By Des Raj Kali
Translation by NEETI SINGH
In every house there lives a buddhi rooh – old female spirit. Her white tresses – hoary and dishevelled. Gleaming in the lines of her face, red eyes with threads. Ears torn. Earrings dangling at the edge. Her visage, sometimes wilted, lacklustre, and sometimes fresh as morning dew. Not the spirit, but the body, the hag’s body perhaps dwells in here. Like a toy with a winding key. ‘Tarr-tarr’. Just continues to speak. What you speak, neither you know nor the one who is listening; yes gradually in the listener’s mind, cacophony begins to collect and fester. “These people cannot manage anything. What will they do. We the damned and old, of what use are we now. We do not even remember. Even basic bread is denied us. If we go to other people’s homes they feel embarrassed. What will others say. That we lack even the crumbs of shame. Days of winter, you’ll catch a cold…. Bawaasir/constipation has troubled me no end. I’m now ripe with despair. The isabgol* powder, I don’t know where I kept it. Since last night I can’t find it. Now if the stomach clears, then alone will the bawaasir go. Once the bawaasir dissipates, it will bring some relief to the haemorrhoids. Who will explain all this to them.”
The listener’s blood rises in a boil all across the body and clambers up to the brain. ‘phooN phooN….’. Through the nasal tract such sounds emerge and emit. Thoughts in the brain like green peas in boiling water dance a jig. Like girls that are stupid and disorderly, or say like a bull that is enraged. No, in fact like an enraged, poisonous cobra. ‘PhooN phooN!’ All sorts of sounds begin to sputter. In the rajjaai [comforter] the face and head will get wrapped. ‘Tarr Tarr,’ like a hammer it will continue to ring in the ears. ‘Tarr-Tarr!’ Ayurvedic roots of guggal, lubaan and mushakpoor will char and release fumes. She would then have begun to give tuHni – fumigation. That is why I say, she cannot be a rooh, a spirit. It certainly is body. Inspite of the fact that the fumigation drives us, the rest of the family, berserk. She is least concerned. She only concentrates on the treatment of bawaasir.
Nothing seeps down her brain. Her brain, it seems has congealed. Her rooh too is congealed rock. Soul she does not have at all. Though from time to time the rooh does peer through her eyes. Sometimes it peers from the face too. One does not suspect without reason. There is a body. That too of rock. Poker faced. No, the bugger is manoor – an ill baked brick, defective and discarded. With spiked edges. It neither grows nor swells. Perchance someone were to run into it, they would be torn asunder.
The reek from the fumigator has crept up the nostrils. Strange odour, this. Bloody what kind of remedy/cure is this. Giving tuHni/fumigation to the constipated piles? Very comfortably she props herself, cross legged upon that iron chair whose seat, like the potty box chair for kids, has been cut round at the centre. Bloody hell, what all might the craftsman have thought? At the time of illness this very chair was used by her for defecating. Now that she has begun to move around it is being used to fumigate her bawaasir and her hemorrhoids. Eventually she developed an attachment for the chair. She would keep cleaning it. Place it in the sun. Share her woes and wellbeing with it. ‘You alone are my support in this old age. Otherwise there is no one left that will care for me. May God not give such old age to any human. May He summon them all to Him!’ But at night if a dog howls, more than the dog it is she that does not allow us to sleep.
I too am held ransom by god knows what kind of illness. Without a drink at night, sleep just will not assail me. At daybreak I spring awake. In the shadow of alcohol when does a man sleep. One merely slips into stupor. When perchance, slumber does begin to seep, the old crone decides to clamber up above me. How many times have I resolved to install an English commode in the latrine down stairs – it would end the daily fuss. But what to do, the required rupees just do not collect. The house expense itself grates a very salad out of me. Also, there are times when the money spent on liquor smarts… Sleep just will not descend, what is one supposed to do.
Bloody money problem is dogshit. It spares nobody. Each one of us gets trapped in its clasp. Close relatives forget to remember us. Forget to mix and mingle. Don’t know what the mindset transforms into. Now consider my own father. Till date he refers to himself as SaaN-ee, a title used by a sage or a sant. He talks of darveshs and sufi mytics. Harps on the essence of life and says, ‘If you find it be grateful, if not then hang on to fortitude. Ride each moment on the back of gratitude. If intense rage assails you, shrink its size from large to miniscule**’. However, whenever he spoke to me, he would drop the middle part of the sentence. A live wire runs through and singes my heart. Let not this addiction to money puff you with pride, brother. Matters of money are sheer dogshit.
*Isabgol: Psyllium husk. Packaged under the brand name of Isabgol it is popularly used in India to bring relief from constipation. It is usually ingested at night mixed in a glass of warm water or warm milk.
**the Darvesh have a saying about anger management. They suggest that if a person is in the grip of anger, he/she should attempt to reduce its weight from 40 kilos to a mere 12 grams.