They were on an imaginary lake of love. She said softly: ‘I am surrendering myself to you.’
She looked at him lying on his side on the bed, his head propped up with one hand. A look that could never be satiated—her eyes drank him in scoops. She went and sat beside him. Her movements and attitude were that of a sweet seventeen-year-old girl.
Observing her manner and expression he said:
‘It is rather intriguing to me even now. You used to shoo me off when I tried to court you.’
Though very close to her on the bed, he was sitting apart without touching her. She moved towards his back. Rubbing her face against his hair, she gently nibbled at his earlobe, when his romantic soul trembled a bit. Then her teeth and lips started teasing his firm muscles. Immersing herself in that ecstasy, she said to him again:
‘Those days when you used to come to me, I didn’t yet have complete faith in love. Neither did I feel that I’d experience a sense of loss if you weren’t there. I discard anything I don’t have complete belief in. But … you know something?
I’ve always had an overwhelming desire to see your plump rosy feet—just like those of girls—which you always kept hidden in your shoes. But I felt that such infatuations were not bound to become long- lasting relationships ’
She forced open his closed eyelashes with her lips. Her face was now just next to his. Her breath had the fragrance of mango blooms . . . .
He saw the tempest of love come unleashed in her eyes.
‘What made you change your mind now? Those old times are long since gone. You got married, your husband left you. Once again, when I came to you on hearing the news, you pretended you didn’t see me at all.’
Intentionally, she pressed her breasts against his back. Two grape- eyes kissed his body. His body trembled for something. He was adopting a defensive stance.
‘Mandira It isn’t as if I haven’t seen women. I had longed for
you a lot . . . But ’
She yearned . . . to dissolve into his heart to spread all over him.
The stallions of her mind were charging ahead She expressed
her impatience. She was not willing to accept defeat. Taking his palm in her hand, she sat looking at his fingers.
‘How beautiful your fingers are!’ She gently pinched the part around the nail on his forefinger.
‘Leave that. I didn’t say you haven’t seen women, did I? I know you are a world-famous costume designer now. I also know that your specialization is ladies’ costumes. Then, of course you can’t help meeting women!”
Suddenly, his mobile started to sing! He responded to it:
‘I am in the middle of an important meeting. Please call after an hour ’
Switching off the phone, he said to her: ‘It’s Anitha. She will not believe those things I said. Our relationship is one of mutual deceits.’
He had said the last word looking down; then he lifted up his face and looked into her eyes.
‘You are still as beautiful as in those olden days. Age does not affect you at all.’
Suddenly she pressed her lips against his fingers. He jumped away from her and stood slightly apart. She was at a loss. Without stirring from her position, she said:
‘We lived together for eight years after my marriage. It was later that he left me. Another ten years have passed. It is at this late stage that I recognized my love. Recognizing it, I felt it was never too late What
I feel now is something like raindrops dissolving into the parched ground
. . . the surging waves of the ocean of our heart the fragrance of a rose
. . . and I experience these when you are beside me ’
He rubbed his hands together and said:
‘The time that has gone by is not the issue, Mandira. Didn’t I get married? And you know it was a love marriage. When I was hospitalized following an accident, I fell in love with a beautiful nurse I met there. By that time I was famous and had enough money to buy anyone. In spite of having all this, it was when you spurned me a second time that I got entangled in this love. It’s nine years now since I married Anitha. Understand my situation ’
When she shook with laughter hearing this, her breasts throbbed to life again within her churidar. He noticed that. Plucking his eyes away from her breasts, when he stood with his back to her, she whispered in his ears:
‘What did you think that I had come with a marriage proposal
again? You are a fool indeed.’
She forced her hand into his T-shirt passionately. Her fingers tickled his navel.
‘Sshh . . . stop that woman . . . you’re tickling me ”
She said, laughing. ‘Oh … I didn’t come to marry you because my husband left me … I was just declaring my love when I became fully convinced about it. Or else do you think I’d have come to profess my love for you whom Time has raised to such exalted heights?’
Getting up, she pulled him up by his hand, and showed him the morning sun which stood shining outside. The white curtain on the window came to wrap them in the gentle breeze. Her hair strands flitted on to his face and became the fingers of passion. Became the fragrance of passion … enjoying that fragrance, he inadvertently lowered his head on to her shoulder.
‘What are you trying to say? That you had no woman other than your wife in these nine years after marriage? Weren’t you wandering
around the world in connection with your work, leaving your wife alone at home? Since you are well-known, the many liaisons you had with other women has also become public.’
He replied to her accusations:
‘Don’t try to put the blame on me, Mandira ’
Yet, there is some truth in what you said. I had a number of affairs. But none of them was you, the girl I had loved since my teenage years. Some relationships . . . a few hours with some a few days with some
others . . . weeks with some None of them were so intimate as to stay
with me for months or years. I fell in love with you at a time when I loved you and you alone.’
She went to stand behind him and gently passed her fingers through his hair. His memories drifted towards the fragrance of the oil on her long, luxuriant hair; that was the time when the rhythms of Thiruvathira used to resound underneath the mango tree that spread its branches in the yard. Though his mind yearned to take her—donned in her pattupavada—in his arms, he could only stand there quietly, out of fear. He didn’t even know when she went away from beneath the mango tree. He had stood there in that same stance underneath the mango tree until the Thiruvathira lamp wick died down. Hadn’t her fragrance stayed close to him without moving away?
The magical wonderment of those old days became paintings of memory in his eyes. He closed his eyes and dozed off on those paths of love.
Forcing open his drooping eyelids, he said, ‘I can’t love you as I had earlier . . . ‘
She replied to that, gently brushing her lips across his eyelashes. ‘No. I don’t need anything. But that needn’t be an obstruction to my loving you, right? Consider this. What did I get in this life? I was one who safeguarded myself, not allowing any man to come anywhere near me, and surrendered everything to my husband, yielding completely to him. I flooded him with love. But it meant nothing at all to him who considered me an idiot. He who dreamt only of his job and promotion didn’t require a particular reason to abandon me. Moreover, there was a good enough reason—that I didn’t give birth to a child ’
Though she didn’t cry, the sorrow of not being able to comprehend her life had enveloped her. His tender heart received it in its entirety. ‘I have worshipped you in my mind as a goddess all these years. You are my mental solace among other mere formal relationships. I was worthy of accepting you in those times. I feel I don’t have that worthiness now.’
Sitting down on the floor by the bed, she fleetingly touched his feet, which she had so longed to see in those old days. Not to touch them in reverence, but to take those feet which were pressed against the soft carpet in her two hands and kiss those toes . . . to press her tongue on the underside of his feet and tickle him . . . he twisted and turned at the touch of her cool lips. Her lips were like the tender leaves of the mango tree . . . .
Yet he . . .
She could sense in her heart that the more she tried to come closer to him, he was putting a certain distance between them, out of adoration for her.
‘I never said let’s lie down together on this bed, did I? Don’t give me that scared look I will leave the very instant you look at me with
love. Till then I will, like this ’
He saw the sparkle in her eyes becoming clouded over by droplets of melancholy. Suddenly, he put his hands around her tender leaf like stomach and held her very close as if he would never again give her up to anyone. His heart poured into her in this manner:
‘My greatest desire . . . dream . . . salvation . . . achievement You
are the idol I worship. I was giving you an opportunity to escape with all your purity. You didn’t take that. But I want to accept defeat before
you once and for all. Now I’ll not let you go. I want you. Completely. Tell me Mandira, can you . . . can you . . . I who have made mistakes . . .
committed crimes ’
His heart was throbbing. He found it difficult to control the words which would have floated away in the flood waters of the dam about to break its sides. She became a leaf caught in the current. Her lips murmured:
‘What mistake . . . ? Why this confession ?’
Kissing the mole spread out on the position of his heart below his neck, she continued:
‘Enough. We shouldn’t do anything we’d regret later I am
Becoming aware that she was breaking away from him and his heart, he pulled her by the hand. She fell on her back next to him on the bed. Like a flower thrown for pooja.
Her body lay like the thirst of the desert on either side of his muscular limbs.
As if to conquer everything, lying upon her, keeping his face close to hers, and looking into her eyes, he said:
‘You aren’t going anywhere. You are my woman I was born on
this earth to accept you. I’ll not allow you to go anywhere again.’
They were on the river of love. The first thing they saw in each other’s eyes was the statistics of love’s infinite losses. They plunged headlong into the emotions of love that had been lost in some lifetime, and had to be retrieved from the depths.
They were united in their decision—that no one else should come to know about this relationship. Decided on that, they played like children, plucking off each other’s clothes. The wind picked up their clothes and deposited them on the carpet. At some instance he said:
‘I don’t have any sense of guilt now. My wife says that she too is not to be bothered about such matters. It’s equal. She too doesn’t have any feeling of guilt.’
Biting his ear in the intensity of love, she cooed like a dove: ‘Don’t speak of anyone now ‘
Her lips didn’t allow him to continue speaking. Her teeth subdued even his tongue, without causing pain. Then, the minute her lips drew away from him, he said:
‘Mandira, shouldn’t we take some precaution ‘
She stroked his chin:
‘Don’t worry. I’ll not get pregnant. The doctor has said so.’ He repeated doubtfully:
‘It’s not for preventing pregnancy alone. Isn’t that said to be safer?’
‘For whom?’ She asked.
‘For everyone . . . even my wife agrees to it only in that way . . . am I not a globetrotter? Am I not with other women most of the time? One who gets a number of opportunities? She is a nurse. She is clever. She knows fully well about the illnesses likely to affect those who have more than one partner. You too are intelligent. It should only be that way. Don’t allow otherwise . . .’
Suddenly she beat him on his cheek that was brimful with intoxication. He was rudely startled; gently stroking his cheek, she said:
‘I’ll do only what I think is absolutely right. I am willing to partake of your virtue and vice. I came in search of you because I wanted you. There needn’t be any rules in this regard. I am offering myself to you. Like the nivedya ada wrapped in leaf and offered to God ’
‘You say all this because you love me so much. But shouldn’t I care about your safety?’
Pressing her finger against his navel, she said, ‘Isn’t it with you that I am safe?’
He didn’t say anything. There was nothing to say either. When her fingertips became eyes . . . lips became fingertips He was
experiencing a woman for the first time. The love that was received late made him inebriated. That was when they started loving each other at the same time. Only they lived in this world after that. Thunder and lightning darted about in the earth and sky. When she lay spent, he spread as the wind into her ears. In fact, both of them were lying in the room filled with mango flowers and tender mango leaves.
She lay listening to every sound of his.
‘Mandira shall I take you to the celestial plain? Here begins a
journey . . . you’ll never tire of . . . never forget never be forsaken. Like
curls of smoke . . . like snowy clouds ’
They flitted around. At the end of the journey they transformed into ShivaShakti, deluged the universe and flowed out.
“Celestial Plain” (Celestial Plane. Kottayam: DC Books, 2007: 25- 31), translated by Jayasree Ramakrishnan Nair.
THANOOJA S. BHATTATHIRI. She is one of the emerging strong voices in Malayalam. She has published many articles and short stories in different magazines. Her writing is marked by excellent variety and a rare insight into the intricacies of human nature. Her published books include Thazhvarayil Ninnoru Kattu (A Breeze from the Valley), Celestial Plain and Antarjjanathinu Snehapoorvam Basheer (Letters from Basheer to Antharjanam with Love).
JAYASREE RAMAKRISHNAN NAIR. Freelance writer and translator. Has published many articles and translated many works including four plays of Shakespeare into Malayalam. Interested in Shakespeare Studies, Translation Studies and Women’s Studies. Her doctoral work was on the ‘Translations of Shakespeare’s Plays into Malayalam.