I watched the chaos of blood in numbness. The show of gore had probably been staged to inflict a nauseating disturbance on the spectators and though the desired consequence had been successfully achieved, the drama on the whole was thankfully cathartic. When the movie ended, as promised by the title- Kill Bill- Bill (and almost the entire cast) had been ruthlessly butchered.
All those who were as intimate enough with me as to suggest what movies best suited my delicate temperament, had advised me that Kill Bill wasn’t my kind of movie at all. The specter of blood wasn’t for me, they said. But that’s precisely why I chose to watch it; I needed its graphic intensity to strengthen my nerve. In the last 5 days I had watched Kill Bill at least 12 to 14 times. That’s all I had been doing; all I needed to do. At least, all I thought I had needed to do.
Weather-wise meanwhile, summer had kept up its steady incline and peaked to an all time tropical high. And also, I absolutely hated Shantanu.
In the last five days I hadn’t stepped out of the house. In fact I’d barely stepped out of the living room; I was practically living there. Every time Shantanu came in to sit or even just walked through the room, on his way to another part of the house, I felt something very like the faint friction of static electricity one feels in contact with synthetic clothing. It was bloody annoying. Like an itch somewhere on the middle of the back, an unreachable area of the anatomy, like a hang-over headache, like a bowel disorder, like…
I was standing at the window with a dull ache in my tight-set jaw and wanted so much to claw the pane and to draw out that unbearable screechy sound.
For the last five days, the movie had been my singular, daily agenda but today I had woken up with a different schedule in mind; had even tried to hum my way through bath and breakfast to dress the required courage in a bit of drama. Later, however, I thought that it was best I sit through one more screening of Kill Bill before going in for the final kill, myself. Prior to coming and standing at the window, I had already seen half of it for the nth time.
I had married Shantanu when I was 19 1/2 and he was three months my junior. The paternal objection to our alliance was not so much of the usual kind- class, clan or religion related- but was a unanimous concern regarding the rawness of our years. Not my years so much, as Shantanu’s. His 19 years and three months weren’t reasonable in quantity. But as for Shantanu and me, we were ready. We are always ready; we are born ready. Much before societal and familial conditioning can boast of chiseling women out of little girls and men out of little boys, we are ready. The propensity for motherliness in little girls and the absorption with sex in little boys is entirely inherent. The omens are visible as soon as they begin to wobble. The battle of the sexes begins at inception.
Besides, Shantanu was still in the final throes of his academic endeavors, the issue of a decent livelihood was thus, a major concern for both families and both of us as well. But we married anyway, and by and by all issues were resolved; at least till such a time when newer ones took the place of the old resolved ones. And now there seemed no resolution for these. We tried almost everything, even banging our heads against the walls, but no, nothing. And now we were both 27, Shantanu of course lagging behind by three months.
June wasn’t my favorite month; I couldn’t bear its heat still. My bringing up had all been done in the highlands, at the foothills of the mighty Himalayas, and I couldn’t compromise with the ferocity of the summer in the plains of the country. Not then, not now.
“It’s not so bad darling”, Shantanu used to try easing my discomfort during the initial years, “don’t think about it all the time. The more you give thought to something, the more it invades the senses”, he used to say.
I tried not to think about it, but it didn’t work. It seemed that it had invaded my senses pretty fast. Senses are the most vulnerable of our assets and hence a soft target for much of what happens in life.
Very early on during the marriage, mine had been affected by the Great Indian Summer and a corrosive hatred for Shantanu. I really didn’t know which was harder to bear.
In desperation I un-curtained the entire window; I was still standing at the window. The sun exploded the heavy dullness of the room and I instinctively turned up the air conditioning. A blanket of perspiration lifted off my back in one piece, like a shroud. I needed to smoke and also drink something really cold. So I lighted a cigarette and filled a tall glass with, mostly ice cubes and some water too. All the time meanwhile, I was thinking, planning and gathering courage. Flashes from Kill Bill passed in the mind’s eye or rather I willed them to do so. I had needed these to invade my senses and the effect was quite to my liking.
I have tried very hard to re-call how I came to accumulate this immense, unbearable hatred for Shantanu, but to no effect. Now I have given up. I’m only consumed by its irrational ferocity. Another thing I can’t be sure of is the basis for it. Everyday there were a number of ordinary and extra-ordinary reasons that could have contributed towards this detest collection drive. Reasons wrapped in words, held within looks and acts or bound in criticisms and comparisons. There were reasons everywhere- from the car park to the bedroom. Every inch of our co-inhabited space was infested with them. Initially we had tried to battle all motives of conflict with mild dozes of irritation, later irritation got replaced with rage and then rage in turn got converted to a fatal loathing. And hatred seeks its nemesis in revenge.
I stubbed the cigarette, slid an ice cube into my mouth and sucked on it. Walking back from the window, I slumped into the couch, which having borne my posterior uninterruptedly for the last five days had molded into its shape. With closed eyes I tried to relish the effect of the tobacco, that was swirling in eddies between my brows. But vicious thoughts, not at all in keeping with my natural bent, began, once more vaporizing and condensing. I was very scared. For the last time I played Kill Bill.
Then with clamped jaws and fists, I bundled out and took a leap into the heat at 11.15 a.m. As I’d feared, nausea immediately overcame me and won the war too. I hurried into a corner of the car-park and retched just as the Bengali neighbor lady swerved out. She missed me. Thankfully! And I emptied out my guts in peace. My heart was working itself into a fury so I didn’t want to trust myself to drive. I took a taxi instead. After giving the driver, the address of the nondescript doctor, from a pathetic clipping of a national daily in Hindi, I tried to loosen up. He adjusted the mirror to get a view of me; I slid lower and denied him the pleasure. In 25 minutes we were at the place. Just for a couple of minutes I hesitated, trying to give my self a last opportunity to re-consider my decision but then in a trice, paid the fair and turned up my face to the clinic, which was on the second floor of a dubious construction. I began climbing up the numerous stairs. Once more the nausea began working its way from the pit of the stomach into the gullet. I needed air so I stopped a few minutes before taking the final flight up and then stopped only when I was there.
So this was it! Suddenly my sense of ease returned, and I swear, almost with an audible *bang*. Perhaps it was the atmosphere of disease and dinginess all around that distracted me from the ruthlessness of the soon-to-be-done act or perhaps I’d realized there was no going back now. It could have also been a sheer numbness. And then perhaps it could have also been a little of everything. My anonymity in this place too encouraged me to proceed with my plans. I took my seat on a grimy couch pushed painfully in a narrow strip of space between two walls- one of the doctor’s examining room and the other of a rancid toilet. There were two women, besides me on the couch. One was very young and to me looked frightfully over pregnant, if that is something one can be; she had bulging eyes that looked scared. The other barely gave her pregnant status a thought; she had two, almost same-aged children, pressing and pushing into her sides, trying impossibly to get comfortable on the tiny couch. All four of them surveyed me shamelessly. For safety sake I fixed my gaze on the un-definable flowers on the coarse curtain overhanging the examining room, pretending to be engrossed in contemplation of superior issues that were beyond their meager lives. This didn’t deter the older of the two, “Which month”? She asked me
“Huh?” I looked emptily at her and my courage took a dip again.
She repeated her question. It annoyed me a bit. It was none of her business and I looked at her with a little roll of my eyes.
“Third”, I was as brief as possible.
I didn’t want to encourage any conversation but didn’t want to raise unnecessary speculation either. So I threw out the one word answer like an untouchable. But that was one word that I had never mouthed, not even to myself in whispers. However, despite all my voluble denials about it, it had obstinately resonated deeper down. And now, this nosey woman had actually made me utter it. I stood up purposefully but there was no escape. No place to even flex the limbs, let alone the thoughts. I had to sit down again.
“First time?” this time it was the younger woman.
‘Oh why don’t they leave me alone? Why don’t they look away?’ I wanted to run away. Almost.
“Yes”, another one word answer.
“Me too”, she said with a nervous smile, “Ninth month”.
There was such a genuine fear in the woman’s eyes. Through her smile I felt that she was trying to establish a fellowship of sorts with me; a fellowship of fear, of understanding, of pride, of hope. But in me it only aroused guilt. As though I was secretly conspiring against all womanhood and I didn’t deserve that heartfelt smile.
Husband! The word was like a slap that is employed to rouse one from a daze. Doctor’s clinic- man- woman- husband-wife- third month- Shantanu-me, that’s how the association of ideas moves the thought process forward. How I hated that man. My husband. Shantanu. Shantanu who loved children, who wanted at least 5 of them. But who would get none. I would make sure of that. And there, then in that grimy clinic, in the middle of no where, I hated him with even greater ferocity; with a mindless, blinding, all consuming hatred. He was responsible for all that was wrong with my life.
“Radha”, the man at the reception, squeezed in a corner inside the entrance, called out. The older of the two women, looked at us in triumph, and went inside the cabin, but she was out again, in barely 10 minutes. As she collected her children and prepared to leave she threw us a faint smile. In just half an hour the three of us had shed some formality and become bound in a loose tie of some kind, only in a matter of a few words and half smiles that we’d exchanged. It was disturbing. I would have preferred to continue feeling detached from myself, as well as from everyone around me.
It was the younger woman’s turn now to go in and finally I was left to myself, but not for long. I stood up nervously as the younger woman too emerged in no time from behind the curtain. She smiled gain. This time the smile was meant to assure me that I would be fine. And then uncertainly she said, “bye”, as she walked out leaning heavily backwards due to the weight of nine months.
It was my turn now. Numbness once more; I was so numb that I didn’t feel the nausea rising again as I walked into the cabin. Soon after entering, I retched so violently in the middle of the room that the doctor gave me a terribly depreciating look accompanied by a loud “Oh my God”. I must have looked so utterly foolish; at least that’s what I felt like. I heard a sharp bell ring somewhere in a cavernous room hidden inside the cabin and a dwarfish woman, with a huge mound of frizzy hair materialized. The doctor pointed at the vomit and then looked accusingly at me. The dwarf lashed me with the same accusing look as the doctor, went in to fetch a rag, cleaned up the mess and retreated to her lair. I was left alone with the doctor, a middle aged lady, strikingly beautiful and appearing even more so in her dingy hideout.
She ordered me to lie on the blotchy bed and remove my pants, in an impersonal tone. Her voice was shrill, almost squeaky and she didn’t give me even half a look. I did as told and lay down, half naked. The doctor meanwhile flitted about making a lot of clanking noises readying her instruments. Once or twice the dwarf too came in with her immense frizz and meddled around. It was all so surreal. I was still numb and now, delirious too, and very cold.
The trough was smoldering with a dark viscous fluid in which, mutilated fetuses floated.
I was 15, when in school we had a three day seminar on sex education. Closely monitored by a row of nuns, in a dimly lit auditorium, we 15, 16 and 17 years old were educated about sex, conception, unwed mothers and contraceptives. There was a table with contraceptives on display which, we could touch and see. And there were quizzes and questionnaires which we were required to complete. And then there were documentaries. The one that was the most disturbing was the one that showed, in ghostly black and white, a huge trough containing the aborted fetuses of unwed mothers, in some Southeast Asian country.
The only visions in my delirious, half-clad state were of this ghastly trough. The motivations, responsible for my being there in that grimy clinic, with a bored looking doctor standing over my naked legs and an enormous frizzy head peering into my nakedness, had fallen away like feeble autumn leaves. The heat, hatred and retribution were forgotten in that moment as easily as one forgets the name of a movie or book. Like how one forgets the words and their meanings memorized for a class test. All the lessons in ‘Kill Bill’ had been in vain. This is how I went into unconsciousness.
When I regained my senses, I was lying in the cavernous room inside the doctor’s cabin with the dwarf sitting idly on a chair. I felt light and unusually well. I realized immediately that the nausea that had gnawed my entrails for the last three months had gone. I was washed over with, not hunger, but a sweet desire for food. A dull ache twirled in my lower abdomen and lower still, in my genitals as well. The inside of my abdomen burned and I felt as though someone had passed a scraper through it. The numbness returned as did the delirium but the heat, hatred and retribution didn’t form even a passing thought; never did after that day in the grimy clinic.
The only thing that forever invaded my senses was the ghastly trough; a cauldron, smoldering with a thick viscous fluid and floating fetuses. Betrayed.