I told myself that it was my imagination. I could not swear that I had actually seen that glimmer. Yet, how could it be possible that without seeing anything, I sensed a light? Was it a lightning bug?
I walked for a long time. I gazed from the windows for a long time. It was futile. I tried to read something. I could not concentrate.The chair was still empty.
Deciding to sleep early, I made up my bed and snuffed down the light. Then I felt like listening to a gramophone record!
I got up and lighted the lamp again.I fitted a new needle into the sound-box. Then I keyed up the gramophone.
Whose song shall I play? The world was eerily silent. Still, there was a rumble. The sound was emerging from my own ears. Was it terror? The hairs on my back stood on end. I wanted to shatter the horrible silence into a million bits. Whose song shall I play for that? I searched and found a record by Paul Robson. The gramophone started singing: a sweet and magnificent baritone!
‘ Joshua fit the battle of Jericho.’
It got over. then it was Pankaj Mallick’s turn.
‘Tu darr na zara bhi…’
You please do not be scared even a bit!
Then came the enchanting, soft, dulcet female voice:
‘ Kattinile varum geetam…’
M.S.Subbalakshmy too finished singing.
Somehow, I felt at peace after these three songs. I sat like that for a while. Then I invited the revered Saigal himself. He sang in that sweet, melancholy, gentle voice:
‘ So ja Rajkumary…’
Princess, you please sleep now; sleep dreaming beautiful dreams…!
That too soon ended.
‘Enough for today. The rest tomorrow!’ Muttering that, I shut the light, and lighting up a beedi, lay down on my cot.
Near me was my torch, my watch and a knife. Then that empty chair.
I had shut the door which opened to the portico. The time must have been Ten at night. I was alert and listening.
Except the mild tic, tic of my watch nothing could be heard. Minutes moved, and then hours. There was no fear in my mind. Just a cold, creepy wariness. It was not a new experience to me. Across many a country, many a place, during a long time period….during a twenty year stint of loneliness…I have had many experiences whose meaning had been indecipherable to me. Hence my attention spanned across the past and the present. In between, came the doubts…will someone knock at the door? Open the pipes? Try to suffocate me? I kept on like that till three in the morning.
‘ Good Morning, Bhargavi Kutty! Thanks a lot! One thing has become clear to me! People are just spreading rumours about you! Let them! What do you say?’
Days and nights passed.I would think about Bhargavi Kutty. Her father, mother, brothers and sisters…there would be so many stories that were unknown to me…Almost every night, after I grew tired of writing, I would play the gramophone. Before every song, I would announce the singer, the meaning of the song etc..
I would say,’ Listen…the next song is by the great Bengali singer Pankaj Mallick. It evokes sadness and memories. The times past…listen carefully!’
‘Guzar Gaya woh zamana kaisa…kaisa…’
Or I would say:
‘ This is by Bing Crosby! ‘In the moonlight…’which means in the light of the…Oh I forgot! You are a B.A degree holder! Sorry!’
I would say all these…to myself. Two months passed by in this manner. I made a garden. When the flowers blossomed, I told Bhargavi Kutty that it was all meant for her. I finished a novella too in that time period. A lot of my friends came and spent the night there. Before they slept, unknown to them, I would slip downstairs and speak to the darkness.
‘ Listen, Bhargavi Kutty! Some of my male pals have arrived and plan to sleep here tonight. You please don’t throttle any of them. If something like that occurs, the police will catch me! Please be careful! Good Night!’
Befor leaving the house, I would say: ‘ Bhargavi Kutty! Look after the house. If some thief creeps in, feel free to throttle him. But do not leave his corpse hereabout. Drag it at least three miles from here. Else we will both get into trouble!’
When I returned after a film’s second- show at night, I would submit: ‘ It is me, okay?’
It all began like that. With the passage of time, I forgot Bhargavi Kutty. No intense conversations. Just an occasional remembrance, that was all.
A remembrance which I shall describe. A lot of poeple have died on this earth. Since the origin of human life, how many had passed away! They are all a part of this world-as dust, as water, as smoke. That we know. Bhargavi remained a memory like that.
It was then that the following incident occurred. That is what I shall describe now.
( Will Continue)