Weightless Samar was floating amidst flowers, twinkling stars and rainbows. Silky silvery clouds started penetrating his skin and flowed through his muscles. The magnificence of the rainbow sprouted out into thousands of known and unknown colors and began to dance along with him to the beats of unknown songs and rhythms of their wings.
‘Convulsion!’ The shrill voice of the nurse had struck the danger bell inside the ICU and within an instant the emergency staff was around him.
“Phenytoin, quick.’ shouted the doctor on duty looking at the monitor. Two pairs of hands held him amidst his tonic clonic movements, while another nurse fought hard to keep the tongue from falling back with a mouth-gag so as to maintain the airway. One of the junior doctors started to suck out the froth coming out of his mouth with the help of the suction machine.
‘Get the intubation trolley beside him, we might need it.’
Everyone in the ICU was desperately trying to save his life. After about half an hour of exhausting struggle, his fits were controlled. The oxygen level, heart beats, electrocardiograph etc. came to a normal level. People relaxed with a sigh of relief for the time being.
Samar lay there like a log of wood.
The precision of the fine line between the elixirs of the divine voyage just a while ago, and the dramatic situation right now was very vague to him. The physician, dressed in a green gown, specs, mask and cap, like an alien from outer space focused a flashlight into his eyes. The cilliary cavern of his eye started constricting and dilating. He wanted to think about where and how he was flying a little while earlier, but he felt as if his thinking channels were controlled from some outside station.
The hi-tech ICU looked almost like a spaceship to Samar with many known and unknown gadgets, wires and computers. He had no clue as to what those people in spacesuit like dresses were doing; he wondered whether he was in an atomic research unit or inside a spaceship. He just lay there silently amidst the shadows and lights with intermittent sounds of beeping gadgets. At any moment he was flying through the world of feelings with or without his will.
Once he overheard the whisper – ‘It’s been seven days, but his condition is still the same.’ But to him day, night or time didn’t have any meaning. People came and went, many doctors examined him and changed prescriptions, the nurse changed his dressings and applied dusting powders at intervals, the sweeper cleaned up his excreta, but he was oblivious to everything around him. An unknown power took him through a misty world voyage through images and scenes from his past, some from his present reality and others from unknown timeless cumulative feelings…
Lying on the paddy fields, he saw the sky above, filled with twinkling stars just as he used to in his childhood. With his fingers, he drew imaginary shapes forming trees, elephants out of the stars by joining one to the other. Except for the fireflies twinkling all around, it was pitch black. He was lost in his thoughts thus, while others were busy forming the bhelaghar. At one point in time, he danced along with the stars, fireflies and the trees and elephants he created to the rhythm of the crickets and toads in the pond. He did not realize at which moment he dozed off….
Whether he returned to the same ICU that night through twirls of cigarette smoke, or to a similar place like that, he never knew. His postmodern thought process didn’t have a permissible program for all such “occurrences”…
And his visits took him from that very bed – Into the bokul tree with the overpowering aroma, into the infinite pleasure of picnics or into the uncontrollable palpitations he experienced in the past. Sometimes he returned to his bed in slithering reptilian moves…,Samar tried to think coherently. On looking at the tense faces in gowns and masks all around, he saw everyone apparently busy, the electronic monitors and beepers going off, more drugs passing through the cannula in his veins…….then things becoming still.
But his journeys were never mundane affairs. He had never traveled through the calculated drudgery of the bitter daily life of his workplace situated thousands of miles away from home. Not for once had he been into the cash books, ledgers, credits’ balance and never ending numerical of vouchers; nor did he meet his colleagues or the inebriated evenings with two thousand watt music of the pubs blaring in the background.
‘Samar, Hey Samar….’ Something was mumbled in his ear. He woke up on being pressed on his forehead. He couldn’t recognize the creatures resembling extraterrestrials of some Hollywood flick, staring at him.
He felt an immense pain in his hip, chest, the broken ribs rubbing over one another making sounds with each breath. A dull clunk was what people heard. Samar, on other hand, could hear the buzz the people made around him. Gradually the faces zoomed back into focus just like in an SLR camera. Except for one, the people were not familiar to him. Who could be that girl with pink cheeks and tear filmed eyes, looking at him attentively from the back of the gathering? ‘Did he know her?’ Those watery eyes, the face behind the mask and the tinge of the newlywed bride’s vermilion looked very familiar to him.
He muttered, though his syllables were incomprehensive. Sagarika was his old colleague, one of his first friends in this unknown weird metro.
‘Coma scale is showing slight improvement, but he is not out of danger yet. There are multiple fractures along with the head injury, so nothing can be said for certain.’ Sagarika left the room before the doctor finished his sentence.
‘Why is she here? Where am I, anyway?’
In his two years of staying in this city, there was nothing in his life except the accountancy job, the calculations, the deadlines set by his boss. Every day started with the shrill sound of the alarm clock kicking off his humdrum activities, till his return, late in the night just to sleep. It was not that he was getting a handsome salary or that he liked the job he was doing. He was following the routine just for the sake of it. Even if he were to leave this job, other jobs were also very much similar, so he stopped thinking along those lines after sometime…
Without openly saying it, he considered the time spent with Sagarika as his capital investment. Their conversations were about flowers-daffodils, tulips, sunflowers, roses. Over endless cups of coffee and pastries in the cafeteria, they talked about what their ideal colors should be, the art of pruning, the bonsai procedure, their experience and the ideas they could experiment with.
The flowers of his native place which Samar had great fondness for, like bokul, tagar were not discussed though, as Sagarika’s knowledge of them was pretty poor. Time flew as both of them shared their thoughts on flowers, and they always ended up discussing tuberose flowers. They were enchanted by the aroma, beauty, and softness, in fact everything about the tube-rose. Theirs was a flowery relationship, not exactly love, nor could one call it friendship. After some time, Sagarika got married to one of their executives named Pravjyot Singh. Surprisingly, he was never interested in flowers or anything remotely close. A self styled fitness freak, Pravjyot knew nothing besides the gymnasium, treadmill, diet and the office. Pravjyot had proposed one fine day and Sagarika accepted it without any hesitation.
After her marriage, Samar's life became a relentless routine without any purpose, without even the pleasant flowery interlude, however fleeting it may have been…Weekends were spent visiting pubs or discos, getting drunk and taking part in ‘road rash bike/car races on the highway or off city limits with his colleagues. Not that he was interested in all these activities, but he was doing them as he had to kill time in the company of his friends.
Once, he went to his home in his native village during the vacation, but it hardly resembled the place he knew. His parents already had moved out to a town, which was new to him. The village of his childhood was no more… His friends had also left the village for their livelihood, the paddy field he knew, the village pond, the Namghar and the playground in which they played football with shaddock fruit all looked lifeless and strange…
On returning, he immersed himself in his work, room and pubs. Though at times, he did come across Sagarika, neither of them had the time to discuss about chrysanthemums or tube-roses. To meet the deadline of pending work, he had to work late most of the time. All the problems of the company were the employees’ too, but their personal problems remain as such for them alone. To Samar, breathing was also becoming a mechanical inevitable of the routine called life. Even the ‘crazy’ weekends were a joyless exercise.
That weekend was no different from any others. Tinted rays from the dance floor reflected from everyone in the discotheque they were in. The disc jockey was incorporating some raggae and bhangra beats into a fragmented old melody and presenting it through thousand watt sound boxes. Samar’s colleagues had gone to the dance-floor to shake a leg. He was sitting on a barstool, beer can in hand and losing the last remnants of patience he had. He went out of the discotheque, annoyed with the machinery of life that refuses to shut down even if one wants to.
As the engine of his car revved up, his thoughts raced. He thought….about his village, about the small house his father built in the town, his office building, his rented room and nowhere could he discover himself. This transitional world of Sikhandi is completely void of the thing called life!
‘Life is elsewhere!’
He murmured, pressing over the accelerator. Probably the car moved forward.
The speedometer touched a hundred, hundred and twenty, hundred and forty an hour… though it was two a.m., there were a few vehicles in the road. Suddenly the headlights of a huge truck flashed hard against his eyes.
Samar didn’t remember what happened after that!
He returned after his weightless voyage through the flowers, the stars and the rainbows only to see the tense faces surrounding him in that I.C.U.
He opened his eyes as the crushing pain from the broken ribs radiated to his whole body, at that time nobody was near him. As the CFL lighted the room all around, he couldn’t make out whether it was day or night. The physician and the nurse present were busy inserting some kind of tube into the food pipe through the nostril of another patient. He resisted it as the process was distressing. The patient on the other side was sleeping comfortably with an oxygen mask on. The nurse was busy checking the drug schedule of the patients. He tried to get up in order to move around. No, he couldn’t even move a finger. With a lot of effort he was only able to open his eyes. Everything looked cloudy and distorted; as if he was looking through the mist at an out of focus object. The machines, the patients next to him and the nurse with the trolley of drugs, everything was fuzzy and blurred…
Along with the strange feeling, he moved out of his body and started floating through technicolor waves. In the midst of the colors and the inexplicable experience, he saw his office – everyone was working out there in the usual manner. In the cafeteria, Pravjyot and Sagarika were having their cup of coffee, and Pravjyot was giving her the good news of starting a few new workouts to build the latissimus and triceps. His discothèque loving friends were dancing in a disco with beer cans in their hands. He swam forward through the waves of colors with closed eyes. This time, he saw the sky of his village, the flowering mustard fields up to the hills far away in the horizons, the village lake filled with swans, fishes and water lilies. Out of the body and flowing with the stream, Samar passed through the ten inch wall to return to the high tech ICU from where he started. This time, everyone was very busy. Everyone looked animated and busy with one patient; two physicians were giving cardiopulmonary resuscitation by pressing over the patient’s chest repeatedly. The graph in the cardiac monitor was flattening and it was making some abnormal sounds, the levels in the pulse oxymeter were also oscillating.
The physician took out the defibrillator, connected it to his chest and pressed the trigger, there was a vigorous jerk from the patient in response, everyone looked at the cardiac monitor -No, and the curve is still flat. One of them looked for the pulse-‘Absent’.
One threw the light from a flashlight into the pupil.
Nothing could be done now. One by one they started moving away. One started to write down the findings in the death certificate. Samar looked at the dead patient. His calm eyes were looking at the infinity in exactitude… He took a closer look…Yes! He was the beholder of that body till a few minutes ago.
The stretcher took away his body making clanging sounds. Anxious faces made way for the body and moved along with it, but as the speed of the stretcher increased gradually, he moved away from them.
He saw Sagarika among the fading faces. She had a bunch of tube-roses in her hand. The nectarous smell of the flower engulfed him like a cold reptile…….
Translation: by author
From the compilation of Assamese creative fiction Jatra(যাত্রা) by the author published by Akhor Prakash(আখৰ প্রকাশ) Guwahati in 2009
The original story in Assamese appeared in Etyadi(ইত্যাদি) –the Sunday supplement of Assamese daily –Doinik Janasadharan (দৈনিক জনসাধৰণ)in 2005
Also a part of Natunar Swaralipi (নতুনৰ স্বৰলিপি)A collection of selected Assamese short stories by twenty five young writers edited by Mr.Pankaj Thakur and Arindom Borkotoky ,2009