"The Guiding Sun, Soothing Moon" by Nirendra Dev : An English Short Story (WBRi Online Magazine)

The Guiding Sun, Soothing Moon

By Nirendra Dev

A Short Story

Nirendra Narayan DevEditor's Note: Nirendra Narayan Dev (nirendev1 [at] gmail [dot] com), an acclaimed political journalist, is a special correspondent of The Statesman, New Delhi and author of the books Ayodhya : Battle For Peace, The Talking Guns North East India and Godhra A Journey To Mayhem. Nirendra was born and brought up in India's northeast and his father served with paramilitary force Assam Rifles. His blog is at bestofindiarestofindia.blogspot.com.

We have previously had an opportunity of talking to the author and have posted the audio recording of the interview.

The author's previous short-story has also been published in our Magazine section: "Arms of Comfort"

In the lap of concrete jungles the entire landscape of greenery seemed to have lost completely. The stray and momentary sites of greenery by peeping outside the window only tried to strengthen one argument that the nature has lost the battle to the minds of architectures. The towering 18th floor adjacent to theirs gave an imposing look. Her flat was on the fifth floor. Looking upside for a while Snehlata wondered how life could be in these sky-touching floors. These architectures make mammoth buildings because they want to make God’s creation of man and nature - appear small and tiny.

These people in the cities have never quite enjoyed the sight of ducks and ducklings dancing in the rain, she wondered.

Her first memory of childhood was when she was 6-7 years. The rain dance in the green paddy fields by sneaking out of the school compound used to attract her the most – day after day ---- year after year. Lost in her wild thoughts, Snehlata’s first memory of ambition, she tried to figure, was at the age of 9 – when she wanted to be a Rabindrasangeet singer. But this was short lived. At 11, she wanted to be a poet and a writer. In her childhood innocence, she would often wonder staring at the Sun – that it is “guiding” her all along the entire day - right from the morning to the class room and then to the play ground and back home. Her entire daily life was guided by the Sun; equally she would be little surprised that by night that job was left to the Moon – something which would always leave a soothing effect.

Snehlata could never understand the mystery of calling Moon --- her maternal uncle. Her Mama was not at all gentle. The very wisdom of calling moon – a maternal uncle – is thus still a puzzle in Bengal and several other parts of India. In her wild directionless thinking, as a young girl Snehlata often thought Chand Mama would come down crawling into their backyard near the banana plants. As a ‘potential writer’, she would even try to pen stories with all characters of her giant 22-member joint family. The villain in the plot mostly used to be her Mathematics teacher. Mathematics is a subject she never could grasp. Even now she is often cheated by the vegetable vendors, at least Snehlata is convinced about it.

For a pastoral girl like her; life had taken an unparallel turn as in the later stage she landed herself in the metropolis. Married to Amalendu, the spotless moon as the meaning of the name is, Snehlata these days often finds herself torn apart between the two worlds – or even many worlds.

Her first memory of romance was at 18, when Amalendu, her class mate first proposed her. Her initial reaction was of shock. But then she had known Amalendu as a bright class fellow from a decent family!

What more the daughter of a simpleton small town school master could have asked?

It is true, Snehlata, like her dotting father, loved him a lot. But in her honest analysis, she did not have much to feel proud about her father or his worldly abilities. Snehlata rather grew up with certain complexes. She would often think that while her friends had certain tales to talk about their comparatively successful fathers and their bureaucratic jobs and money-minting business, Snehlata’s father would have the tales of ‘good old days’ when in the backyards of the then East Pakistan or even undivided Sonar Bangla, a modest ‘charana’ (equivalent to 25 paisa) fetched 5 litres of fresh cow milk.

Peeping outside the window towards the main street and waiting for Amalendu, she felt a faint breeze against her face. This is a city of dreams, they say. She had a spacious 3 BHK (three bedroom hall and one well furnished kitchen flat), where she ruled like the empress. Her husband had a hefty pay-packet and the man would never interfere with her spending! He has also brought her enough ornaments and taken her on trips to sea beaches, hill stations and in idyllic places like Kathgodam, the last railway point in the scenic state of Uttarakhand. Kathgodam, literally meaning timber depot, the virgin forested tiny hamlet also was the location of their first physical engagement.

But all these have still failed to ease her grief.

Amalendu has remained all throughout a doting husband. Snehlata is convinced that this man has steadfastly loved her. He had his vices like occasional alcoholism and the male chauvinistic ego. He would often scold her in public. And on her second marriage anniversary was drunk and hurled the bottle menacingly at her!

But she also had the experience of his defending her tooth and nail against his mother and her middle class ‘mother-in-law- syndrome.

After long walks in hill stations, Amalendu would dutifully tend her feet in the night and apply scented lotion so that she could sleep. Occasionally, he would make her bed tea and would do the laundry and also cook once in every six months or so. Snehlata knew Amalendu always wanted to give the message that he cared for her and would continue to do so - lifelong.

He was not henpecked or submissive as probably she wanted or any girl of her age and temperament would prefer. But he remained concerned about her happiness nevertheless. Amalendu’s problem has been that while he picked up right feelings he often did so at wrong moments, at least to Snehlata’s mind.

Snehlata’s grief was also not without good reason. She had always longed for a tall, dark, handsome dashing man – which Amalendu was not. The most prominent feature of Amalendu’s physical stature was his baldy head; something he himself called ‘helipad’. “To be ugly is not a crime….. I will try to lead an honest life and will be sincere to you,” Amalendu had told Snehlata years back when he tried to pursue her for the wedding lock.

Another major problem, Snehlata found in Amalendu was his casual approaches to dresses. Whenever like a nagging wife, Snehlata would criticize or advise him abut his attire or mannerism, her husband would dismiss her criticism, seldom value them. What provoked a wife the most was the counseling and criticism were hardly followed by corrective steps by her husband.

Moreover, Snehlata could not forget her first ‘choice’ of a partner --- Piyush. But her father had ruled out any such possibilities. Piyush was from different caste and for Snehlata’s father allowing any such formal relation was suicidal. For this singular reason, Snehlata never forgave her father. Therefore, when on certain matters Amalendu in his egoistic mannerism would argue with his father-in-law and the old man would sit submissively like a wounded tiger; it was Snehlata who from inside used to cherish the moment and think that’s the poetic justice. Snehlata had almost forgotten Piyush. But after so many years, a few weeks back, Piyush had first called her and then written a lengthy letter.

Piyush wrote to her that he has suffered enough, and probably she too. “It’s not probably, I am sure you have been suffering all these years,” Piyush’s missive ran. He stressed that he wasn't sure how he'd survive in near future without Snehlata and wanted to bet all his income on the claim that Snehlata was equally unhappy in her married life.

The letter had taken Snehlata to a complete new world. The first love – that’s something cannot be forgotten, she had only read in books and saw in Hindi movies and now that’s something she is experiencing. She thought here was a chance to get it back. To hell with the caste system ---- her abuse seemed to have been more directed towards her aging father.

Hours passed by --- she thought it would not be in fitness of things to try something extra-ordinary. Social values are something still held close to people’s hearts in this country.

But again she would argue with herself. Why should she bother about a man who would be often indifferent to her likes and dislikes and her moods? Often mosquito nets would be hung and she would embrace Amalendu’s half-naked body – only to be rebuked as he had to prepare his marketing report for the previous fortnight.

She also thought Amalendu looked many years older than he is; and she had only Amalendu and his casual dress approach to blame for it. Snehlata suddenly stood up and told herself tersely - enough is enough! This man even could not satisfy her on bed. All his excitements would fall down within seconds leaving her in halves.

This is one reason; she feared they could not have a baby of their own. Snehlata blamed Amalendu for the entire fiasco. Instead, adding insult to her injuries, Amalendu would suggest about adopting a child. What can be more scandalous?

“I cannot stay with this man any longer. He cannot even penetrate properly,” she seemed to have made up her mind. She thought of playing a game. This guessing game she had played earlier too. Snehlata called up Amalendu and told him about her ‘first lover’ Piyush and his letter and that he still desired to have her. This was not entirely a new game for the couple; that’s why Amalendu was as usual cool about it. Only difference this time was Snehlata specifying that Piyush had written and that he would come tonight to pick her --- if she desired. Snehlata has played this game earlier – many a times. Every time, Amalendu would react cool and would tell her to prepare herself for a dinner or outing the next day. But this time the specific elaboration about Piyush writing to her a few weeks back and his coming tonight was a too serious matter to be dismissed lightly. Amalendu, who was respected well in his professional circle, knew he was often dismissed by Snehlata or even forgotten in family matters. To his mind, Snehlata thought Amalendu was more of a joker in the pack of cards.

So this time; he too decided to react to her game more effectively. Their relationship has been always distant and thus peculiar. Amalendu was terse in his voice and told her, “Okay, I don’t mind handing you over to Piyush provided you want it and more importantly you think that would make you happier”. Snehlata did not expect this. During all past occasions when she ‘played’ with her husband with the vague threat of walking away from his life, Amalendu would only advice sanity on her part – praying her to be cool. He would also kiss her forehead softly and pull the bed cover over her thigh. But now the scene is different. She felt happy about the outcome. But without her knowing, she wanted to weep. To her heart’s content, she hoped Amalendu could call and say, he was joking. Or Piyush would call and say he is not coming for good. But the dice was cast. Snehlata stared up towards the moon sailing across the window pane into far off in the clouds. The Moon had lost its gentle soothing impact and in her blank eyes, Snehlata was longing for the morning Sun yet again.

Send your poems, short stories, travelogues and creative writing to submissions@washingtonbanglaradio.com for consideration towards publication in WBRi online magazine.

Enhanced by Zemanta