this is all I have known, I have been given, I have been called.

The broom my pencil and the mop my brush and the floor my ajar canvas where I am a free painter, who is creating master pieces for the ones who have the heart that can see it, the eyes to feel it, and hands to love it

I could see the reflection of the flickering flame on my eyes in the mirror. Fighting hard to beat the wind.

I was deeply contemplating as the storm was passing outside the window.

A world where equality, justice, love, respect, brotherhood…have just remained to be mere words in the dictionary of the fools.

A world where men in saffron come and make you colour blind. I never knew I would hate a colour that bad.

Citizenship, a crazed ship where everything is out of control.

The flickering flame of the candle lost the battle at last.

Surprised I was! As I could still see the reflection of the flame on my eyes in the mirror.

And that was the candle of hope within me.

Shivangee Dasgupta

THE APT DEFINITION

THE APT DEFINITION

My face turned from pale red to lush white when my eyes read the lines from the book, my agile hands were holding, “Love is something that we living beings have been blessed with” , “blessed with”…..really?! . A thought crossed my brain, not a positive one though. My hands frantically searched for a pen beside me, on finding one I circled the lines with raven black ink and gawked at ti for minutes together without realizing the ticking time.

I was thinking about a specific definition for love. A definition that would be perfect for it .And the one which dropped into my mind was, A shortcut to Hell! I whispered to myself, on hearing which my lips smirked. Resting my chin on ym palm and dangling my legs in rhythm, my gaze ran straight to the books on my shelf, which have different love stories to tell; they were bored and sleeping cozily with a thick blanket of dust on them. Their loud snores made me yawn too. By the time I had finished my yawning, the definition for Love had started knocking at the door of my thoughts again. And I, as usual willingly opened the door and let the thoughts of definition crowd my little but quite spacious skull.

                                         I was lost in the desert of thoughts when I reached an oasis of realization which splashed water on my mind so that my thought-sight could search better and faster. And there was the answer to my just ended search on a half eaten bright green Money plant leaf which was leisurely taking a walk across the little water body. I leaped into the water and picked the leaf up into my cupped palms and read the yellow tinged answer engraved on it “ There is no proper definition found for Love till date and so it is for Psychology . So, love is nothing else but Psycho”  ……..tears raced down both ends of my eyes and my stomach was crunched when I burst out with laughter at my very own definition and conclusion. I laughed and laughed  till I ran out of breathe and relaxed to catch it . Then I heard silence noisily entering my room and deciding to stay for sometime and I in turn wore my adjusting suit on but it literally drove me crazy as it grew ear splittingly loud and was drilling into my brains. I had to throw it out, had to do something with it. I lay on my back and gazed at the square ceiling above me, struggling internally to win over.

                                              I was shocked to see my mind caressing the thoughts of love in its lap again. So, I drove my thoughts toward that and decided to go for a long drive this time. I had neither a map nor a compass or road directions about where was this leading me to but I knew somewhere where everyone wishes to go with a special one. But I was driving all alone…… but who cares?! Till the time you are driving and having the fun of driving all through up and down the hill, in and out the tunnel, listening to Nucleya or Gulam Ali…….every damn thing is your choice at the end of the day. Driving continuously after quite sometime I reached an abyss and I exactly knew which place that was. It was the very place that every story book took me to and said “Love is like a web, an abyss in which we all fall not by choice but by mistake”………..IS IT?! I doubt it!. But the lines that “Not by choice but by mistake” sounds pretty true, accurately said by whoever that is. People fall into that well and become Alice in Wonderland which most of us are not sentient of but originally is a horror and not a slimy “Once apon a time…….happily ever after” story.

                                                        But wait!  Things don’t just sum up there, there’z more to it. You fall hard I mean really HARD for your pelvic bone to actually handle. Thankfully nothing much happens, only petty things like a cardiac arrest, reduction in cognitive processes, difficulty in stretching lips and performing activities like smiling, loss of focus, depression becomes an hour in your daily schedule etc etc  ETC . These are the minute things that happen when one falls into that well, which has the most enchanting look ever and attracts the shit out of you and makes you damn thirsty even when you are not. On peeping inside you can never see the end and it’s completely murky in there for the human eye to see. You can hear water in there which sounds like pearls falling on the floor. You crook more in order to see better. When you are utterly busy in search of the elixir you sense something on your back, you can feel a chill run down your spine and the whole effect is so numbing. You turn and realize that you have been struck by a bow. A brown bow wearing a rust coat, has rushed half way piercing through your flesh however, you can’t feel any twinge or see the red liquid surging out. It’s weird! , it’s strange! ,its magical! , it’s haunting!

                                            I somehow gathered the left over energy and turned. There it was! Hovering in the air , it looked like an early man’s baby as it had no clothes on, a pair of wings too and of course the bow and arrow which it had shot at me . Groaning in pain I felt myself to be fluky enough to see the devil even while I was on Earth. I could not balance my body anymore and I fell! Down, down into the well . The whole experience felt like travelling to the centre of the Earth.

                                                           I had no clue what was happening to me, where was it taking me to, where was the end, whether I would be alive or not…….? So on, several questions but no answers. There was no limit to it ,I kept falling deeper and deeper . The way was dark, scary, and what not.

                                                          My never ending journey to the end of the well was disrupted by the sudden bang of the window. I shuddered at the sudden thud . The mood of the room had changed from sleepy to hyper in the quest of the apt definition along with me, the blinds seem to quarrel with each other about the right definition, the fan rotated and looked in every direction wherever possible but alas! There was no answer as yet . I tossed and turned in the quill and shook my head in repentance about where had the whole thing taken me to, it took me nowhere but surely to the superlative degree of madness.

The lines from the romantic books were boogie woogieing  in front of my eyes “Love is like a rainbow, its colourful and makes people smile” but never said that once those colours fall on you , you get late to college and it spoils your favourite attire too. “Love is like an ocean, its deep and mesmerizing” but never brings to your notice to learn swimming and then give a dive cause, once you start drowning even the life guards can’t reach to your rescue. “Love is like the sun, gives you strength , it shines and its warm” but forgets to mention about love in 45 degrees heat which is not warm but melting, it will not shine but will give you sun burns , It’ll mislead you by creating mirage make you visibly challenged. “Love is rain, it’s calm and refreshing”. Oh yeah?! And who the hell will talk about the crystal clear puddles? and the way it is known to make anyone look like the Hundred and second Dalmatian with brown spots all across your body.

The way it turns a whole lively atmosphere into shades of grey and dullness and the how tactfully it ruins your date by making your umbrella fly on the opposite side and you running behind it as fast as you can screaming the lines in your head  “It’s for freaking thousand and nine bucks, Dad’z gonna deduct it from my pocket money. I just can’t let it go!”

                                                       My lips seem to agree with my wild thoughts and smiled in support. The sweet slumbers of my books in my shelf were inviting me, I heard the moon calling out to me from behind the clouds to play siesta, peek- a- boo, my blankie grew warmer and cuddled me in its arms and my eye lids felt heavy as sleep had landed on it and I decided to board the flight and go on the quest of the apt definition some other day again.

           Shivangee Dasgupta

 

Yellow, but why so Yellow?

Ouch! Arghh..! It was the third burn in a week, the previous ones hardly got occasion to heal and now again. Sipping down the warm coffee from the cup, I was updating news online. Got distracted on burning my tongue, it hurts!. The earlier ones were also on the same place by the same source of course…

     “Happy women’s day!” someone wished from behind. The voice was familiar and kind. It was full of life and so was the reply. We all replied enthusiastically “Happy Women’s Day to you too”. All the ladies in the office received roses at the entrance. They smiled with surprise when they were wished with a bunch of roses. It was a special day for every woman. A day to make them feel special. “Hey guys, did you know there is discount offers at a lot of places. I wish I could finish fast and go!” said one of the girls in the office, to the others busy with work. “Hmmm…I wish too”, said one in reply. “I want a rose too”, said Punya sadly, as she had received none. Rotating the chair around, her friend consoled Punya with the sweet words “Don’t worry, I’ll gift you one.”

     My left jaw bone had started to hurt, as I was resting it on my hand for the past two hours. Online news update for the client was over. I was sitting joblessly and staring at my expression on the monitor screen, saw myself wearing a dull face, may be because I was scrutinizing details of news on the internet. The reflection was not that clear but vivid enough to adjust my hair. I asked the team if I could help them with something more. But no one had any work to give me for now. I plugged my ear phones on and heard Ustad Rashid Khan singing Aoge jab tum o sajna, to me. I slowing started moving and flying away from reality. But something pulled me back. Aah..! It was none other than the Yellow wall, which stood in front of me with a lazy yet bright look.

     It was Yellow, not yellow yellow but…..Yellow. Like too much of yellowness in it. It was one shade darker than the egg yolk. The rest of the office was painted in peach but the only one that stood in front of me was Yellow. It attracted me a lot even though it had the capability to create headache. It was yellow so, it was attractive or it is attractive because it was yellow, I don’t, I really don’t. I usually get fascinated to things that are red, orange, white, black and also yellow. I like yellow but not this one. I disliked it at first, because I thought it was a disaster in the world of design and aesthetics. It was not only bland yellow but a red thick road of soft board ran across from one end to the other. Ummm…. not red exactly but I think it is maroon. That is the only thing that mellowed down the craziness of the Yellow. The wall is even and plain at the top but changes it’s texture as it slowly comes down towards the work desk. It was rough with cracks peeing through. It looked like the bottom part had witnessed several earthquakes.

     Lights in the room helped the yellow look tolerable. Sunlight was shouting through the blinds to let it in, since even it could not put up with the yellowness of the yellow. The peach on the ceiling had got utterly crushed by the overriding one in the small, unspacious yet welcoming room. The maroon soft board had nothing to say at all. It did not enjoy arguments. Just hung there minding its own business of displaying important contacts. It had practically turned a deaf ear to the maddening Yellow. But somehow I could tell the Yellow was scared to piss maroon off. Sometimes I could even hear Maroon softy rebuking Yellow wally

A catastrophic mismanagement of colours in one room!, I must say.

I got lost in the maze of work again. But how can anyone get lost when you have the enormous and the brightest clue blazing right in front of you, the YELLOW wall!. What else?! It is so easy to find your way back when you have such landmarks. Trust me, I had no clue whether to take it as a blessing or a curse.

     With this question I saw Philosophy walking in along with a chair, in my mind. I typically hate this visitor. Since Philosophy was giving me company, I had to follow its trail. I could feel the alterations it was making. Everything given to us is a gift of the all mighty, nothing is a curse. Everything is special and is present for a purpose.

KNOCK IT OUT!!!!!

I was back to myself. I heard the weird sound of dragging of chair and realized, Philosophy was leaving. 5:43! Called the laptop. Busy day , I said to myself. Settled my things, tidied my desk up and sat for a moment looking at the ajar wall. Cleaned my glasses and thought, I somehow like the yellowness at the end of the day, the room would be so dull without it. It does the important task of pulling me back from my overwhelming thoughts. I think Philosophy was right, everything has a purpose behind. The Yellowness of the wall gave me an inspiration to write. I thanked the yellow wall. Everything is fine, from now on I shall learn to love it as it is. As I was leaving I turned back and looked at it again and then I asked………

Yellow, but why so Yellow?

Shivangee Dasgupta

Passion

The trees were full of lush green leaves, a heavy south wind was blowing. The smell of flowers had filled the breeze with fragrance.  Everyone was rejoicing as it was the first autumn after many years that brought Durga Pooja with much energy and joy.

The trees were moving in rhythm, the loud murmurs of the dry leaves were even heard till the temple where everyone was waiting to hear Meera. “No celebration is complete without our Meera’s singing no matter whoever sings”, whispers Nirmala boudi to her friend beside. The temple was enveloped with the soft sound of sitar, jugalbandi of leaves and the wind was also making a presence along with the melodious singing of Rupa . A beautiful Ashtami morning indeed!.

Mouth as wide open as a tunnel, eyes as shut as a locked door Meera was sitting and drowsing in the centre of a row of singers when she was jolted by the loud claps for Rupa that ran across the temple. It was now Meera’s turn to strain her vocal cords .All eyes turned at once from her to Meera . “Inspite of belonging to  a lower middle class family, I trained my daughter with my hard earned money and she has always rewarded me with her honey sweet singing, she has never let us down . She recently finished her M.A in Indian classical music and is keen on studying further. She runs a music class in the city next to our village. She also has the responsibility of the house along with me and her father, as she has two sisters following her. We want Meera to study more as well as our other daughters but life is not as smooth and sweet as singing and living apart carries its own dangers. Meera has proved herself matured enough to understand this difference when she had rudimentary singing skills. This fills our chest with pride for our daughter”, talks Moni, Meera’s mother to Sandhya di who is a new face in the village and asks about Meera’s background.

Meera’s singing pulls everyones ears at once. The air is again filled with the sing song of Durga Pooja. Even the leaves and the chirping birds were heard singing along. The tinkling sound of the sitar played by her nimble fingers sounded like beads of ghungrus dropped on the floor. Meera sat in the middle of the alpana on the floor, draped in white saree with red border. She sang like choirs of Koels singing the song of joy to maa Durga. “I was very proud of her and was holding her hand and standing next to her among the never ending claps”. Pandit ji screamed with tears in his eyes “Wah! Maa Saraswati resides in her”, undoubtedly that was a matter of fact. “We have been best friends from childhood and I have known her passion for music, rather I am the only one who knows the hard work, madness and bravery she has in her to carry out her love for music .Meera and I have shared every bit of our lives and she has always been a perfect friend to me. I was a bit lost in thoughts when Meera pulled me out of my sweet reverie”. “Rupu ! Though the claps are louder for me but you have always been my idol and shall remain to be so.” We both smiled at each other and walked down the isles with the other performers along. Our parent’s heads held high where every eye looked at us with love and respect.

“So see you in the evening Ashtami pooja,” “Oh no am so sorry Rupu you know I have to go to the city for work today also” “You didn’t get a break today also ? That is weird. Ok never mind carry on I shall see you tomorrow in the temple.”

 

The evening was well lit up, since the night was covered with the blanket of stars. The North Star was dancing to the tunes of the autumn breeze. “Will you please hurry up?” Maa had to scream at least once at this time at Meera since she often gets late for the job in the city. It’s quite a long way and she has to hurry up. “Don’t forget to pack your shawl its chill outside.” She kissed all bye grabbed her packed bag wrapped maa’s old shawl across her shoulder which hid her new salwar kameez. She rushed into the dark part of the night which led to a dim lit reddish room, there was no feel of the autumn breeze, no tinkling of sitar and no honey sweet singing of Meera . The atmosphere was damp and suffocating. Too much hard music to tolerate. Everything was harsh and difficult. Darkness was the dominant colour.

 

“You are late again Meera,” “I’m sorry Rahul! Had a lot of work today. This will not happen again”. “And you are excused again, now come on get ready!” She pulled her satin sleeves up which exposed her tattooed arm, the braid transformed into a ponytail, shy beautiful eyes into blazing bold ones, delicate gold chain replaced by a metallic band around her neck and nimble fingers were controlling the strings of guitar with the same passion and perfection as sitar, soft sweet singing changed to hard rock singing. “That was Meera standing and singing in front of me, her drastic transformation was my favourite part. I always admire her for her guts and her craziness for music and that is the soul requirement to be a part of our rock band. I respect Meera a lot and want to help her as I am aware of her struggle. She is from the village which survives on the mercy of our city.” Meera adds on to her income by playing for the rock band too and earns more than enough for her family. But she always feels guilty about lying to them, she knows how to manage and she will rock in this too as she does in her life.

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