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     Volume 4 Issue 19 | October 29, 2004 |

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Love on
a Blue


(Continued from previous issue)

The man's torso stooped as he put both his hands on the bleeding stomach. And when he turned and twisted before falling on the grass by the pavement, she recalled seeing his effeminate face before. In the newspaper maybe or on the university campus, where she taught literature; she guessed he could be one of her students. She looked at him more intently, while the attackers, now forming a circle, kicked him on the butt and shoulder. The man screamed and asked for help in a piercing voice but she stood silently, now hands crossed over her chest, in a Christlike calm in the shivering cold. The cat strode to the window and stood at her legs, looking fixedly at her dreary face with its glowing eyes, as if trying to understand from it what had gone wrong.

They gave up when the mosque nearby started calling the faithful to the morning prayers. She turned round and looked up at the grandfather clock, standing tall on the floor; it was nearly dawn. When she looked down again, she saw the men stride north, now forming a horizontal line, and realised she had not noticed that all three had been wearing prayer-caps all along. The golden brocade on one of the topis glittered even from a distance. They were getting smaller as they walked further down the crossing towards the mosque. She waited for them to disappear, put on her Shalwar-Kameez and hurriedly went down the pavement.

To her surprise, Shormi found the man conscious. He muttered something when she walked closer to him; his eyes seemed to come out of their sockets with desperation as he moved his blood-soaked lips. Shormi went down on her knees and put his head on her lap. Above them, a branch of a mango tree was suspended solemnly; in the tree, a group of sparrows were lazily declaring the breaking of another noisy dawn. A blade of grass fell from their nest, hovered in the air for a while, and finally rested on the dark stain of the man's nose; she carefully picked it up with a trembling hand and called the hospital from her cell.


Shormi was hungry when she got back home late in the afternoon. The doctors would not touch the man without a No-objection Certificate from the police; "It's caused by a sharp knife, I think," said a pale mouthed doctor staring at the man's bruised body.

Another doctor, who knew Shormi before, said, "Ma'am you don't know this guy and neither do we. He could be a serial killer or a mugger. What if he turns out to be one of the people who had thrown grenades at that meeting? Just imagine what will the police do to us if he gets away after treatment and the police find it out.”

She looked back at the man's pensive lips; he had been trying to tell her something in the ambulance. But his voice was so stifled that she had to tell him not to talk. A known sense of responsibility, which she had at times found tiring during her three years old marriage, grasped her. She stared at the wall, a long piece of cloth hung there, "Be it a boy or a girl, one child is enough", it urged its viewer. The pale mouthed doctor meanwhile continued chattering with a nurse, Shormi turned round and said to the other doctor, "Mizan, you know me, right?"

Mizan nodded and tried to say something but stopped suddenly in the middle of his sentence as Shormi continued, "I know this man well and in case the police turn up or anything goes wrong I will take the responsibility. Now please take him to the emergency before he bleeds to death". And her words worked like magic.

Eighteen stitches were needed to close up the wound; the man cried every time Dr Mizan put the needle into his flat stomach. She could not recall when was the last time she had seen a grown man cry. The doctors said, in a reassuring tone that all doctors had, that he would get well in three weeks.

She felt relaxed when she walked into her room after taking a long shower. A strong smell of fried chicken and French-fries, which she had bought on her way home and had put on the dining table, was wafting in the air. She got dressed and smiled at Bobby; she was curled up on her bed, coiled like a big rope. The window was wide open; sunlight that came through it and fell on Bobby's white fur had given the room a blanched look. She put a French fry into her mouth and sat on the bed to inspect Bobby's leg. The cat hissed and kicked her hand with its hind legs, but she did not let go of Bobby; upon close scrutiny, she discovered that the wound had healed a lot, but she also noticed that one of its paws was badly bruised. She rubbed some antiseptic around its injured claw. The cat made a murmuring noise and with its other paw clutched the white linen.

It was early in the evening when she decided to go for a walk. She was typing her class-lectures on the PC and then, as soon as the grandfather clock struck at five and she had just typed "fantasies inability to overcome reality", as if to follow a long drawn-out ritual, the power went down. She closed the book and pressed her hand on the stain on the flapper of A Streetcar Named Desire. A blob of faded red made by either ink or wine. When she had decided to start afresh and join teaching, the book was in her mind. The Head of the Department was somewhat surprised, first at her sudden decision to join the department again and then at her choice of text. He was a short middle-aged man, who had to shriek to make things done. "Shormi, I don't know what to say," he was surprised but tried his best to hide it; "You were a very good teacher. Tell you what I was quite shocked when you decided to quit the varsity". He welcomed her back, but it took her a while to make him register that she was serious about teaching Streetcar. He frowned, yawned (he was getting late for his regular afternoon nap), smirked and after a brief cajoling budged.

As she kneeled on the pavement where the man was stabbed, she noticed that the place had been hurriedly washed away. Drops of water on blades of the grass were shining in the fluorescent lights like the yellowy teeth of the attackers. She looked down the street where those three men had melted away into the fog. A large group of people was walking down the narrow ally to say their evening prayers; some had sat at the reservoir for wazu. She looked up to see the white minaret of the mosque and glanced further up to two blue loudspeakers that were suspended from the tall slender tower.

Her cell rang as she remained lost in her thoughts; it was from the hospital, the man wanted to talk to her.

"Ma'am," he said, "Thanks for saving my life."

As his words came through the cell, she realised the man had pulled through quite quickly.

The third part of "Love on a Blue Afternoon" will come out in the next issue.

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