October 12, 2005

TJ2: Nutan (continued)

( … continued … )

Now that so much of background info about Nutan is given, it is better to start from nowhere: that is now and here. Better to start from the other end: presenting the present. The present the transient the cloud that you can never pin down, the sunbeam that you can never hold in your hand, that part common with Julie Andrews Maria in Sound of Music, but the other part is, ‘Present, this present/ Presenting and representing/ The ugliest songs of ours/ Relentlessly’. It was a very weak and feeble attempt, that is an attempt possible with my ability, in translating Jibanananda, the greatest Bangla writer ever. This ‘relentlessly’ part is extremely important, this is a dynamic situation. The present is always past, every moment it is happening, by the very criterion of happening it is becoming past, it is a process that you cannot describe, because every description is static, like the past. The description by virtue of getting described, that is, thought or spoken or written, is becoming dead and static, and how a dead and static thing can describe a live process that realizes in its ever-changing dynamics?

But, this Tridib’s Journal Entry 2, TJ2, is not about present-description-past. It is about Nutan.

Nutan. The sister Tridib could have but did not. Making something real doubly proves that it is not real by the action of making. This is not just playing with words. What is making? It is forcing squeezing pressuring some of the infinite variables of the reality to behave in some particular way or structure. That is, making some loose ends meet there, that would not meet in the real case, and make some closed ends unmeet that have already met in reality. But this intervention in the history of the variables itself becomes a history. And you are always conscious that you are enacting a play, you have to go on playing it, that itself changes the play.

This was the mindset that remained there in Tridib’s head towards Nutan. Maybe that was a bit caused by his laziness too. Making something happen means a lot of labor and labor is always a negative commodity, one likes it if only it is someone else’s. And making any emotional event true involves a lot of labor. Like falling in love. At times Tridib thinks, middle age is here, and old age is knocking at the door, it is better now to fall in love once again, for some time to come it will make so many things so magically dynamic again. But, the very next moment, the fear of that astronomical amount of labor looms large. That much transport, that much sudden change in plans, that much remaining ready on your toes that any moment she needs you, emotionally, telephonically, physically, letterically, you have to be there. Maybe the same fear worked in the case of Nutan too. Getting into a relationship is so much of a responsibility, and if you are not responsible, it seems that you are a bloody cheater.

So, as everything happens around Tridib, being a big brother to Nutan was there, and simultaneously, not there. There, in his head, and not there, in reality. Years were going by. Within this time, he knew that Nutan was ill, got her news from his friend. That it was a peculiar kind of illness. A continuing low fever, and a lot of cough and other things, a cough that is making her vomit once or twice every day, but no diagnosis at all. Twice she was hospitalized. Once taken to some renowned hospital in some other state, that the disease can get diagnosed, with absolutely no results. Then, slowly, the fever went away. After some two years, without any known reason, exactly as it came. And this was the time when Tridib’s personal life was breaking down. He was trying to re-generate himself on his personal plane, taking resort to his writings, political economy, literature, philosophy, computers and every thing. He was writing a lot. Writing is always easier than reading, when you are disturbed. One year, two years went by. Tridib married again. His old political party, all this time in power, bit him a lot, as these things happen, actually the party does not bite, but some people there, and after all, they are the party. They abused him on lack of politics, lack of morality, lack of everything, and, maybe to generate and demonstrate a lack of entirely new order, ransacked his house and threw his books into the nearby pond: lack of books: was it very poignant in terms of surplus meaning?

All this time, Tridib was wanting it so hard to go to Nutan, at least once or twice. Every year, after the Pujo Festivals in the autumn, in fact as if marking the end point to the Pujo, comes the bhaai-phnota. And every year, without fail, he suffered on that day. That he did not go there. Going there, to take the phnota, that a sister gives on the forehead of a brother, would be playing too much of a second fiddle to a badly constructed mythology, but, not going there had its own price too.

And then, exactly fourteen years after the magic dawn in their Purulia home, Tridib went to Nutan’s place. And not on a bhaai-phnota. Within these fourteen years, thrice Tridib went to his friend’s place, and all three of them very short-time visits, the last two of them Tridib was accompanied with his wife, one just after the marriage, and Nutan with his husband and child had once come to Tridib’s place too. All of them very social and low profile meets, never the emotional variable flowing very high. And for a few years now the contacts with this old friend, husband of Nutan, were alive once again, that he was coming back to political economy research and all. Then came this meet with Nutan, fourteen years away from that first meet with the newly-married balika-badhu. And this was after her long disease, and Tridib was tense within himself, what he is going to see of her, on the way to their place.

It was a week-day, and it was noon. The scorching sun and the humid air. Temperature around 40 degree Centigrade, and humidity around hundred percent, as it happens in Calcutta summer on a June day. The house, the room, with all the windows closed to keep away the heat, actually did give Tridib a sense of comfort and relief, and sitting on the bed, usually middle income households in Bangla speaking people do not have a drawing room in that sense, and, in a way, Tridib was a family, so he sat on the bed of the bedroom, almost the only room of the apartment, the other one being a passage before the kitchen turned into a dining place, a bed that he had to almost grope for, it was so dark inside, after coming in from the burning sun. And the cot, made of old teak, from the marriage, the bed-sheet on the bed, the metal cupboard, the dresser beside the bed, everything being of a dark color, the whitewashed wall getting morose from the dirt of time, the light was not adequate by any standard. The young boy was sleeping on one side of the bed.

Nutan was already gasping for breath, from this action of opening the door and getting surprised and pleased at seeing Tridib on the door. Not that Tridib was hungry, but it was not very normal for her not to ask him if he was hungry from the long journey, she actually told Tridib to take some rest. “You better lie down a bit here, he has left some papers and journals and things for you, better take a look after taking some rest. You have all the way from there, in this heat.” Nothing normal was happening here, at least with respect to a Bangla household. Could Nutan see it, or couldn’t she, that Tridib’s shirt was absolutely wet from sweat, and if she could, it should be the first reaction of her to tell Tridib to take off the shirt, but she said nothing, together with not asking him if he is hungry or not, and actually asking nothing at all, and just telling him to lie down there, it was all so abnormal. Tridib got the answer a bit later. And it was one answer so very painful.

More to cope up with these things that he could not understand, Tridib lied down on the bed, like that, with that wet shirt on him. Though it was extremely soothing now, with this darkness and cool within the room, the fan running at full speed. And within moments Nutan lied down there too, beside him, between the sleeping son and Tridib. Tridib was actually a bit uneasy, not that any sexual context was ever present there between him and Nutan, still it was not a run of things that happens every day in your life. And the apprehension of what his friend could think if he knew of this was making him a bit alert too. And by that time Nutan had taken a pillow below her head and her eyes were already closed. Tridib’s eyes, now a bit habituated in this darkness, started discerning things. And because they were now lying, the window was very near to their heads, and the slits and joins of the wooden planks of the window were letting in microscopic amounts of light.

Nutan spoke again, and this time due to the vicinity, Nutan’s head was now not more than thirty centimeters from his head, Tridib was hearing it clearly over the drone of the fan, and some occasional fluttering of the Goddess Kali on the calendar hanging on the wall, Tridib now got the ring of the voice. It was a stoned voice, as if drugged. Was she that ill?

“If you smoke, the ash-tray is on the window. Just a bit back I had my medicine. I don’t get anything very clearly after this medicine. You get some rest.”

Oh, then, this is the thing, Her illness, her medicine, Tridib thought. And as if to fulfill her wish, and maybe he was longing for a cigarette too, he raised his body a bit on his left elbow and opened the window just a bit that it lets out the smoke, most probably it would be harmful for her. And the moment he hid it, he wished he had not, but it was too late. The soft light from the partially opened window, it opened towards a verandah that had a big bushy tree outside, made Nutan’s face visible to his eyes. Was it Nutan’s face at all. She was around twenty on that Purulia morning, and it seemed she has aged at least twice those years, and not just that, all very miniscule crows’ feet now filled her whole cheek and forehead and all, the hairline receded so far back, it was not the face he knew. With his elbow now on the window sill, and his head rested on it Tridib looked on and on: Nutan, the same Nutan, really? All of a sudden, the cruel irony of the name shot him back.

Without knowing it fully well that he was doing it, Tridib put his right palm on Nutan’s forehead, and started playing his fingers through it. And so matte and lifeless and dry they seemed. Why? He could not understand that. Understood later, on the way back.

Nutan, sleepily, and spontaneously, as it seemed, moved her head a bit, and made the smallest of motion of her head, in reply and acceptance of Tridib’s hand on her head. Did she do it really? Or, she was already asleep, it was just one physical movement that people do while asleep, without knowing that they were doing it? Whatever it maybe, Tridib went on doing it. And all these years, all the images of Nutan and everything around her, in retrospect were running through his head. Can living people become this dead so fast, without actually dying?

In the afternoon, on his way back, the mystery of those dry and matte hair cropped up in Tridib’s head. When she got awake in the afternoon, one of her very first reactions was a surprise, full of pain, by looking at Tridib, “You are absolutely the same, how it happened: you did not change a bit?”

At times Tridib is reminded of this by some of his associates, he did age really far less than many other of his friends. When someone says of it, on the next morning, after having his bath, while backbrushing his hair, Tridib looks at the image a bit more attentively, is it true? It seems, this is the face he is seeing there for so many years, something like fifteen seconds every morning, that is the time it takes to comb the hair, once. Obviously, in his childhood he had no beard and moustache, but he can’t remember it any more. At times these comments gives him a silent pleasure and satisfaction: see, that is the plus point of workouts and exercises he does every morning for the last two decades. But, this is the first time he felt a guilt. Why he did not age? Why? Why this difference in aging between people, a difference that makes Nutan go into a futile attempt of hiding her age, by applying dye and all that made her hair so listless and lack-luster and dry? This occurred to Tridib that very moment, going by a barber’s shop. This barber was giving the evening time incense and good-luck lamp to his shop. Tridib told him to crop the hair and beard as small as he can. Tridib wanted to do something but he did not know what.

For the last two or three years, the explosive energy in his friend’s work and a changed way of behaving with people first gave him the hunch, and then, later, Tridib discovered, his friend has found a woman of his own. This woman is good, Tridib saw her too, once or twice, good-natured, intelligent, communicative. It is OK, Tridib is no judge of morality or something. Tridib’s friend was never engrossed in Nutan. Tridib knew it all along, even the night before that magic dawn the conversation they had between two old friends. It was more a marriage of responsibility than a marriage of love. Nutan does not know of it too, as his friend told Tridib. Though Tridib has a fair amount of doubt. Can a wife not-know sufficiently well? Life is not a film after all.

And this aged woman, this wreckage of a person that was supposed to become a woman, full of life and vigor and everything, but that never really happened, why she continues to miss everything? Why? This barber was doing his job very inefficiently. Every move in the scissor was giving a sparking pain in his scalp, but at this moment Tridib loved the pain, he wanted it to be harder still.

Filed under: ব্যক্তিগত, মানুষ — dd @ 8:12 pm

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