Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Last Parlour

“The Last Parlour”, reads the board at the entrance to the room. For someone who has never been to a real parlour all her life, it seems a paradox of sorts that a parlour should be the last place I should visit! I float alongside myself as they wheel me into the room. It feels strange that what had been a single identity a few hours ago, has split into two now. One is me, who is lying motionless on the stretcher and the other is me who is floating with myself. Did that confuse you or did you find that funny? I thought that was funny. But I never thought I was capable of saying such silly things, or laugh at my own jokes! Maybe situations such as these bring out your funny side! Again, it’s a pity I had to wait this long to bring out that side of me.

Someone, probably a ward boy, fishes out a tag that says ‘1729’ and slips it on my left toe. There are two more people accompanying us, perhaps helpers. From the stretcher that has been my bed until now, they lift and park me in the cold storage of the morgue. It amuses me to think how I, who had been Ratna, until a few hours ago, have suddenly been elevated to the status of a ‘body’, and now, I am a mere number.

The ACs in the room tells me I’m supposed to be feeling cold, but I am not. And I’m sure the ‘me’ who is lying inside that huge chest isn’t feeling cold either. That way, I have hated ACs all my life. The men are speaking to someone outside – ah, my daughter. I can tell she’s weeping, and I’m supposed to feel bad that she is upset, but I don’t. She’s waking towards the chest and one of the men pull it out. My daughter looks at my lifeless body and caresses my face. More tears run down her cheeks, and I know I should want to wipe them, but I don’t. I just look. And then, they all walk out, locking the door, leaving me alone with myself.

I want to look at myself now. It’s strange, I have never looked at myself from outside. No, I realise that that’s not entirely true, I have. I have looked at myself in the mirror before, but what I see now is different. I don’t even have to pull the chest out, I can just slide in, but look at the irony, the door to my body is closed. I cannot enter it again. How often have I wasted time trying to open shut doors not bothering about entering the one that was always open. And now try as I might, this door that was always open, is closed and funnily enough all other doors are open and I no longer care about entering them.

I look at myself and wonder if this is really me? I observe the black marks under my eyes and think of all the sleepless nights I’ve spent worrying. I realise how futile that was. I look at my ears - the golden studs are gone. Those were my favourite. How did I even think, I would be able to take them along? I look at my nose – they are wide, visible signs of a tube having fed me all these days. The upturned nose, no longer so. In the end, all it served was to feed me - food, not my ego.

The night passes quickly than I anticipate. The door opens again and this time there’s a stream of visitors. They’ve all come to see me – the me, that’s inside the chest. They look, they weep, they speak comforting words to my daughter, they tell her what a wonderful person I was. I wish they’d said that to me when I was still alive. But again, I don’t think I have said that to any person who was alive either. See? I’m being funny again. Their affection wants me to feel happy, but I can’t. I just look. I float about, looking at people, unable to feel their pain.

Again, it’s time for me to move. People shift me from the chest to the stretcher and then to a van. I float in, hovering above myself. There’s more crying. Many people leave, bidding me goodbye. Some accompany me.

We reach someplace and they shift me from the van to pyre. Moments later, I can see myself burning, but that sight doesn’t move me. Slowly, they leave, one by one. At last, my daughter leaves too. I realise that this is the farthest they can accompany me. I’m on my own now. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do next. I just watch the embers glow golden and keep watching till they turn red and finally grey. 

One of my identities is gone. I remain.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Book Review: His Drunken Wife by Sundari Venkatraman

The Plot:
It is said, that the greatest gift you can give someone is that of unconditional love and acceptance. This probably sums up the plot of Sundari Venkatraman’s second novella in the Marriages Made in India series, ‘His Drunken Wife’.   

The story:
The story revolves around Abhimanyu and Shikha, characters who we get a brief glimpse of in Sundari’s previous novel. Opposite poles Abhimanyu and Shikha are bound together in a marriage. What is merely an association of convenience for Shikha, is a bond of love for Abhi. He is perfection personified and she’s your wayward girl. The story traces how their paths come together and how Abhi gives her unconditional love and support, helping her overcome her fears and addiction, in spite of her couldn’t-care-less-attitude towards him and the marriage. What’s troubling Shikha? Why can she not bring herself to trust Abhi? How does Abhi manage to win her over? You will have to read the book to know more.

What I liked:
The story is very different from the fairy tale romances that Sundari is known to weave. As the title of the book implies, it touches upon the important aspect of addiction and how it can consume someone’s life completely. It also talks about how unconditional love is very important to help a loved one cope with addictions such as alcoholism. Abhimanyu as the endearing and patient husband is adorable and Shikha as the brash, drunken wife manages to elicit our empathy once we know why she is in such a miserable place.

What I would have liked:
I would have liked to know Abhi a little more in terms of why he is so obsessed with Shikha in spite of her not reciprocating his feelings, like what went into making Abhi the soft, understanding person that he is, his emotions when he is constantly rejected by her, etc. I would also have liked Abhi to have some flaws because it is very rare that someone can be so perfect.

Final words:
This book is sizzling hot in terms of the number of steamy scenes it has. The intimate scenes between the couple are vivid and sensuously described. In fact, I think this book is a notch higher in sensuality as compared to Sundari’s other books. Perfect for cozying up in the winters, His Drunken Wife, is a fast paced read. It’s a book that is in sync with the times because there are a lot of women who have unwittingly or willingly become victims of addictions and substance abuse even in a supposedly conservative country like India.
If you are looking for a quick, romantic read, this book is for you. 

The Blurb:
The badass Shikha is startled when the nerdy Abhimanyu proposes marriage. She loves... herself, and Abhimanyu doesn't figure on her list anywhere. For Abhimanyu, however, it was love at first sight when Shikha walked into RS Software, where the two of them work.

When Abhimanyu shows her that he just might be rich enough for her, a pleasantly surprised Shikha accepts his marriage proposal and moves into his swanky apartment. 

But it looks like the love is all from only Abhi’s side as Shikha continues to drink herself crazy. Yeah, even at their wedding party.

And then Abhi sets out on a honeymoon to Thailand with His Drunken Wife... 

*MARRIAGES MADE IN INDIA is a five-novella series that revolves around the characters you have met in The Runaway Bridegroom.

Title: His Drunken Wife
Author: Sundari Venkatraman
No of pages: 101
Genre: Romance

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