by Geetashree Chatterjee
The letters brought in a whiff of fragranceful romance long awaited and craved for but never really experienced in its complete veracity. Life had been a never ending march of Draconian drudgeries where emotional entanglements were perceived as luxurious extravaganza and hence kept at bay. Habits of a middle class existence die hard! This chance penmanship, though a refreshing and much needed change, could not, therefore, bypass the scathing scanner of heavy handed pragmatism and hard hitting realism. In the beginning, the words, however endearing, seemed superfluous. Every letter was carefully weighed and each alphabet critically evaluated by the recipient. The intent and pros and cons of every message minutely delved into and analyzed.
But heart subscribes to no rules. It took much cajoling and coaxing on the part of the writer to disarm the warrior and initiate a soft, supple symbiotic rapport. Of course! The full credit for this strenuous exercise went to the writer's literary acumen who could at last drag the carcass out of the ashes of a dying fire. The inked words soon overcame all inhibitions of prolonged spinsterhood and lackluster lifestyle. Gradually fond imageries intercepted the magical expressions. The missive became the voice of a faceless persona. Every intonation and inflection of unspoken promise reverberated with intricate acoustics and silence assumed heightened significance and imaginary feel. The time was now ripe. Distant dreams nurtured in the seclusion of lonely nights were soon to become the truism of life. Friendship could not remain subservient to postal fancies any longer. A rendezvous was imperative. Much care was taken to make the first impression favourable and memorable. Though the minds had already met but physical deception could not be allowed to mar the intimacy of consensual thinking.
The wait in the midst of a busy market place was too protracted and attracted attentions of the curious passers by. The hot humid summer's day rolled by in languid pace. Dusk descended bearing a premonition of ominous doom. The moon drooped down with a fading sheen and tired steps returned home.
The letters stopped. The end was as abrupt as the beginning. A foggy mind exhausted its last remnant of rationale figuring out why it happened the way it did. Days passed by. Days of lonely lingering lament and apathy! The scorching sun breathed a sigh of relief as rains gushed in and flooded the vagabond roads and gullies. It was again a chance occasion that one of the missives, slightly blotched and blurred in places now, carrying a faded address, popped out of a box, stowed away in a dark corner of the store, in a fit of anger mixed with despair.
Hope snuggled once again in a broken heart. An irresistible desire of a second visit could not be suppressed. The journey was too long and tiresome, leaving the comfort zone of a much accustomed cityscape and venturing into rustic mediocrity. At last the destination was reached. A dilapidated shamble in the midst of a desolate landscape; a languishing reminder of an indolent, feudal past stared at the face. The entrance door dangled precariously from broken, corroded hinges. An untended garden with overgrown grass and
weed, almost overshadowing the ruins, completed the picture of desertion. A light push drew strange eerie sound. A lazy, brown cat, disturbed out of his nap, let out a contemptuous meaow and strode past. The place looked uninhabited for ages.
A few moments of indecision and a pair of hapless feet were just about to retrace back when somebody spoke from behind,"Who do you want, Didi?" An old man, hunched back and tattered and torn, had appeared out of nowhere. A hurried spate of queries and explanations and the truth spilled over. The abandoned residence belonged to the erstwhile village overlords. Nobody resided here anymore except him, a self appointed caretaker, who had once served the feudal masters.
A few months back a stranger from the city did come over and frequented the periphery for a while. He said he was a writer desperately wanting to have the feel of an isolated existence. The old man pointed a gnarled finger at the cool shade of an ancient tree with thick foliage, "The Babu would sit under that tree and write long letters for hours. Later he would ask me to post them from the village post office which was miles away. I would take the pain in return of a few extra coins. I once asked him who he wrote to. He would generally evade an answer but one evening in a state of inebriated leisure he confessed he did not know who he was writing to. It was just that he was building the plot for his next novel which revolved round a lonely lover pining for his beloved. It was important for him to find the long lost lover in his own self to give realistic hues to his fictional maneuver. That is why the letters. It was not at all relevant who it was written to. The choice of recipient was just random. More important and meaningful were the feel, the mood and the temperament. So said the Babu! Strange are the ways of the educated city dwellers!" Sighed the age-worn man and limped inside.
The dark clouds gathering in the horizon gave hints of a torrential downpour. The initial bout was hesitant giving way to a vigorous pour. The aqua bristles were like darts pinching the cold body. But the figure neither moved nor stirred but stood erect in the lashing rain. An almost palpable shame of being used and betrayed crept up her spine and coursed through her limbs spreading through her veins and scalding her skin. Infinite minutes ticked away in the swallowing darkness. At last the dark silhouette swayed and bowed like the blades of the trees bending reluctantly to the whims of a cyclonic storm. She bent over and stooped low. Her body racked with endless sobs. The saline tears mingling in a puddle of muddy water below her feet, seeping into the soil that her toes clutched desperately for support. The thirst-ridden cracks of crusty layers were satiated by an interminable swig of rain and tears.
It was after many, many years that one fine afternoon a bonfire in the kitchen corner saw the end of the luckless affair!! End