AND OTHER MICRO STORIES
translated from the Bengali by Rinita Banerjee
In a room,
live two of us
The two of us, angry.
A door, a closet, a window,
the leaves of the door –
we divide them equally.
When one of us goes out,
I put the lock properly.
One leaf remains shut,
with another open slightly.
This is our relationship. There are no words between us. There is torment. His bed and mine lie side by side. When he is awake, I don’t listen to him. It is when he sleeps that I listen to him. I listen to him all the more. He talks in his sleep.
I work hard through the day. Twelve, fourteen, sixteen hours. I want to sleep at night. But I cannot. In the dead of night, from the bed next to mine, he shouts, ‘Deer! Deer!’
He shouts – ‘Aha! Taj Mahal!’
He shouts – ‘Look, such a beautiful waterfall!’
He shouts – ‘I did it! I did it!’
I have told him many times, ‘Stop dreaming. Let me sleep.’ He just does not listen. Every night, he shouts, ‘Deer! Deer…!’
In the middle of last night, hearing ‘Deer! Deer!’, I just could not restrain myself. Sitting on top of his chest, I squeezed his throat. For a long time. His tongue stuck out, his body fell limp.
Placing my finger close to his nose I gathered he was not breathing. Afterwards, I slept.
In the morning, after brushing my teeth, I stepped out for work. Work – the whole day. On the way back, it occurred to me that there’s a corpse in my room. It must have begun to rot by now. It will stink. How will I sleep in its midst? Then, what will happen tomorrow? A more putrid smell. The day after? People from the locality will land up, the police … Where will I move the body?
I return home. A door leaf is open. I enter the room. I can smell no stench. The man is lying on the bed. The lips are moving. He is muttering – ‘Deer! Deer!’
Atanu’s son goes to an English medium school. He got admission only this time round. Aged only four. A bag on his back, a water bottle on his shoulder. The boy still can’t say water bottle; says atol-batol. Atanu works at a newspaper. At the desk. Atanu’s wife has a job in an office. Leaves at nine in the morning. Atanu gets their son ready. Feeds him, helps him get dressed, arranges the school bag, bids him bye-bye after making him get into the school bus.
Atanu does not know how to tie a tie. He has never worn a tie in his life. The kind of job he has does not require him to wear a tie. Atanu does not have to tie even his son’s tie. The tie is always ready. It hangs, looped, from the dress-hanger. Atanu just puts it around the boy’s neck like a garland and tightens the loop a little. I made a slight error. A tie’s loop isn’t supposed to be called a loop, it ought to be called a knot. Today, the tie is not in the knotted state. The wife had washed it. While putting it on him, the knot’s fastened too tightly. Now Atanu is not being able to untangle it. The more he tries to untangle it, the more it gets stuck. The boy gasps for breath. Bit by bit, the noose becomes tighter.
A KEY'S NARROW PATH
Children grow up with their eyes on keyholes. Even I did. Maya Mashi used to live alone. Now and then, a man would enter her room. I would keep an eye on the keyhole. On summer afternoons, Maya Mashi would sleep naked. One summer afternoon, when I cast my eye on the key’s narrow path, I saw Maya Mashi hanging.
She had told me several times, ‘Don’t come in the afternoon like this, like a thief.’
Even then, I go.
I went today.
She said, ‘Why did you come?’
I said, ‘I feel thirsty. I’ll leave as soon as I drink some water.’
She said, ‘Did you eat in the afternoon?’
I said, ‘No, haven’t eaten.’
She said, ‘There is no rice. There are cucumbers and guavas. Eat up quickly and get going.’
She gave me cut fruits.
There was blood on them.
—What is this? What a disaster! What happened? So much blood on the clothes?
—The one I have killed!
—Take them off at once. It must be washed off.
My wife is flinging the clothes on the ground at the foot of the well.
Why such savagery? It’s hurting me.
Swapnamoy Chakraborty is the author of more than 300 short stories, apart from several flash fiction pieces and multiple novels. His first collection of stories was Bhumishutro (1982). With his first novel Chatushpathi, which was published in Ananda Bazar’s Puja edition (1992), he immediately made a mark. His seminal work Holde Golap - an intrepid and profound exploration of sexual identity crisis, with a focus on the relationship between the LGBT community and society in general - won him the Ananda Puroshkar (2015). His Abantinagar was honoured with the Bankim Puroshkar (2005). That apart, Swapnamoy has won the Manik Smriti Puroshkar and the Tarashankar Smriti Puroshkar, among others. He has been a columnist for newspapers like Pratidin and Aajkaal, and earlier, Ananda Bazar Patrika and Bartaman. He has been a guest lecturer at the Calcutta, Burdwan and Viswa Bharati universities. He lives in Kolkata.
Rinita Banerjee is a senior editor (literary) with a publishing house, a short-story writer, and an aspiring literary translator. Rinita is pursuing a PG Diploma in Literary Translation at the Ahmedabad University, on a JCBLF Fellowship. She has a Masters in English from the North Carolina State University (Raleigh, USA) and graduated with a Bachelors in Psychology from Lady Shri Ram, Delhi University. Her published original works include, among others, a short story titled ‘The Dance of the Happy Muse’ that was part of The Punch Magazine Anthology of New Writing (Niyogi Books 2021); ‘The Betrayal’ (Juggernaut's digital writing platform; April 2019); ‘Until Rain’ (kitaab.org; July 2019); and 'Black Flood' (October Hill Magazine; Winter 2017). Aside from a select collection of detective stories for young adults that she is translating from Bengali to English (forthcoming from Deb Sahitya Kutir) at present, she has translated two children's bilingual books from English to Bengali with Tulika Books: Opore Dekh from Look Up! Kavitha Punniyamurthi, and Ekta aar Onekgulo from One and Many by Indu Sreekumar (2017).