by Prashil Kumar
“The spirit lives on. It never perishes”. This is what my father told me and my sister back in the village. My spirit will deliver this letter to you. With over I billion followers and Janmashtmi round the corner, you will have a lot more people paying you attention these days. I understand it will be hard for you to sit down with me and listen to what I have to say. That is why I write to you.
Sex is a new phenomenon for me. Months ago, an outdated raunchy magazine with page creases was passed on to me from my village school friends. A gori ma’am made me hard for almost two months. She had sublimely wrapped her immaculate peach coloured fingers and even longer fingernails which adorned a petal like design around a “six inch”, shockingly fair circumcised phallus. Her straight edged face with light brown Barbie like eyebrows and a fringe of blonde covering her left bluish eye left me speechless. “Nicole” working her hands would float in my head on most nights until I would fall asleep. I was actually taught to remember you and chant your mantra before sleeping. Sorry but I found her more exciting and ignored you. Just the way my relatives shower more attention toward you and ignore us all the time. Most of their attention is on the celebration of various festivals which arrive one after the other all year round. Festivals keep them full of activity. They are so busy that it does not make a difference to them how my sister keeps me fed.
Every morning I see my sister’s light brown slender hands knead the dough. The two lightweight 9 carat gold bangles in my sister’s right hand which once belonged to my grandmother jolt onto each other without any sound. The hands subsequently endure the heat of the charcoal black tawa pan to bake rotis topped up with ghee for my breakfast and dinner. I had okra and roti for dinner this evening before following my sister. When I got back home I ended up decorating my wash basin with it. I just could not hold myself back. I guess I got shaken up a bit from the inside. And why wouldn’t I? My sister has attended to various important instances of my life. I can remember my sister would hold me up for leverage to get onto the horseback so that I could cross the river to reach school each day. Her hands fed me morsels and tapped me to sleep when I was around ten years old and missed my deceased mother over a fight with my father for a new bicycle.
I hear you had a sister as well. Not only that but you made sure Draupadi’s honour stayed intact when people tried to strip her naked by miraculously supplying yards of sari so that her body stayed covered. That makes me ask you what the difference between Draupadi and my sister’s honour is. Do I really have no choice as a brother but to watch my sister sacrifice her honour daily so that I can have three meals a day? Talking about someone letting go of their clothes reminds me of Nicole. Now I understand maybe Nicole had not only used her hands in the photo shoot but also to knead dough each day for a younger one whom she loved and cherished. Perhaps the need for dough forced her to the magazine. And the magazine was supposed to leave its viewers with a hard on as my friends had mentioned.
Apparently I have an entire village of relatives I can speak to. But I have to carefully pick what I speak to them about. I just cannot say anything. I am taking my chances with you. I don’t think you will mind. As children we were taught that our respect toward others comes first even if that means not being able to speak our heart out. Staying silent is the norm everyone follows because it reflects respect. Discussing and deliberating on issues collectively is thought of as making ruckus. It is frowned upon. A simple no. My father knew this too well even as he rested on his death bed.
One afternoon, after paying a visit to my sister in the city my father drowned himself in gin and rainwater. I did not quite understand the urge he had that day. When he had finished the entire 750 ml long neck glass bottle labelled “Regal” he started sipping on gramoxone he kept for spraying in his fields. My father struggled in pain in front of me but he did not utter a word. He left me to marvel about his suicidal departure. I still have clear memories of the chunks of flesh, clots of blood and never ending drool my father had lain in at the public hospital before he left me for good. I guess his time was up. He had to leave. My only sibling who is five years older than I am arrived from Suva and without much discussion brought me to live in a totally new place.
Suva city has buildings which rise high, spread wide, have glass entrances, gigantic chimneys on never-ending roofs and what not. There is even a building with high rise concrete fences and looking completely locked up. They say it is a prison where bad people stay. I wonder what kind of bad. Because your innocent father himself was locked up while the bad one was keeping him there. Anyways, in one street you get to see expensive designer homes of various shapes and sizes and colours. After passing a couple of streets the homes are uncomfortably close to each other, falling into bits and pieces with litter scattered here and there. I have seen most of it for the very first time in my 14 years of life. My village where I departed from two weeks ago primarily has houses with corrugated iron walls and roof. All houses are well spread from each other and although may not have exciting designs but is presentable and reflects the entire village as a wholly unified community. As for litter, we never once thought where our garbage disappeared to. I live in a new home now on a street only half a kilometre away from the city centre. My home is a one bedroom apartment which has a second hand single bed on which I get to sleep on. I pretty well know my sister pays the price for being five years my senior. She gets a squeaky couch in the living room with a wobbly leg. It is not that I did not offer the bed. She refused frankly. I cannot fuss. We respect elders, do not talk back and don’t ask too many questions even if we are unsure.
So I simply followed her to work this evening which was only a couple minutes walk from our apartment. The waist high wooden fences with arrow shaped tops bordering the two storey building she had entered into was not only crisply painted but also wrapped around with flickering lights. I did not know fences stood any chance to be decorated let alone painted. I remember our lean, agile hands working enthusiastically in the construction of fences numerous times. We helped our father plant recently chopped wood sticks and then nail three or four lines of barbed wire for keeping cows and goats away from harvests and flowering plants. Flickering lights and oil lamps made of cotton wicks were only used once a year in our courtyard on Diwali to see our home twinkle beneath the moonless night. That was pretty much it for us in the village. But that building fences was just a starting point.
Further into the premises in the middle of the lawn just before the entrance to the building were four high-powered floodlights shooting their beam into the centre of a bulky concrete. The bulky concrete was in the shape of a wide round flower vase which spewed glistening water upwards toward space. Water leaving its universal course of travel horizontal to the ground as it did in the shallow creek close to my village home and firing upwards from a concrete base is plainly out of this world for me. I and my sister used to spend entire humid days basking in that shallow creek. Do you know it was one of those days when we were building a little stone and wood dam that I noticed her left pinkie finger had a bit of extra bone sticking out just below the nail which made the entire finger appear crooked if one looked closely enough.
I nearly forgot to mention the floodlights. They together threw an immense amount of radiance which I believe is sufficient to lighten most of the village homes. Electricity is a luxury in my village. With drops of heavy rainfall it vanishes entirely without notice. It becomes such a pain. But I don’t complain. Life’s most beautiful moments illuminate in the power blackout darkness. I have spent endless nights learning algebra from my sister aided by candle lights. I would see the burning candle glow in her light brown pupils. Having dinner aided by a kerosene lamp sitting by the window of our kitchen adjoining our home and overlooking the shallow creek only metres away while also feeling the cool breeze on our faces which originated from it is just unforgettable. Maybe that is why candles and kerosene lamps are still treasured by rural families and their dim lights still bowed to with joined palms.
Let me mention yet another breathtaking feature of the building. A serene music played harmoniously from inside the building. It floated pleasantly all the way to my ears. I must say the beat was damn clear. Radio signals in the interior highland villages often fall on the weaker side of the frequency range. Stations on battery operated radio devices which I am accustomed to usually have background fragments of disfiguration. Nonetheless, on rainy days I with my sister would sing along to cult bollywood hits without even paying the slightest attention to the quality of sound. She would dance away sometimes with her rather flexible hands hovering and making graceful patterns in the air near her shoulders and head.
The entrance appeared to welcome me with open arms. I was about to enter when a plump arm grabbed me by the collar. Out of nowhere. It pulled me aside further away from the entrance. I froze. I perspired. I threw my gaze around. I asked if a celebration is on in my politest tone. “Red light area”, was the stern reply. I gathered my courage and proudly confessed that the lights were indeed bright and breathtaking but there was absolutely no shade of red worth mentioning about.
Eventually, armed with what the magazine had shown me about intercourse and what the guy was frantically trying to tell me I made sense about the paradise like building I was about to enter. The guy with the chubby hands left a stunned me alone with my thoughts and vanished into the night. But the night was far from over. As I turned to leave another hand touched me from the back. This time the touch was delicate. It rested affectionately on my right shoulder as if urging me to turn. My instincts told me the hand on my shoulder was somewhat familiar. The instruction was for me to go home. As usual I obeyed. We never talk back to our elders. And she was five years older.