The New Moon
Masiya da Chann
In front of a speedy car on the road suddenly spotting a wriggling snake, Nandita screamed and simultaneously her foot impressed a lot of pressure on the brakes. Nandita did not only scream but also made her car screech at the same time.
As soon as the car stopped, the snake sat on the bonnet of the car and tried to enter through the front glass. Frightened, Nandita’s hand started pressing the buttons on the right side window; rolling all the car glass windows.
Now, Nandita took a sigh of relief, the question of the snake biting her did not arise. The snake hitting its head onto the closed glass windows moved towards the bottom of the car. Having a slim chance, the snake left no stone unturned to get in from the bottom of the car.
Nandita was a little scared and stupefied, she didn’t leave any way so that the snake could get inside, she was safe now, very safe …
She was just seeping into this realization, that the snake from her feet wrapped itself onto her legs and moved towards the lower part of her back …. Frightened Nandita screamed her head out … Vishal lying next to her shook her up, then Nandita woke up …. Drenched into sweat, Nandita opened her eyes and felt relieved that she was still in her bedroom. Along with the awkwardness of the dream, she was still feeling the sensation of the snake between her legs.
What kind of dream was this …? Is it also possible? The sight of a snake in a dream and that too what was it looking for between the legs …
This strange mood of the dream did not let her sleep again till daybreak and once again Nandita decided to sew the damaged unlovable desires with the thread of strength one more time.
For last so many days, internally she was getting ground between the plates of morality of her upbringing and the mill of her own consciousness. Every now and then she would think of leaving everything and go to the Working Women’s Hostel. Everytime it was not that easy to bear the cross ….
Sometimes she cursed her parents who didn’t listen to her …, citing her mother’s illness and her younger sister’s marriage, her father had persuaded her to marry against her will.
The ailing mother had urged her daughter at the verge of entering her bridal palanquin to walk courageously on the thin monolithic line of tradition in life, and from that day on she forgot to live her life in an attempt to walk on the tightrope of a balanced householder.
Forcing her way through these thoughts, Nandita had reached college as usual. The effect of the dream she had seen last night before the daybreak was still haunting her. “It is said dreams come true when one sees them before the daybreak …, but the snake’s presence in the dream and taking an aggressive stance, even in her struggle to save herself, the snake entering into the car from the gear space and suddenly slid within her legs.” Thinking this Nandita got anxious for a moment.
Climbing up the stairs of the staff room, Gagan Sir appeared in front. For a second she desired to cling to Gagan’s neck and cry a lot, to tell him her whole story, but the marital bangles of a newly wed in her hands had bound her legs and she with her soft eyes without calling Gagan had stolen glances from him and moved.
Gagan whose name and passion was exalted, but poor fellow was born in low caste. What was there lacking in Gagan, he was meek, polite, handsome, elegant and cheerful ….
When did Nandita start liking him, and when did the flowers start blooming again when they came in front of each other and surrounded each other with fragrances …. The warmth of the desires and the feeling of relationship made her soul intoxicated. Not explicit, but the gestures and body language of both of them could tell each other everything. With this rapturous link of an unvoiced relationship, they would savour each other all day long.
There was no scope of any voice. Behind Gagan’s silence, his caste stood like sharp quills of the porcupine. Even if Nandita had taken the initiative, her father would not have agreed, her mother’s heart disease and the concern of her sister’s marriage, Nandita could not even be a rebel.
Life hurts so much that while working on healing of its wounds, one walks alive in the hope of something good. Why doesn’t this life which is ungenerous, damaged, and cracked let us live a simple plain jane life? Thinking deeply, her steps led her to the classroom.
Most of the students were absent as it was a Saturday. In a jiffy, leaving the classroom, she walked to the staff room. Sitting in a different place, she was again surrounded by thoughts.
Nandita, the eldest of the two sisters, looked beautiful with a great visage. It was her good fortune that as soon as she passed the NET, she was appointed as an assistant professor in the college.
One month later, her status changed from single to married. Otherwise, Nandita had never dreamt aloud. A decent home and a loving husband … More than this, she didn’t want anything out of life.
Vishal, her husband looked good on the face value, Nandita in her heart was neither happy nor sad. The only son of his parents, reticent, grave looking Vishal, was also a professor in the college. One sister was happily married and lived in contentment with her in-laws.
There was just a yes for the relationship, that they got engaged then married immediately; shopping, preparing for the wedding, the time in between which was considered to be a cloud nine time for the fiances, Nandita talked to Vishal only a few times on the telephone.
She thought, ‘Maybe Vishal was busy or had bashful demeanour, it was just about few more days, then she would talk to Vishal to her heart’s content.’
Thinking, Nandita was thrilled at the thought and a beautiful smile appeared on her pink lips, as if all the blood was running towards her head, her heart was beating fast ….. She imagined the picture of her first-night and heat started coming out of her ears and she doubled up in her shyness.
Sometimes it seemed strange to Nandita how parents, siblings, after keeping their daughter wrapped in a hundred kinds of veils, immediately push her to sleep with a stranger in the name of marriage. The body and mind that is kept under so many layers of protection, how come in the name of marriage become the property of others ….?
That day it was ten full days since she got married, Nandita was still a virgin … reason …. was beyond her comprehension. Everything was messed up. The deep heavy clouds of thoughts kept encircling her head all the time …. She thought that Vishal was very busy due to his duty as a superintendent in the semester examinations of the college. That is why their honeymoon plan could not be made.
All day long Nandita was engrossed in a strange whirlpool of her thoughts. The day would go well. She would return from college at three o’clock and Vishal at six o’clock. After dinner Vishal would get busy with paper marking or pretend to be busy on the computer … and she would get tired of watching TV, she would spend the whole night waiting for Vishal to love her.
Today, when the limit of tolerance ran out, she asked Vishal:
“Don’t you like me Vishal …”
“No, there is no such thing.”
“Tell the truth, Vishal, do you love anyone else?” She interrogated to understand Vishal’s expression.
“No, Nandita, there is no such thing.”
“I just got tired because of the exams,” Vishal said and walked towards the washroom.
The thrill and excitement of being newlyweds was far from over, she was angry at this system of marriage. What was this deal like!, mother and father had taught that mother-in-law and father-in-law should be considered as one’s parents, think of the in-laws place as one’s own home, excetra excetra. All the nitty-gritties were taught except if the husband didn’t love her, would stay away from her … then what was supposed to be done?
Nowadays, even while teaching in college, her attention would get distracted, she would forget what she was talking about, students would keep looking at her face …. Nandita would be ill at ease, even the students don’t know what would be thinking …? As soon as the period was over, she breathed a sigh of relief.
Even Gagan in his low spirits would cross modestly by wishing Sat Sri Akal. Even while sitting in the staff room too, she kept ruminating. Her colleagues would mock and tease her.
In these ten days Nandita looked withered away. With whom should she pour her heart out? This thing was not to be told to anyone … Mother was a heart patient, this thing could not be shared with father too …. Sister was still young. What will she talk about with her in-laws … Tell a friend that would lead to washing her dirty linen in the public.
Talk to Gagan … but it’s been long since she conversed with him, moreover he was in his own deep pain.
Nandita’s dilemma kept her estranged and wandering all day and every evening she would lose all hope …. Sometimes she felt that she should take the initiative … After all, Vishal was her husband ….
But it was beyond comprehension what was stuck inside Vishal …. Maybe he has a girlfriend? Making an excuse she used to grab Vishal’s phone to browse through …., as soon as his phone rang, Nandita’s ears would get alert in order to eavesdrop all her limbs would become ears to listen to what was happening on the phone.
Now that the exams are over, relatives and her sister-in-law too have left … but the cause of this apathy was at large from her.
Apart from the union of a husband and wife, Nandita had no grievances with Vishal. He would drop Nandita at the bus stop and bring her back, taking great care of her petty needs ….
Nandita would deliberately try to get close to Vishal, get a hug but he would try to get away from her with a request.
So far Nandita was courageously carrying forward. Perhaps, it was her superstition or what that even when she hugged and caressed him, his senses would remain asleep … which would especially keep the newlyweds busy and wild day and night. Even her best friends used to jokingly tell her that after marriage they would not sleep all night, one after another, one, two, three … many – many times this would happen ….
But here was a total dry spell, she was sapped up, sometimes her heart wished to scream and tell everyone that her full moon has become the new moon. The birds of her desire, which she never allowed to fly to absurdly, were now drowning without a drop of water. The more she suppressed her senses, the more she suffered. After all, for how long will she continue to spend restless nights tormented like a fish?
Nandita’s face had really withered. The sleepless nights and her restlessness had also made her days grim. She would try her best to look happy but still sometimes the mask of happiness would slip from her face.
“Oh my God! Please help me.” Nandita prayed in the morning and evening.
“Isn’t Vishal impotent …?” Or the third gender …. ” But at the same time she would cut her logic with the edge of her faith.
“Maybe he is gay, he likes to sleep with a man instead of a woman …?”
Trying to resolve this tangled web of life, she started having migraines, eating enormous pain killers that spoiled her health.
At the same time, she wouldn’t let her mother and father get the hang of it. But day by day the lamp of her hope ran out of oil. Sometimes she wanted to embrace death instead of such a suffocating life, but at the same time she would think of her sick mother and little sister and the love of her parents would clutch her feet. At times with an obsessed mind she would take bath at ten o’clock at night.
If there were any unwanted mote in the lentils then the taste in the mouth would definitely deteriorate. And here life was in the throes of whips.
Today she had decided to try all the tricks of coquettery. After taking a shower and putting on a fine silk nightie, when she came out of the washroom, the scented aroma of the perfume filled the room. Like a flame of marijuana Nandita could have destroyed the meditation of the greatest Vishwamitra today. Vishal looked at her slyly and pretended to read.
Nandita turned off all the lights and lit a scented candle. In such a romantic atmosphere anyone could cross the line. As soon as Vishal got up from the sofa, Nandita hugged her tightly. Beyond the limits of right and wrong she started kissing Vishal. With slight initiative Vishal’s limbs became numb again. The want and intensity of love was not even visible in Vishal’s doings.
Nandita got appalled, the weak organics of the limbs of Vishal was helpless in front of her smooth limbs. She was trying to comprehend a little bit … why Vishal was trying to stay away from her. As soon as Nandita’s mind became entangled with Vishal’s weakness, she started crying. With both her hands she gagged her mouth and stopped the sound of crying coming out of her mouth but her whole body was shaking and she was crying like a child.
Helpless Vishal was trying to silence her but this strike of sudden lightning on Nandita’s head had reduced all her hopes to ashes.
Vishal also got nervous in an attempt to seduce Nandita and he got up to get a glass of water for Nandita.
“If you knew your situation, why did you marry me?” Why you had to destroy my life, what did I do to you, you could’ve refused to get married …..” Nandita grabbing a glass of water said everything in one breath.
“Look Nandita, I am the only son of my mother and father …. So far I have been refusing to get married under multiple pretexts but before the adamancy of my parents I had to surrender ….. My mother used to blackmail me with death threats. What could I have done? I finally had to say yes to their insistence.”
Guessing Nandita’s expression, Vishal went on to say, “I thought you would understand me …”
“My family and I will be committed to give you all the comforts, you just you …” He stopped talking and drip-drop tears started flowing from his eyes.
At one point Nandita melted like butter, but then she said, “But Vishal, our body too has some needs, and even children …”
“My Nandu, I will not let you miss anything in this house. My love, my feelings may make you believe this …. You give me some time …..” Vishal said begging.
Crossing the threshold of silence, Vishal started saying again, that’s why I was trying to stay away from you. I thought in a few days you will adjust in this house, you will feel settled and then I will tell you everything.
“But you should have told this to your father before marriage,” said Nandita angrily. “How could I break his dreams,” said Vishal, wiping away the tears in Nandita’s eyes.
“And I, what about me … how will I spend the rest of my life? I too have my dreams, desires, I too have never befriended a boy. My friends chat spicily about their colourful evenings they spent with their boyfriends, but I never got close to anyone. “My college colleague Gagan is head over heels in love with me but I never responded to him” Nandita wished to say this but gulped her thoughts down. “Till now I withheld my body just for my husband” saying she got into tears.
Vishal bravely took Nandita into his arms, she kept crying endlessly with her head on his shoulder and Vishal kept calming her down.
In the morning, Nandita’s eyes became red and swollen and she took leave from college. Seeing Vishal getting ready, she was getting angry as well as feeling pity for him ….
She wanted to think calmly before making any decision. Even till now her mind could not get out of the horror of the tragic incident of the night. She would have to sit like a duck, she had never even guessed. Now she was neither alive nor dead, what would she say to anyone … these things are not worth talking about ….
Now even Nandita was convinced that parents consider daughters a burden, the marriage is solemnized not for the happiness of the daughter but for the sake of social etiquette. Marrying off the daughter they consider themselves emancipated.
Confused in this dilemma of life, Nandita had series of arguments going on in her mind. The educated woman inside her was inciting her to be a rebel, to leave everything behind, to choose the partner of her own choice and to live life according to her wishes …, but on the other hand the pressure of the traditional mindset was not less. It was proscribing lessons … Look, Rajni is pulling on with a crippled husband, you can’t even endure this. What is lacking in Vishal? He is good, has a job, a house, money, property, all the comforts, there was even a possibility of platonic love like Heer Ranjha …. Nandita’s head was spinning with these countless murmurs of her head.
‘At first the rebellious mind seemed to dominate, why don’t she leave this house and go back to her mother and father … but there was no clarity whether they will support her or not …. No clues if she will be left alone. At the moment, she may shift to a working women’s hostel. She was well educated and earning independently … and moreover all the girls do not get married …. and those who don’t even get married, they also make a living … living free in their space, their own sky and their own flights …..’
Nandita got tired of thinking and the urge to drink tea led her to the kitchen. When Nandita came out of the bedroom, she was dumbfounded to see Papa in front of her.
“How are you, beta? Are you all right?” Tell me, we’ll see the doctor, said Papa, looking questioningly.
“I don’t need a doctor, your son needs it, Papa ji,”she let out the secret in her anger.
“Why, what happened to Vishal …? He went to college in the morning in high spirits ….” Papa was amazed at Nandita’s apathy.
“Some diseases are incurable, Papa! I’m surprised you have no clues about your son’s serious illness ….” Nandita said looking sarcastically at her father-in-law.
“No beta, Vishal never mentioned, he is normal, in good health, you tell me beta if there is such a thing …. Papa continued talking and again restarted, “I was also watching that both of you stay harrowed. I didn’t think it was right to intervene.” Papa looked worried.
“I feel embarrassed revealing this to you, Papa! But …”
“Yes – Yes beta you tell me without hesitation, now you are not my daughter-in-law but my daughter, you will not tell your father then who else will you tell …?” Papa was encouraging Nandita.
“Papa, Vishal is suffering from men’s problem …” saying this Nandita burst into tears.
“Don’t cry, my daughter, tell me openly … Papa said emotionally. “Papa, Vishal is not like ordinary men … we still …” saying Nandita’s eyes narrowed in shame.
Maybe Papa understood and looked upset. After pausing for a while, he went on to say, “Look, Nandita beta, I have called you my daughter … If such a thing happens, I will myself get you married …. Maybe because of this he was not getting ready to get married.” Papa had started cursing himself.
“You don’t worry, beta, there is a cure for every problem. I will just take the time from the doctor … we will take Vishal to the doctor …”
From that very evening treatment of Vishal had started. The glands inside the psyche of Vishal began to open slowly in front of the psychiatrist …. In fact, when Vishal was in tenth class, his closest friend died in an accident. Due to stress, Vishal had to take medication for depression. Because of this medicine there was an imbalance in his hormones and so on …. the poor soul had no idea that this would happen to him.
Along with medicines and counseling, Vishal’s self-confidence began to grow with Nandita’s support. Now both husband and wife continued to flirt. Vishal used to call Nandita two or three times from college …… both of them used to go for walks, watch movies, and come home only after dinner.
Father and Mother would take good care of him. From the outside, a glimpse of a happy family was visible, but there was not much difference in Vishal’s symptoms.
However, if Nandita was not happy, she was not sad. For the time being, she considered it appropriate to compromise. She thought, “After all, where was there complete happiness in the lives of married women …. For many the nights were limited to the satisfaction of the husband only …, her understanding was making her realize that nothing unusual had happened to her …”
Nandita would time and again turn to her inner woman and explain, “Physical relationships are not everything … relationships grow and flourish even on the surface of the mind ….” But untimely Gagan would come to her mind and the hissing sound of the snake in her dream would make her restless.
-DES RAJ KALI