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the moon gazers

They both sat gazing at the moon. It was just past sunset and the sky was turning from gold to vermillion, soon it would be an inky blue and then darkness. They both stared ahead, looking and yet unfocusedly staring into nothing. Sitting on their wicker chairs , with a wicker table between them. The table held empty bowls of Jhalmuri.

It was a summer evening and they were glad for the hint of breeze which had beckoned the evening.

It was a full moon and the moon was large on the horizon.

He thought' Almost like the younger sister of the sun, '. Yes, it was a charming prospect, the moon in all it’s glory and gazed upon so lovingly by many , was actually always living in the elder sister ‘the sun’s ‘ shadow. Yes, it is a thought worth discussing upon, maybe Shibani is thinking of the same thing right now as she gazes on the moon. I wonder if Shibani is looking at the moon right now… He thought.

Shibani was a new acquantaince, he had met her at a ‘ sahitya samiti’ a cultural evening. His wife, who sat beside him right now, gazing at the moon , had never been so much into art and literature, and he did feel a need to have a mature discussion sometimes. Shibani was on the other hand was well read, and opinionated, almost an equal.

Across the table the wife gazed at the moon, looking at the birds going home.

She thought 'It is time to close the windows or mosquitoes will enter the house.' She had been a spirited girl, but over the years, practical living had tempered her spirit. Her thoughts were worldly if not wise. She thought of the groceries, the dhobi and the cook and the myriad problems of running a house. She enjoyed a good sale , it appealed to her thrifty sense, she enjoyed the neighbourhood Gossip. She reveled in being one of the many ‘Boudi’s’ in the locality, being referred to as ‘ Mrs. Basu’, she did not aspire to be anything else. She did not know how to be anything else.

She rose presently to do the evening puja. She carried the empty bowls inside and closed the net door after her, lest the mosquitoes enter the house. They lived in a flat, but the balcony more than made up for any lack of space inside the house. She loved the out doors.

Inside in the kitchen, she looked out the window, and saw the moon again. Funny how the moon follows us everywhere she thought. A thought which she did not dwell on, it was just a statement not a poetic revelation.

She moved to the Puja room to do her daily evening prayers. She recited the prayers almost as a reflex, like the mouth knew what to say and the hands knew what to do, and no added thought need be given to the ritual. She was devout, she prayed morning and night, and fasted for almost all days that the Bengali calendar required. Yet she did not discourse on God, she just prayed, did not theorise on prayer.

As she got up from her prayers another thought entered her head, almost in stealth, unbeckoned. The beauty of the full moon must lie in the fact that it is not a full moon every day, the fact that it waxes and wanes is what makes it so charming. It was not a question but the thought had come to her in all it’s clarity , like stating a fact, and even though she was not a woman who leaned towards philosophy she felt that these lines must be of significance. She decided to tell her husband about it, after all he was of a decidedly philosophical nature. Theres’ was an arranged marriage and right from the beginning she had known that she could never be his equal intellectually. He loved poetry and literature , and solitude. She craved fun and bon-hommie of relatives. They had made a life together, and raised their children well, but now as they sat gazing at the moon in the evening of their life, the different hues of their characters stood in stark contrast.

She banished any feeling of foreboding and busied herself with the preparation of supper. Then she carried the puja lamp from room to room, spreading the incense all over the house, she carried the Diya to the balcony so that her husband could take the blessings from the lamp. It was an every day custom, he waved his hands above the lamp and then over his head , closed his eyes and to say a silent prayer, that was his offering to God, he did not believe in the myriad other rituals.

As she crossed the balcony threshold, her eyes again gazed upon the moon. The moon had now developed a blue tinge, and had wisps of clouds around it. The light reflecting off the clouds gave the moon a glowing aura around it. The sight reminded her of a book she had read many years back. It was her first mills and boons, ‘the moongazers’ . It was the first time she had read about a Kiss, and she had flung the book across the room when she had come to the event. For days she had been unable to read beyond the first line and not break into a sweat, for days her heart thumped like crazy. Then one day she gathered courage and read the enlightening paragraph hiding under her bed, scared to be caught, and yet …

The memories had come suddenly and unbeckoned. They had startled her with the vividness of the memory and even though she was over 50 years old now, she blushed.

Her husband turned at the moment and caught a blushing wife, holding a lamp whose glow lit up her countenance. She was biting back a smile, a smile which seemed almost naughty! Like a child hiding a treat.

‘what is it?’ he asked.

“nothing”. She said.

He turned , his entire attention riveted on her now. “ come now, tell me.”

She turned , shook her head, and went inside the house laughing “ nothing baba nothing.”

He smiled, he liked her laughter, he followed her inside calling out her name, more peals of laughter, and he started laughing too.

Just like that...

no words said, no lengthy discourses… an enchanting evening … the moon … and laughter answerered by laughter.


Rajani Bhat said…
Beautifully expressed...I loved the simplicity of the wife's understanding of universal truths

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