The silence at the dinner table made me uneasy. I looked at Baba*. His body was leaned forward, balancing the weight with his elbows. His face was hidden in the clasp of his palms. My glances shifted on Tara, my sister. She was engrossed in her phone, or so she was pretending. Ma* came out from the kitchen and began serving us without uttering a word. As she served the hot Rotis* with Matar Paneer*, my eyes and concentration fixated on my plate. However, I was fully aware of the reason behind the cloudy atmosphere at the dinner table. 

This evening, again, a family had come to visit us for matrimonial purpose. I was the one to be presented as a prospective bride along with appetizing snacks and sweets. Upon pushing, the honorable guests had taken a few bites and concentrated on the conversation. Meanwhile, my salivating tongue had compelled me to indulge in the hot Samosas*. The platter was finished within minutes, and so was the hope of my parents. Since then, the silence had been persisting.    

***

Was it a crime that instead of waking up early to go for a jog or gulping down some bland porridge, I preferred sleeping through those blissful morning hours and having Aloo Parathas* for breakfast? I was in a post-dinner conversation with myself. My folks had tried many methods to redesign my lifestyle. As a desperate measure, they had enrolled me in a meditation center. The guru* there had assured them that regular practice would cleanse my greedy soul and wake up my sleeping kundalini*. I joined gladly. That golden hour I dedicated to think about all my favorite dishes. Unaware of my intentions, the guru praised me a lot. 

Right, meditation can be the solution to my annoyance and irritation at this moment. I closed the door, sat on the floor with my back straight, slowly exhaled, and began imagining a big gooey chocolate fudge cake. 

I was engrossed in the imaginary cake with all my soul. Suddenly, I felt lighter as if I was floating. I opened my eyes and stood up. Oh, was that me still sitting on the floor? Was I dead? Bewildered, I slapped myself. It hurt. I felt my flabby parts. I was very much alive but strangely floating.

Did meditation do the trick? Perhaps yes. My undivided concentration on food during meditation must have awakened my kundalini. The floating me was my astral form. I had seen movies where the astral form could go to any place, any distance while they remained invisible to the world. Was I also invisible? There was only one way to find out. 

I glided through the door successfully and began roaming in the house. Baba was in slumber. I peeped into Tara’s room. She was sobbing. Ma was trying to calm her down. Her eyes were teary too. “It’s not her marriage that worries me, Tara. I often hear things like feeling comfortable in every shape and size. It’s not completely true. What about her health? Have you seen how quickly she gets out of breath? Her unusual love for food and unhealthy lifestyle is ruining her whole life. But she thinks we are her foes and want to marry her off to get rid of her”.  

“Nikhil will soon leave for the US Ma,” Tara interrupted. “But Baba is determined to marry her off first. Of course, I love didi. I don’t want her to get married to a less worthy fellow. But it seems she deliberately shows how weird she can be to ruin the proposals. I cannot lose Nikhil Ma,” Tara continued sobbing. 

My heart ached for my little sister. She was right. I was addicted to my indolent, glutton-filled life. I had made deliberate attempts to piss off the families who came to meet me. How could I not see her love for Nikhil? She had told me several times. Ma’s concern was genuine too. Though I loved food beyond anything, it was taking a toll on my health. Earth crushing weight and joint pains were proof of that. I was a self-centered person who never cared for her family and their happiness. 

I wanted to console Tara. As I proceeded, my hand went through her. “Tara, look at me,” I made a vain attempt to get their attention. They didn’t notice my astral form. I had become invisible and inaudible too. Hearing their thought, I felt suffocated and heavy inside. I went out to get some fresh air. As I crossed the garden and approached the main gate, I saw the woman and her boy again. I had seen them earlier. Each night, the penniless woman and her son would sleep under the shed of a grocery shop next to our house. Food or no food, they looked happy. It felt strange that I never noticed them like this. 

Invisibility gave me an insight into how self-absorbed I was. The images from the past, of my family persuading me to value my life, kept running through my mind, like celluloid images. I wondered, if I remained invisible, would anyone really care. It was almost dawn. My cleansed soul returned to my body, which took quite a few attempts. 

***

Dear Baba & Ma

I am going for a walk. Please don’t be surprised. I am still the old me but with a new perspective towards life. I was wrong to feed my body only. I forgot our soul needs food too. Your happiness, Tara’s smile, these are the food for my soul. Forgive me for being so stubborn and irresponsible. 

Baba, don’t give in to the social customs. Eventually, I will get married too if I find the right person. Now, Tara needs you. She needs your support. Let my sister be happy with the one she loves. Let us be a happy and healthy family.

P.S. I love you all.

I put the letter on the table and went ahead to walk the talk.  

Glossary :

Baba : Father

Ma : Mother

Roti : Indian flatbread

Matar Paneer : A vegetarian dish consisting of peas and cottage cheese

Samosa : A small triangular pastry case filled with spicy vegetables

Aloo Paratha : Indian flatbread stuffed with a spicy potato filling 

Kundalini : The life force that resides at the base of the spine

Guru : Master

***

Photo By:  Pablo Merchán Montes

 

 

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These are twelve stories of the sea, but not necessarily for seafarers alone. They are for anybody and everybody who likes to read fiction. And a ripping good yarn, as sailors used to say once upon a time.

Written by a sea captain who has spent his entire adult life at sea, more than forty years on the waves and still counting, these are stories set in the 70s, 80s up till the present day.

Will you come aboard now? The voyage is about to begin.

Link to buy this book: https://www.amazon.in/Driftwood-Beetashok-Chatterjee/dp/9385854771 and also at selected bookstores all over India.


Author:Beetashok Chatterjee, ex-Claws Club member at ArtoonsInn.

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The story you've read is an entry for UniK-5, #Invisible, a room8 Writing event by ArtoonsInn.
Check the event guidelines here: https://artoonsinn.com/unik-5-writing-event-artoonsinn/

 

Thanks for reading.

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