Translated from the Bengali by Bishnupriya Chowdhuri
House With Ivory Nameplate
One of those houses with ivory nameplates… you enter, and inside it will be snowing. The owner’s head is covered with cotton flakes. He listens to the gramophone… Maestro Hemanga on the roll. You’ll quickly fire up the stove for some tea. It’ll be a hassle though, in that lashing wind. On top of that, the snow keeps covering your glasses… And then, out of nowhere, a snow-white cat too joins in.
When you come back from the kitchen—the cat is dead. Blood pooling over the ice. The man sits still, unperturbed. Terrified, you’ll try to leave, but thick snow has the threshold choked, and the door won’t budge.
Now when the mystery runs deep, you’ll peek through the glass. They are digging up the snow. They are carving the headstones.
Those houses with ivory nameplates, if you went in, you’ll find rows of graves with headstones on each. Look closely. One of them will have a name.
Those Who Sleep With The River
Beware of those who sleep with the river. Because tomorrow when the river turns to the estuary, he will sleep with it. Yesterday, when the river was a young mountain creek, I knew that he had slept with her too. For him, it’s a snap. Just when the estuary meets the ocean, that gets him unnerved. Waves are too high, they roar. They are not easy to tame. But still, after spending the night with the ocean, he lies on the beach exhausted and lazy. You’ll find even the ocean acting calm. Such rumors spread fast.
They say, he has been fooling around—the horizon, sunset, moonglow… Even slept with the sunshine at midday—burned bad.
Beware of those who sleep with the rivers. He’ll try to melt you with sweet words. And once you do, he’ll make a river of you. And then…
You know how rumors spread fast.
The Wave Seller
He sells waves for a living. Suppose you’re traveling to the sea and the sea seems calm.
Lacking waves, you can ask. He can make them.
But of course, there’s payment involved per wave. When you’ll enjoy the waves, there’ll be a woman on the beach with a stopwatch. That’s his wife who keeps a count of the waves. Never misses a single one.
But if someone tries to mess with the pricing or the number of waves, he can raise one big enough to teach them s lesson. They never compromise on the quality of their waves.
Even the waves know it. Then again, waves seldom live long. Only that one time, some people challenged him and he got angry.
Created one very big, like a mountain.
Is there a wave that lived longer than the tsunami in human history?
All that pain I gather every day, I keep in a vault. A decade goes by like this and then I get them out. That is the day when something big happens. Like my daughter leaves me for good. Or my wife. I shatter to pieces and scatter across the room. The maid comes in to sweep them clean but not all the pieces are found. They must have slipped under the bed or may have simply flown out the window. So I remain like that, all broken. One day I called the scrap collector to sell off all the old junk in my room. The man, weighing me on his scale said, “Not worth a penny. Junk, as broken as this, is of no use at all.”
Also, read a Malayalam fiction by S. V. Venugopan Nair , translated into English by K.M. Ajir Kutty, and published in The Antonym: