The Second Woman

Subhadip Majumdar

I still remember that open rain on the roads of Gariahat in a windy winter evening and as I take shelter below a tea shop along with plenty of others. I push an old man and a lid and stand there not enough to be protected from rain though. It is an unwanted rain winter rain is always unwanted. I stand there and see people in rush in the road every one shivering with the first drop of rain on their skin and then brushing out places where they can find some shelter. It is a funny game. I smiled. Then as monsoon grasped Kolkata unprepared and the swirl of dust arose with the first blue lightning I saw her. The girl came crossing almost running through the signals and then stopped in the middle of the road. I felt anxious for her. Then she looked at the tea shop and came running and then pushing through the crowd just stand beside me almost touching my hand and shirt. Rain fall never appeared so sweet to me. As if thousand dears running. The sound of rain start playing music in my ears and I stare at them and then the girl pushed more inside and I gave her place to stand. I can see her beautiful eyes rain washed hair her green salwar her half wet lips and her full mouth. She is art. I utter to myself. She stands there as if the most natural yet as the most important thing of that evening. The rain continued falling. The winds touched both of us. The water droplets came flying to our face each time the wind blew. At one time the wind picked up so much that it caught us unbalanced and the girl grasped my hand as she lose her steps.

Sorry. She said.

It’s ok.I said. What else I can say?

I have so many things to say her so many words letters sentences so that I can connect to her. In my lonely life I felt she can bring light. Light up me. I stand there almost paralyzed by a feeling of pleasure I hardly felt earlier. The rain decreased traffic got busy the rain again increased. I don’t know how long we stood there forgetting everything. The chai wallah had a fine time increasing his sale one after another. Rain always makes you thirsty. But in between lightning in between thunder storms I keep on looking at her and sometimes her eyes met mine. Even she tried to smile at me. I tried too but I don’t know if that is smile. I don’t know what it is. But as the rain increased the distance between me and her decreased and at one time I can find her breathe on my shoulder. Then after an hour the rain stopped and the rain now swept me along with the fragrance of the girl I am standing and then we both shouted ‘Taxi!’ to am empty cab. We both ran towards it but finally I gave it away to her. She said,’ Thanks.’

I smiled at her.

Can I drop you somewhere?

I would go to Esplanade. I said.

Oh!I would go to Jadavpur.

I will catch another one.

Are you sure?

Yes.

Anyway have a safe journey.

You too.

I am..I introduced myself. I have to know her name.

The blue lightning struck the light fell inside the taxi I can see her bright eyes and she flashed a smile in her lips and said looking at my eyes,

I am Sneha.

 

Sometimes I would stand at the mirror and ask myself questions. Or smile. Or read my face and try to locate what ideas I have in mind and if that can be found in my face. Outside the window the romantic tune of the last tram passing can be heard then the wind would blow and touch the pages of open book the desk lamp would create a shadow and I would come at the window and see the night slowly pouring in. The silence of the street always take me somewhere and I am then an identity less address less soul roaming like a vagabond. I would speak to myself or think about the moment when Sneha the girl I met at the bus stop came and today she in her white salwar kameez and dupatta looked like a goddesses. I feel embarrassed to welcome her in my bachelor’s room clumsy and not fit for a woman’s eyes. I somehow managed the chair and she sat on it and said me, why are you blushing?

Am I?

You do.

It may be because you never came to my room before.

Only me?

No. No woman came here before.

Is it true?

It is.

I liked the room. The road looks beautiful and the sunlight playing well in the floor. As if a part of the golden sun now in your room. The whole room lighted and you look like a forgotten youth.

And you came just at this moment.

So what?

It is special.

Why?

I told you.

What?

Because you came.

Do you know why I came?

No.

Even I don’t know or may be I know.

Then what it is?

I want to see you talk with you sit with you and be in that very room where you live.

Why Sneha?

Because I think I want to discover you for this one day.

Why one day?

As this day this very moment and you sitting at the bed acrosd me are all I own now.

Shall I make you a cup of tea?

No.Just sit.

Why?

I want to see you.

I am here. Infront of you. Very much yours.

Come near.

Here.

More near.

She touched my hand.

Then she suddenly burst out in tears.

What happened?

Don’t leave me ever.

I would not.

Promise?

Promise.

Then let’s go out?

Where.

Anywhere. There is a rainbow on the sky.

 

That night I came back home brew a coffee and sit at my desk and write.Words came easily and I know that the evening of rain has something to do it.Again through the window came the whistle of a night train passing and the dusty empty souless station with yellow street lamps popped in front of my eyes.There is a sound of some bells ringing in a temple coming.At this hour I thought. On the street a drunkard pass singing a popular Hindi song and then laughed.For what he is laughing I don’t know but his shadow in the half darkness of the road is enough to bring him in my write as a stranger. Sometimes I would stop and look at the open pages of a book and then I will think about Sneha the girl I met in the rain. Has she reached home? I would think and try to bring her beautiful face her rain kiss fresh face and full lips and neckline and her eyes bright looking at me.She perhaps is at home now and now on her bed with a cup of coffee or tea or reading a book or listening to a song.Is she thinking about me?I am sure she would for a moment.And that gave me a good feeling and I formed a conversation with her through my characters and the night moon after the rain clean and clear came and fell on the pages.I would sip in the coffee and often some of my dreams and desires creep in to my write and I would connect to her and at one time it would be such that me and Sneha and my two characters became all the same and our words became their words.I know that in the soft moonlight and the thin haze of the winter night nemories come and one face slowly became in my eyes that of Sneha and then a woman and then one whom I can touch.

 

 

Then the rain would come again at the midnight.The moon vanished the sky full of grey clouds and the sharp lightning flash inside the room surprising me.The window would be knocked by the furious wind.I cover my written sheets and switch off the light and stand at the window.The road is all foggy in the swirl of dust and the first drops of rain came quickly.The smell of rain and the wet soil entered my nostrils.I took a long breathe.I close my eyes.I can see a boatman rowing his boat in the stormy sea his lantern the yellow light blinking.Somewhere a night rain crosses a bridge over the river.Somewhere butterflies flying.A lonely house lighted someone came open the door but no one waiting outside.I know but there was someone.He is now lost.The woman stands at the window.The storm hit me the beggars sleeping on the road all wet and running for a shelter.I suddenly became thirsty. I came to the mirror and smiled at myself.I can see my colour changing the skin becoming soft as the fragrance of rain spread all over my body into my layers of naked body.I became happy.I walk towards the kitchen and brewed a coffee.And thought I would make two cups.One for Sneha.Wake up,Sneha.This is not the night to sleep.We should open our eyes and you should see that I am beinging you a different clean world where there is no bloodshed but only sky full of stars and rain drops full of images of unseen dreams. Sneha, let’s walk and get wet. The night wants us now.

 

Each day I would stand at Gariahat More below the bridge waiting for Sneha.The evening twilight the crowd rush the blinking traffic signals the dust floating in air the neon lights the golden ray of the sun I would notice all.Then slowly the time would come when Sneha would get down from a bus and cross the road rub her face with her hanky and stop for a while before smiling and seeing me.I would smile too.When she came near I would say,

Let’s decide what we are.

Means?

Are we lovers?

What type of question is this?

A straight question. Do you love me?

Never think about it. May be not.

Good. Now I am free.

Of what?

You will not force me to marry you.

I will never.

If we end up in bed then?

Love is something different than bed.

Ah here is my smart lady.

Am I?

You are.

So where we are going.

To a shop called Grub Club.A lover’s paradise.

But we are not lovers.

May be just for this evening.

Then beg to me.

Oh lady can I be yours?

You are dramatic.

Writers love drama.

I don’t like it.

So?

Let’s have food. And then I will take you somewhere where each time I got lost. But I came there everyday.Try to find myself.Now some strange people lives there.They don’t know me.I don’t know them.

So how will we go?

We will be like them.

What?

Strangers.

And which place it is?

Where I first kissed a girl.

 

I would sit with Sneha at the restaurant and ordered a plate of Chicken cutlet and coffee.I can see her full mouth now the eveninght fell on her and she looks beautiful.I know her in these days and from that first day in Taxi I would think about her and always she came to my writing. Memory is a lovely thing.I said.

A bit complex.She added.

Yes sometime I feel I should go back there and stand and try to find myself there again.

Why are you lost? I am always.I said.

When I am beside you then too? She said.

I smiled.

You are part of my lostness now a days. I think we both are lost and we both are searching.

What?

A road. Sometimes in sun or rain or fog or moon. Each night a train passes over the bridge.Someone dips in the river and utter slokas.A boatman sails away with his lantern in boat.I stand at my open window and see the stars and see a shadow of mine walking somewhere else looking for a woman whom he came to know then became close very close near and then lost her.

Is it your new story?She said.

I don’t know.Or it is within us.

We would live that moment someday.

Yes I suddenly feel my mind clean, the vagueness is gone.

Handling the food plate I said to Sneha,yes.We would live that moment. As it is true.

 

We would walk towards the lake in a windy evening and the air is cold and the starry sky calm.It is just for a walk that we strolled and through the running cars buses lights and the silence pouring from the lips of the woman beside me I would think that is it all a man want.A woman who would not speak when he needs silence? A woman lost in herself and knowing much would through her eyes talk with the world and then take it into her.I often thought how would be to walk with an intelligent woman who can listen to something else than love and body and family. How long it is before I could see her and her shadows in the street lamps converge into her.

I want to go somewhere else.

Where?

Somewhere.

I too want to go.But alone.

What if I am with you?

I think I will take that.

What?

You are going with me.It would be peace.

Do you think all women are quarrelsome?

No.But I love loneliness.

Why?

I am always searching myself.

I know that.You are a writer.

So what?

So you love darkness and pain.

I love light too.

What light?

The light that is there now in your eyes.

Is it?

Yes.That light asks me to walk with you a little more.

Suddenly I would remember you.There is a strange excitement in air and in between all the bustles and shouts I would feel a terrible pain of not seeing you.The wind of midnight the blue sky the open pages of notebook the fountain pen the pigeon clattering at the window the bookshelves in half darkness all as if moulded in a want of seeing you.I don’t know where you are and how far you are and how I can measure the distance but I want to see you.The naked frankness is this.I want to see you touch you hold you breathe you and touch you from skin to skin.The moonlight flooded the room and in the coming light I would stand at the mirror and find that my face has suddenly become young and the same face which once you saw and loved.A face now criss crossed in city life dust voidness struggles and the poke of hunger.I feel like locking my door and running at the bus stop where as if you are standing among all the envious faces of men and you waiting for me.You would take the moonlight in your lips and sit at the nearest chair and there I can see a flower has fallen now.But still I don’t believe that you are far now.You are so near that I am afraid of meeting you as I at this moment have lost all the words and in the room like a hypnotic I walk restless.I can feel you are thinking about me.If you don’t I don’t care because I think about you and I love you.I soon came out of my room and came to the bus stop pass the tea stalls the closed shops the only lighted cafe the beggars sleeping on the streets and would get on the bridge below which the night train would pass.There the signal changes the whistle the night train comes and pass below me the flash of light darkness again light and I stand there trembling in pain.I want to see you.I shout.Then said.Sometimes you should come back.I am waiting and then I broke out in laughter and at the same time I feel tears coming down my eyes.

 

The morning came with bright sunlight and smell of flower and the door bell rang.I am still at bed half asleep immerse in the hangover of a dream and I would take time to come to reality and a face would still resonant all over my body.I would wear the chappal and somehow walk to the door and manage to open the door.And it is so much lighted that my eyes as if got burnt!

You! I stammered.

There she is standing in yellow sarree and with a face full of smile and she said ‘Anjali was done at early morning.Then I came out of the home and came here.I only remembered about you.’There cannot be more madness a man can want from a woman.She came inside the room hugged me and then I kissed her full in mouth and she blushed.

No.Not today.She said.She sat on the bed.I came to hear your writings.I would say but first let’s get out. I want to take you to someplace elsewhere.

Where?

You will see.

I take a bath wear a Panjabi and on to road with her and catch the tram.I can catch an auto but tram is always much more romantic to me a thing to hang around to live a time.In half n hour I came to Gariahat and then walked the streets and stop near a yellow green building.Here it is!My school!It is crowded.Children adolescent young people of all classes stand there excited chatting shouting   before the idol of Saraswati.

Sit.

This is from where I learnt to write.

I make her sit beside me and then before the Goddesses start uttering poetry. She with all happiness on her face on her eyes on her lips said,Thanks for being there with me.

I for a moment could not answer. I would stare at her and say,’You know,it is here where Ma stood and cried when she saw me appearing first class in exam.’

Tell me more.She asked.

And I told her more of Ma of my life of my childhood of youth and the days of my struggle.

Do you believe me and will you always?

I would.She kept her eyes on me and said,’ I want you to be with me.’

Why?

As I want to sail away and with you. Then I would be lost in the sea.

I hold her and she became red and the colour of the world changed.

 

The strange thing that happened was while I crossing the road that old face flashed. It happens always. For days it would not be there and when I would stare at right and think that at last I have forgotten her then she would appear again. As I got stranded in the middle of Park Street between the blinking traffic lights and neon lights of the restaurants one after another and a baloon wallah with colourful balloons stand beside me and then when I saw Sneha standing at the footpath and she waved and smiled.Then the face flashed and I as if immerse in darkness of that vintage pain of that woman whom I loved and loved and got tired and lost her.She came back again. Suddenly an anger thrust in me I feel like yelling or throwing a brick at a running taxi or splash a cup of hot tea into someone’s face.I think of saying Sneha,Get lost!I want to be alone.I don’t want to see anyone now.But the whole world around me looks jubilant celebrating love as if like the most idiotic way. I stand at the middle road the traffic came green then got red again and I can see Sneha perplexed looking at me and I like a mad man broke down in laughter.As if not Sneha but that woman whose face just came back is waiting on the other side. Shall I tell Sneha about her?She exist nowhere now in my life and I don’t know where she is. But will I tell?I brought a ballon and take time paying searching change and then cross the road and said Sneha as at that moment I have nothing else to say,’Let’s fly it.Join me. Give me your hands.’ Sneha joined her face became natural but I can see with the balloon flying high in the sky that woman that face smiling at me and I would press teeth to teeth, and utter ,Yes, I love you still.

That night I saw a dream. I am conversing with Sneha.I cannot see her face but hear her voice. And there is a rushing sound as if we are near sea.

Are you thinking?

Yes I am.

About?

Words.

Words?

Yes.I feel I am full of words.

That’s good.Then?

The darkness and the light.

I didn’t understood.

I feel as I come back from the writer’s world each day I am full of light and slowly the darkness is removing.As if I can see Ma again standing at the door.As if the girl I met in Amsterdam smile at me and then vanishes at the road to brothels.As if I am beside a river and I weep.

But these are darkness!

No light.As each of them opens in me a door through which I can travel and write.

How?

I can observe the memories. Feel them.

Are they happy?

Not always.But finding words to a writer is happiness.

I can relate.

Relate.That is the word.A word takes me to another word and that to another.I feel like dream.

You are a dreamer.

I don’t deny. I am happy to be a dreamer.

But still you are full of pains.

I am.And that’s what make me write.

So do you love pains.

No.But I need them.

What is the best pain you use?

Loneliness.

And what it leads to?

A very old thing.Almost a trance.A string in sunlight.

What?

Can’t you guess?

No.Is it in your novel?

It is.

What?

Then look at my eyes.

Here I do.

Follow my lips.

I do.

Woman that pain is love.

I woke up and seeing the moonlight coming through the window at my bed I drink water and again got back to sleep.

 

I want to meet you.

When?

Today.

Why?

I would tell you when we meet.Come at 4p.m.

Where?

Howrah Station.

Station?Why?

I have to catch a train.

For where?

Delhi. See you. Below the Big Clock then.

Ok.

I saw Sneha standing between all the hussles and shouts and dust and chaos of Howrah station calm.Though her face is a bit excited.It always happens before a journey.I thought.The whistle of a train itself makes me excited.Within us there is always that Apu of Bibhutibhusan who is ready to be surprised and wondered with all the things of the world.All the masked faces around and bloodshed and politics still cannot kill the child within.I utter as I often do Apu,live live.

I came and smiled at Sneha.

So what is it lady?

I have to go.

I can see that. But why?

It’s my research work. I need to be in Delhi for some time.

How long?

Don’t know.

Will you come back?

Sure.But when I don’t know.

So you are leaving me?

No.I am giving you some time.

Time?

Yes to think.

Think what?

That’s why,I called you.

Tell me.

Sneha’s face blushed.It is all red now.She became a bit restless.Her eyes trembled lips opened but no words came out. She looked at me then removed her eyes.

What happened?

I want you should think about us.

Us?

Yes.I am tired now and I think that we should be clear now of our relation. I want to be with you and that is the truth and that is the reality. I am not sure about you but I can be with you and would be happy with that.

I cannot answer anything.I never expected Sneha can tell me this in middle of Howrah station someday the truth.

Why are you silent?

Well..

You have no answer?

I need to think.

Do you think I am that type of a girl who would roam with you live with you hold you touch you and then would go away?Do you think me a slut?

Sneha!What rubbish!

I need an answer before I go.

I am with you.I am yours.But I need time to think. Because I don’t know myself very well.

So know yourself. You are a writer. No one else can know himself better than a writer.

I agree.

Sneha hold my hand.

It’s time. The train is in.

The whistle can be heard.

I lift her suitcase and walk with her.Soon she found her compartment.Her seat.In the fading light of the evening Sneha with her careless strings of hairs on her forehead is looking beautiful.I can see her so soft today.So near to me.As if she has crossed herself and came to me today.Whatever there is between us is now clear and even I can see and understand what she meant.I know.I am not a fool a bull shit that I would not know.But I need to face myself first.Ask myself.Break myself.But I think I would find an answer.

The train whistled.

I know I have to go.

I kissed Sneha on her forehead and wished her Happy Journey.

Then I came down the train.

Sneha came along with me to the door.

Don’t force yourself.

About what?

About what I told you.Be truth.

You can expect that from me.

Good.And I am open to all of your answer.

I smiled.

You look beautiful Sneha.

The wheels of the train moved.

Sneha tried to smile.But she her eyes are on the verge of tears and I know when alone in her seat she would cry.She waved me and the evening light first kissed her hands her fingers her hairs her skin of the face her lips which are trembling and then her eyes. Then the train took her away from the distance from which I can see her.

Don’t cry Sneha.I said.

Then among all the rush of the station I walked to the front door and stand near a tea stall and take a tea and I can feel that I am trembling. Suddenly I closed my eyes and there came the face.No,not Sneha.But a face of long past.I crumbled my face as if I am caught in too much pain. I feel like I am not able to breathe. The world around me all the shouts all the slangs all the horn of the taxis all the posters all the bookstalls all the passing of the coolies and all the whistle of the train one after another grasped me and I felt I am dying.I got claustrophobic. I need air. I brushed through the crowd forget about paying for the tea and came out in the open below a grey sky in the light of twilight.

I am crying.

My eyes are wet.

I am still little trembling.

The wind from the Ganges came and filled me.

I shivered.

As if everything inside me broke. All the half written pages lying on my table in my room got their ending part.A child dived in the river. The stranger who walks through my home every night looked up and smiled at me.My sleepless eyes are now sleepy. Someone sings in the moonlight perhaps the old woman the beggars who has lost everything but not her voice. She said me once she sings sometimes in some special night.Maybe tonight is a special night. Somewhere I found my shadow knocking at my door to take me to a distant journey far far away where a woman is waiting.

Suddenly I feel I am light very light.The world is very soft almost a sponge around me.As if flower is scented everywhere. As if all the sounds got mute now exvept the splash of the river water.Somewhere a launch sailed away from somewhere. Another long whistle of a train. The dusk coloured city now slowly blinking with the neon lights. There is a half moon now faded though but it will glow and glow and glow and meet me at my window gorgeous as a bride. I can breathe full now. My mind is clean. The hallucinations are gone.

I can see the world.

I close my eyes.

My lips opened,

Sneha,I know the answer.

 

Subhadip Majumdar is a new writer in India. Certified on International Course of Creative Writing from Iowa University. Involved in editing Bengali poetry Magazine Kritwibas. Spent one month as Tumbleweed writer writing a short novel in Shakespeare and Company, Paris. 

 

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