Neil Must Die (Extract)

Posted: July 14, 2017 in For a thought....

Book II

Chapter 23

 

…. He slept on the eve of Mahalaya the way he would do on any other night — when he heard the knock.

A soft knock. He woke up startled thinking he was dreaming. And then he heard the knock again.

He stood up slightly wobbly from deep sleep and pulled down the latch. It was dark still. He opened the door. Tuli stood in a nightdress, smiling.

“Good morning!” she smiled.

Neil felt an initial emotion of ecstasy on seeing her. Then he felt irked at his own unshielded emotion.

“What d’you want?” he said groggily, impolitely.

“Won’t you listen to Mahalaya?” her smile had vanished. But she was still cheerful.

Neil waddled back to the bed. “Oh, God!” he said and threw himself onto the bed. He couldn’t deny the happiness inside him, soaring above all anger, on seeing her after a month. He closed his eyes and felt Tuli’s fingers run through his hair.

“I know you are angry… and jealous,” he heard her say. “And you must be wondering why I have become so serious, so sane. I’ll let you know one day… not now…” She stopped. He wondered what she was speaking about. She spoke like a matured adult. He lost his trail of thoughts in an instant dream. Then he heard her again. “Now wake up. See I’ve even got a transistor.” And she switched on the machine. The devotional surge filled the air.

He opened his eyes and tried to wake up. The hymns were dreamlike, permeating inside him to awaken him. For the first time in the 22 years of his life, he found he was listening to the lyrics of the Sanskrit chants and trying to comprehend their meaning. He turned over on his back and cocked his head to look at Tuli. The room was dark baring the dim bulb lit outside his room. At the reflected hue he could see she was somber and preoccupied with something. She looked out of the window into the darkness, that was now slowly blending into dawn.

He wanted to freeze the picture into a frame of eternity and told himself, “This is the happiest moment of my life”. As if she heard him saying that, and turned to smile at him. His lips were parched, but he smiled back.

“You’ve become quite a bouma, huh? Responsible and all that?”

She smiled and looked away. Neil said, “Everyone’s raving about you.”

She cast her eyes down. “You only asked me to stay away from you. And when I did that, you went mad? Jealous?” She looked at him.

He looked at her for a moment and said, “I wanted it, and you did it?”

“Of course.”

He turned to his side and wound his hands around her waist.

“Isn’t Dada awake?”

She shook her head.

“Won’t he listen to Mahalaya?”

She looked at him and ran her fingers through his hair, “What do you think? Will he?”

Neil buried his face in her lap and said groggily. “And I was happily sleeping thinking that at last you were gone and I was a free man — and you had to wake me up.”

The songs and hymns were reaching the climax. The intensity of the emotion wrenched out from the electronic device into their souls and they found themselves silent. As if a voyage was underway; they held their hands and moved towards a haloed resplendence, an existence with no dimension, guided by the devotional inundation as the only witness.

A crow cawed hesitantly, breaking the spell. Another. And then another. Neil looked up and then sat up. He suddenly didn’t want to let go of this moment. He wound one hand around her neck and with the other — he cupped her face and made her look at him. She looked at him, a little questioningly. He tilted his head and kissed her lightly on her lips. Then he smiled and said very softly, “Let’s run away…”

She broke into a smile and hugged him. The next instant she went stiff and released him slowly. He looked at her bewildered. Her face was a horror as she looked at the doorway. He jerked his head around.

Soumen was standing at the door.

(Neil Must Die now available on Amazon, India)NMD Katoa chhad

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