A New Hemisphere
She is in that room with a dividing wall, there is no door to divide it into two separate inviolate rooms. And yet she thinks of the room in terms of two compartments, just like her two divided selves, one provincial and insular in its awareness of past things and people and the other always struggling to shed some of those idiosyncrasies through some vague small pretences.
It has not been easy; his death circumscribed her world within the nuclei of two rooms, it polarized her into two halves, irreparably divided like the two hemispheres of the globe. And while those hemispheres have something to hold them together, she has none. So she is breaking down into some more unaccountable hemispheres everyday.
She was not prepared when that division set in suddenly on that night in May. A cold matter-of-fact voice had said to her “You can collect his body from that No. 36 slot in the morgue”. Someone took away his body and she had stood looking at that vacant lot in the morgue where his body was, a moment ago. And then it quietly prepared her for many other vacant lots that crept in slowly, so certainly around her - on their large mahogany bed, on his soft broad pillow. She still kept his clothes hanging them on the clothesline in disarray, just as he had and the past, like his body odour hung firmly on them.
She closes the window with a click. The latch is broken, rusted at many places. She had told him so many times to mend it, but like most of the things in his life he left it unfinished undone. Their two sons are not yet men enough to handle matters single handedly; the blueprint of their house is still a half sketch lying somewhere in a drawer. She sighs and wonders - “How will I contend with so many disappointments alone?”
She has no answer.
A light breeze rustles the curtain. She hears the faint beating of some distant drums ...dhoom dhooma dhoom dhoom… She wants to shut off that sound. They return her suddenly to some other drumbeat in some other time; a sound such as this had once stirred a rush in her bloodstream when she had first met him. She had not said much in that first meeting only those drums did her talking. Those drums knew what she was to say to him! But did he too feel that necessary thing in the middle of his own senseless chatter? She did not find out because it had rained suddenly as they both stood on the pavement. The rainwater sprayed their hands and faces, here and there at first and then almost everywhere. It was their first baptism by water together.
The drums have stopped. She hears a different sound, the wild chatter of some young girls. She pulls aside the curtain and looks outside - four young girls are running in circles, hand in hand, in the middle of the road wearing a red half moon-shaped vermilion patch on their foreheads. One patch is large rather indiscriminately drawn and another is somewhat non-descript smudged while two other foreheads are clearly smeared with red rice grains – the blessed colour is borne on four foreheads. The girls suddenly laugh shrieking and then run away; a raw laughter mocking her wounds. His going meant the going away of so many other things metamorphosed into a body half-exhumed living though not quite living, making her only a mere pretence of living. And this pretence is her only subterfuge to face so many absences, absence of a man, colour, sound etc. etc. etc.
She looks at the soft broad pillow on the bed; his once – slept pillow. “Will he ever sleep on them?” the thought comes and then clarity suddenly arrives with it. She did not until then to think only of her own existence. The rest of the world has always been going apace happily, while she has kept herself rooted only in one misery. She must shed it forget it because those accumulating memoirs of that past did not let her be free. She says to herself. “I must be in some other place, a new hemisphere where this past will not bother me. I must do something!”
Next day she passes hours watching the planks of wood being sawed nailed and made into a thick strong door. And when that door is finally fixed between the two rooms, she breathes easily. She shuts the door turns the key firmly inside the lock and throws it outside. The large mahogany bed, that soft broad pillow, the worktable with slips of unpaid bills scattered upon it and that clothesline with the odour still hanging on it – all those things belonging to him are finally locked behind an inscrutable door.
This is her first step towards a truth without pretences vague or small.
She opens the window wide very wide and lets in a sound. It reverberates through her into the room ……dhoom, dhooma, dhoom, dhoom, a new different beat. She has never heard it. A new sound has arrived and other new things are not too far from her. She is certain.
She sits down on the floor trembling on that new hemisphere, and then she feels them arriving one by one a face a colour, etc. etc…