For Reading Gorky
By Stuti Govil
The fridge is poorly stocked. All the vegetables are now condemned to their present state of dereliction. The scant milk gives off putrid smells, having gone bad many weeks ago. Only odd bottles of cough syrup and glycerine have survived the tyranny of time and power cuts.
Kaamna took a giant swig of the pungent tasting Benadryl. Idleness in her world has to be constantly justified. The door to the refrigerator is agape. It lies in wait, with bated sensuous breath.
She arranges the vegetables now and then, scarcely taking a note of the rotten peels and the odour. She remembered, however, to throw the milk out. It had been exactly two weeks since he brought home those packets of milk.
It’s Monday already. It had been two weeks since he was shot dead. Every time she tried to think of his touch on her fingers, or his last words to her, panic overwhelmed her. The expectation and patient wait for a memory to lose itself in the abyss of our collective thought is more painful perhaps than its eventual fate. The words blur themselves, slow at first. Prepositions and tense are the first to go. Synonyms follow soon enough. What remains is only a faint recollection. A picture, a word, or a sound.
Her footsteps become heavier as she approaches the closed study. She usually doesn’t dare to enter this room. Not even the thought of dust and grime rooming on his bookshelf is enough to jolt her from her trance like state.
An old telephone rang somewhere in the distance, almost impervious to her sudden delirium. She upturned an entire bookcase. Only a grim sense of purpose drove her. As she picked one copy after another, all she needed to see were those five letters on the spine of the book.
Green leather; hardbound. Picked up many years ago from the Calcutta Book Fair. But they had called him a Naxalite, for merely possessing a copy.
She flung it, threw it from a height (repeatedly), stomped on it (quite a few times). The green cover begun to shine with her tears, the pages were starting to come apart from the impact.
It had to leave her house. It had done too much damage already.
As she hurled the book and watched it fly away from her shattered nest, she felt a momentary sense of redemption. Would Gorky have imagined his works could lead to the death of a man?
Meanwhile, the door to the fridge remains ajar.
Note: This short story is based on Hem Chandra Pandey.
Stuti Govil is a Journalism student at University of Delhi.
Thumbnail: R. Venugopal/ The Hindu