The other side of the Moon
[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ut by April the old character came back and he set idle, roaming around with his grandeur and no works. She resigned to her fate. But for working in the paddy field, he helps her in the paddy field, saying the child could be born anytime and so she should not work so hard. Like any other village wife she carried her child in her stomach and works in the field. She too felt that it should happen as soon as possible but the baby took its time and failed to come out as she expected.
The month of May came and the season of spring was at its peak. People started to water their field as they received some rain fall although monsoon was yet to come. They too started to water it so that the clods are watered well for ploughing.
In the midst of this he brought news that he was going to Kohima with some villagers, saying that a certain Minister in the Minister’s Hill wants to construct a building and want local masonry to help built the foundation with boulders. She was at the peak of her pregnancy. Aware of her conditions, she begs him not to go but he said he had already given his word and cannot take it back. He named them and claims they were not good enough to curve the boulder and needs him, because it was a minister house and that it needs to be done well, he justified in going because the minister will asked for them in future for any other works.
She enquired why so suddenly, but he was adamant about it.
He went with them promising that he will return soon to see her, telling that he knew what her conditions is, and will not stay long. He promised to come back after two or three days and see her and takes her to Kohima if necessary for check up. She too felt satisfied that the men he was going with were some trusted people of the village. They left together near their house and he as usual bragging highly about the minister and how they will be sought after in future if his ministers colleague came to know of their work. She too found herself laughing with his friends when they were laughing and talking.
That evening Nivo-ü came and told her about another rumours going around in the village. As usual she will hush, hush her words if she talks about rumours and gossips which are certain to unruffled others or when she does not want to be the source of the news.
“Dino, you know people are saying that…. that man…. Anie Sato, the man with plenty of Mithun below the village. Yes…. I heard that he lost fifteen thousand rupees from his box last Saturday afternoon, when he went for hunting. He had sold one Mithun just recently by eighteen thousand; only three thousand were left back by the man who steels it.” She confided.
“But who will steel that much money.” Asked Dino surprised with it.
“I don’t ….. Know, there are no more honest people these days especially in our village.” She lament.
“But…. But Dino, don’t say that I have told you, but people are suspecting him.”
Dino felt like a hammer struck her in the head. She couldn’t believe this time, she was angry. “Don’t always think he will be steeling everything that is lost in the village. Today is only Tuesday and I can remember clearly last Saturday he went with me in the field!” she protests. “He may be steeling his parents’ money but others I have never heard of it. Chickens, ducks cats, possible but that amount of money I don’t believe it.”
“Dino people are not always what they are; I am only saying what people are saying about in the village. I know you don’t like rumours in the village and you don’t mingle with people. People can say many false rumours but it is always not truth. I hope he does not steel that. The rumours were going around because people saw him loitering around there that morning.”
He came back exactly two days later alone, with his backpack full of pork meat, beef meat, biscuit, fishes, a plastic bag with frogs and some flowery soft cloths for wrapping the unborn child. She thought the money spend on it could be more then he could have earned it. But he spins another story that she easily believed it.
“I went to the minister’s house to discuss about our wages yesterday night. Everybody asked me to go and also add some few things so that our wages can be increased, by telling that we are professionals. I told them to let another fellow go, especially Setso because he was more honest than me but all of them insist on let me to go so I went. The Minister Nihuto, he was a Sema, he was having his drink and told me join to him, when I went. I hesitate but he ordered me so I join him. You know he is the Saab and I can’t reject him. He was drinking a brandy and ordered his servant to bring my cup. I felt ashamed but joint him.”
He weaves his story so easily amidst laughing, that she completely believes his tale.
“We were drinking and I was talking about our works and wages, after some time he enquires about my family. I told him that I am newly married and you, my wife is heavily pregnant and I told him that I came here just to earn some few money, so that I can buy something for you and for your health. I must have told him so sadly and he must have felt so pity on me, because he not only increase our wages but also gives me seven thousand rupees deduct five thousand from my wages and two thousand rupees as a gift, he told me to go and see you and come back and complete the works with the party, after you delivered the child. I felt so ashamed but he insists on it. He was a huge man and the way he says things are like giving orders. I am sure he doesn’t care much about money, because of the way he gave me the money.” He added.
She enjoyed his attention because he would go out less and was there always ready to do all her biddings whenever she needs help, when present. She reminiscent for a while she could live with his lie. She was confident the baby would be born any time before people started transplanting in the field and her only worries were that he would possibly be unable to go to the field because of the construction of works in Kohima and she won’t be able to do much work because of the child.
Aseno came three days later with unexpected news although the real purpose of her visit was to see her health conditions; she had bought along with her, her own present for the unborn child. A cradle with plastic stool, she thought it amusing for her to buy for an unborn child. But she was more surprise with what she confided to her and the things she says unguarded.
She was sitting near the hearth and Aseno was sitting on the long bench, the sole bench in their house, with her arms resting on her knee as if she had a tired day. It was in the afternoon and he had gone to the field to see if water was available in the field.
“You know he came back so soon from Kohima,” Aseno said as if she was disturbed by it.
“He! Who?” asked Dino.
“He, your husband, he went to do coolie works isn’t? I heard that he took seven thousand rupees from the minister and out of that five thousand was their party wages and came back.”
“Yes he told me,”
“Apu Sakhoto was telling in the morung and said everybody was angry with him.”
“Because, the five thousand rupees he took was their wages. He took it and did not return to work. He told them that you are pregnant and need to see you, but did not return for work even after two days. They are thinking that he had took their share and lied to the minister.”
“Apu Sakhoto was saying that he will not go back to work again, saying who will work for unpaid wages although the rest are still working, out of shame with the minister.”
“So that was the answer to everything that he had bought.” Her face became red, and she became surprisingly curious.
“I have heard also that he had repaid the ten thousand rupees along with five thousand rupees interests to Anie Sede-u, which his father had borrowed four years back and I was wondering how he gets so much money so soon.” She continued, after a pause. “Anie, uncle, his father is not a rich person and does not have much luck earning money. He had borrowed the money mortgaging your inheritance field but couldn’t repay it. But Azo, his mother was also not very good with him and our family, she couldn’t get along with Anie, our aunt so she left for Zubza fifteen years ago and never returns. They never talk again.”
Shame and rage grips her. “But what about his Anie who live in Kohima, I heard him says ones but he never mention it again.” She enquired recalling about the rich aunt in Kohima when they plan to eloped.
“Oh! That woman in Kohima, she was actually his small mother his mother youngest sister, she sells liquor in Kohima. I heard she is having liver cancer because of drinking too much foreign liquor.”
“Oh I don’t know what to say.” Was only she could say.
There was only dizziness, tiredness. She felt the baby was coming out, tears rolling down and rest on her stomach, pain in her heart.
“Please go away!” she weeps.
She tries to reach for her bed, their bed. Aseno tries holding her shoulder and arms, supporting her. She wonder why she told this to her in this conditions.
“Dino please be careful,” she heard Aseno saying.
She felt the mattress being covered on her body by Aseno, she could only remember the blurry face of Aseno’s above her face.
“Try to be careful, try to take care.” Was all what she hears. There was darkness everywhere.
“People are suspecting him… they have seen him loitering around there.” The voice came back. In her sleep she could sees him stilly going to Sato’s house behind the house entering through a crack tin. Opening an old dusty box and counting the money in darkness and there was only darkness.
When she wakes up and tried to reach the kitchen. From the bedroom door, she saw a figure cleaning the hind leg of the pork that he had left it hanging on the gabble. There was only anger and rage in her, when she saw his silhouette moving in the dim light. The man she had fallen in love had died long ago and there is a stranger, a thief in their kitchen.
She was groaning, struggling, and dragging her heavy body.
“Dino! Dino!” was what she heard.
He rushed towards her to help her. But she doesn’t need his helps anymore. The very figure makes her repugnant.
“Thief!….. Thief! Don’t touch me!” she shouted, when his hand reached her.
“What is going on with you Dino? He asked surprised, stopping midway. But she was not going to give him any benefit of doubt.
“Did you steal Sato’s money? Did you steal your party’s wages?” she shouted.
“Tell me honestly how you got the money to repay the money, which was borrowed by your father mortgaging our land.” She pointed to her stomach, with her middle finger. “This child in my stomach doesn’t need a thief, to look after him.”
The very words seem to betray everything he has been hiding from her all these time that they have been living together. She sees his fury red eye with blood spot, his veins repelling with blood. No more the handsome, athletic man but the very figure that has everything she hates about. She saw a devilish eye that she had never seen. She saw him rushing towards her, she was unaware of his reaction, and then she felt being pushed. Her body hits the edge of their bed, the lump in her stomach being hit, something gurgling and struggling inside of her stomach, her body cascaded and role to the ground. Then a thud! He had kicked her bottom.
“How dare you call me a thief to my child, you don’t know anything! Who do you think I am! How dare!” He shouted and shouted, there was contempt in is voice. “If you can’t live with me, you can go back to your father and mother!”
[dropcap]S[/dropcap]he didn’t heard anything, she just role and role, reddish blood flooded her leg and smeared to the ground. Stars, colourless rings and half moons moving, revolving in her darkness, she couldn’t see anything but only pain and darkness, the second time that day. She groans and cried.
He saw the blood, the drenched bloody mekhala that covered her lower part, dark blood. Then he knew something has happen, something wrong. He tried to lift her, hold her but she was just rolling in pain even in his hand. Frightened and helpless, he asked her not to cry, neighbours may heard it, he said, but she can’t hear what he was saying. There was no more movement and she stops rolling. She was breathing heavily.
He immediately tried to feed her with water but she couldn’t, he walk up and down and down for few seconds, helpless and worried, then rushed home to his mother some fifty yards above their house and informed her who immediately rushed to his house, asking him to bring the old lady known in the village who is known for her skill in mending bodies.
His mother did everything to help, comfort her which she had never done before. She changed her mekhala, her blouse, wipes her body with a cloak soaks with warm water. Warm the mustard oil in case, she rubbed the bloody floor.
The old lady with her stuff supporting her weight enters the kitchen gasping; he behind her carrying her herbs bundled in a cloak. She lifted her mekhala, stare her bloody private’s and asked for oil. His mother rushed in with the warm oil and the old lady smeared her hands and massage softly Dino’s stomach. She turns around.
“What has happen?” she asked in a raspy voice.
He had to confess. “We were having an argument and I pushed her unintentionally, out of anger.”
“You should have been careful.” She croons.
“Is there something wrong with the child?” His mother asked.
“It is not moving anymore, we have to take the child out otherwise both the mother and the child will die, if we delayed it.” She warned.
Helpless and tears for the first time in his eyes, he resign to his seat, his palm in his face. His mother serves as the mid wife helping the old lady. Dino knew nothing, she didn’t see her child. The child she was carrying in her stomach for almost seven months. The child she waited with anticipation. The old lady had gone mourning the fate of an unborn child who faced the world in his death.
They buried the child below their hearth without informing her parents, only his two sisters, his mother, his father was there. His father helps him in digging the ground. They buried a bloody male baby with a punctured head in a gore cloak he had bought to wrap him in his life but in death that he wrap him.
Dino wakes up only in the midday, she tries to gets up but couldn’t. Her vision dim, there seems to be a sound of shriek in her ear and stays there for few second and gone. The painful abdomen and nausea, she felt dizzy again, sick with fever and headache. There’s numbness in her stomach. She touched it and knew it had gone. She turns looking around but nothing, there’s no sign that either he or the child slept near her, she retouched her stomach to be felt assured but nothing was there. She knew it had gone. She cries but no voice came out, only warm tears came down wetting her pillow. She sleeps again.
In the afternoon, she felt some one was calling her, touching her face, waking her up. She saw her mother-in-law in her blurry vision. Her mother was there too. Her mother-in-law gave her a bowl with hot soup, she taste it she knew what it was. It was frog soup but taste bitter. She tried drinking it but it remains tasteless except for its bitterness, so she gave it back to her. She tries to gets up but couldn’t. She lay in the bed again. He came and stands watching her helplessly like a good husband. Her mother goes home after some time, she couldn’t hear her properly what she said when she was leaving, but wish she stays back. Her mother-in-law wipes her with a cloak drenched with warm water, that evening. She was surprise, with her kindness.
“When have she changed?” she wondered.
She drinks a cup of tea; her youngest sister-in-law makes for her that night, the first time since they had shifted to the house now a living hell. She also brings back the cold soup. This time she could drink it because it was cold, but the taste remains bitter. Her body was too weak, so she struggles to devour it.
Her mother-in-law and sister-in-law went home, she could hear the sound of rustling, and she knew he’s making his bed on the floor. For ones she felt pity for him. But she knew those days are over; there is no redemption in this man.
She went for retrospection of their life that night. The time when they first begin their romance, it was all a lie, a swindle. His stories to become a contractor, the dream of the hotel, the shop he told her, the rich aunts that never existed, his grandeur, his stories, his family’s stories, and his history, all were just lies. True he was an athletic person, a great voice, a gifted man, a man who can sway people, and have his way over many things. That much she can gave him credit. But he was not a person with honour. She can live with his lie, lived with him being a thief, but his crime has no honour, he steels even inside his own house, his own wife’s money. He can have his way but not with her any more, she cannot be his partner in crime. She knew it’s over, everything is over.
He had murdered the very child that could have sustained their love and mend their life together. But that child who will be their destiny, their invincibility, their infinity is buried deep under their hearth. There is no more anything in between them. She must leave him; start a new life, go back to her father house like a prodigal daughter.
She looks for her traditional chain, with the beads that her father had presented to her as a wedding gift although she had eloped, she will not allowed it to be sold worthlessly by a man who has no ethics. She fished out from the iron box. She had nothing any more; there is no money, no more new shawls, or new bags, except her old dress which she wears it to the church. The money had taken been away on the day he went to Kohima for construction work. She did not take anything except the necklace her father had given to her, which will be always hers. It was early in the morning, he had gone for natures call, and she stealthily left the house like the day she had eloped.
Half of the villagers had probably heard about the news already. People stare at her, gossips about her on the way. But she refused to turns back. She drags her lifeless body to her father’s house, drain and tired. He being early bird was washing his face in the courtyard, coughing and sloshing his mouth with water.
He watched her; knew why she was coming, she knew, he knew why she was coming.
“So you must have seen how the moon and the stars are with your lover.” He shouted; partly angry at his daughter callousness with her choice of life, partly sorry for her, at her appearance, weak, frail and deep eyes. There is no more the lively girl he knew; the beautiful, full of life daughter that he had.
“I have seen the either side also.” She wants to shout but kept quiet and went inside.
He had got nothing to do with her fate, her faulty life that she ignorantly chose. She couldn’t shout at the man who had always been there, and will be there without judgment.
Time went by, Sato has consulted all primal seers and soothsayers nearby and all the prediction pointed towards him. The incident and his being loitering around Sato’s house that morning all remains the same. He had stolen it in the morning when he went to visit his friend’s house for drinking his mug of rice beer. One seer even went on to say that it was the reason he and his wife got separated. Nobody asked Dino anything and she did not say anything about the incident that leaded them to have the argument that fateful night. She knew that he had gone to the field that morning but separately he came at about 9.30 am. And people were finding it difficult to prove his involvement because they have seen him in the field. Roko had count his money but only in the evening after coming back from his hunting trip that day.
On the day when the whole of India was mourning, there was a huge argument at the centre of the village. It was a day when the government of India had declared a National mourning day because Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated and the village schools remains closed and the Government teachers who are respected citizen of the village too had come to join the argument. It was the day he too mourns and weeps. He accepted that he had stolen it and the villagers banished him from the village for seven years.
(An extract from an unpublished novel, “Off Feathers,” by the same Author)