Break of the Dawn

dawn-break-4

 

In the break of the dawn—
The first blue light anointing,
The loose clouds floating,
The ghost-quiet city still sleeping—
I see with both my eyes burning
A swallow like a lantern,
Now alight on the porch rail,
Fluttering her wings & dancing
A fluid waltz, like a leaf on a stream,
Rushing past my window,
Leaving behind a curious white swirl
On the windowpane, a sketch
Of its throbbing life, as if in fright.
A sudden death, an invisible part of it
Oozes out, never to be recovered.
Just like the falling of parched, brown
Needles of white pines outside my outhouse,
This winter, one by one,
Never to be charged with life again.

Twitter @bibek_writes

 

In a Poetry Reading

poetry-reading

 

Inside a wanly lit room

Of a Newari café in a Newari suburb,

People who call themselves ‘poets’ appear.

I, too, walk in—

As if I have all the leisure in the world.

We—the ‘poets’—have walked a long way.

Now the weary legs take a rest.

The metallic tables reflect the fluorescent,

Almost blinding us for a second,

& with the wafting sent of coffee in the air

We realize—

Wherever we’re from sucks,

& wherever we grew up sucks,

& each one of us looks like

An ugly lamp or a broken souvenir coffee cup.

Most of us have merely reached puberty,

But we write poems about

The independence & freedom

Of our penises & vaginas.

So, we who call ourselves ‘poets’

All the time—

Ask for beers & cigarettes

& drink like our favorite poets

Because we believe that all great writing

Comes from drinking & smoking;

& when drunk we turn our chubby poems

Over & over in our muddled heads.

 

Advancing to the stage like some

Of our favorite movie stars,

We read, one by one, our poems about

Our ex-boyfriends & ex-girlfriends

& how we miss their touch or smell.

But we might as well begin by saying

How much we like the titles:

“Hi, I’m a slut!” A blonde begins her poem.

“To My Virgin Girlfriend,” a pockmarked boy starts.

Immediately the poem has our attention,

In fact, it has grabbed us by the scruff of our neck,

& hurled us into its very center.

The first stanza, the words of which

Throw some dumplings on the ground,

Which we pick up & shovel it into our mouths,

& this act of word-eating establishes the mood.

Then comes the middle stanzas—

We can almost taste sauce of dumpling

With every passing word.

 

What we really find engaging

Are the series of images—hot like the sun—

Cool like ice—quiet like a cemetery—

Which give us a very clear picture.

Most of all, we really like the way

We, as ‘poets’, ‘bumped into stars’

& ‘tasted the lozenges of fire’, while

‘Roaming around the decaffeinated streets.’

We nod our heads & smirk at each other.

 

We, our bodies trapped in Amish pants,

Our minds full of crushed beer cans

& half-eaten bowls of dumplings,

Cheer & applaud,

& when the reading is over

We drink more beer,

& smoke more cigarettes,

& I love all of this, because I have

All the leisure of the world.

 

We stand up when the last stanza ends,

Because, we know, that’s the best part,

Where the scene keeps shifting from

Aerodrome to garden to cemetery.

But, we wonder, what kind of cemetery it is!

Is it an indoor cemetery, perhaps?

Because the poet was in the aerodrome

In the first line, & in the second line he was

With his lover in the garden

While in the third line they both lay inside coffin boxes.

Maybe there was ‘death’ looming

From the very first stanza,

Which we might have sadly missed,

& thought that it was a love poem.

 

After that series of powerful readings,

We go back to our usual,

Tin shacks of rented rooms,

& watch some French movies—

& think that we are Camus.

 

From one shit-hole to another,

We travel, & like all the great losers

Of this city, we too, in the evenings,

Watch porn & jerk off

With modern-age cyber dildos & butt-plugs,

& sometimes even the Vaseline looks more desirable

Than our genitals,

& we dream of getting laid—

Maybe with someone from the poetry reading—

& we dream of getting published one day,

& keep on dreaming until

We, with our tired bodies, slink away into

The yawning abyss of great oblivion,

Half-heartedly exploding.

 

Twitter @bibek_writes

Watchful Gods

watchful-sky

 

They say the Gods are always watching us.

Be it in the dawn when we’re out for a walk,
Or in the broad daylight when we’re busy typing emails,
Or in the night when we’re passionately making love,

They say the Gods are always watching us.

From what has been & what it is—
Even when we die they say the Gods will watch us
& drag us out from our coffins sprouting with grass
& stand with us & say: “Rise and walk before me
So that I may realize what you are.”

Placing oneself where the future becomes the present,
They say the Gods are always watching us.
Even when the whole world sleeps in tranquil oblivion,
The Gods are busy eying our bodies & our souls
With an unflinching stare through the keyholes.

Twitter @bibek_writes

The Maharani of Kathmandu

maharani

 

Praniti often came to my room, poured herself a glass of vodka, and sat for long hours, sinking deep in my armchair. Most of the times, she made small talks and stared at the walls, as if searching for something meaningful to say. But, twice or thrice, she talked—a lot. By a lot, I mean, all day long. Nonstop.

Only after that I found out that she was a great talker. Born and bred in Kathmandu, well … almost, she loved this city and talked a great deal about it. She knew many people here, and she was often seen at the social gatherings, always holding a glass of exquisite French wine, and talking in her sweet but fake British accent. And she was quite cautious about her accent—she had already mastered it in about six months, and she paid special attention to the flamboyancy of the language. She paused where it was expected, raised her eyebrows at precise moments, and laughed a short little laugh whenever needed. Thus, she had mastered the elitism of Kathmanduities.

I always looked forward to her visits because she had nothing nice to say about anyone. So together we trashed the reputations of everyone known and unknown to us with glassful of vodkas. With each gulp, we talked bitterly and harshly about the mutual friends first—mostly they were the writers of some kind, or the kind of people who loved calling themselves ‘writers’. We would trash their books in a minute, given the fact that most of the times we had not even read a single line of their works. She’d begin stigmatizing from the book cover, and she’d end up telling that the writer was frigid as most of the writers were supposed to be. We hyped the stereotypes and enjoyed it immensely. Because of this nasty nature, we were often called arrogant brats, gasbags, posers, name-droppers and old-school hypocrites by our fellow writers. But that was okay. We didn’t care much about other people’s criticisms anyway. We only cared about our own views about others.

She would usually come by 11’o clock every day, and our meeting would start in much the same manner. Breezing in and saying ‘Hello Bibek!’ in a loud voice, she’d plant a kiss on each of my cheeks, and put her handbag on the table, and reach for the bottle of vodka. “Please help yourself.” I would say, and she would pour a large peg in a crystal glass. “Haven’t you got a better brand? Something international?” She’d say after gulping down three or four large pegs. “Nope.” I’d reply back. “Running out of cash lately.” I’d add. “Why? Don’t you get money from your newspaper columns?” She’d snap back, and we’d go on talking about the low pay of media for hours. But, sometimes, when her mood was a little bright, she’d bring some packets of salted peanuts and Rice Krispies. Then she’d go to the fridge, and fetch some cranberry juice, and make cocktails for both of us. After quaffing down a peg or two, she’d open her hand bag and fish out a book. “Have you read this?” She’d ask, and we’d go on criticizing the book and the author for several hours.

 

~~

As a matter of fact, she was seen in most of the literary festivals. While I rarely visited them. I didn’t even need to. Because she was always there to fetch me some hot guff gaff. People said that she’d walk like a rooster in a hen-house in those parties. She would first take a brief tour round the whole venue and come back and sit in the first row. But the main point was she never bought the books. She would occasionally go up to the desk where a heap of books were kept, and take out one of the hardcovers, flip the pages in a hurry, read a couple of paragraphs, close the book, and keep it on its rightful place, which was the wooden table as always. Later, when the journo asked her about the book, she’d quite proudly say that it was a complete nonsense, that it was only intended to be a comic caper, and that nothing merry would come out of its sumptuous launch. The newspaper columnists always quoted her words, and soon she was a big shot in the city.

Since she was so famous, she also paid special attention to her dress up. She always wore velvet and fine set of jewelries. When asked how she bought such an expensive set, she always answered nonchalantly that it was her family jewelry, and that she had a great history behind her. And when she told her history to the elites of Kathmandu, their heart started rapidly beating and sunk an inch in their chests.

Once she was even asked to speak in a book launch program. A debut novelist was going to launch​ his thriller; and it was supposed to be a grand ceremony. There were people from every walk of life. And there were the big shots: ministers, armies, businessmen, and writers. She was nervous first, but then there was a perfect flurry of words, only occasionally interrupted by her train of thoughts. The audience listened to the particular sound of her words, without even understanding the meaning of it. She used too many heavy words; and some of the people in the front row were flipping through the pages of pocket dictionaries in frenzy. There was a great dismay in the audience, especially of the people who understood nothing but only heard the sounds they would never forget. It was like a movie speech, full of snapping, and feather-pillow sounds. And the accent was too delicate and too yummy. The audience screamed in joy and rose up and applauded.

Then in the book launch party, she drank too much. Way above the social level of acceptance. Partly because the drinks were for free. And partly because she thought after a great speech people expected her to drink much. And she was retching all over the place. Tomorrow whoever cleaned the place would find vomit drying on the floor, and even on one of the walls decorated with murals. And to the artists the vomit on the mural looked more refined, and there were some poets composing poesy—both interesting and uninteresting—on the vomit. A short story writer found his hook: The Lady with the Vomit. When she had read the story in the weekly magazine a couple of days later, she exclaimed: “Now, what would happen to the old Chekhov?”

“Nothing, but he could kill all of us.” I interfered by answering.

“Really…?”

She was saying something, but she lost the track of her words.

The debut novelist clenched his fists and promised himself that he’d not offer any free drinks during his next book launch. Needless to say, his next book was going to be a super flop. But the debut one was already working wonders.

She was still retching, when a throb of journalists came in, and flashed their digital cameras. Then she had fallen into one of the toilets, and her face was submerged in the commode with her legs spread and her dress up, just like one of the many amateur porn actresses. The debut novelist grabbed her by the shoulder and started to ask her if she was okay. She said she was doing fine. Overnight she was a sensation in page 3. Everyone in the city started talking about her. She was called ‘the queen of queens’—the Maharani—of Kathmandu by the gossip magazines. Many male writers invited her to their villas and farmhouses and rented rooms. And by and by she was a candy cane.

One day she was heavily depressed. Well, that was one of the days she talked a lot. “You know that womanizer of a writer?” She began, pouring herself a glass of vodka.

“Which one?” I asked. I knew many womanizers of the city and many of them were invariably writers of some kind.

“That werewolf who earned the big bucks by selling chick-lits and turned back into the inoffensive job of a college professor, with a specialty in twentieth century American poets and novelists.” She said and gulped down a mouthful of vodka.

“Hmm. What about him?”

“You won’t believe me when I tell you this: he’s going to write a book on the menstrual rites of the women of far-western region.”

“Wh-aat?”

I spilled half of the vodka on my trousers and kept gawking at her foolishly.

“Told you that you won’t believe me.” She said in her nonchalant way and smiled sheepishly.

“Who would do a thing like that?” I asked, and added, “Maybe he was a woman in his previous life.”

“A crazy person, that would.”

She laughed a little and fell silent. Then, after a while, she resumed her blithering. Outside the day wind rustled through the avocado trees, unaware of our gossip mongering.

From that day she was often seen in the book launches of womanizer writers. She in a way started to adore them. “Don’t you think they are so good with prose?” She would say, and fluster.

“More than their prose, I think, you adore their boners.” I said and laughed inwardly. There was a slap, followed by a thump, a muffled scoff afterwards. I realized that I had made a mistake, and then I was listening to the unremarkable sounds of abuse. I could actually feel the red hand shape on my cheek, and my head started spinning. She got up, hurled the vodka glass, which as if by magic bounced off the wall of beige tile. She cried a little, maybe. I don’t know, but she was biting her lower lip.

“I’m not a fucking whore.”

She screamed, and it felt like a supreme pronouncement. Her voice was not shrill, but flat, declamatory. Hard to tell whether she could be drunk because each word was sharp and distinct. I wanted to say something but was too scared. The writer of the flowery prose in me had already tucked its tail between the legs and walked away. A gust of day breeze swirled inside, and she stood at the door for a moment, and then she was there no more. Only her eyes like dangerous black slits occupied my mind. There was no sound, just sharp silence. I felt the wind rushing around my hot ears. The words of some country-music singer came to my mind, nonsensical and pretentious.

“And if she asks you why, you can tell her that I told you that I am tired of castles in the air; I’ve got a dream I want the world to share and castles wall just leave me to despair.”

There was another heavy smack and another cry, but it wasn’t her; she was already gone; it was self-infliction. Then, there was a beat of silence, and then the soft rustling of avocado leaves.

It was the first time we quarreled. I told everyone about what had happened. As I feared, no one sympathized with me. In fact, everyone were outraged. They blamed me for being impolite and even uneducated. They told me that I was an immodest drunk; it was because of the way I used sexual innuendos in most of my writings. They rubbed salt in my wounded ego, and they said that she was a fine lady, who knew all sorts of things, and that I should feel sorry and beg for an honest apology.

Apology, my foot! My ego bloomed, and most of the days I sat in the nearby park, brought a dozens of miniature bottles of vodkas and whiskeys and drank like Bukowski. One night I even slept in the park bench, freezing all night long. I had freckles; I sunburned easily; and I was sneezing all the time. I thought I was going to die of pneumonia. The sunburn made me look like I was always mad, and after she left, usually I was mad.

Apologize. A voice said. Stop that, I snapped back. I can’t. Said the voice. My heart sank even lower. Soon it was beating in my belly. It began to blat rhythmically, spoiling my mood, taking me out of my mind and leaving me there in the belly.

For two weeks we did not meet or bother to ring each other. She said nasty things about me, and in turn, I said nasty things about her. These nasty sayings were conveyed by our few mutual acquaintances. I thought our little friendship was over, but one day, she called me and said: “I am coming over to talk. We need to sort out the misunderstandings.” Her voice was calm, and I wasn’t much scared.

So on a fine Saturday morning, she came to my room, gave me a double-kiss on both the cheeks, reached for the bottle of vodka, poured herself a glassful, and commented on the brand. This time she had brought some goat cheese and a packet of Indian namkeen. “You know, Bibek, friendship is sacred.” She said and raised her glass, and in turn, I raised mine. “To our ever-lasting and unaltered friendship. Let all be forgiven and forgotten.” We cheered and drank merrily.

After a while, she said: “You know that womanizer of a writer?”

I nodded.

“He’s going to publish another book. This time on ‘celibacy’.”

“Well, he seems like an expert in every topic.”

I said and was glad that I had not read anything by him.

“Well, why don’t you write a novel?” She asked. Her eyes were beaming, and her voice, pleading.

My heart started hurrying in my chest, thudding along at a rapid jog-trot. I felt a hard thump inside and let out a silent cry. But, I knew that silence was golden. That silence would always be better. That silence would be safer for a man. That silence was like a deep meditation, a vipasana of sorts. I wasn’t going to say anything, because if I said anything, it would be bitter for her, and then I would have to apologize again, and sleep on the freezing park bench. Maybe I’d reply on some other day, but not today. Today I was going to drink vodka and enjoy myself. Hail vodka, and hail the Maharani of Kathmandu, and help me enjoy these precious moments of life! I prayed silently.

I raised my glass once again and said: “To our priceless friendship.”

 

Twitter @bibek_writes

Gods

krishna

We’ve broken their statues.

We’ve driven them out of their temples.

We’ve burned their holy words.

But still they are alive –

Still in love with this land,

Their souls still bewitch us,

Shaking us with wanting & fear.

 

During the wake of the dawn,

Our lives seem potent with their lives;

& sometimes old ethereal figures,

Indistinct & innocuous,

Rapid in flight,

Wing across the nearby hills,

Featherlike & soft,

Bright yellow & red,

Outshining the flickering sun,

Our heads with sandbag they stun.

 

Twitter @bibek_writes

Kaval

image

It was a Saturday morning in the very height of winter. Kaval, a young girl of twenty-five, was walking down the lane between two long rows of small, dilapidated houses stretching beside the River Bagmati in a slow and dreamy fashion. 

On one secluded corner in a café, a wooden table with varnished top awaited quietly. Two neatly placed chairs faced each other. Abstract murals like cobwebs were etched on the walls. Sweet smell of the brewing coffee wafted up in the air. One could hear the footsteps arriving and departing. Also, the soft susurration of conversations, the kind of talk that you couldn’t understand no matter how intently you listen to it, filled the place. 

Kaval walked inside, sat quietly on one chair, her elbows propped on the table. She started gazing out of the window at the river, the bridge and the hills on the farther bank. She looked inside at the empty chair and ordered a cup of espresso. She knew that no one bothered her here, and in return she bothered no one. After a while, she took a sip and again looked out at the hills with their tender green. The sun had already taken refuge inside the dark clouds; and there was the sound of footsteps everywhere – walking in and out of the buildings. She never really understood this kind of fluidity, this incessant motion. She wondered how the world would look like if everything came to a standstill. How would it be to watch everything go quiet and peaceful?

But wishes never came true. Not in this city. She knew it.

A man barged in and slumped on the chair in the next corner. He beckoned the waiter and asked for tea. He had an unfamiliar full beard, which did not quite conceal the face he had, and his skin was growing so yellow as to indicate some latent disease. His face reminded her of an uncultivated land, full of mud-cracks. In the multifold of which sweat ran like streams. Running his hand through his receding hairline, mopping his creased face with a handkerchief, he looked around, paused for a moment, and looked straight at her. His eyes were hollow, deep like yawning abysses. Darkness oozed out of his eyes, or maybe it was hatred. His eyes, the darkness within, seemed to be reaching for something … reaching for her soul. She cringed and looked sideways, shook her head and said that it could only be a coincidence.

Earlier that day, in the wee hours of morning, while she was still struggling to go to sleep, all of a sudden, she had found herself standing at the bottom of a narrow concrete stairway. As she climbed the ten risers of the dog-legged stairway, she found herself in a corridor that stretched ahead straight into a halo of smoke. It was a long corridor that seemed to stretch forever and the ceiling was so high that for a moment she lost the idea of time and space. There were no any decorations and in the bluish pale light it was hard to see even if there were any. First she feared, then she walked the wanly lit concrete floor, thinking, thinking, thinking …

Why was she here? How did she come here? Where was she going? She needed answers and for answers she kept walking through that hazy corridor, which seemed like a corridor for a moment and nothing like a corridor at the next moment. As she began walking, the lighting started to get feeble and uneven and there were thick layers of black dust that caked the lights. Sometimes she could hardly see her hand. And beside her, her shadow grew long, shortened in the momentary glow of the hanging fluorescents, then grew long again. An eerie silence hung oppressively throughout the place. The only sound was the constant slapping of her flip-flops against the hard concrete floor. And, there was wind. Where was it coming from? Maybe from the east, but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was that it was cold, but she liked the way the wind rippled her clothes and combed back her hair.

She kept walking, for a hundred meters, two hundred meters, three hundred meters, maybe half a kilometer, or even a few kilometers. Walking and thinking. Not thinking anything in particular, just watching the multifarious thoughts enter and leave her mind. Time and space diffused—she had no sense that she was moving forward in any way. But she must have been, and she knew it. All of a sudden, she was standing in a roundabout.

A roundabout?

A cracked face stared vacantly at her. He was standing inside the rotary island, stretching his hands as far as he could. Like some dutiful scarecrow, he reminded her of someone who was merely performing his job. But this was no ordinary statue. Clocked in a large Sherlock-Holmes-overcoat, he was as tall as the steeple and as big as an ocean liner. And, his face was strikingly yellow, more like jaundiced.

“Walk straight down the lane and you will find a door.” Crackled voice cracked from the middle of nowhere. Then, there was the donkey heehaw of laughter from the shadow. This was beyond surprising; it was shocking.

Terrified, she walked down, and kept walking without thinking about time but there was no any sign of the door. She thought that there was never any door here, nor would be in future. How could a door be installed in the middle of nowhere? And where would that door lead to? Was it possible that some kind of symbolic door, not like ordinary wooden, or glazed door, maybe some kind of metaphysical door stood somewhere here? She kept looking. There must be some mistake, now she was sure of it.

First she leaned against the wall, then she felt weak at knees. She flopped down on the floor and let out a sigh. Now what? Should I keep walking or go back from where I started?

It didn’t even seem like a choice, but she had a choice.

For years she had been running around, running away from problems, doing menial job of a typist, and getting poor paychecks. For years she had wondered why she had been so lonely, so much like a cast away, running through the damp and dark alleys of Kathmandu, and waiting for the end of the month just to get a handful of cash. She was so sick of being poor. 

So she kept waiting. And she kept walking.

But, why was she walking? She asked herself and shook her head. She hadn’t wondered about it, at least until now. In fact, there were quite a few things she hadn’t wondered. Like, for instance, when she’d last had something to eat or drink. Or what time it was. She didn’t even know exactly how she had been here. Pausing for a moment, and reflecting, she found out that the sweatshirt she was wearing inside the nightgown was drenched in sweat. And she was panting. Her chest started to pain and she felt sick in the stomach.

A biting wind blew again.

The road doesn’t seem to end, she said to herself. Maybe I need to go back and ask that scarecrow again. Her lips pressed together. Maybe not. There’s no point in going back. But, there’s no point in going ahead, either.

The sweat was now icy cool. Another gust of wind pushed her away—toward the front. Kaval walked on, increasing her speed a little bit at a time. It was her body taking over her mind. The interface between the body and mind was thinning. The body was in charge of her now, and she was quick and agile. She ran on, her feet making an eerie sound with her passing.

It was such a bad time for weary rumination, she thought and laughed a little.

Well, this has to end. She reassured herself and was almost frightened by her sudden ferocity. She looked up and saw the bluish haze fade, the clouds tore open with tropical suddenness; and there was the moon, high on the sky, like a silver oyster and that was troubling, but something else troubled her even more. It was the acrid smoke. Where was it coming from? She thought it over. The wind rippled her nightgown and she tried to focus on the click-click-click of her flip-flops on the asphalt and tried to forget the smoke.

She looked here and there, on the clueless ash-gray buildings. And, on the wall of one of the gruesome buildings was a notice. She was curious but at first she saw nothing, because the moon was shining on the protective plastic. She took a step closer, then one to the right, and read the message: KEEP WALKING. She kicked the wall and moved on.

All around her the air was gradually congealing and condensing. She kept looking at the high moon, occasionally groping for a cigarette only to find that her nightgown had no pockets. The images of her past flickered through the sky. A barrage of disjointed images blitzed her mind: little her sitting in her own room on the first floor of one lonely house at the end of the lane; little her carrying a bag of flowers and going downhill; little her with almost no social intercourse with other children, so that she was resigning herself to becoming a lone wolf. 

Enough of this imagination!

She felt humiliated. Out of sheer indignation, she kept walking and finally she reached the door. Turning the knob, opening it, and walking in, she found out that her faithful arrive here was in the hope of departure. One door after another appeared before her. ‘Keep walking.’ A voice said. But now the words were ghosts. Like her own body, thin and frail. With anger and hostility, she kept opening the door and entering inside the labyrinthine series of doorways. Finally, she found herself in the banks of Bagmati River; and now in vain, not out of malice, she wanted to die in Shiva’s place, to escape the remorseless cycle of birth and death, to get away for eternity, be rid of it. Death lived here, on the banks, forever mocking life and its vain struggles.

Funereal fires blazed on the stepped ghats, breaking the waves of thoughts in the mirrors of time. The high, sombre moon was tinted in saffron with the winter’s dampness. She kept watching the tongues of flame address the sky, searching for Shiva, who at times like this, walked among the dead, bending over to whisper the Taraka into the ears of corpses, to liberate their aching souls, ferry them across the river of oblivion to the far shore of moksha.

The city behind the ghat was shadowed in the glow and crackle of pyres at the banks of this sacred river swollen by the rains. A deep desire surged inside her. She wanted to touch the impalpable, to embrace the fire, to sleep in the fire-bed of death—how could she deny it? She would not leave this place empty handed; she wanted to carry a fistful of fire with her. The pain she was carrying inside, and the burden of love, all these years, have amounted into a heavy load of melancholia. She wanted to burn it right away.

And she did burn it. As soon as her slimy fingers touched the dancing fire, she heard the rhythm of the fire’s breathing enmeshed in hers. Ugh! She made a growling, rattling sound in her throat, and with her small, grimy fist punched the fire. And there was a long one-note wail, ugly and formidable. She dragged her hand off the fire, still screaming that one monotonous note. Then, she licked the fire with her tongue, lapping it over and over; and there was a great moment of silence, madly exuberant, and full of yodeled laughter. The smell of her skin was the fragrance of the earth and the sandalwood. The glow and crackling sound intensified. She heard a peacock screech inside her. The screech echoed in the restless river and throughout the courtyard. The corpses looked at her with dark, bewildered eyes and said, “We’ve had enough” in a little more than whisper.

I don’t care about that, she said and looked at her charred fist and saw the rest of them staring at her and Kaval, in the moonlit dimness and the bright fire, wanted to burn wholly. There was a rueful whisper of wind, and she heard the corpses murmur. And, slowly she embraced the flickering flames; the flames like a lustful customer kissed her wanton body. 

She now knew everything about herself. There was love and understanding in this knowledge. A crow cawed intently, breaking her thoughts and, in the next moment, she found herself walking down the lane between long rows of small houses. The wind roared monotonously. Birds cried from inside the unraveling fog.

Inside the café the man with the yellowing face and unattractive beard got up, came up to her, and whispered something in her ear. Then, he was grinning. It was an easy grin, rather mocking. Before she could respond, the man was already out, and all she could see was the revolving door creak and move. But, what did he say? 

The black clouds moved away, and a streak of light reflected on the wooden table, dazzling and blinding her, and she was transposed to another time, when the paper boat had shone just so in the banks of River Bagmati. She was nine then. The river was cold under a late morning sun. Kaval could feel it lapping at her knees, tugging and pulling like an impatient dog. There were movements behind her, a soft splash and a prolonged laughter. She turned round and saw a boy at the water’s edge, semi-clad in a loincloth. His face was emblazoned with yellow saffron. His eyes were searching the rushing waters, waiting to throw the pebble. He stood there, arms-akimbo, and smiled at her.

Twitter @bibek_writes