Friday, July 27, 2007

Meenakshi

18th July 1990. Meenakshi pressed her forefinger hard into the daily sheet calendar. As she did, she closed her eyes to recall how she had pressed the calling bell at the “Khushi Villa” exactly fifteen years ago. Fifteen years it was, since the day she had first touched down on this bungalow tucked away peacefully in a remote corner of Maharashtra. It was a rickety bus journey that had preceded her arrival.

Fifteen years ago, as a charming thirteen year old, Meenakshi had felt deeply thrilled at the prospect of spending her life in the villa. Back then, she had observed with wide eyes, the wild tuskers and stags that jutted out from the walls and the large paintings that accompanied them. She had wondered why the tuskers and stags had only heads and had found it quite weird. She had imagined the animals to wake up and walk around the house in the nights.

Totally fascinated, Meenakshi had felt her stay in the villa would be a launch pad to realize her dream – that of becoming a great Bharatnatyam dancer. Struggling hard to control her overwhelming joy, her eyes had fallen on Ramaa Chechi for the first time. Oh, what a treat it had been to watch her! Looking at her from behind the grilles of a window near the backyard, Meenakshi had thought she could fall at her feet. Draped in a crisply starched cotton sari, Ramaa Chechi was going around the Tulasi Maadam in small circles, with a lamp in her hand.

Rajan who had accompanied Meenakshi on her journey to the place had made a passing reference to a teacher, while sitting in the bus. May be this divine looking lady was that teacher, Meenakshi had pondered. Meanwhile, Rajan had beckoned her to the backyard.

“What is your name?” Ramaa Chechi had asked.
“Meenakshi”
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” she had questioned, patting Meenakshi’s cheek.
“I love to dance,” Meenakshi had replied and had stuck out her frail legs and hands, while also rolling her visibly, big eyes.
Ramaa Chechi had smiled, patted her again.
“Lovely, we will make you do that too.”
“Can I too look beautiful like you?” Meenakshi had asked eagerly.
“Of course, yes, why not?”

Standing before the calendar, Meenakshi recalled how much she had believed in that deceptively divine woman. Ramaa Chechi was a professional. She had pushed the little girl into her role so effortlessly. She had gently led the teenager into a room that presented an illusion of happiness, of a heaven free of all troubles – full of flowers and incense that choked her breath.

Meenakshi was reminded of how she had succumbed without protest, the first time. The surrender did not come out of acceptance of her doomed fate or as a move towards starting a new way of life. It was more a means of seeking solace and affection from a complete stranger for the grief that engulfed her broken heart; to blow away the misery and weariness of a young soul that was cheated by her own father.

And as far as she could think, the first time was the only instance she had exuded passion in her profession and never again after that. Meenakshi looked at the silver ring in her hand, thoughtfully. This was the ring that the first man had left behind for her, as a gesture of what Meenakshi imagined to be genuine love. He would have been in his early twenties then. She could say he had liked her. Loved her? She didn’t know. But she preferred to assume it that way. It at least gave her the comfort of having something substantial to dream and ponder about; something to make up for the void that so dominated her life.

Meenakshi looked dreamily at the withered rose that she had preserved in between the pages of her only notebook. Tears welled up in her eyes. Despite the many years of seeing the different men that she had seen, love was not a lost feeling as far as she was concerned. It was lost, yes, in a partial sense, but only deep within her. She had vainly searched for her first man in every man she had met after him. She had stayed hoping that he would come and take her away someday. The ring would be her only proof of identity then. She had imagined he would come while she played on the swing. He would then fall at her feet and tell her how much he needed her in his life.

Alas, but what did she know of him, except for a faint memory of his face and the wetness of his long parting kiss on her cheek years ago? For all she knew, he would be happily married off to some pretty woman who would have borne him his children. Worse still, would he even recognize her if she were to come face to face with him when walking down some street? Even so, she carried on, despite being fully aware of the futility of her dream.

What a life had she lived! She had seen all sorts of men. There were the nervous first timers. Then, there were those men who fed their egos with an air of nonchalance, a kind of despicable carelessness. Well then, animal behavior also found its place. She had dressed and undressed to please and impress them all; acts that defined the very essence of her existence. And after everything, Meenakshi felt the whole place stank of dumped feelings and a nauseating eeriness that sometimes drove her to the point of contemplating death as the soothing alternative. The only relief probably had remained her friends in the villa – Nupur, Selvi and Rekha. They would laugh and hoot together while discussing men – their subject of expertise, and remain thoughtful as they spoke about the fading memories of their lackluster childhood.

And now, after fifteen years of a life in skirts that paradoxically shouted happiness through large, bright flowers, she was waiting with her little box to leave. Meenakshi sighed, as she turned to face the villa for one last time. She was going back, back into the world that brought her into the villa. She had nothing particularly pleasant to take back and nothing particularly exciting to look forward to. As policemen swarmed around the place, Meenakshi walked towards the van with a blank look on her face.

Ironically, it was the deathly infection that had won her the prized ticket to her freedom.

26 comments:

Priya said...

so beautifully depicted, the life from innocence to a life of blank pain then back to freedom, the irony while availing freedom which will be leading to the eventual death...lovely... :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, This comment in unrelated to your post. I read your blog regularly...i want to know if you know of any creative writing courses - online or in bangalore..
If you do could you post a comment on the same here...
Thanks,
Poornima

Praveen G K said...

A very nice post indeed! "Deceptively Divine woman" - a very nice adjective. It is these little descriptions that make your blog really good to read!!!

Madhu said...

Aaah.. Brilliantly portrayed, Anu. Very good.

Sandhya Ramachandran said...

An absolutely brilliant post with an ending of equal brilliance to that of Saki's!

Loved the poignant simplicity and pain that threaded through the story!
:)

Sandhya Ramachandran said...

I meant "brilliance, equal to that of Saki's".

Pardon the error!
:)

Anupama Viswanathan said...

Priya, thank you! :) glad you liked this!

Poornima, I am sure you will be cursing me for this late reply, and to make matters worse , this is gonna be a pretty useless one! :(..There isn't any creative writing course (in Bangalore) that I know of..but I guess places like Landmark or Crossword can give you books on the same, if that's of some help to you!

Praveen, thank you! :)

Madhu, long time! welcome back and thanks a ton! :)

Sandhya, hahaha!! thanks! :) (and why pardon? I can imagine an excited girl typing away all that's running in her mind and landing up with something like that!! :D)

comfortably numb said...

Hi,

First time on ur blog...a truly beautifully written story...grt work!!!

Karthik said...

Awesome story !! Extremely well written !!

Renie said...

Hi, please add your blog to our new directory of Indian Blogs, thanks!

http://www.indiblogger.in

Harish said...

God...Y dont U write often????
It was like a lifetime explained beautifully...and sorrowfully...and artistically...

Amrita said...

Anu,

hope u remember me? how are u? and that was great story telling..i liked the way u narrated it and the choice of words-very poignant expressions, pointed too.

Anupama Viswanathan said...

Comfortably numb, that's a nice pen name..:)..thanks for your comment..!

Karthik, thanks! :)

Harish, glad you liked this post..I really wish I could write more often, but my health condition doesn't permit me to do so..Hope things get better as the days go by! :)

Amrita, hey! What a surprise? good to see you back..of course I remember you..I am doing good..How have u been?

HyperActiveX said...

Hello - I am about to get into a meeting so I don't have the time to read your blog in detail, but I intend to. I must say it looks very interesting. I liked your retort to Gloria Steinam / Irina Dunn's quote :) is that an original Anupama Viswanathan? If so, great! If not, could you please tell me the source? You could leave a comment on my blog
http://hyperactivexs.blogspot.com

Cheers!

HyperActiveX said...

What a wonderful short story! I marvel at your comfort with the language as evidenced in the ease with which words flow - smooth, sharp but not hard. Soft and sensitive. You're one Indian writer in English I would like to read! Have you attempted a novel? Am not familiar with your work.

praveen said...

Tats really a nice story....
Keep rocking :D

Anupama Viswanathan said...

Hello HyperactiveX, the answer to the fish-bicycle question is of course an original attempt! :) And am glad you liked this story. Thank you for your kind words. I haven't really tried writing a novel, but it is one of my biggest dreams! :)..keep visiting.

Praveen, thank you! :)

thinker-girl said...

simply beautiful. cruelly true

NIRMAL said...

Very nice writing

i liked the character names.it's very close to what u have depicted.

Nice post
An excellent short story

the cloud with the bronze lining said...

hey awesome wrk.. rock on n do visit my blog
http://harinip.blogspot.com/

Arunus Maximus said...

Beautifully written! You should be writing novels.. :o)

bansuri said...

hi!!

gorgeously gorgeous writing style! i'm lovin' it! =)

do keep writing, i'll be checking back often!

cheers

Prats said...

My first time i've stepped in here. A very well written story. So much of innocence and want in the depiction...

Arun Sundar said...

Nicely written story. But with no offense intended, I see some inspirations from "Memoirs of a Geisha".

First time here, but I'll visit back :)

Basically Blah said...

I knew you were a fabulous writer, but I had no idea you were a blogger/storyteller and such a brilliant one at that! I am really enjoying your posts and have sent the link on to other people who will enjoy it as much! :)

Anonymous said...

:-( :-( :-(
Reality stinks/hurts.
-Viji