Short Story: “THE BURDEN OF BLOOD” by Sreeja Mallick

The sultry weather of outside has perfectly made an alliance with the dark damp room of L 102, as if to declare a war against the perseverance of the students to gulp a lecture voraciously. But in that half dark room the dazzling beauty of the teacher who is delivering the lecture on Pope’s The Rape of the Lock is serving as the beacon of light. The flashing smile peeping through the red thin lips is also serving as a whiff of cool air and giving much more relief to the class than the whirling rattling sound of the decrepit fan. Senjuti, the great admirer of madam, has become ultimately successful to find out a resemblance between madam and Belinda and now she is relishing every tidbits of the lecture thoroughly. The problems created by the muggy weather, mosquito biting and suffocated ambience of the room are next to nothing before the ineffable happiness which Senjuti is now sucking like a thirsty person from the ever spurting flow of the lecture. Though being half-engrossed in the class Senjuti’s flitting eyes are searching the corridor only to see whether Sumo is coming or not – ‘No punctuality. No discipline’. The bridge of patience has just broken and she starts to grumble ‘Coming late becomes her habit nowadays. Riding the scooty like a spaceship. What she thinks about herself. Sunita Williams? Surely she’ll come just before the ending of the class. How irresponsible!’

Every time Sumo misses classes and Senjuti has to make her understand the text with an air of unwilling willingness. Today Sumo’s entering into the classroom happens not like typhoon rather it bears the semblance of a heavy air. Madam startles after seeing her leg. Senjuti hasn’t yet paid a glance on her leg, bending her head she is continuing her sermons of grumbling -‘No one comes so late in the class!’ Seeing the torn parts of the jeans on the left leg she again becomes irritated – ‘Oh No! Has the ghost of Salman Khan created a spell on her!’ When the glance quickly passes over the right leg the old symptoms have started to play their tricks on Senjuti – the tearing pain in the veins and reeling of the head have made the entire classroom revolving before her eyes.

The read flesh of the right knee is gaping from the torn part of the jeans and the faded jeans as if is deliberately trying to make itself colourful by soaking the streaming blood.

From the very fingertips to the elbow the entire hand of Senjuti is trembling like an amputated limb. She loves Sumo a lot. Friends are family for her. They had spent their entire twelve years in the same school and after that they had taken admission in the same college. Sumo was the sports champion. Not a single girl in the school treated her like a girl. Friends fondly used to call her Sumo. The very name itself is the opposite definition of her stature. Sporting a mischievous smile on the lips Sumo tells madam ‘Ma’am the scooty has just skidded off in front of the college gate’- interrupting her in the midst of her sentence madam anxiously tells some students to take her to the nearest chemist. Senjuti, Purabi, Anima take her to the nearby chemist. On the way Sumo behaves in a manner as if nothing has happened. In this brief period the complexion of Senjuti has so much altered that her friends have started to make fun of her by saying that she needs a treatment most than Sumo.

The chemist has started to wash the wounded part and sent a boy on an errand to fetch some required medicine from another shop. Purabi and Anima have again started to tease Senjuti -‘How very weak-minded you-are! Seeing blood has almost brought tears into your eyes. A real namby-pamby of the class!’ They cannot imagine what is going on in the mind of Senjuti at that very moment. The wriggling worms like thoughts of blood, the very tingling lump in her throat have dragged her very existence down on the verge of the cliff of inexpressible crisis and ever-gaping pit of despair – two mugs full of blood – Senjuti becomes terribly afraid to enter into the room. Ma is taking out the mugs of blood to empty it into the basin. The entire bed-sheet is covered with the patches of blood and the mattress is as if soaking the blood to give the bed-sheet relief from the burden of blood. Ma has wiped out every stain of blood on the floor but her weary body seems incapable to remove the bed-sheet by handling Baba’s skeletal body in a deft way. The air of the room has become heavy with the smell of blood and medicine which are applied on the carbuncles of Baba’s throat and clean shaven head. The head is studded with several sores and the stream of blood has been spurting out continually from the carbuncle on the throat. The big smirking sore is as if mocking other small sores on the head and also jeering at the attempt of human endeavours to retain a life which itself cannot bear the pain of living.

Senjuti sits down beside Baba and touches those smooth parts of the head with her small hands where the sores have not made their unacceptable invasion. Baba has turned dumb nearly six months but the very eyes of him speak to her everyday. Why today Baba’s eyes are so full of tears? Baba is the real-life hero of Senjuti. Heroes can fight against every possible impossibility. But is he not capable now to fight anymore? Will he give in? How can it be possible? Then Senjuti’s hero will be defeated. May be in real life it is not always necessary to win a battle, the defeat can bring sometimes the sense of relief.

Senjuti is now in class seven. Baba’s wretched condition throughout the last year has forced Baba’s little fairy to desert her never-never land. To the world outside she is an eleven years old obedient sweet girl. But nobody cares to know what kind of tumultuous thoughts she has to suppress under the veneer of a calm bearing. She is striving hard day and night only to attain good marks in the ensuing exam because she knows very well it’s the only method by which she can bring a faint line of smile on the cloudy face of her mother.

The sight of blood gushing forth from Baba’s severed tongue haunts her in sleep. Nobody cares a fig to know what she thinks and feels. The sight of mugs full of blood, medicine, cotton, the bottles of saline and pouch of blood, injection, ointments have throttled the inner child of Senjuti by and by. The ever-nibbling anxiety and stifled pangs of losing one’s most loved one has isolated her amidst a crowd of friends. She is bearing every day and night the burden of blood without anyone’s knowledge.

Sometimes she wonders who is younger she or her Ma. She consoles her each and every time by saying -“God will stand by us and everything will be alright.” Circumstances and Time are such good teachers Senjuti doesn’t know yet. Without her knowledge they have taught her to beguile her mother by covering entire body at night only to hide tears from her and also in the morning to pretend to memorize the lessons by reading aloud when the real endeavours has been working out to push the tears back down the stinging throat. She has learnt all these tricks like an expert.

Today Senjuti is trying to make Baba gulp some fruit juice. When she looks into the eyes of her father an inexpressible fear thrash her entire entity-both sideways of the eyes are streaming with waters and today she can feel her Baba’s ardent desire not to live any more is also dribbling with those drops. The juice is coming out from the mouth. He doesn’t want to take anything which will help his crippled body to live on this earth for some days more.Doesn’t he want to get well for her also? Is she becoming selfish? Can’t she see the racking pain through which her Baba is going on for so many days? Can he read her painstricken mind as she can read his eyes? Her favourite room which was earlier adorned with toys and cartoon stickers has now almost turned into a room of a nursing home with hanging saline bottle and pouch of blood.Is Baba aware of the fact that she is battling with her tears and thoughts everyday in the attic and is trying to prepare her lessons properly for the ensuing exam? Is he thinking himself a burden on Ma and her? Is that the reason of her hero to abandon the desire to live? From this day onwards whenever Senjuti prays before God she becomes incapable of saying ‘God, please save my Baba’rather a despondent cry to give him permanent release from this horrendous pain comes out from the depths of her heart by tearing each and every tendon of her muscles.

Monday, 2nd June. The entire house is swarming with people and their pompous cry has made a weltering condition of anguish, pain and rage in the mind of Senjuti. She can’t bear this hypocritical process of showing emotions so violently and outrageously. Ma is lying on the cold motionless body of Baba almost in a state of stupor. “The ‘body’ should be removed from here”- the supervising tone of the elder son-in-law of the house comes out of the hysteric sounds like a piercing arrow. Before recovering from the first attack another unexpected attack comes immediately – “Remove her from the dead body and tell her not to make such a ‘fuss’.” The words smart Senjuti like a hard slap on her check. The entire busy world has no time to bear the ‘fuss’ of a newly turned widow. All relatives are taken to the native village for the cremation and funeral ceremony. On the way Senjuti’s uncle gets down from the car only to go to the office of his recently dead brother and to fetch his salary to perform the funeral pompously. Don’t forget the date 2nd June, Monday.

Senjuti is not shedding a single tear, as if all the tears have dried up. The cousins of her discussing zealously and critically about the weird nature of hers – ‘what kind of a daughter she is God Knows!’ Throwing the sweet words against her parched soul they begin to cry more loudly only to show their precious grief. They don’t know that Senjuti doesn’t want to shed a single tear on the first day of her lachrymose journey of life. Whenever teacher asks any question to Manju in the class, she stares at her blankly. Today Senjuti acts like that nincompoop of their class. It seems her entire mind turns into an empty pot, as if, if someone strikes her head, it will emit a hollow sound. She cannot feel or think anything. Everything has turned almost blank before her eyes and the innermost recesses of her heart.

Without caring anybody’s foul remarks on the next day the eleven years old girl leaves her mother among a herd of hypocrites and comes with her maternal uncle in the town only to take preparation for the ensuing exam properly. She knows very well that her Baba will not be happy to see her garnering sympathy from others by shedding tears rather he will be happy to see her studying.

‘What a milksop you are!’ the crackling sound of Purabi gives a severe blow to Senjuti’s cold weakness of the mind and body. Raising her head she sees Sumo’s dressing’s been properly done. Her friends have again started to razz her. The blood’s been oozing from her knee and you seem to be faint. Ha! Really ridiculous’. Looking on the blood-stained bandage of Sumana’s leg Senjuti starts to ponder – ‘Am I really very weak-minded? Have I not been bearing the burden of the sights of blood for so many years in my dreams?’ She can feel very well the flow of blood in her veins has been slowing down but the stream of blood has been running faster in the veins of her brain. The stifled memories want to come out from the dark inner crevices of her brain.

The setting ruddy sun seems to be weak like Senjuti’s bearing. The two mugs full of blood -blood-stained bandage – torn cotton -torn parts of a jeans – the thoughts are running and thronging violently in her mind. She can see the dizzy figures of her friends in front of her. The entire head of Senjuti is reeling to and fro and the yellow weak thoughts turn fuzzy like the blurred afternoon itself.

Sreeja Mallick is a student of final year M.A. course in the University of Burdwan.

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