Dissent

by Smeetha Bhoumik
(Mumbai, India)

There they were, on the floor, lying coiled up as they kept unrolling form the walls near the window. These were the hapless hopeless cords that held me back, that shackled me. I looked at them. Then sprung up from the bed, leapt to the farthest wall painted a pale green, and ripped off the first cord from its socket. There, I said to myself; and now, for the rest of it… One by painstaking one, I ripped them all apart and slowly breathed in and out for a long while.


When I looked up and glanced outside, the sky was turning a metallic grey, the lovely golden dusk was over, the cows had gone home. The field in the distance looked barren and sulky, a shade of brown, with little green shrubs here and there, visible only in daylight. I had seen them and made them invisible even in broad daylight, over the past two years in this rented apartment that I shared with my beautiful roommate, my colleague at the multinational we both worked for. This posting was getting on my nerves now, and I yearned to be back in the big bad cities.

The feeling had intensified after what had happened with Violara, my roommate. It hurts event to think of it, so I try to circumvent the memory and touch the next best image, close enough to the original. Violara returning to the apartment, accompanied by five people, all of different vocations, a vacant uncomprehending look on her face, her hands held by two female office attendants. Nothing was said. They had all looked at me and nodded, and I had nodded back, slowly going towards Violara. The two attendants had disengaged and were moving away, the other three people too were making for the door. I had held Violara close in a bear hug, and we stayed that way for a long time. Dusk had descended, its shadows entering the doorway in creeping sweet scented vines, and then we had shut the door. She was sitting quietly now, and I had gone into the kitchen to make tea.

While the water was boiling and I squinted up at multicoloured jars for the Darjeeling tea this evening, the idea seems to have crept up on me, and taken hold. There it was, testing ground, taking shape, forming in whorls as I pottered around with the carefully chosen tea accompaniments. We had sat sipping without saying anything until very late, almost past nine, and then she had gone to bed. No dinner that night, for either of us.

The next few days were a flurry of arrivals and departures. Violara had left for a fortnight, to be with her parents in Ranikhet, where her father had come home recently, retired as a Brigadier in the army. She had used up all her leave, including sick leave for the year. I was alone in the apartment and the evenings seemed very long, though I had also travelled for a few days to Delhi and Bangalore on work.

On one such evening it had fully formed in my mindscape, and I saw the idea dawning clearly in it – that it was her beauty that was the cause, the reason for all the jealousy around her. The unwelcome male attention as well as the corrosive female heartburn, their evil looks and satirical plots. I examined my own face in the small oval mirror over the basin in the dining section and realized once again that I was safe. A wry smile was forming, and I turned away amused at my own rebellion. Was this the same me that once craved whiter skin and tighter arms? Like my elder sister, or even my mother’s?

But I had come a long way since then, and seen a lot, and more importantly, realized a lot of things. The brow furrowed darkly, and I caught myself in the mirror again, looking angry. I went closer, peered in and realized to my dismay that things still looked rosy and hopeful in there! This wouldn’t do. Wouldn’t do at all.

Somewhere in deep dark caverns of the mind, the idea had come up with detailed patterns too. There was exquisite filigreed work. I picked up the kajal, liner, eye shadow forms the dressing table drawer and went to work slowly with them.

Next morning, at my desk early, I sat reading the report on land acquisition for our new project in Raygarh. The tea was hot by my side, its steam rising up, I felt exhilarated, happy - a rare phenomenon! Footsteps sounded in the corridor leading up to my office. They slowed as they approached the door. I knew it would be Mr.Mathur, the middle-aged HR Manager, saying his customary good morning before entering his office on the other side.

I kept my head down. His head appeared at the door, smiling, he looked in.

‘Good morning’, I said. He looked at me, mouthing good morning, but his face had horror writ large on it, I saw his eyes widen. Then I looked up at him, and the tea-cup in his hand rattled and shook and splattered to the ground in a thundering crash….
I kept my smile hidden.

***

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