The cabin smells of roasted nicotine and the faint fragrance of petrichor that has been caused by the slight drizzle, makes the moment quite nostalgic. Jerry has been sitting all morning, in a rocking chair beside an old rustic bed that might have stories to tell, had it been able to talk.
The sultry summer has just ended the week before. A gentle breeze sways that has an augurs implication that the coming autumn is going to be full of mirth and merry. Jerry feels the breeze touching his skin since he keeps his windows ajar for he has no ashtray to dispose his cigarette buds. He can hear the cackle of girls and some boisterous young men enjoying the Sunday afternoon, drinking in revelry. Under the shade of a huge Bunyan tree, sitting on top of the many gravestones since the place is a graveyard.
Jerry is irked by their dalliance; he has sacrificed his precious weekend to have a tranquil and peaceful time in the periphery of the city, away from the madness of the urban life. Since the little farm house owned by his father is adjacent to the graveyard; a safe-haven for the youths to have fun without any need for caution—especially on Sundays since there are no recreation centres or pub in the city—against the stringent rules that have been imposed by the government—which recently legalizes the sale of alcohol in the state. Erstwhile to the enactment of the new ‘Liquor Prohibition And Control Act’ by the legislature only a year ago, the procurement as well as selling of alcohol is a crime and a punishable offence. Albeit the government deliberately laid down the action plans for the newly enacted Act, implementation is quite unsatisfactory, like religion; impeccable in verbal but lacking a practical validity.
Jerry tries to neglect the annoyance by picking up one of the magazines he has brought along with him while wishing that a huge cascade of furious rain would occur. His face bears a sheer implication that the noise has clearly killed his musing. He opens the September issue of ‘Lengzem‘ and turns his favourite column, a sarcasm page called ‘An ti’. One of the memes catches his eyes which says ‘Mizoram is used to be called “the wettest dry state” but now it is the driest wet state since the state has been in a financial crisis’. He gives a sardonic smile and thinks about the finer nuances of the meme. It could have meant that the government desperately enacted the new Act, in hope of procuring revenue out of liquor tax that it can levied which may consolidate the precarious financial situation, in the corruption ridden bureaucracy that ultimately puts the state in mendicancy.
Politics never once intrigues him, he always has the notion that politics is the devil that drapes himself to enslave the ignorant and working class. He has plight his fidelity to none of the social institutions. In a world where justice is a game, he chooses to remain indifferent.
Then Jerry turns to the literature column and read a article titled ‘Ka khaw tihdan’ written by a guy named Jojo Mizo. It talks about various things—lifestyle, language and habit—that are authentic and unique to the particular village it talks about; but at some other place it might lose its validity. The article mainly stresses on the perks of living a bucolic and rustic life. He finishes the article and for the first time in a long while, he has read its entirety.
Jerry has been facing deadline after deadline in his lucrative business of selling fine-arts and paintings. He has given up his profession as a painter a year earlier due to the fact that he had broken his index finger in an accident; but he still runs his business by employing talented artists and collecting fine-arts and antiques. He owns one of the biggest galleries in the city and he has quite gained popularity and trust by the public since he has been in the business for more than a decade. But when a hobby becomes a job, it always leads to ennui. The fact remains true to Jerry as well; though his profession gives him a good name, privilege, reputation and most of all, money, his desire to quit or continue has been more or less the same throughout especially during the last three hundred and sixty five days where he has been fighting with anxiety and stress.
And on this auspicious afternoon, Jerry is in insouciance amidst the irritating noise and anxiety, for he is being borne back into the time of his life. Thanks to the power of literature, the one article he has just read. He flashes back into his youthful days when he was rusticated by his dad to one of his uncles homestead at a small town near the international boarder in the east.
He was in his last year of college; but he was still a young, immature and arrogant young man. His father was worried that he would turned out to be one of the many spoiled children who did not pay any heed to the culture and customs of their society. Back then, the very identity of their community had been shaken due to cultural assimilation and globalisation. Brands and companies that were alien hit their domestic market and television and movie which they had never seen before invaded their home. Drugs and hippy lifestyle corroded the life of the youth who were the future of their tiny little community. Jerry was one of those vulnerable young men.
It took Jerry a strenuous three days and nights bus ride to reach his uncle’s place since transportation was difficult due to bad road and harsh terrain. He had spent three months there, with his uncle’s family and a small community of not more than a thousand in terms of population. His uncle would teach him the way of the native. He had to wake up by five in the morning and then fetch water at the spring-well which was about two kilometres form his uncle’s house. After the morning meal, he would follow his uncle to the farm field and learn the way of the farmer. In the evening, his uncle would take him to see traps. Sometimes they would track animals in the night, went on hunting expedition with some other men at the village. By and by, he started to love the new lifestyle, plus he knew too well that being obstinate and stubborn would do no good. The kind of life he was living was quite the way he wanted to be. His rustication was the one that had really ignited his artistic and aesthetic view towards life. He had been scribbling and sketching all along, even before his rustication; but it was his little experience that had led him to become a full-fledged artist.
But there was something more to remember and to cherish for Jerry. It was the harvesting season and every family would help each other day by day until the harvest of one particular family’s land is completed. This kind of practice is called ‘lawm’. It was in one of these faithful encounters that he had met his only lover. The autumn sun was harsh and the clouds were rarer than a speck of diamond and it seemed everyone was quite tired already even before eating ‘chaw chhun’ (Lunch).
The owner called for a gathering at the ‘thlám’ (hut) to eat and drink. At the thlám, he was sitting with his uncle when a young wide-eyed and long-haired damsel gave her a scoop of rice and a glass of water which she had fetched form the valley. When he saw her face, he felt as if he had just been struck by a lightning and remained frozen for a while. It was one of those rarest moment in one’s life, when the eye has just seen something and then captures that one tiny perfect point of vision as if it were a photograph and keep inside the labyrinth of memories that would then and again, casts before one’s vision as clear as the moment whether the encounter been yesteryears ago. He had forgotten to thank her for the service she rendered; his uncle shook him off from his daydream and he felt a little embarrassed, he blushed a bit but compliment her anyway, his voice was lost in the din of the crowd.
During dinner he asked his uncle, ‘Uncle who was that girl with the long black hair?’
‘Oh! She’s the daughter of our Elder Thanga. She’s one of the most educated girl in our village, she has already completed her higher secondary in Champhai,’ replied his uncle.
‘I’m asking you her name uncle, not her father’s’
‘Oh! She’s Lianpari, we call him Partei,’
As they were talking about the day and other things, the ‘tlangau’ (Crier) was announcing that they had a social casualty. One of the oldest men in the village passed away mainly because of his debility and no particular illness could be named for his demise. His uncle insisted him to go to the ‘Khawhar in’ (House of the mourn) and told him that he could invite Sangteii for his company and since most of the women would also go to the Khawhar in. At first Jerry hesitated but since it would be the only chance to see the damsel that sways his heart, provided that that he would be leaving the coming week. Like a loser betting on his last dime, he went towards her house calculating the probability of whether she would be his companion for the night or not. During those time, every man had the right to ask the company of woman in times of social service like this and the pretty women were mostly sought after by the men.
But that night, a guest luck was on his side, Pari had accepted his invitation. The rest of the things that happened that night, or the story after that fated night, is more or less the same like every love story, blended with ups and downs, euphoria and despair. But the most interesting thing is that Jerry’s love story ended in tragedy.
Jerry has been reminiscing for almost an hour or so when he hears a repetitious knock on his door which shakes him off from his daydream. He reluctantly gets off from his rocking char and opens his door. A young girl with a worrying look in her face desperately asks him,
‘Mister can you please help us, one of my friends has fallen from the gravestone and his head can’t stop bleeding,’
Jerry knows that he have to help them though it clearly annoys him to the core,
‘Ok! Calm down young girls, tell the others to bring him here, I will prepare my car,’
‘Thank you so much mister,’ says the girls and leaves immediately to tell her friends.
Jerry goes inside and take his coat and hat and then his Ford’s sedan key. Outside the other boys have carried the injured lad and lay him on the little bench at the porch of the cabin. His head has been bleeding and Jerry knows that it will have to be sutured in order to stop the bleeding. He asks the boys to let him sleep on the backseat as he goes inside the car. The girl takes the front-seat. Then Jerry switch on the car, the engine ignited and they drive off toward the city.
On the way, he asks the girl to call his parents and tell them they are on the way to the community hospital. But the girl hesitates and begs him not to call the lad’s parents. Jerry is baffled by her reply and asks,
‘Why? You know this is important, it could be a matter of life and death,’
‘Aaaa mister, his parents will not answer my call anyway since it is Sunday,’
‘Oh! Why is that so,’
‘Because I’m sure they’ll be busy as usual,’
‘What are they doing,’
‘They will be out attending services and fellowships and won’t pick up their phone,’
‘Is that so! Ok, I understand little girl, I clearly understand,’ replies Jerry and asks no more questions.
So, a young girl, a man in his prime and an injured lad are driving to the city towards the hospital. Jerry is reminded of something which is almost the same as last autumn; but they were the victim then, when a drunken driver hit their car and one life was lost, the life which he shall trade for all the paintings and fine-arts he had in his repository, because she was her priceless art—the one thing that makes him feel something and ignites the artistic passion in him. As his car bends toward the first corner of the highway, he sees his sutured index finger as he twists the steering; a bitter souvenir of his loss. All through their way to the city, Jerry tells himself that had he been a writer, the event which takes place in that faithful Sunday afternoon could have been a wonderful, audaciously blazing and fascinating story.