Sunday, March 15, 2009

Krishno - V

Krishno felt it on the tips of his fingers, and in the chill of his bones. The exhilaration of watching a plot play out just the way it was written was miraculous. It coursed through every sinew, and caused your being to shudder. It turned your age on its head. And Krishno'd been addicted to this thrill for as long as he could remember.

Krishno'd had an exciting life by all counts. Every measure of it was fantastical. Each happening was a confluence of so many fates, so many destinies, that Krishno himself didn't believe a life, any life, could play out like this. He used to love to pick a frame from the movie of his life and live it anew, again and again..but even this, like him, had begun to grow old.

As he stared across the canyon, hair and beard white from his journey across geographies and time, he felt a weariness. For all the thrills of the ride, his puppeteering had taken its toll over the years. Such contrivance, all those expedients...all that plotting. He'd begun to feel a detachment from himself. This, he realised, was where he'd wanted to go all along. This prime spectator's view. No longer just the player, now he was becoming the ghost that straddled the end of the stage, loosening the rivets from his actor's body and coalescing into the seats, front and center. It was soon going to be time to bring down the curtains.

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.

Her Girl's Hostel was a loose place. "Hostel" was an especially kind euphemism. Some had plied their trade there uninterrupted for decades, so "Girl's" was stretching it too. It hurt Asma's scalp to pull her hair back that tight, but she liked the look. The streets demanded it, she'd smile to herself. She had learnt the art of makeup quickly, and spent much of her money on the best products. Krishno later chronicled how one of her young clients was a hindustani who went back to India and became a famous film producer. Apparently, it was this young man who years later insisted Asha Parekh kajol her eyes the way he remembered it on an unnamed girl in an unnamed city.

Krishno, now a second officer, would be commissioned to sea for three months at a stretch. When he docked, he'd head straight to that seedy underbelly of the city, that heaven on earth. He'd take a woman before he met with Asma. No, her he'd love slowly through the night, but these others, they were just grinding stones to blunt the edge off him after three dry months on the water.

Asma hurried home early that night. She had simply gone through the motions during the day, waiting for it to end but her clients tipped her lavishly. Each felt he was the reason she was glowing.

Once home, she found Krishno on the bed, face buried in her pillow and lost to the world. She didn't care if he was tired from the sea or from the women, she was comforted just seeing him. She wouldn't wake him till the morning.

Krishno brought Asma home the night the ship capsized. She didn't speak a word for a week, and he couldn't tell if it was the shock or if she was mute. He fed her and left her indoors by day, while he went to train at the docks. In the evening, when he returned, she'd still be by the window he left her at in the morning. One morning, as he was about to leave the house, he heard her cry out sharply. He ran back up and found her hopping on one foot at the top of the stairs. She had stubbed her toe , rushing to the stairwell to watch Krishno leave. They looked at each other, she hopping, he not so much, and they broke into a laugh.

Four years later, Asma had her back to Krishno as he slept. She asked herself everyday if she was happy, if this independence she had was worth the price of separation from family, from the charted life she'd left behind in Dhaka. Not today though. She decided she didn't want to hear the answer tonight. She'd take solace in Krishno's sleeping form. Let him sleep. Let him not wake. She could dream about how her life would take flight from that point on. If the bastard woke, he'd just drag her back to reality.

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