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Serial || Cross Eyed Sleep (Part 5) (Siddharth Pathak)

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Initiated to a life of violence and crime at an early age, David Mondal has worked his way up from being a pickpocket to a professional assassin. David escapes the accidental revelations of the doctor in the train who kept coming close to randomly pinpoint his real identity of a killer for hire and takes refuge in a chosen hotel where he checks the identity of his target in Mumbai and is dumbfounded to discover that his imminent victim, Anita Bakshi is a teenage girl who happens to be a spitting image of the girl he had deflowered by force when David himself was only a teenager. Later, he orders a young, college-going escort. David takes her from the back when she is passed out drunk , after photographing the sleeping college girl extensively during which he zeroes in on the modus operandi for his forthcoming task. David takes the decision to shoot Anita Bakshi dead.


Art: Jagannath Chakravarti

P A R T    T W O

POISE

It is difficult to remain erect, spine held up in pride, when the straps of your bra cut upon the tender flesh of your neck and shoulders. A teardrop never escapes unnoticed in a girls’ school, but it can be as easily misinterpreted as a drop of sweat in the sweltering April heat over the assembly grounds of Anita’s convent school in Navi Mumbai.

The headmistress stands on the raised podium before the girls, quoting from Mark in an excruciatingly slow tenor and speed. She regularly does so for the sake of her students, whom she thinks very little of. She has tried and failed to introduce Jesus to their overcrowded hearts filled with cellphones and boys and make-up and film stars and heaven knows what else!

An opinion that Anita shares with most of her classmates is that none of the kind sisters were really kind to begin with and they were bothered far too little about them. They cared all right when it came to their own skins, choosing to rip into their students’ just to please the concerned parents who had sent their bad seeds to this purgatory for divine absolution.

Anita’s had been a case that was forged in pink for the happy ending of a Cinderella story. The tragedy of a dead mother, a remarrying father and a violent stepmom were recipes for the perfect fairy tale, she knew. And yet she feels claustrophobic on days like these, the small brassiere merely being an effect rather than the cause of the same.

After all, she wore the damned thing this morning to feel sexy. Anita knew that a little discomfort was on the cards but it mattered little since she would be visiting the upscale coffee parlour at the end of the lane behind her school at the setting of the sun, meeting a moony fellow she had shared a joint with, during a rock concert last month.

Anita does not look 14 and she was no way admitting her true age to the dreamy eyed boy who had recently started working for an IT company in Mumbai. He was single, had recently relocated to the city from Kolkata and officially asked Anita out a week ago, after several sleepless nights of chatting over text messages.

Anita is yet to reveal her age to Jayanta Bagchi but she does not plan to do so today. She will obviously transform post school hours, the cropped top underneath her shirt serving as the stunner and a beige wraparound, presently tucked in her school bag, will replace the grey skirt that is her prison uniform.

The concert had been the gift of the same fairy godmother who had blessed her this morning with the small bra that is now cutting painfully into her skin.

Didi is at least a size smaller than Anita is, even though they share a considerable difference in age. While Anita is well endowed, didi is the personification of the quintessential Indian beauty, her slender waist, luscious legs, pale skin and large eyes forged off an erotic dream.

Frustratingly enough, didi somehow thinks that Anita is way more beautiful than she can ever be. Anita rebukes her for the obvious lies, but blushes all the same. She may not be as pale as Didi but has a glowing skin which turns a shade of crimson that doesn’t escape didi’s intruding eyes, who goes on to playfully pull her cheeks, or, if the mood permits, one of her nipples to get a reaction out of the blossoming teenager.

As the headmistress finally ends her morning sermon, the caterpillar lines of girls are whisked off to their respective classes in a neat queue, aided by agents of divinity in school garbs, the volunteer captains that are bent on lording over the other girls, never giving up an opportunity to impose their will on a smaller woman they might think less of.

Anita remembers being ridiculed for admitting to be a virgin back when she joined this helljoint last summer. Even as these didis hung closely to every mention of the Virgin Mary that came out of the Sisters’ holy holes, she was castigated for her lack of experience at 13 and a half.

How dumb is it of those bigger, supposedly smarter girls to tease her for not being with a boy! They did not look like they had been with one either, with their coarse attitudes and all but Anita knew better than to pick a fight with older girls on her very first day of reformation.

Like Cinderella, Anita had been set a stint of tragedy that, logically, could only pave the way for a very happy ending. Her misfortunes, like Cinderella, began with the death of her mother.

Even as the script faithfully incorporated the wrath of the vengeful stepmom, she came with no sickening step-sisters for Anita. In a world bereft of magic, Anita instead, received the gift of an unheard-of didi that came from the far east, an emissary of her lost mother who was welcomed with open arms by Anita’s unfortunate father.

Sadhudidi is Anita’s cousin, the daughter of her mother’s sister. Their maternal bond comes into play when they team up to protest the shenanigans of Anita’s evil stepmother. They conspire, confess, confide in each to survive the ordeal they face for being the women that they are.

Woman seems to be a woman’s greatest nemesis; the perpetual presence of the stepmother who had no intention of adopting Anita as her own in the first place & the overwhelming reality of girls her age doing everything in their power to suppress one another has convinced Anita of that unfortunate snippet of truth. Sadhu didi thus turning out to be a strip of land that surfaces as if pure magic, the newly formed breasts of a land grabbing river who finally decides to give a little something back.

Could there be any better role model than Anita’s beloved Sadhu didi? Sure she had more habits than one which would have made Anita’s deceased mother turn the deep crimson of her favourite Saree, didi would resonate her dead mausi’s insistence that Anita grow up fearless, an independent woman who would not require a man to validate her existence.

Whereas mother, a housewife, would reiterate that independence was a state of mind rather than a lifestyle choice, Sadhu didi believes that hard-earned material wealth is what can truly emancipate a woman. Economic dependancy being the keywords when it came to the oppressor’s power over a woman, Sadhu didi was investing her time and effort into building a fortress of ‘indepedence’ that would be a concrete manifestation of the state of mind that Anita’s mother would refer to as ‘independence’.

Anita preferred and found it easier to relate to the corporeal expressions of independence that appeared so important to Sadhu didi’s process. Whereas mother would berate father over his drinking, intoxicants were as potent a tool as money itself when it came to the assertion of the independent woman, according to Sadhu didi.

Thus Anita would spend sleepless nights, chatting and grinding the ‘good stuff’ with her sister in their little big room that was actually the refurbished attic of the house. The dysfunctional  couple of the household inhabiting the lower floor, Anita and Sadhu didi would smoke up throughout the night, speaking of make up and androgynous Gods of lore, musing over stepmotherly treatment as well as the felicity of love – the divine union that resulted in universes: creation itself.

Her wisdom a simple part of everyman’s soul, Sadhu didi was as humble as the innocent who was acutely comfortable with having no ‘sense’, ironically giving in to the only condition the universe demanded for the access of true knowledge.

Humility she had with an effusive sense of pride. Anita would be in awe, every second that she would share with her fairy Godmother, at the way she would co-exhibit humility, pride as well as an abject sense of shame as, in a marked attempt at liberation, she would rent away her body to paying men to have sex with. It was something Anita felt caused her dear Sadhu didi great pain. It was, to Anita, the finest way for a woman to assert her newfound independence.

    [To be continued]


First Published in Issue #5 of CultureCult Magazine (Summer 2016)

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