Dwin­dling Stature

Mugdha was a lec­turer in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence and had im­mensely stud­ied the lit­er­a­ture of Marx, Lenin, etc. In spite of all these, she was con­ven­tional by heart.

Alive - - Short Story - by Ma­habir Raji

Mugdha cast a rest­less glance at the wall­clock. Oh!

6:30 A.M! The news­pa­per had not come as yet. Nor­mally, the ven­dor used to reach the gate of the hous­ing com­plex right by 6 A.M! Why get­ting late only to­day? Rub­bish!

In front of her first-floor bal­cony, lay the main road stretched on both sides like a big boa. The white­ness of the day had not yet bloomed and there was few traf­fic on the road. The ven­dor was a young chap of about 14-15 years. He used to come on a cy­cle, cum­bered with heaps of dif­fer­ent pa­pers on the han­dle as well as on the car­rier. Mugdha some­times won­dered how such a small boy could run a cy­cle with so much of load. The boy would park the cy­cle by the foot-path near the main gate, pick out her copy from the heap, roll it up and then hurl it up­ward in such an artis­tic way that the pa­per would swirlingly land straight in the bal­cony with rat­tling sound. Mugdha re­mained as­tounded at this sight. A crazy thought of­ten roamed in her mind had this boy been a mem­ber of the cricket team, he would have stood a dire chance of do­ing mar­vel­lous job as a fast bowler.

Gen­er­ally, Mugdha waited ea­gerly for the news­pa­per each day. But wait for Sun­day’s is­sue would turn into a mad­ness. She would come to the bal­cony right by 6 A.M on Sun­days and would lie in wait for the pa­per in the same way, as a lover boy waited for his girl­friend. Ac­tu­ally, Sun­day is­sue of this pa­per con­tained de­tailed fore­cast, per­tain­ing to each zo­diac sign for the whole en­su­ing week and two full mid­dle pages re­mained de­voted to this pur­pose. Astro­log­i­cal anal­y­sis with au­then­tic pre­dic­tions were reg­u­larly made by fa­mous as­tropalmist Dr. Taadi­wala. It was in the air that Dr. Taadi­wala’s pre­dic­tions never went vain and fu­tile. Mugdha de­posed full be­lief in his vi­sion and cal­cu­la­tion.

Mugdha was a lec­turer in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence in the Asan­sol Girls Col­lege. She had im­mensely stud­ied the

lit­er­a­tures of Marx, Lenin, An­ge­les etc. The “Das Cap­i­tal” was her favourite book. She firmly be­lieved that Marx’s the­ory of class strug­gle and ma­te­rial dia­lec­tics was the right maxim in the present so­cioe­co­nomic set-up. She was out and out pro­gres­sive in thoughts. She could de­liver long ser­mons on the topics per­tain­ing to Women’s lib, Reser­va­tion and Dalits’ (de­pressed) move­ment. In spite of all these, she was con­ven­tional by heart. She in­her­ited from her par­ents love for In­dian cul­ture and re­li­gion as well as spir­i­tual be­lief. Marx’s ‘fa­tawa’ as to ‘Re­li­gion’ be­ing opium seemed ridicu­lous to her. She agreed with Freud’s con­tention that re­li­gion was a mat­ter of per­sonal be­lief and faith. She kept fast on ev­ery Full Moon and used to per­form Satya­narain God’s wor­ship at home on that day.

ue to faith on re­li­gious deeds, she firmly held be­lief in astrol­ogy as well. Dr. Taadi­wala was her favourite as­tro-palmist and she was his fran­tic fan. She sub­scribed to this news­pa­per only be­cause Dr. Taadi­wala reg­u­larly made in it weekly an­a­lyt­i­cal pre­dic­tions of all the zo­diac signs. She had met Dr. Taadi­wala per­son­ally also and was wear­ing four types of stones as per his ad­vice. Use of these stones soon showed ex­plicit re­sults. Her the­sis which re­mained pend­ing for a long time got ap­proval and she was awarded PH.D the next year. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, she got pro­mo­tion in the salary as well.

Such ap­par­ent con­tra­dic­tion in her per­son­al­ity at­tracted very of­ten sar­cas­tic re­marks from her col­leagues. Heated ar­gue­ments would fol­low there­after. On one oc­ca­sion she in­vited Prof. Pandey to her res­i­dence on tea. The T.V was on with news head­lines float­ing on the mon­i­tor. Sud­denly a flut­ter­ing news drew their at­ten­tion -’ Stars of Ab­hishek and Aish­warya out­ra­geous! Mars putting trou­bles in their mar­riage! Big B to per­form a ‘yagna’ to pacify them!’

Prof. Pandey got ex­cited and sniffly grum­bled -’ What the hell astrol­ogy is all about Mugdhaji? Just a tool to ex­ploit in­no­cent peo­ple on the fear of re­li­gion and su­per­sti­tion. To­tally un­sci­en­tific and il­log­i­cal!’

‘Wrong Prof. Pandey, ‘Mugdha im­me­di­ately protested with flick­er­ing eyes_’ Our astrol­ogy is fully based on Vedic su­tras and you can­not re­pu­di­ate it in a lighter vein. Rather, astrol­ogy is more a mat­ter of faith than of mind.’

‘Right you are... ‘Prof. Pandey ex­claimed at this repartee -’ The point is that what­ever you peo­ple call faith is ac­tu­ally su­per­sti­tion it­self. No maxim can stand with­out proof in this mod­ern age. I would very humbly want to know, if your astrol­ogy does have power to fore­see the fu­ture, then why doesn’t it pre­an­tic­i­pate prob­a­ble on com­ing dread­ful per­ils and dis­as­ters? Like Latur earth­quake! Like An­daman’s tsunami! Like 26/11 Mumbai ter­ror­ist at­tack! Like Bus gang-rape in De­cem­ber 2012! Had pre­dic­tions been made for these calami­ties, proper precautions could have been taken. But alas! It did not make, be­cause it can’t! In astrol­ogy, you have only one rem­edy for all prob­lems of what­ever kind. Just wear this and that stone or gem and ev­ery­thing will be O.K! How strange! If stones re­ally do have the di­vine power to change the fate, I’m ready to wear those in all my fin­gers as well as toes, let some en­thu­si­as­tic as­trol­o­gists come for­ward with to­tal guar­an­tee of suc­cess!.’ Prof. Pandey

Mugdha gazed at Prof. Pandey’s face in ut­ter sur­prise. A sharp rage roamed through her spine. She won­dered what made her to in­vite such id­i­otic un­cul­tured per­son on tea. She how­ever de­terred her rage from creep­ing in on the face and ap­par­ently said in firm voice ‘Par­don Sir! I can’t agree. Only an athe­ist would dis­ap­prove of the sanc­tity of Astrol­ogy.

burst into silly laugh­ter.

Mugdha gazed at Prof. Pandey’s face in ut­ter sur­prise. A sharp rage roamed through her spine. She won­dered what made her to in­vite such id­i­otic un­cul­tured per­son on tea. She how­ever de­terred her rage from creep­ing in on the face and ap­par­ently said in firm voice ‘Par­don Sir! I can’t agree. Only an athe­ist would dis­ap­prove of the sanc­tity of Astrol­ogy. Astro­log­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion core­late to the Vedic su­tras. If you can just re­call to mem­ory, schol­ars like Max Muller have rightly con­sented that Astrol­ogy be­gins from where mod­ern sci­ence does end.’

Pandey ji loudly gig­gled as if Mugdha had cracked a gab -’ Madam, What­ever ar­gue­ments you give in sup­port of Astrol­ogy, I can’t change opin­ion. Astrol­ogy does make a man fu­tur­ist and does go to de­stroy his wis­dom and sen­si­tive­ness.’

fter one month of this un­pleas­ant al­ter­ca­tion, once when mugdha had hone to dr. Taadi­wala for con­sul­ta­tion on a prob­lem, she was sur­prised to find prof. Pandey at his cham­ber. Later on it was known that Mrs. Pandey had given birth to three fe­male ba­bies one af­ter an­other. She again con­ceived for the fourth time two month ago and prof. Pandey had ap­proached Dr. Taadi­wala for some astro­log­i­cal rem­edy to en­sure a male baby this time.

Sud­denly a rat­tling sound made mugdha to come to sense. The news­pa­per she had been anx­iously wait­ing for, had fly­ingly landed upon her head like a mis­sile. Mugdha’s eyes glit­tered in bliss. Her heart be­gan to throb with joy.

She picked up the pa­per and ran straight to the bed­room. Rapidly be­gan turn­ing pages one af­ter an­other. Full two in­side pages re­mained stud­ded with weekly pre­dic­tions for each zo­diac sign. Her sign was Leo. As her eyes minutely ran through Leo pre­dic­tions, joy crept into nerves and ribs. Ut­ter ex­cite­ment gave a glow to the face. Pre­dic­tions for on com­ing six days were so-so, but for to­day it was won­der­ful -’ ac­cute chance of get­ting wind fall cash, keep eyes open. Re­main alert to grab it!’

h! Wind fall money from un­known source ! Since dr. Taadi­wala had said so, it had to be true.

She did have full be­lief on his cal­cu­la­tion. Her eyes closed in ut­ter thrill. She hur­riedly be­gan to an­a­lyse the prob­a­ble source from where money was to come. She was not ad­dicted to buy­ing lot­tery tick­ets so as to stand a chance of win­ning an un­ex­pected prize. Her par­ents were also not likely to visit her to­day so that she could ex­pect cash gift from them. She fi­nally grum­bled that she did not need poke her rib into this busi­ness. Dr. Taadi­wala’s pre­dic­tions al­ways re­mained au­then­tic and were bound to come true, come what may.

Time was rolling fast in its own way. Aditya was on an of­fi­cial tour and was to re­turn next morn­ing. Col­lege was closed. Soon noon came upon. She took her launch and lay in bed to take a short nap. Af­ter some­time, the mu­si­cal sound of the call-bell star­tledly made her wake up. She cast a cu­ri­ous glance at the clock - 5.15 p.m. Who the hell might be at the doors, she won­dered! A di­vine an­gel with an en­velop of money! She rushed to open the doors with throb­bing heart. The mid­wife was stand­ing there. In her to­tal ex­cite­ment she had for­got­ten of her daily usual time to turn up for work. A faint smile crept in over her lips. Three-fourth of the day had passed off. Not even scanty sign of that wind­fall cash was there. Mugdha’s heart nonethe­less did not has­ten to ac­cept that Taadi­wala’s pre­dic­tion would fail. No, there was still time for the day to col­lapse. Even a nano sec­ond is enough for a mir­a­cle to hap­pen. A few days ago she had bought Mar­quez’s fa­mous novel ‘hun­dred years of soli­tude’. Took out it from the shelf and sat down to read. The novel was so in­ter­est­ing that she could not drop it in the mid­dle. It was 7.30 when She fin­ished it. The en­tire ex­cite­ment which was roam­ing madly within her the whole day was now swiftly dwind­ing off. She be­came rest­less, face turned mo­rose. With a view to re­pel an­guish and grief, she locked the flat and came out of the com­plex to take a short stroll.

‘Lenin Chowk’ , the main mar­ket place was at a walk­ing dis­tance. Usual din and bus­tle of the mar­ket was on the wane. Shut­ters of shops were grad­u­ally get­ting down. Be­neath the left side lamp post, stood a ‘puchka wala’ (pani puri) with his cart. She could not re­sist her­self from thrust­ing some ten ‘puchkas’ right into her throat. Tamarind spicy wa­ter made her mind fresh and joy­ful. A bit ahead, Ramd­han was there with his mango cart. As mugdha was his reg­u­lar cus­tomer, Ramd­han ex­pec­tantly wel­comed her with a smile -’ Na­maste Madam ji, sweet and fresh ‘lan­gras’! Like to buy?’

ell Ramd­han, give two ki­los’ Mugdha told. Ramd­han promptly weighed ac­cord­ingly -’ eighty ru­pees Madamji’ Mugdha handed over a hun­dred ru­pee note. Be­fore Ramd­han could re­turn bal­ance amount, his mo­bile started ring­ing up. He took out the mo­bile from pocket and re­sponded to the call. Af­ter fin­ish­ing it, he paused for a sec­ond to pon­der and then picked out four hun­dred twenty ru­pees from the pocket and gave it to Mugdha. Mugdha’s eyes widened with sur­prise -’ Prop­erly counted the bal­ance money bhaiya.?’

‘O yes madamji, me not so weak in Math. U bought for eighty, gave five hun­dred. Four hun­dred twenty back, right?’ he gig­gled in­no­cently. In a blink, Taadi­wala’s fore­cast splashed in mind - wind­fall cash to­day from un­known source! Her heart went pit a pat with over­whelm­ing ex­cite­ment. Mir­a­cle she had been wait­ing for had ul­ti­mately hap­pened. She quickly grabbed the money, thrust it into her purse and tot­tered to­wards the flat.

Next morn­ing, she woke up as usual. Classes were off to­day also. Aditya would

As soon as Mugdha saw the ring, a fear of guilt roamed through the spine. In a blink, her eyes crept over left ring-fin­ger. Oh! the fin­ger was empty. She re­mem­bered, as per the ad­vice of Dr. Taadi­wala, she had worn a di­a­mond em­bed­ded gold ring just two months ago. The cost of the ring was about thirty five thousand.

re­turn by 2 p.m. She came in the bal­cony chalk­ing out within her­self a grand plan to cel­e­brate this un­ex­pected achieve­ment. It was early dawn. She peeped be­low over the road, stretched long on both sides. It was empty so to say. Sud­denly she no­ticed Ramd­han tod­dling swiftly with long strides to­wards the hous­ing com­plex. Ramd­han at this time! In a nano sec­ond, a thought struck her mind. Surely he had hap­pened to de­tect his fault, could not sleep whole night and was now com­ing to de­mand money. Her face be­came pale. Heart started throb­bing in an­tic­i­pa­tion of an ugly al­ter­ca­tion with him. Mugdha was at a loss to de­cide what pleas should she take to de­fend her pseudo in­no­cense. The more she thought of the pleas, the more they sounded hol­low. She ran quickly to the wash basin and splashed hand­ful of wa­ter over the face.

few min­utes later, Ramd­han came up­stairs and pushed the bell.

‘Ramd­han you? So early morn­ing? Ev­ery­thing o.k.?’ Mugdha opened the doors and drew signs of sur­prise on the face.

‘Yes Madamji, could not sleep whole night!’ Ramd­han chuck­led within the lips -’ A blun­der just been de­tected’

‘If so Bhaiya, make amends and take up your dues if any, right ?’ Mugdha grum­bled in anger to ex­er­cise psy­cho­log­i­cal pres­sure on him - ‘why gig­gling this way?’

‘Dues?’ Ramd­han for a mo­ment grew ner­vous at this re­buke -’ U talk­ing of

what dues Madamji? Rather not me, but U are to get some­thing.’ Then he quickly took out a ring from vest’s in­side pocket and showed it to Mugdha -’ Look is not this yours?’

As soon as Mugdha saw the ring, a fear of guilt roamed through the spine. In a blink, her eyes crept over left ring-fin­ger. Oh! the fin­ger was empty. She re­mem­bered, as per the ad­vice of Dr. Taadi­wala, she had worn a di­a­mond em­bed­ded gold ring just two months ago. The cost of the ring was about thirty five thousand. She won­dered when and how the ring did silently slip off the fin­ger so as not to make any hint at all.

‘Last night while clos­ing shop, I just found this amidst man­goes in bas­ket. Same mo­ment I knew, ring is yours. Surely, slipped off while pick­ing man­goes yes­ter­day. Mine small hut! Weak doors! Could not sleep for fear of theft!’ Ramd­han stam­mered all in de­tail. Mugdha took the ring and stood dumb for a while, know­ing lit­tle as to how to thank Ramd­han for this obli­ga­tion. Ramd­han broke si­lence with loud laugh­ter -’ Oh Madamji, why now sad? Be cheer­ful that God saved you from big loss! Bye!’ Ramd­han turned back in a jiffy and strode to­wards stairs. Mugdha with tot­ter­ing steps ran to the bed room and stood be­fore the big mir­ror of the dress­ing ta­ble .

She was sur­pris­ingly fright­ened to see that the stature of the Mugdha, which in­car­nated in the mir­ror was slowly and grad­u­ally dwin­dling down and down inch by inch!

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