ISBN: 978-93-5610-603-1 © Naina Kaur, 2022 First published in India 2022 by Leadstart Inkstate A brand of One Point Six Technologies Pvt. Ltd. 123, Building J2, Shram Seva Premises, Wadala Truck Terminal, Mumbai 400022, Maharashtra, INDIA Phone: +91 96999 33000 Email: [email protected]
www.leadstartcorp.com All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. All the names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents in this book are either the product of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Editor: Roona Ballachanda Cover: R. Maharaja Layouts: Kevis Tech
To all the mothers and their daughters and sons. To all the people who have lost someone but have locked them safely in memories. To Living a life without any regrets. To Love.
Author’s Note����������������������������������������������������������������������� 7 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11.
Like Mother, like Daughter ....................................... 9 An Unnecessary Kidnapping ................................... 19 The Songs of Life and Death ................................... 29 A Re-Visit ............................................................... 44 Not Your Everyday Priest......................................... 71 Losing a Mother, Losing a Daughter ....................... 79 The Blue Goddess and Her Moon ........................... 89 Lost and Found ..................................................... 103 Love and Left ........................................................ 118 An Immersed Memory .......................................... 135 The Letters ............................................................ 146
Acknowledgements ����������������������������������������������������������� 152 About the Author ������������������������������������������������������������� 153
The illustrations appearing at the start of every chapter have another story to tell. While writing the novel, the author always wondered ‘what could have been...’ if the characters of the story had an ideal life and an ideal morality to live by. Would they be happier? Would their lessons be any fewer? While time flows in the forward direction, let’s indulge ourselves in this ideal world! Parallel to the storyline of Vismriti, there is also the visual delight of the story, told via illustrations designed by the author herself.
Like Mother, like Daughter
omewhere in Mumbai, the phone rings constantly, echoing through the rooms of an apartment. Somewhere in North India, the receptionist holding the phone says starkly, ‘She will never pick up!’ ‘I know she won’t. I need to prove her wrong.’ The man standing next to him replies. The receptionist says, ‘Then this is a futile exercise! How can you prove a dead woman wrong?’ The man standing with him replies, ‘I can feel she is still here. Unfinished business you see. Plus, I never got to prove her wrong. This is my chance.’ ‘Hello!’ A sweet voice finally responds on the other side of the line. ‘Fuck, she picked up! What should I do?’ The receptionist whispers handing the phone over to the man standing next to him. 9
‘Hello! Who is this?’ The lady continues asking. The man takes the phone and finally musters the courage to talk, ‘Umm… is this Ira Sandhu?’ ‘Yes, this is she…’ ‘I am calling from the death lodge, to inform you that your mother died today and her last wish…’ Before he could finish the sentence, the sweet lady on the other side of the phone hangs up. ‘Beep…Beep…Beep…Beep…’ the monotone coming from the phone line irritates the man. He bangs the receiver down and takes a deep breath. ‘See…What did I tell you? She won’t come… even for her own mother’s funeral! I proved her wrong after all. But she isn’t even here to see it!’ Says the man, clearly disappointed by the sweet lady’s reaction. The receptionist concludes, ‘But you said she is still here.’ The man replies, ‘Yeah! But I cannot say it to her face that – I told you so!’ The receptionist looks at the entrance of the building. An old bulky man enters the building. ‘Look…Another customer!’ He says. The man standing next to him says, ‘Let me handle this.’ The old man looks around and comes towards the reception, He asks, ‘ I am here to see Noor’. The receptionist and the man lower their eyes in sadness, and asks the old man to follow them. A colonial building stands in the middle of a small noisy town somewhere in North India. The green mould gives a glaring competition to the green and beige walls of the
Like Mother, like Daughter
courtyard inside this building. The smell of cow dung mixed with the smell of camphor tingles the olfactory receptors of the residents of this lodge. A saffronite – not a hooligan or a politician, but a true wearer of the color saffron – sits under a divine tree chanting the sound of the universe. “Om….shanti shanti shanti…Om”. The early morning brews with a hint of, “Raam naam Satya hai,” – the sound of salvation, sprinkled on top. April 20, 2016 Varanasi Room no. 15. 04:35 A.M. I see a fragile little body of an old lady, eyes wide open, face upward, lying on a creaky old wooden bed – a bed older than it’s occupant.—A lot of men, women and whoever they identify themselves as, have occupied this bed having hoped and waited to come here before they die. Whoever dies in this building, is able to get out of this life cycle-‘MOKSHA’ as coined pretentiously by the elders. This isn’t a horror story, but it has ghosts. That ghost is me. I am a soul – an idea, a small amount of energy in this universe, and I am waiting here, to glide my way into heaven, or whatever that ‘after-death’ place is called. My memories are slowly being wiped clean, how do I know this? They come to me in bits and pieces. My name ‘was’ Noor Sandhu. I died because of loneliness. Maybe old age? Well, who is to say? After all I am just an old soul without a body. Somehow, I still feel emotions, and my emotions are having a heck of a ride! Mood swings even in death! And they said being a woman is easy, Can you believe that!
And yes, Chandu! I do hear you, even though you cannot say it to my face! Yet I hate to tell you, that I am not wrong! You see, destiny has a weird way of playing games. The one in which no one wins and no one loses, yet everyone has to participate and gets a consolation prize. I have a lot of time to wander about till my body is cremated and till my ashes become one with the river goddess – I seem to have forgotten the name of the goddess though. Fading memory, remember! Just to make it a little less haunting, let me switch to a third person point of view.
April 19, 2016 Mumbai 12:00 AM. “My phalse, Things are great here� I tell my friends about you whenever we sit around the holy tree in the courtyard� It is an Imlee tree� Did you know that the taste of the fruit tells about the health of a tree? The sourer the fruit, healthier the tree, sweeter the fruit and we know that the tree is going to fall apart any day� Isn’t it strange? The trees have always been giving, even in their death, they give us sweet sweet nectars to enjoy� I wish I were like that tree� I don’t have any fruits to give, or big treasures for you to inherit after I am gone� I am like a star who becomes a black hole in death, devouring everything in and around it self – even though it is a beautiful sight – but don’t know what is beyond that!
Like Mother, like Daughter
However, I do have something to tell you, but writing it all in a small letter that you might not read, would be too anticlimactic! You have always wanted to know about your father – and even though we have never spoken about it, I think you deserve to know your father� I regret nothing about meeting him, or having you, the only thing I do regret is not sharing what I was feeling, instead, letting it all pile up, until it made me a mother that you are not fond of� My days are soon going to be over� I can feel it in my bones� Writing to you has become a routine, and it gives me peace when my letters reach you instead of getting returned� I do not have the energy to write much� You took a vow, never to see my face until I die� Well could you break that vow just this time, and meet me before I die? So come see me one last time, even if it is to know who your father is� Treat this as my last wish� Still waiting for your ‘Kaleje wich Thand paan waali Gakki’ (A hug that gives respite from a burning hot summer’s wind) one last time� Noor maa�” The Blue words are written on handmade paper which smells like alcohol, oats and old people. There are blue blotches of a palm print which looks like an amoeba trying its best to evolve only to be held back by its parents! The lady is in her 30’s, with red streaked hair patting her shoulder blades, tied up with a piece of cloth. She puts
the letter back in the brown colored envelope with postage stamps put on it shabbily-the return address on it says, ‘ANTIM GANTAVYA’ Bhavan. She opens a drawer full of such letters, puts this one in it, and slams it shut. Her name is Ira Sandhu. “Only if all of it were true!” Ira murmurs to herself. A little plump 10 year old girl turns on the bed while half asleep and starts talking to Ira, “You do know people actually do not ‘think’ that loud. You should watch less of those T.V soaps! Take my Netflix password If you want” She quickly shuts her eyes and pretends to be asleep. Ira tip toes to her, and while tickling her, she says, “And little girls do not sleep with their spectacles on!” “I am not a little girl anymore,” she giggles as Ira removes her soda bottle spectacles and keeps it on the side table. She gets inside the blanket with her. Her tiny eyes sparkle like the northern star on a moonless night. “Was it Noor Maa?” Myra asks her mother. Ira nods slightly, and puts her ice cold feet on Myra’s back. Myra gives out a little shriek, “Don’t Mummy! I hate it when you do that!” They both snuggle, as Ira hums her favorite lullaby to Myra, scratching her back lightly. “Oh baarish��Tu jaldi aana�� Budhi ka baal sath laana… choti si nau me leke jaana�� Mumma meri jaldi aana�.”s ‘Oh rain…Come soon…Get sweet candies along with you… Take me in a small boat too… Oh please, my mother, come soon!’ The rain stops, and soon, dew drops glide down the huge French windows, racing each other to the bottom. The moon
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hides behind the thick black clouds, peeping down at the blue color dotting the circumference of this city. It is 04:35 A.M. The mothers and daughters sleep a good night’s sleep, as the night sky stays wide awake protecting and giving company to those who cannot sleep, and those who sleep their final sleep. The rain stops for the time being, pledging to return again, when the sun permits. Right now, it is the sun’s turn to brighten up the day, keeping the clouds close and playing hide and seek with them. The sun sure feels playful today. The nameplate outside a two and a half BHK reads I/MYRA SANDHU. Myra wakes up with the ‘tring…’ of a phone. “It is pancake day!” Myra yells from inside the bedroom, as Ira makes two sugar filled Parathas for her. The damp air makes it harder for the clothes to dry, due to which the clothes find themselves residing temporarily in the living room. It was raining constantly last night, and the roads in the low lying area of Sher-e-Punjab are already in-commutable. The roads look like they suffer from a chronic case of diarrhea and still no one gives a shit! Myra waters a dying phalsa plant, and talks to it, “I hope you get well soon.” She says. Myra was taught by her mother, that plants are just like humans. They have feelings, and they want validation. Just like humans, they start wilting when left alone. Four things that Plants need: 1) Water, 2) Sunlight, 3) Manure, 4) Love! She keeps the plant on the table that is placed at the border of an open kitchen where Ira is cooking. She wants the plant to never feel alone.
An emotionally charged tale of a dead woman Noor who waits for Moksha, a daughter Ira who has been forced to face her truths when she wants to forget them and an estranged lover Sameer whose memories have betrayed him. As conflicts arise in Ira’s consciousness, she is awoken to all the truths hidden under her convenient lies. Why doesn’t Noor strive harder to keep her love when she still had a chance? Why does Ira abandon her mother so? Decisions that seem right at the moment of occurrence may not feel so right in the future…so how do their decisions play out in the characters’ lives? As the characters swim in a sea created by their own emotions, only the strongest can breathe – the rest just float. Ira loses her dead mother’s body, Sameer loses his memories, and Noor loses her will. Forgetfulness is an art that the characters have mastered, however what is a man without his memories but a constellation in the sky?
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