WHILE ENTERING MY HOUSE, the abode no 701, I took a routine sigh. A fancy envelop on the floor sparked a spate of joy and surprise. It was unmistakable that such a letter cannot be from any other man than my nearest, bitterest rival. Only he used such an envelope. He was Deepak, in short form. In detail he was Mr. Deepanker Majumdar, the journalist.
I ran on the words.
My poor enemy,
Don’t think I have respect for you, even equal to the cost of the postal stamp on this letter. I am not eager for writing to you. Nor I would like to see your dropped face in near future.
Only reason to waste some of my minutes is that I am in this city. Yes, transferred. Not without promotion, as it happens always in your case. I would have saved some minutes by phoning you, if I had your number. Well it saved me from hearing you voice, a depressed always. And mind well, you will be the last person I would like to meet in this city.
Hey, Anand I am married. Yes. That is one of the reasons for not inviting you straight away at my home. Why? Yes, Mina, my wife is so beautiful that I keep her away from the eyes of a stupid wolf like you.
Well, if you still remember how to play chess, you have opportunity to come at my home.
IT WAS MY FIRST visit to Deepak’s home: home of a perfect gentleman. If the menu on dining table was any indication, Mina was over enthusiastic to entertain the guest.
I saw delight of man-woman company on their faces. They looked happy by default, or I wanted to see him so. Anyway we were spraying smiles and sharing untargeted laughs from Deepak.
Mina, in Bengali sari and silk blouse with lemon-green buttons, was much more than Deepak had reported. She was tall, slim and had fatal eyes. Round face and symmetric assembly of nose, ears and chin were not the only attractions; she had a smooth belly and big buttocks. Three years of their marriage were a smooth, happy, and childless journey.
“Why don’t you marry again Mr. Anand?” She put a sweet dish before me and put a towel on her lips.
“It’s good. Otherwise one more woman would be unhappy.”
“He is right.” I retorted.
“Deepak always remembers you, and talks too much about you, your study and the tennis,” she had my complete bio-data. The brute had parted with all the materials about me.
“Don’t worry man. I haven’t told her about girls you played with.” Deepak put vegetables in his plate and forwarded the bowl to me.
It was nice meeting. But my inquiring eyes found something unusual under Mina’s forehead. She was not happy, really happy. But she looked good at pretending.
FOUR MONTHS PASSED. I was a casual visitor at Deepak. It was my clubbing with Kala, the tailor who lived under the Caravan Bridge. She struggled too much in those days. Moreover my college examination prevented further evening meetings. I still remember: it was a cold evening and I hadn’t been to Deepak since a month. I called him. The telephone echoed Mina’s voice.
“Where is your reporter?”
“Oh, Anand. He is not at home?”
“Oh, that foolish destroyed my evening, then. I wanted to be at your home, today.”
“Oh, you can come.”
It was wonder for me, for a widower. I took it as courtesy. The woman was inviting me on the night when her husband was not at home, was away from the town. I said I would be coming some day.
“Come on Anand, we will talk together.”
IT WAS LATE evening we were in drawing room. But she seemed pleased to have me at her home. Surprisingly enough she took out a bottle when I started to leave. Deepak was a rare drinker. But in his absence, to drink at his home was an awkward detail.
“I know you are addicted to…” She winked.
“No, I have reduced the cost on wine.”
Mina joined me for two rounds, and then slipped on near by sofa.
“Why don’t you sit here?”
Soon she was on my laps. My hands couldn’t bear the smoothness of her skin. She was not cold; and she was not Kala either. Kala was a slow starter. Here, the woman was fire. The fire that had power to roast the potato first, then peel the skin, and finally gulp the whole for total much. I was mesmerized when she dragged me on sofa and mounted on me. We had sufficient stock of liquid inside of our bellies to forget all about the world. And I was well educated in the subject that was zooming in the air.
She dragged me onto her bed. Velvet of the skin she was wearing was my weakness. Soon after the act she took a big towel to cover all of her proportions. “Deepak remains out of the town, one week in a month.”
“Umm…” I understood the meaning and preferred silence.
“May I call you…?”
It was hard for me to answer. The sense of guilt was circulating in my head. But the pleasure I got prevented me to dissent. After a fresh peg, I again got her on the bed. Her buttery skin had blinding effect on me. She cooperated. It was the season when farmers tilled the land; the land swallowed the seeds. It was the season when the horses dumped their courses to race behind the mares.
I LEFT HER HOUSE in the early morning. I had to pass through the road, which was parallel to riverbank and comparatively less noisy. Rich people don’t make noises. The buildings were painted with high-value currency notes, and the open verandas had flower plants.
The tall trees standing in a curved line on the bank of the river, giving a semi circular outline to the garden, were providing suitable loopholes to stole the cool breeze. It entered the garden and the city streets. I was yet to travel on internal lanes of the garden. But my nostrils tasted the flowery smell. Fragrance of Mina’s skin had not left my conscious yet. Through the iron railing of the garden I saw a peacock, fanning its multi-colour feathers. Nobody watched its free dance, but the peacock had closed eyes and hidden pleasure.
‘One-week per month understanding’ remained in force until the winter departed. Mina acted in identical fashion: bottle and following undressing. Certainly I had a great sense of guilt, as Deepak was my best friend, or only friend of earlier life.
I decided once to tell Mina my inability to continue the relationship, whatever that might be called. But once I entered her home the air took a slippery turn and I failed to stand by.
Next time, I thought.
Suddenly on a day Mina’s house was locked. In neighbourhood no one knew where the couple had gone. It meant Deepak was transferred to some other place and had left without informing me. I felt like relieved.
AFTER ONE YEAR I got a letter, presumably, from Mina. It was typed and not signed. But the contents were known.
I know you would have wondered when I wanted to have relationship, the sexual one with you. It was my need. Not that I was hungry for men.
I love my husband, and will love to the end of my life. I would have not dreamt for sleeping with another man. But I had come to know that my husband had some biological deficiency. It prompted me to first recheck the information. He didn’t tell me. I don’t know why. Let it be as it is. I wanted a child. And you, being his most trusted friend, were my preference.
I am grateful to you.
Let me say I was pregnant when we left the city.
I would like to let you see your son’s face. But I will let you know our address. Not now. You may come after he invites you. Thanks again.
I COULDN’T BELIEVE the fact that was hard as rock. I felt I was marked for use, squeezed to a level of utility, and then thrown away like an empty can. I was not a man for Mina. I was the resource for a purpose, the raw material for a product. I laboured, I sowed the seeds the master needed, and then was kicked out of the field by the same master, master Mina.
The woman, who looked outlawed and a sex maniac, proved herself as the best manager of the affairs. She had her wants. She went into market; she chose a pig: the pig, having adequate stock of meat and tallow. Then she telephoned the pig, and scattered green grass to entice the animal.
I believed myself a member of intellectual gender, a man having some knowledge. The woman of fatal looks and big buttocks had found out a fool in me.
I reread the letter. She was thankful to me!
Thankful for what?
No, she wasn’t a bad woman. She was inviting me. To show the face of… Oh, I whined. I had a son: the son whom I could not tell my own. But I was offered a facility to see, touch and remain for a time with the child.
I couldn’t label the lady, either greedy or generous.
I took out a bottle and emptied neat into my mouth. I wanted to be unconscious. That was the grief I was unable to share with Kala, my lover, my close friend. Kala the woman, who was facing genuine troubles in keeping the ends together, never desired a penny from me.
Yes, she wanted love. She gave me love in exchange. Had I got Kala’s photograph framed and hanged on my wall; I would have bowed my head. [Image courtesy Jules Joseph Lefebvre [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons ]