( By Aporva Kala Bhardwaj)
The Investigator had the case in mind as he walked through the bustling marketplace, past the brightly lit temple of Shiva, and then climbed down a few scores of stairs with thoughtful steps listening to clinking sound of coins that lay in his back pocket of his worn out denims and entered a small Tibetan café — ‘Kalsang’ known for its overstuffed dumplings and creamy chicken soup. He found a seat near the half open window and looked smugly at the worn out wooden table on which sat a layer of flies nibbling on crumbs of unidentifiable food. The balding cook with a half a moon pate was sautéing vegetables, noodles and large pieces of meat in an iron wok that looked as old as the eatery. There were few bearded diners sitting in the cramped space talking lecherously about whores and their squabbling Queen- whore, Ms Lily who ran a whorehouse in the vicinity, complaining about the higher rates she charges for the discharge- they sneered in a chorus. He lit a cigarette and pulled out a quarter of barn whiskey. At one point of time he was in love with Ms Lily. She is a fat, middle age lady now, all sucked, mashed and mucked. He took an urgent gulp, smacked his lips and threw smoke rings in the empty air and watched them disappear. He looked at the fat boy sitting at the cash counter who was watching him with fear and loathsomeness. He liked the fear in the fat boy’s eyes. The balding cook placed a plate of steaming momos and a bowl of soup and stood for a brief moment, eyeing him with piety of a priest. He shooed the cook away and looked at the soup- diluted semen; he concluded and poured red chili sauce on it. ‘Fiery..’ he smiled and placed a dumpling into his mouth. He tried to chew it. It felt like a piece of leather. He swallowed it with liquor and threw the bottle out of the window. The man who caught it swore, he swore back and laughed deliriously, drunkenly. He drank the soup and chewed on another dumpling.
The fat boy at the counter kept watching him as if he were a television show with an unpredictable end. He knew what the fat boy wanted to know. So did millions and millions of eyes those chased him. He felt as if he was being slithered by the eyes with knife edges. He bled. He swore. He vomited. A heap of chewed food lay on the wooden table. He buried his mind at emptying himself. The heap had grown. It had rice and lentils, soggy mass of bread, and a chewed, half digested piece of chicken.
The fat boy had wonder in his eyes.
The Investigator pulled out his shirt and let the weapon shine under the pale light. A hushed silence fell in the eatery. A million eyes shut. He smiled at the virility of the weapon and pulled out a cigarette. The smoke tasted like semen, bland, sticky, and tasteless. He wondered at the thoughts he thought, sometimes. Doc Mockerjee calls it paranoia..
‘A form of mental illness characterized by systematic delusions.’ That was what the Oxford dictionary says. He was happy that he wasn’t just anybody, he was somebody, he was a paranoid.….
It was drizzling when he walked out of the eatery. He raised his arms heavenwards and shouted ‘Eighty-seven…’ He stood at the center of the road and disturbed the traffic. ‘Home-bound’. He shouted again and spat at the idea of home- like a latrine, closed, private, smelly, secretive, needing cleaning all the time, connected to the master sewer. A shit is a man’s best knowledge, his best friend. He laughed with a sincere effort as the vehicles honked at him and the drivers sullenly swore. He cupped his hands as if he were catching the abuses and hurled them back.
He walked at the middle of the road thinking of her. ‘Damn..’ he cried. ‘And women?’ He pulled out the weapon and waved it at a biker. ‘To the street number three..’ he said .
The biker drove adroitly through the growing chaos. The investigator made him stop at an old rickety building standing forlornly as if it were a forgotten idea mired in inane historicity and little else. Why was it still hanging like a dried snake gourd?
‘Thank you mother fucker..’ he tapped the biker’s arm.
She opened the door and smiled like an idiot. Why? You are early, her eyes seemed to complain, a lover’s crib. And did he…? Do you want it now? Is it urgent? Can I have my defecation?
He had got tired of her questions. Her head buzzes like a telephone. She enquires as if she wants to lay bare the mysteries of the universe. She has a fetish for knowing, as if she was God’s own whore.
‘Have you ever tasted semen?’ He asked under his breath.
She heard him, looked at him for a moment and then smiled ‘kinky?’ She asked . ‘Like in Porno …??’ She asked with plenty of question marks. He thought.
‘No..’ he countered. ‘I want to know, it is impotent…err ..important…’ he was nervous and shivered at the thought of her savoring his semen.
‘For the case…?’She asked.
He slapped her hard. Blood trickled from her split lips. She licked at it like a cat and moaned, pleasantly, which surprised him.
‘You..can’t, you don’t have it in you.’ She challenged him.
He pulled at the weapon and caressed her breasts with it.. ‘Eighty-seven..no more..’ he told himself.
She brought him a shredded towel and wiped his face and cleaned the dried vomit on his torn, black shirt. ‘You smell of a thousand perfumes.’ She giggled like a true whore.
Idiot, he thought and then looked at her with his yellow eyes. She pulled down her gaudy pink and purple night gown and stood like a statue of Venus. His grandfather had owned such a statue once, long back into the depths of history. She wasn’t beautiful. She was fat with limp breasts like a pair of rabbits soaked in water. How would the bald Cook, cook them, he wondered. Her belly had stretch marks. He wondered where the baby was. He asked. She asked him back, why he had asked now.
‘Because now is not yesterday. Yesterdays are made of memories and memories make a stinking life.’ He whispered. ‘What is tomorrow’s yesterday?’ he asked.
‘Why, today, of course.’ She exclaimed as if she was playing a quiz show.
He bit her swollen cheek, Damn women and their show of everything, cleavage and breasts, thighs and hips, vagina and orgasm and that ultimate orgiastic revelry-knowledge.
She snuggled in his arms and murmured.. ‘Like a thousand perfumes.’ She laughed hoarsely. Her laughter had the same sound of the clinking of the coins in his pocket.
‘All the perfumes of all the worlds.’ He said.
She undressed him hurriedly as if she wanted to sleep with an alarm on.
The two lay naked, thinking. He thought of her thoughts- money, house, children,-the usual thoughts of a woman and in her case knowledge- Aristotle, Mill, Sartre, Camus and Plato. Did she know that Plato means.. ‘Bees on the lips’ or Aristotle means .. ‘the best purpose’.?
She caressed him expertly arousing him in a strange manner. He felt his skin tightening under her soft hands. She must have read the Kama-Sutra -treatise of Love and Sex; he was delighted at the thought. Why read any other book if you have one for all the pleasures of the world? He asked her to turn over. He felt her anus with his fingers. It was dry, smelly, and hairy. He imagined his semen dripping in it and then her going to the latrine and cleaning it up, wasting his effort, his energy, pouring water over his virility. She cried with pain..or pleasure..he thought. With a woman one can never know. They can cry over anything. He pulled at her hairs. Again the cry. He kissed her. Again the same cry. He slid under her and placed her face between her breasts. He felt cocooned, safe, like a child in its mother’s embrace.
She was snoring now. He freed himself and moved near the window. It was a dark, balmy evening, airless. He lit a cigarette and gazed at himself on the wall mirror. He was emaciated now, his penis was like a piece of soggy cloth and he had a beard of a thousand nights.
‘You won’t come until he comes.’ She whispered in her sleep and then resumed her loud snoring. He pulled her legs apart and gazed at her forest, her hairy opening, like a yawning cave. She looked at him with her tiny sleepy eyes. ‘Once my brother stole a hundred rupee note, it seems like yesterday or yesterday’s yesterday…he never confessed. That was twenty years ago. I was three then.’ She dozed off again like a sleepy cat.
‘Lair ..’ the investigator thought.. ‘She must have been ten. But this is murder, a double murder to boot, homicide.’ He wanted to say but the words just didn’t spill out. Paranoid..! He exclaimed.
He picked up the weapon and aimed at her. He wanted to shoot her but the index finger didn’t move. He liked her saying yesterday’s yesterday. Tomorrow’s yesterday. There wouldn’t be any tomorrow, only tomorrow’s yesterday. He resolved and pinched her nipple. Again the same cry, of pleasure of pain. ‘It is tonight or there won’t be any nights.’
She opened her eyes for that brief moment and taunted him… ‘You are boasting.’
He slapped her for all the yesterdays. She was sodden in blood when he left her.
The street was under a spell of a yellow light, jaundiced and feverish. He had left her to live. She would be alive for all the tomorrow’s tomorrows.
Everybody dies of in-erasable pasts. None die of a today or a tomorrow.
The air was damp, like yesterday’s memories. He walked with wobbly steps fearing that she might chase him. She was ever present, an omniscient, omnipotent being. She was the God he could never worship.
He would let go of her, today. There will not be another chance. One never gets another shot at living.
The murderer was the Hindu god Shiva, sitting in a lotus posture. Not a word, not a nod, just a fixed gaze into the unknown. Not once had he batted an eyelid. Tratak….he had Googled the Sanskrit word. Yoga is an international knowledge now. Even the UN has a day for it, 21 June. It is still the twenty-first of Feb. He was disheartened; he wouldn’t be alive till then. But Doc Mockerjee says that Paranoids usually don’t die early. They live in their madness for as long as they are mad at something and there is always something on which one will be mad at. Madness has no empty chalice.
He scratched his groin and spat out her thoughts. She wasn’t in love with him. He was. But that is what love is. The other loves the other more than the other loves the other.
In love there are no equals. In love there is only one loser.
It was dark now, like a gloomy bride marrying an unfaithful. He went past a neon lit store. People thronged it like bees, buying and haggling over prices. That is how the humanity survives, that is how love survives, over shitty haggling.
He laughed at his thoughts- a soundless sortie. Then he thought he would kill Shiva. He would shoot him through the temple and eat his brains. He would then dissect him and feed his innards to her.
He was nervous and jittery and felt the sticky white glue in his anus. He was perspiring now. Fearing he won’t be able to defecate. Fearing that he would store it up and then his stomach would burst open like a volcano. He farted and stopped to smell his fart. Everybody recognizes the smell of one’s fart.
What did the murderer like- fart, semen, shit?
He didn’t use the latrine, never farted, never ate a morsel, and hadn’t masturbated for eighty-seven days.
Did he have a girl?
Killing two people is like killing an army. One kill can be by accident or for pleasure, but to kill two dear ones? The Investigator felt stifled by his thoughts. Patricide plus Matricide is equal to Homicide. He thought like a mathematician, like the truth revealing itself, self evident wanting no proof.
But his thoughts wouldn’t stop. They poured like the lava stored for centuries. Why was it coming out now? Was it because he was at the end of the rainbow ? Or… Because there are tortures in life one has to go through. Most of them are self inflicted. A man is the greatest designer of his torture chamber. One suffers because of oneself.
And memories? — One’s sweetest torture. The Investigator laughed coarsely, like a bull’s grunt while chasing a cow. Why can’t one live without them? He asked. The murderer was feeding on memories. He must be having them by truckloads, a never ending supply of shitty flashbacks. That was what made the murderer survive against the brutality of the police force.
Would murderer’s murder solve the riddle? The Investigator suddenly fell into the quandary of the worst kind. To kill or to not to kill? The gaze wouldn’t die. The motive wouldn’t reveal itself.
What if I die? The Investigator caressed the weapon. That might end the torturous wait. It will end everything. And Shiva would crumble. His gaze decimated at the sacrifice- the thought made the investigator perky, pesky. To die today would be like a pantomime act without the grand finale.
The weapon was his Nirvana, his liberation, his Moksha. It could make him Shiva, the God of Destruction and mayhem. He did a jig and stumbled on a stone. ‘Damn..’ he shouted.
Impending death made his stomach hollow, like a Bus without its set of predestined passengers.
He concluded it to be hunger. He entered a restaurant and waved his weapon.. ‘See my penis..’ he shouted without words coming out. The ugly crowd ignored him and continued their loud talks, like curses and abuses. He fired a shot. Silence fell like a sheath of foreskin. He aimed at a waiter.. ‘Food..’ he hissed… ‘the last supper..’
Somebody dialed 100. A siren wailed and a blue car with a blue beacon light stood at the entrance of the restaurant. The tiny Inspector with a grey goatee climbed down and gazed at him with his snaky eyes.. ‘Now..now…what have you been up to..?’ they were asking.
The Investigator ignored the Inspector and picked a piece of steak, chewed on it as if it were a cud.
‘Come you need to rest..’ the inspector held out his tiny hand.
‘That comes with death.’ The Investigator stood up and waved his weapon. The crowd looked at him with hatred and rancor. He knew he was ugly. ‘Damn you ..’ he took an aim.
‘Dey..’ the Inspector said calmly.. ‘Mr. Dey.. we need to behave ourselves.’
He held on to the weapon. He felt the stickiness in his anus. He shook himself and gazed out of the window. The lights passed them by like ropes floating in air. The crowd looked as lifeless as a mass of dried lichens.
‘Mr. Dey, the murderer wouldn’t talk.’ The Inspector was poking him. ‘He never will. They are moving him to a Psycho-clinic. They will treat him and then they will hang him if they succeed in treating him. His confession stands. He has indeed murdered his parents. The case ends tonight.’ The Inspector sighed as if he had had the best shit ever, the one he would cherish for the rest of his life.
The Investigator listened to the Inspector and smiled at his gullibility. One has to make an offering to please Shiva. One has to die for a cause. That is immortality.
The Investigator thought of himself as some sort of a digger of truths, someone who unearthed histories, excavated eras. If he failed he would bury himself.
‘Motive..’ he shouted. ‘How can we let him be hanged without knowing the motive?’
‘That is for the law to decide.’ The Inspector replied.
‘Fuck the law. It is between us now.’ The Investigator hissed like a trampled snake. ‘For Eighty-Seven days he sits like a statue proving to us that he is a God.’
‘You are counting..’
‘Damn well I am, if I don’t put an end to it tonight…’
‘Mr. Dey..you must be careful.’
Death is the only time one becomes careful, cautious, conscious. The Investigator smiled and patted the tiny Inspector’s tiny hands holding on to big steering. ‘You are a careful driver. You should drive carelessly, once a while.’
The Investigator entered the Jailhouse. It was as somber as Shiva’s temple. A light breeze blew across the high walls and yellow mercury bulbs glowered. A few insects buzzed on them and gave out a sound of Phut..Phut.. When they struck the huge bulbs. They fell on the ground, half baked and died slowly. He entered the high security cell by flaunting his card. The guard gave him a vacuous look, as if it mattered little if the investigator was calling on the prisoner. ‘Hmm..’ the guard reflected. ‘Ugh..hmm..ahh..’ the guard continued his disgusting grunts.
It worked up the Investigator, damn….he shouted under his breath. He could shoot the bastard. But it was his turn to die. Why kill anybody when one was dying anyway. He wondered how little the other life mattered when one’s life was coming to an end… ‘She would call it Solipsism.. the world from one’s POV…self is the only object of real knowledge..’ He was irritated at her thoughts; even in death she was chasing him like an angel with a Chalice of poisonous knowledge…like his uncle of posterity. The one he had shot. Of course it was an accident, Doc Mockerjee had said. But he was a paranoid humanoid… that much was as sure as a fucking death.
The murderer was sitting exactly the way he sat when the investigator had left him, in the Lotus posture. No one had seen him otherwise.
The cell was a like a match box with mossy walls and a damp floor. It had a peephole for the window through which a silent air moved about. The investigator pulled a jute stool and faced the murderer. ‘ So..’ he said as he pointed the weapon . ‘It is tonight or …never.’ He said.
The murderer didn’t flinch, didn’t shrug, and didn’t bat an eyelid.
‘I know ..I know..’ the Investigator was exasperated on his routine.. ‘For eighty-seven days..’ he thought.
‘’Tonight..’ he repeated. It is either you or…’
The murderer was as still as a dead blue beetle.
‘I know..I damn well know why you killed your parents. But you can never know why I am killing myself.’ The Investigator placed the weapon on his temple. ‘I will shoot myself and that is the end of your silence. It would be your turn to suffer as the way I have suffered for past eighty seven days. Won’t you want to know why I am shooting myself?’ He asked.
The murderer didn’t reply.
‘Well… this is going too far..’ the Investigator reflected. ‘I, as well put an end to it.’ He wanted to hurry his dying.
A pause hung for a longish moment.
‘Come out with the motive so that I die peacefully.’ The Investigator pleaded. ‘Let me die in peace. It has been a fucking life that I have led. All of thirty-three years and a fucking few months….’
The murderer gazed into the vacuum that lay ahead.
The investigator shrugged. He knew had been defeated. ‘Now that I am going to die, I might as well tell you something I haven’t told anyone.’ He said.
The murderer showed no sign of coming out of his meditation.
‘You haven’t the slightest idea what I have been carrying all these years. Ever heard of Sodomy?’ He asked.
The murderer didn’t reply.
‘What does it matter to you? You are up there in your pure meditation. We minions have to suffer. You wouldn’t know what it is to be fucked by your uncle when you are a kid of five?’ The investigator cried hoarsely. ‘I shot the bastard, I did…’He laughed. ‘And made it show as an accident.’
The Investigator pressed the finger on the weapon. He closed his eyes and sighed. He felt as light as a flying feather. He had lived a moment before he die. The burden was no longer there. He felt euphoric. And then he heard a soft groan -A barely audible sound which caught his ear. He ignored it thinking that death was knocking on him and had come to say hello.
‘I still feel the stickiness in my anus. I can’t shit normally. I can’t sleep normally. A giant chase me in my sleep. A behemoth swallows me. My memories had kept me alive. Your silence would be a burden on me from this world.’ He murmured in his delirium of death.
Again a soft chuckle reverberated through the damp cell.
This time the Investigator opened his eyes.
The murderer was smiling, a saintly smile.
‘Go on shoot yourself.’ He challenged the Investigator in a low voice.
‘That wouldn’t help you in knowing the motive.’
The Investigator laughed. He had won a battle. The murderer was talking.
He pointed the gun at the smiling murderer. ‘You aren’t a Buddha, out with the motive for killing two persons who gave you a name? You were an orphan, you could have died but for them. ‘Out with it.’ The investigator thundered.
‘Do you really want to know?’ Asked the murderer.
The investigator nodded in affirmative. He was sweating with excitement.
‘Why do you think I killed the two people who gave me a new lease of life when I was dying in a slum, ill and left to die by my parents?’ The murderer asked.
The investigator nodded unsurely.
‘I am an orphan; they adopted me when I was six. They were efficient doctors who saved me from the claws of fearsome death.’
The investigator listened intently, his eyes wide with fear. He feared the worst.
‘Then it began, I must have been eighteen or nineteen. First it was she who wanted me to do things to her. Things you know better than I do.’
The Murderer paused. ‘I hated myself for doing it to her. She was my mother. But she wanted it. I was her young lover, her domesticated rapist.’
The investigator looked at him with pity, with hatred, with anger.. ‘Bastard..’ he hissed.
‘It wasn’t just her, A few years later my father wanted some fun and I was his adopted prostitute… . They were my providers, I couldn’t refuse. I hoped it would end some day. It never did, until I ended it.’