the blue lotus

by Pragati Bakshi

Death, by snake bite! How, when or where and of course why?

Every morning since past one month, I religiously devoted one hour brooding over, to come up with some sort of of logical conclusion. As if it has become my morning meditation or my daily routine of solving puzzles or digging my head into meaningless maze of Sudoku.  Death did not perturb me but how and why it or rather she (death) executed herself was pinning me more ever since she died.

Sometimes I wondered my insensitivity towards the one who died. I instead of being shaken by the loss of a beautiful life I was playing the Sherlock Holmes! Perhaps I could not bring up myself to acknowledge her abnormal death nor could I approve her disappearance from my life!

Irrespective of time and place, her vicinity or rather her presence dragged me into a whirlpool where instead of water, a thick cloud of fragrance engulfed me, numbing my sensations to such an extent that I only recalled warmth of an enchanting dark dancing eyes.

She laughed scornfully;”Can eyes dance?”

“Yes” I said. “They dance… Your eyes dance on each tune that life plays for you, be it ecstasy, melancholy or just nothing”.

“What can a tune be nothing?” "Yes," I whispered.

“Ok, fine, I am leaving now!” Her manner bared how uncomfortable and exasperated she was because of  my whispering. “In fact it is pretty late”!

“Late.. Dear! Five in evening is late.”

"Yes , for me it is midnight!”. And hurriedly she left.

Kopal was the only neighbor who had the nerves to talk to me. She was a lovely young woman with large dark eyes, unruly hair and translucent skin. Her wild curly hair defied the strict order to be in a bun or in a plait. Like an errand kid the curly locks caressed her golden cheeks. Many times she reminded me of a wild yellow flower that accidentally grew in the temple premises, nodding with each gush of air, sometimes in bliss and many times withered in agony. Kopal like wild flowers was neglected, I presumed. She was planted in the soil inflicted with mental torture, grief and was nourished with vitriolic words. Yet she emanated a beautiful aura. Miracle!

For me Kopal was a young vivacious and alluring woman. Every bit of hers was a woman to be desired. If there is something called scent of a woman that was undoubtedly that of Kopal’s fragrance.

“Kopal, how old are you?” Each time I saw her I was tempted to ask. But something in her held me back. What was that? Perhaps, her ebony curly hair, her mischievous glances or her yellow translucent skin? And of course her large dancing eyes made her a pristine creature unruffled by ravages of time and destined for eternity. I guessed she was something between twenty eight and thirty two. Not perfect to be dead!

I met Kopal a few months back while crossing the street heading towards my bungalow carrying my fortnightly provision.

”Hello, Sir Listen!” A female voice followed all through my way. I, instead of responding, kept listening that honey soaked voice.

“Sir”, suddenly she jumped blocking my way, "Hopefully you are not deaf!”

"No, I am not.”

"So now at least I expected a response. Here take your wallet that you had dropped, hopefully unnoticing."

"Thanks,” I mumbled a few incoherent words. But she was too swift to my apologies.

For Next two days, lingered with me the tint of perfume and a honey soaked voice. Ever since she reminded me that of a wild flowers!

It was the day before Christmas that year, I was in midst of afternoon siesta. When continuous shrill sound of doorbell exasperated me to a dreadful extent. With foul mood I hurried towards the gate. “Hopefully you are not asleep!” Same honey soaked voice

“No ..yes..” Again I mumbled some incoherent words.

“I am Kopal  Verma, my dwelling  is in I the street 30 k adjacent to yours. Hopefully you don’t distinguish me as harmful creature! Can I come in?” Kopal’s words were sarcastic or was she playfully mocking at my dumbness, was tough to distinguish. I was thoroughly shaken by her sudden arrival to my place.

"Yes, welcome, do come in.” I hurriedly composed myself best, to suit her presence. She gladly accepted being my guest, had bitter black coffee with me. And hurried departed without intimating the reasons of her unexpected arrival.

Kopal Verma  taught Archeology at the local university. She lived with her ailing grandmother in a palatial house nearby an ancient pond. Her grandma was the scion of an erstwhile ruling family of this region. This suggested Kopal impressive lineage! No wonder such yellow translucent skin can be that of a princess only! But why Archeology! She is too young to be engrossed in basics of crumbling civilizations. There was always why associated with Kopal.

One fine winter morning Kopal again with hopefulness dropped herself at my place. That day she was not vivacious but as strange as an ancient text. She sat nonchalantly looking at me. “Kopal," I said "Do you teach archeology?”

“Yes" she answered.

"But you are more fitted to teach English literature, namely that of Romantic Era”."

YES", she said. Same monologue. I felt something sinisterly mysterious.

"Kopal, Can I be of any help? Do talk to me, dear”.

“Sir,I have been hit on my neck. It’s paining. Can you give me painkiller?” No .. Disbelief ran me from head to toe. How can any creature on this planet harm my Kopal.

"Kopal show me where!"  

"Here", she grasped a bunch of hair and showed the two distinct red mark on the yellow skin.

“Who did this?” I literally screamed.

"Calm down, sir, it’s my husband’s hand. And I'm used to these physical and mental love that is showered on me. Please sir, painkiller. This is growing unbearable”. Her voice was breaking.

"Ok."  I hurried for medicine. Kopal swallowed the pills and gulped down a cup of black coffee.

“Now  better?” I asked.

"Yes", she nodded and hurriedly left my place. Her haste departure left a trail of several whys.  The two distinct red marks? This could be anything but not the marks of wounds inflicted by human assaults or by any other weapon. In fact the two red marks resembled that of fangs.. of Cobra or ….Is Kopal’s husband a snake!  What is this? I seriously rebuked myself. How can I contemplate such absurdities about my precious Kopal! Now with bevies of whys I wanted to know more about her. Who is she? Her husband, family even her horoscope! But Who is she? She is not what she is to this world? She may be young charming successful woman for others, but for me she is as mysterious as the fabled blue lotus.

Sometimes I wonder why(again why) I got acquainted with Kopal and thus my peaceful days of life after superannuation was stirred by ripples created by her mere existence. I who had impeccable carrier of an army official, at this age of 60 was hopelessly drawn towards a strange young woman. No wonder my feelings did not elude me. I always desired her company not as a daughter, but as a companion. Let me put it more honestly: Yes, Kopal stirred in me that desire that a woman only can. And what an irony! I ought to had fallen in love during the youthful day. But at this age? Who the hell this Kopal Verma is? A retired Major General falls in love with a young woman?… young enough to be his daughter. My vanity of being the epitome of righteousness could not accept this.

**

Two months elapsed since my last sojourn with Kopal. The winter days were bit warmer .Jasmine and Gulachin were in full bloom, their radiance matched the chirping of migratory birds. And that very day Kopal dropped by my place.

”Kopal, how are you dear?”

"Fine, Sir”.

“Kopal, I want to visit your place, meet your granny and of course your husband. Won't you invite  me dear?" I hastily concluded waiting for an affirmative reply.

"Yes! Sure Sir, You are welcome to my home. But if it is possible do come on the day before Sarswati Puja.” She replied.

“Why? Special occasion?”  I was bit amused, why a day before Sarswati  puja? Why not, on the day of Puja?” Kopal sighed and in very strange tone said, "Not exactly or may be! You know General Shah,”

"Who?” I retorted in disbelief

“You,Sir, General Shah, I have small pond at my dwelling. And every fiftieth year a blue lotus blooms and this is the year of blue lotus.”

“What nonsense, dear!  How?” But I restrained my tongue further. My Kopal’s face was turning   white as if a snake or a vampire was gradually snatching her life force! I abruptly changed my countenance and with a philosophical tone said, "Kopal, I'm not a botanist. But as far my knowledge permits me, I am sure it’s a fabled flower. Does not really exist. And you're just 30, how could be you so sure of such a rare phenomenon? And may be the lotus not bloom, or may it be normal one a pink or a white."

“No”, I was taken aback by her calmness of her voice. I felt it was not of  Kopal’s but emanating  from some ancient civilization.

"No, General. It will. Please do come on the day before Sarswati Puja. Now I need to go!”

“Where are you  going?" Instead I wanted to say. “Do not go Kopal.”

"Don’t know and Goodbye, General”. And her Goodbye echoed more than it usually  does.

The Story continued here.....