Waiting alone in that aristocratic-fashioned room for the blind lady, I transfixed my vision upon the reverse aspects showcased on the walls. Paintings of Lord Krishna, goddess Lakshmi and many other deities were walled in between monotonous photographs of Karl Marx, P.Krishna Pillai and Lenin. I wondered how the images of symbols people labelled in discordance, one for sheer blindness of faith and the other for strong fists of idealism, conveyed the same semantic intimation to this blind lady. Quite a contradiction. And with each passing moment I sat there, I felt this house, not in the farthest means, depicts the aroma of blindness. This house had vision. I, once again marvelled at the enormous aptitude of this lady to relish the excellence of this house, which she can’t ever see. Sounds of the swans ebbing through the lagoon, beside which this house located helped me to adjourn the thoughts about the impossible enjoying dexterity of Divya Narkar, the blind lady for whom I was waiting for, and savored the last sip of tea, I was provided with.
‘Lagoons. Shallow bodies of water from the sea’. Her melancholy yet determined voice was heard from inside.’ You may have heard about the irrational ideologies the people of Naradamangalam holds for lagoons. A part of sea indebted by land, and employed to inherit the covert truths of sea. It preserves no lesser secrets than the sea does. Just a confined form of them. And they all are resting at the bottom. Highly composed too, awaiting return, once called for. If howled deep in, you could amass them in abundant. A tourist, who came here when I was a child mentioned the peculiar behavior of the residents of Naradamangalam with deep ecstasy. May be that was true, we are all subjects to the trace of mysteries. One way or other, we all are. We are lagoons’.
She greeted me.
‘Many had come here before you Gautam, with the same purpose’. She continued before she comforted her seating. ‘And they have all heard the story which you are about to. But just that is it. May be they all had felt this story less fascinating. Or they all thought I was mad. It’s significant to ask, but can I count on you?’
It was from a journalist friend of mine did I heard about this blind communist and the story she had, which later on surged my conscience tempted to pen down. Divya Narkar, sole daughter of a Bengali father, who triumphed in spreading the vigour communist aspirations wherever he had stayed, and a reconciled Keralite mother. But what aroused my inquisitiveness was the story she had. Story of Panchami. The 10 year old Dalit girl of Divya’s maid servant. That’s why I am here. Here at Naradamangalam, a village at the western end of Alappuzha. To hear a story.
‘She was a sweet girl. Tender, curious, but silent’. Divya said, may be cherishing the old times they had been together. She always had the symptom to be reasoned with logic. And talking about the condition she was enveloped with, I may go too well on her side. Why she saw a man that none else could? When an answer demanded, I supply logic. Conditions like this, usually prospers in the thick lack between utter ignorance, short of care, and formidable confusion. This would be immensely intense in case the one is young, young enough to be called a child. That’s what happened with Panchami too. She was neglected by many, even her parents. And her mind was short the strength to pull and authentically establish herself away from the delusions of fascination, to establish herself in reality’.
When I waited for her to continue, I felt my presence in here, beside the picturesque lagoon felt mysterious. This story. This place. This lady. Everything felt drastically mysterious. And I thought about the lagoons. It was like the lagoon muttering, in the warm sun, the gasps of secrets weathered in. Secrets about Panchami. Secrets about the invisible man. Secrets about Divya Narkar. Secrets about this lagoon itself. Panchami’s case- that she saw a man none else could and she left with him- wasn’t too different from the others deemed under the similar criteria. But it had a charisma, a charisma long invited the writer in me to expedite on the alternative routes and understand the possibilities of Panchami’s missing. Or in more sense, to learn why she went away with that man none else could see. I felt Panchami’s story was stacked up in the house. Between the rounds of slow breeze embracing us, between the sunshine that lightened us, between the differences in ethnicity of this house. Before Divya started talking about Panchami, I knew her story was genuine.
‘She was just like this lagoon’. Divya said and my mind was reeled back to her. ‘Deep with beauty and clear like the flow. When she first said about the man, whom only she could see, I took it for a fearless imagination of a child. And it was me who fertilized it. The roots buried deep. It was me who asked her more about the invisible man and compelled her to believe that man was a reality. I lied to her, and the worst part of it included cheating my own thoughts. Even I believed such a man existed. ‘What was I doing’? She let herself pause and steer her head away from me.
‘May be I still do. I remember telling her that the invisible man was certainly convenient and not to believe in him was blind, too blind to think about. I don’t know, it felt like I knew the invisible man. I knew his face. The only face I could conjure in my blind vision. I am sure she’ll come back. To take me with her. To place where she went. She’ll come’. Divya trembled while describing an impossible future, she knew sure isn’t happening anytime. I glanced more seekingly in her dusky eyes. Those were beautiful, not to mention the failure to emulate its purpose. But it had stories. A lot of them.
The story of a Dalit girl and her missing were linked up with mysticism in the initial days. But eventually, her story was substituted by more concerning ones. Now, more than four years after her missing, it subsided to deep corners of interest and in many people, it completely lashed away. Most cared less to believe her story. They just thought Panchami’s mother sent her away. But I somehow knew there had to be something of the invisible man that I could decipher to a story. I have read in a newspaper, four years back about the first time she reported about the invisible man. It was in school one day, when the students were asked to draw a picture. Unlike the rest of the class, she didn’t drew happy families or beautiful scenarios. Instead, she drew hell. With people split out in halves. Souls fried in fire. And breaths drowned in mud, upside down. She drew what possibly no other ten year old could. And when asked by her teacher, she told that she drew what a man stood by her asked her to. The teacher knew there was no man in the class. But she deliberately thought it as a passing imagination. Only, it didn’t stayed thus.
The time was getting dusky. The swans were still in the lagoon, and in hollow, mystic atmosphere, I felt they were heeding to the story of Panchami, the story they knew by heart.
‘It was a quiescent monsoon evening, when she let out herself to me’. Divya talked on. ‘She wasn’t intimidated by the invisible man, but affected. She had said how the man inclined to fill the voids she had been left with. The gaps of care and unbridled exhilaration. She said he gave her clarity. She got a company she wanted. I remember how her coal-black eyes unfolded the unblemished companionship immersed in, while she talked about him. He was sea. She was lagoon’.
There was a stagnant pause after she completed her talking. I raised to defy it and talked what I knew more about Panchami.
‘She was sent to a mental asylum, right? And I waited for her reply.
‘Barely for 3 weeks’. It took a while before she answered. ‘That part was really harsh. Real hard business. She strangled herself to stay out of it. You could ask anyone from Naradamangalam and they would remember and phrase that day only with a tinge of sympathy. Panchami cried a lot. The small body of her struggled unambiguously against the manly forces that pulled her. She feared hospitals, she always had. Of course, a ten year old shouldn’t be able to distinguish the ordeals of a disease and a mental disorder. But somehow, she did. Maybe the man no one else could see had told her’.
She adjusted herself in the chair and continued with a slight cream of smile. ‘But when she returned, she was content. She said her talks were considered justified among the people she met in the asylum. She was manifested there in a way more consolatory than she had been here. She was cared. And people dignified her for her extraordinary ability to see invisible people. “Remarkable people”, she said about them. And she also mentioned it was spurious to held them behind bars, for the asylum could only bear their bodies, their souls are more liberated than ours. How standardized for a child. Isn’t it?’
I replied with a silent smile. Indeed, she didn’t see it.
‘The invisible man may have felt his ranks seconded among the care Panchami was bestowed with, and as like she said, “The invisible man went for a holiday”. She was back home after 3 weeks of treatment. And once after days were like before, when the love and care she received was abate, the invisible man returned’.
I had a few filed photographs of Panchami, from a local newspaper which reported her missing. Her eyes were similar to Divya Narkar’s. Dusky eyes. People with same sort of eyes have same minds, I remembered the lines long ago read. Maybe that’s why Divya feels the invisible man is real.
‘When did her parents started relaying on sorcery and black magic’?
‘When the invisible man returned, he told her to do things that were perilous. Once, she tried to take a piece of burning wood and scorched herself. That was then, her parents consulted an astrologist, who, after examining her horoscope and stars, prescribed rituals and mantras as inevitable medicines, until the man is gone forever. People said it was a spirit. A bad one, who is haunting her for the sins of her previous birth’.
‘The priest- that’s how the black magic practitioners were addressed. They set unethical rituals for Panchami. Blocks of red, blue and white squares designed on floor. In their belief, the fire flames were digesting the outcomes of sins committed in her past birth. I remember her cries, huge lamentations. The priest even used whips on her, leaving her outlined like not a human. She cried more. Through red, through blue, through the whips she suffered, through the negligence she was rewarded with. She cried for the invisible man’. Abruptly, she ceased her voice to let a miniature of a weep escape. Divya more or less, was on the verge of a salient, naive cry.
‘A blind eye cannot cry without knowing, I know that part Gautam. And I know nothing about tears, except it is Feverish and salty. I don’t know its colour. I don’t know any colour. But when this ardent liquid flows out of my blindness, it feeling a portion of my blood is flown out. And when I heard Panchami screaming that day, I felt the same’.
Sitting beside her, I witnessed a drop of tear, plunging down her dusky eyes and skiing through her right cheek. It was a blind lady’s tear. But it had a part of her blood, a part of Panchami, a part of the invisible man, a part of the lagoon. I wished it would dry itself from her cheeks. Because, the moment it would lose the grip on her cheek, I feared that part of Panchami would be lost.
‘You know, the lagoons, the secrets they are confronting deep inside, they shimmers. At night, when there is full moon, it shimmers in the moonlight. Panchami is likewise. I feel her in my dreams, and the invisible man too. His face is the only one I had seen. They promises to take me away with them, to a place. Where I can see like the rest. Wonder how a blind lady can dream?’ She wiped her teardrop and through a forced smile, shot a question at me. ‘I really believe she would come’.
Night arrived, like soft and calm. Like Divya and Panchami. Like the invisible man and lagoon.
‘Gautam’, She said before I was about to bid my farewell, ‘I have never seen anything, my entire life. I don’t know any colour. People say what I only see is darkness. But in my dreams, I see a man no one else could, and a girl who went away with him.
Before I reached the door, she called me once again. ‘Don’t get me wrong. I know you may fell a bit disoriented about me and this story. Everybody had. But just think, haven’t you ever felt like you saw something that wasn’t there? or heard a sound that no one else did? I know you have’. She stood up to say goodbye. ‘Or else, you are lying’.
Walking away from her home, parallel to the lagoon, I lifted the gradient of gratification in me. Yes, she was right. I had listened to the story of Panchami that no one else had. I saw a Divya Narkar that no one else did. What outsiders talk about the people of Naradamangalam are true. They are lagoons. And they holds mystery. She didn’t ask me whether I would write this story or not. If I am, then how should I write this. As like the story of a girl who saw a man whom nobody else did or as like the story of a blind woman who is waiting for an invisible man?
Or maybe I could write this as the story of lagoons.
Honking of a boat was heard and I rushed.