Monday, September 20, 2021

Unraveling ‘Those Almond eyes’, Maitreyee Chowdhury, Karnataka

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She liked weeding the garden, dissecting art and playing music, especially the raag Behag, which floated around her at night along with the waft of jasmine that she had so lovingly nurtured. Perhaps not necessarily in that order, but nothing was orderly about her anyway. And yes somewhere star gazing, talking to herself also fitted in. She had the most beautiful almond shaped eyes if ever there have been some. It was not her conjecture but that of the many people whom she met, except that he didn’t see it ever. With that she had a beautiful soul which he probably felt it but that was something he never spoke about. There was nothing to speak , nothing to be conveyed. It was there , so he presumed it would be, just be…. Much like the old oak box that had been lying in the bed room as a part of a family heirloom that had been passed on, ornate, gleaming from the polish that was applied every other day. It stood proud in it’s gleam, it’s beauty, in it’s agelessness and yet no one opened it, no one was inquiring about it. When children came home, they played around it, over it, sat on the top of it. In spite of knowing that it might break , no on tried to open it, seek its soul, or ask it questions of yore.

Her heart would break when she saw the children lunge over it carelessly, treat it like it did not exist or have a soul apart from what its beautiful exterior stood for. No one had bothered to explore it’s interiors and find out the timeless treasures that she was sure it contained. Or even the dust that would tell her of her ancestors ,of some love story hidden in soft pouches gone sour over the years .She wondered like this from time to time. If he would finally see those almond eyes, someday, Somehow, really see them when they were old, crinkled with laughter and filled with tears. Of a life lived well but tears so many that the eyes did not hold and from time to time they rolled down. Full of the passion of what yesterday could have been, the promise of future and the knowledge that nothing of what she dreamt was reality. They were best dreamt of, shutting behind chest large or in the dying embers of a loved one fallen asleep since ages now.

One day she came home to the buzz of a lot of activity going on in the house. She liked that, at least it broke the stillness and the emptiness of the silence that seemed to be a never ending one but then her head suddenly shot up. The buzz came from the bed room. The room where the chest was kept, had someone touched the chest, revealed its interiors in unloved haste, had it been molested of its dignity and grace? She rushed to the chest, her chest and saw men clamber over it. How could He? They eyes they questioned, in painful loss of trust.

He had never of course felt the soft touch that she was, the tenderness with which weeds in the garden were given a decent burial, the way the flowers swung to her when she caressed them and sang to them, why the bees visited again and again, why the birds sang song to her and her alone. And yet amidst it all he had not felt her, like he never felt the chest or its love, or its softness, of being there for them as they were for it.Yes, he had never opened his eyes to her, or to it she thought.He had never felt the longing of the chest,of its desire to be more than ornate. To find in its depth love that had been sealed and kissed and departed for centuries old ..but that which remained new to those who had the eyes to see, a soul to feel.

A cry like a nightingale with a voice lost, Yet arose somewhere, olive eyes gone red, she flung herself on the chest. Nobody understood its priceless-ness. Practical eyes questioned her moves, her opposition to have it opened to prying, unloving eyes, moving it, destroying its fragrance , it’s virgin purity, she would never allow it. She had to open them that day, she knew..but not like this, not like this never.

If one had to die, one deserved a decent burial. She always thought, no one deserved to die alone, unfelt, on the streets of carelessness, crying out for the love of being understood one last time, before a decent burial of all the mortal remains of what remains of mortality. She heaved and sighed and pulled the chest, the hands had creased since long. She looked at them now, dusty but filled with a sense of purpose it seemed, it looked he noticed her fiery eyes for the first time, the strength in those hands for the first time, the will to protect shamefulness, for the first time. Realizing that here lived a soul beyond the body of what had been a wife in one age, where marriage was a game of dolls.

With a soft breath of expectations and hush of the prayer, she touched the box, with infinite tenderness of a long lost child, one who had come home to see its mother in the shadows of her life flitting away in some dingy lane gone murky. As he watched her perhaps for the first time from a distance in some sort of trance that her passion had invoked, He saw what he had only heard whispered, the almond eyes, now beautiful with passion and the sting of tears. There was a strange tenderness to them as if she were giving birth for the first time and suckling her infant to her breasts large, not knowing what to do, not knowing how bitter sweet the feeling would be. At long last as if after ages with creaking hesitancy of years of love and longing, she opened the box and peered in, nothing spilled over..no genie..no treasure..no purple haze, not even the twinkle of a pearl gone grey.

In the corner of the hugely empty box lay a little scrap of paper, tainted with age, carelessness and haste of things gone wrong. It read:

“Sometimes I think..just for a lark

Had it all been different..

Show me how love and life would have been-

Had you learnt to love without disintegrating..

The children would have asked in jest someday

Over a game of scrabble..

Had we loved?

The eyes shall light up in their dimmed existence of normalcy

And shut down in the forever of lies

“No..perhaps not”..Love does not let go!”

She wept and he noticed, for the first time. Some where some strains of the Behag floated down..

IR
Editorial Team of Indian Ruminations.

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