Fiction: INVISIBLE WALLS

-      Sangeeta Banerjee

 

Kanak was staring at her face reflected in the waters of a narrow stream which was about to dry up. She loved to see herself in this manner, as she loved the fact how the smallest ripple could make her existence fade away. She was herself afraid to do so, she had tried many times though. It was summer, and the heat could melt everything except her father’s heart. She had left the place called home, yet again.

It was a Sunday summer afternoon. Kanak was scrolling down her social media updates and was liking the pictures which her friends were posting about hangout memories, food items, and other activities which they associated with life. Suddenly Kanak came across a post of Arohi, one of her trustworthy friends from the university, and tears started streaming down her cheeks, creating grey blots on her black mask. It was Arohi's family picture, a father, a mother, and a child, happy. This was violence to Kanak. She detested apathy more than she hated bloodshed, and apathy has been by her side since she had started to grow up. That picture triggered a lot of unwholesome memories for her.

Kanak was wondering about what she was doing with her life. People outside her house loved her, they said that she was a brilliant student, an amazing performer, and an empathetic human being. What they failed to notice was that she was broken, and broken by the people whom she wished to call her own. She did not know what to do, and she did not want to talk about it much. Sometimes she shouted like a beast, sometimes she cried silently all night hugging her pillow, and when things were too bad for her, she ran away, just like this Sunday.

 Kanak's friends were worried. They tried to console her and wanted her to return home. Home, for Kanak had become a memory. Can someone return to memory, an abstract arbitrary image just like her reflection which she saw in the waters of a narrow stream which was about to dry up? She had no answer, she noticed that her purse was almost empty. She had to return to the structure where she lived in order to survive. She started walking down the road until she reached the gate of that structure. She sighed and took a deep breath, as she was aware of the fact that she would fall short of breath soon.

 She entered the house and sanitized herself. Her head was throbbing in pain, due to the heat, or because of the dilemmas perhaps. She tried to lie down for a bit and all of a sudden she heard a few utensils falling down, shattering all her urge to sleep. Kanak's mother looked at her with a sense of disinterestedness, very familiar to her eyes. Kanak wanted to talk to her. “Maa”, she uttered, “I am not feeling well... I...I... did not want to break the glass...I was angry...I am sorry...” Kanak’s mother had no time to listen to her, and she did not blame her for that. She was the most hardworking person Kanak had ever seen, and she respected her a lot. Whenever Kanak fell ill, this mother would spend the entire night sitting beside her, nursing her. Nobody would ever do that for her, she knew. Kanak never fully understood this woman. She had a twisted sense of control, she wished to get hold of everything and everyone and hold them close to her heart, so close that sometimes it was claustrophobic, especially for Kanak. Her father never bothered about what she felt, he was much more interested in what she achieved in her life.

Kanak always liked people who never told her what to do, what to think, what to wear etc. And her parents always did what she hated, or she always did what her parents hated. Obedience and conformity could not enchain Kanak, she seemed to be calm and composed from outside, but in her mind there was always a raging storm set on fire, ready to set every stereotype ablaze. But unfortunately enough, she was cursed to live in a structure, and she had to put on masks of sanity, in order to survive. All she had were masks, beautifully crafted by her brain to protect the tough face and fragile heart of a woman who longed for love and acceptance. No wonder she always fell for people who truly cared for her and made her smile.

Before the pandemic, she used to visit her home everyday. It was a white building which was known as a university, and there she met Arohi, Jyoti and Rosy. They became a small family, taking class notes, interacting with the professors and of course loving each other, despite having distinctly different approaches towards life. They had their fair share of misunderstandings, but ultimately, they chose to stay. Isn’t selecting home always a choice?

 If Arohi adhered to the objective rational self of Kanak, Jyoti adhered to her quirky sense of humour, and Rosy, well, Kanak often searched for words to describe her. Rosy and Kanak became friends quite late, as if two birds were lost, and they suddenly found their nest in each other amidst golden sunset. Rosy became a part of her heartbeat, and the slightest pain which was inflicted upon her used to pain Kanak a lot. They belonged to the same journey, walking by the tramlines in the evening, strolling towards the metro, discussing about their favourite lecture of the day. And exactly in this moment, Kanak wished the moment to be infinite. She did not want to return to the place she hailed from, she wanted to run back to her white home, weep profusely in front of her favourite professor, and discuss about life. Kanak’s love was boundless, but not illogical. She was well aware of the fact that she should not try enchain her favourite people, and all she could say was “See you tomorrow” with a smile. Isn’t home all about waving goodbyes? Aren’t memories all about melting into the thin air and pretend that they never existed?

The pandemic came as a fatal blow on Kanak. She was house-bound and homeless. She got her degree which inevitably stopped her from meeting her favourite people, and every second became traumatic for her. She choked often, her fingers trembled, and she completely immersed herself into books. She met her friends through video calls, and tried to seek help often from Arohi, who knew almost everything about her life. It is difficult to describe Arohi. She is a brutally straightforward person, an anime-lover, and most importantly, fierce. She has fallen many times, but she knows how to get up and address the wounds. She constantly reminded Kanak that she will heal one day. Home is a process of healing, and Arohi knew it.

Jyoti was a happy-go-lucky person who was capable enough to make Kanak laugh hysterically even at the time of utmost distress. She and Kanak considered themselves to be panicky siblings, and before every examination, they used to fret over the fact that they would smear their face with ink the next time they meet each other. They were afraid of the results, but every time, they had to refrain themselves from smearing ink on their faces as they passed with flying colours. Then they used to laugh at their plan wholeheartedly and promised to continue cracking weird jokes always. At times, pain overpowered both of them, and both of them tried to laugh it off.

Kanak wondered why the world cared only for the excellent ones. People perceived her as someone above average, and yet, she wondered what it was like to be ordinary, to eat, work, sleep and repeat. But in reality, Kanak never considered herself as someone extraordinary, neither did she consider herself as someone ordinary. She was just existing, like the waters of a narrow stream waiting to dry up. That Sunday night, when she had to return to the house, she started contemplating yet again, about what could have happened if she did not return. Perhaps, she thought, she would not be missed, and this is something which in a home, one does not feel.

The next day, as usual, everyone started pretending that nothing has happened. The father wailed for the morning cup of tea, the mother served it, and Kanak woke up for her classes of a training course. She was lucky enough to have Rosy with her, and she always thanked her lucky stars to find someone like her. Kanak did not wish to attend the classes for the day, as all she could do was sigh. But her workaholic self compelled her to attend classes. In the evening, she received a call.

 It was from an institute of Film Studies in Banaras, a city where Kanak actually wished to stay since childhood. The river, the architecture, the spirituality enthralled her, and she perceived the land as a space where streams do not dry up easily. She always wanted to take up Film Studies but she could not do so, as according to her father, films were way too filmy to provide a good life to a woman. He never realized that cinema can be studied, analysed and is actually an important discourse, it has a life, beyond popular songs and dance numbers. Kanak, however, did not try to make him understand anymore, and she just wanted to leave.

 Kanak wished to have a talk with her parents, and as always she trembled like the last leaf waiting to perish. She went to her mother and told her about her plan, and as always it was redirected towards her father. He frowned a bit and looked at Kanak with his stone-cold eyes. And that was enough for her to understand that she will not be allowed to leave for Banaras. At that moment she realized that violence does not always involve blood and gore. It can exist in many forms, just like crushing the dreams of an apparently powerless individual by the people in power.

 That night Kanak did not shed tears. She carefully listened to the crackling noises of her heart, and felt the pain like never before. She could hear her father snoring, she could hear her mother breathe in silence and she could feel the invisible walls among the three of them. She wished to return to the imaginative space of home, which she had created inside her head, but she could not. She swallowed the pain, and this time it was not that difficult, as she got used to it. She lacked agency, and resistance could only take place inside her head. If she was about break the structure, she would break herself. And this was exactly where her life was not like the lives of the teenagers which were shown in the mainstream films, the films which Kanak was sick and tired of. She had to wake up early the next day, as her training classes were scheduled early. She went off to sleep, in the darkness, knowing that tomorrow will not be any brighter. But she will try her best to make it tolerable, until she dislocates herself. Such is life, in tooth and claw, in blood and sweat, in memory and desire, in dream and reality, and in home and homelessness.

***

 

Sangeeta Banerjee is a student and an aspiring academician. She has completed her M.A. in English from University of Calcutta and is currently pursuing B.Ed. She is a published poet and an author in various journals and magazines and is keenly interested in performance poetry and other creative endeavours.

No comments :

Post a Comment

We welcome your comments related to the article and the topic being discussed. We expect the comments to be courteous, and respectful of the author and other commenters. Setu reserves the right to moderate, remove or reject comments that contain foul language, insult, hatred, personal information or indicate bad intention. The views expressed in comments reflect those of the commenter, not the official views of the Setu editorial board. प्रकाशित रचना से सम्बंधित शालीन सम्वाद का स्वागत है।