Written On Me - By Krittika Sharma (TXD 402)
The womb was a clean and sophisticated one. The seed was aesthetically placed within the uterus. All parts watched and gave way as this dynamic ball grew. At every stage, it occupied more space and the ball became more defined. The space was filled with a thick fluid that kept it from being harmed by other parts. The dynamic ball grew from resembling a toad to an angry alien to a human baby. Nadia was enveloped in a thick fluid that made her sway gently. Her fingers and toes were active, making swirls and circles around her body. The ultra sound once showed her sucking her tiny thumb.
She was watched and nurtured- by the organs around her, by the ivory jelly, by the exterior figure and by faith. She was special and lay cocooned for 9 months.
When it was her time to part with the fluid and the uterus, the vacuumed haven began to disintegrate. She began to get sucked out. The fluid started moving towards a faint light coming from underneath them. She followed it, making her way to the entrance, yet closely bound to the inside by a cord. The outlet was tiny but was expanding as she moved towards it. As her forehead pierced out, her body felt a gush of cold wind. Her black eyes immediately shut due to the harsh light. Her ears could hear loud cries. Her tiny mouth opened gently but emitted no sound. Her shoulders squeezed their way and then the rest of her followed with a considerable amount of ease.
The remains of the fluid stuck to her. It made her look ugly. A white sheet was wrapped around her, and she was lifted and placed into the hands of what looked like a larger version of her. She caught a glimpse of the bigger baby and began to cry. She heard many voices and hoots.
Nadia’s journey had exhausted her. It had been violent, with heavy flashes of harsh light, changes in the temperature and weather, and she lost her luggage on the way. It was pathetic. The only compensation she got was some silly pink clothes and a metal cot. There were two faces that she had been acquainted with a while ago, but she couldn’t quite place them. Had she meet them at the Eiffel Tower last week when she was on a holiday with J? The woman looked extremely familiar. Wasn’t she the one in the desert whose burkha flew from her face? She loved her soft smile. It was that of a mother’s.
“Oh, she’s woken up! Look at her tiny eyes!”
Nadia was shocked. Did she screw up her make- up today? The skin specialist had told her not to use so much liner. It was too late to rectify it now.
Three days later, she was transported and placed into a luxurious crib. The colours were a little too bright for her taste, but she occupied her time by getting to know the creatures in it. There were two that she really noticed. One was the bear that was extremely fluffy. He said he looked this way because the batch that he was from had been diseased. The rattle seemed less conscious about his looks. He had his moods, and so she would let the lady shake it in front of her. Nadia did not dare touch it.
That night there was a huge dinner bash. It was a silent one. Many people were present. They either looked like mom or dad. Not the appearance, but in their voices, clothes and mannerisms. They all came up to Nadia, pulled her cheeks, stuffed their finger into her palm and kissed her. They were all so fascinating. They reminded Nadia of the play she once saw, where the actor was watching the audience.
Years later, she got to know them as family. Nadia learnt that her mother and father came from two different families. They came together due to a ceremony called marriage. It’s a concept based on undergoing a legal procedure and exchanging beefy rings in order to be a family.
So when mother and father got married, the families came together. Father’s parents became mother’s parents. The same thing happened with mother. The aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and grandaunts became common for both of them.
These connections and bonds were well established way before Nadia arrived. She was everybody’s baby and had ready- to- use bonds with everyone. She had memorized all their names by her sixth birthday.
Now this extended family did not stay with them. They would occasionally visit. She lived with her mother, father and brother.
Nadia was extremely naïve. She grew up in a simple town on the outskirts of a big city. The influence from the city never came into her neighbourhood. Father would go and fly dangerous planes and mother would take Nadia with her to a school for the handicapped and teach them. The school encouraged the children to learn all kinds of crafts; make products and sell them to the locals for income.
There was this one girl whom Nadia remembers extremely clearly. She had long, oily plaits and always sat cross- legged. Nadia often asked her why she sat like that and she simply laughed. She was puzzled because it did not look as if she was handicapped. She only understood about her bone- deficiencies in her biology class in the tenth grade.
Nadia was sixteen by then. She was no longer as naïve as she used to be. Nadia was in a boarding school. The food was quite bland and they had to wake up at 5.30 a.m. everyday, but those were the best years of her life. It helped her understand and progress from her younger days' myths in the span of seven years.
Her school was a green one. Nature was abundant and they learned to live around it. Their dress code was seven pages long and one was shaped to live life simply. The focus was on their development as human beings, and studies were just a part of it.
Nadia grew into the eighteenth year of her life in this manner. Her gift was a dream where she saw her end.
The desert was dry, brown and windy. There was a highly ornamented camel walking alongside for men clad in black. They were pale and were carrying me through the desert. I was lifeless and pale, but I looked like a glamour queen. I was wrapped in satin and had beautiful Arabic- like motifs on my face and shoulders. And suddenly I saw her, this exquisite woman who was running. When my body passed her, I felt alive because I saw her. Our eyes made deep love and she stood still until the wind swept her away into the dunes.
Nadia woke up sobbing. Mother came running from her bed and put the bottle of milk back into her mouth. She quietened down slowly and went back into a deep slumber. The sleep lasted until her eyes changed from a midnight black to a colour she could not describe. It’s convenient to call them multi-coloured, but Nadia preferred to think of them as green eyes.
When Nadia was small, she was always fascinated by her mother’s plate of food. She loved the way she served herself ever so neatly. She would make small morsels with her lovely, well- manicured hand. She even made sweet potato look delicious! Nadia is guessing that was her first experience of ‘the grass being greener’ on the other side.
Her religious views are rather progressive or liberal. It’s a complete jumble of values, thoughts and learning from practically any god or saint. Nadia calls this ‘sacred prostitution’. That’s why she hate its when people try to categorize her. Religion is not universal, from any aspect, to her. She never gives into anything quite fully. Most of it is taken at a detached view, so that sometimes when people feel that certain ‘something’ in their body after a prayer and talk about gods, Nadia takes back the ambience or the soothed voice after chanting.
But she always cries at church. She believes her twin; the C of the conscience triggers it. She came after Nadia. Maybe a few minutes later or maybe through the umbilical cord, but she never really remembers her from her womb days. C, who never contributes on family occasions, never runs on sports day, never studies, never eats dessert, never indulges in intercourse and yet has an extensive knowledge about the truth.
Nadia doesn’t understand why C makes her cry at church. Does she want to ridicule her, or does she actually believe that Nadia has found one God to concentrate on - for faith, for healing, for love?
‘We indeed created man; and We know what his soul whispers within him, and We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.’
Quran 50: 16, trans. A. J. Arberry.
Nadia’s experience has so far told her this. She listens to no one when it comes to religion. She respects everybody else’s religion and loves hers too.
She can say that she knows herself pretty well. But she hasn’t a clue about her identity in the cyber world. Every website that one joins demands a “describe yourself”. Nadia never knows what to type in over there. It’s like a tiny matrimonial, the kinds that nobody actually reads in the newspaper. The neglected section- only comes in use when someone puts an ad there themselves.
Nadia became a writer. Not because it’s good to see one's best sellers in huge stores; it’s because she lives it. She also has the glamour- the photo sessions, the many hours in the recording studio, the restrictions on spicy food. It is for the voice although she does smoke in private. But when she sings, she cannot reach out to anyone. They are a sea and Nadia keeps looking beyond them, trying not to fumble the words. And at night, when everyone goes back, she sits in her studio, remembering the faces of the people that she fell in love with.
Now everything is smaller and easy to package. They all carry their televisions on their hips. There are no more family dinners and virtual marriage ceremonies are the latest on the internet. Everyone puts on their webcams, presses the button- ‘view all’. It gives access to everyone who has invitations to the wedding. Of course, when one accepts the invitation, one has to sign into it; and describe oneself a little bit ; the ‘must- do’ of the cyber world.
Nadia loves to know that she can be what she wants to be. She remembers those endless childish discussions among her friends- “Who do you look like- your mum or dad?” She was at a loss for words then. She did not know her real myth, her real womb, her real face. She did not know who gave her the fire- green in her eyes.
Nadia got bullied about it. Threatened for standing out, bribed and teased for tiny differences. She cared about it for many years. Until one day she dreamt of her again.
I am in a desert, traveling in the scorching sun. There is no life and colour in sight. I move to a camel’s rhythm through the yellow sand. There are mirages everywhere. I wish for snow.
Suddenly I am a child. The one I was 32 years ago. My fresh skin looks like red wine in a cracked glass. My eyes shut tightly, preventing the granules of sand from scraping them. I sense a shadow then. I open my eyes cautiously and see a woman. She is simply stunning, a mother of the baby in a desert. She has a clear forehead and heavy lines of black soot under her eyes. I cannot see the rest of her. She is covered in black. I can see her embroidered shoes whenever the wind falls on her. She is being pulled away by a man. She holds the fabric around her mouth with one hand, while being pulled away by the other. She maintains eye contact until she is a speck in the desert, just like the grain of sand that wanted to enter my eyes.
I wish to see her again, but all of a sudden, I am dead. I am grown, clad in embroidery and jewels, my hair left open for the final time. Four men carry me through the desert and I converse with them. We know I am dead and yet we speak. My masculine side attracts their feminine souls. I awake.
Who was she? Was she masked because Nadia could never know her?
The C of the conscience slapped her then. She’ll never forget the burn in her body. She had to tell everyone that it was an accident.
Come back and tell me why you covered that face? I saw the fire- green and you behaved like you saw nothing. You stared at me. I know your heart was beating faster. I saw the vein on your neck throbbing; it was suddenly hungry for air. It happens to me too. I inherited it from you.
Do your hands have the same lines as mine? Would you approve of my navel stud? Or was it too trivial to discuss then?
Nadia approached a mystic, a card- reader, a mind reader and an education expert. The mystic told her that she was in pain, the card- reader said she would have to put 99% of the effort into her marriage, the mind- reader thought she was spiritual and the education expert told her to approach the lady; speak to her and forgive. Drop it like a tissue box, he said…
Was my world a mistake? Were you not meant to help me create it?
She pointed at the desert.
“If you can count the number of grains in it, you will get the answer.” She looked serious.
I sat down and ran my hands through the sand. Some of its translucent grains got wedged at the base of my fingers.
“Especially the ones that are stuck on to you. Count those as well. I will come when I know you are ready.”
Years went by. I sat and meditated in the desert. The stars were like flood lights and they faded when the orange sun rose. During light and darkness, the sand changed its hue and temperature and shifted positions.
It was the longest wait. Tears and turmoil directed me to a tempting numbness.
One day, she appeared. She hadn’t aged since the first time I saw her fire- green eyes. She smiled. “You have really grown”.
“Thought you would never return”.
“I was always here. You only questioned why I was physically unable. Been sitting at home and watching you Watched you weep, watched you glare into the sand, watched you wonder, simply watched you. I have invested in the best view.”
“But I could not see you.”
“Of course you couldn’t! How can one see one's own heart?”
I half- smiled. I wish there was a way I could embrace her.
So I attained peace at the age of 38. The dense pit suddenly became a clean slate.
Amba lay in the hospital. It was silent and all was gray. She could hear the sound of water trickling in the bathroom. It was disturbing, but she couldn’t get up. A drip bottle tip- toed its way into her system. Her polka-dotted attire did not amuse her at all. The clock was moving backwards. She watched it taking itself seriously.
She needed fresh air. She rose from her bed and detached the tube from the needle. A huge red globule formed near the needle. Amba quickly wiped it on the stark white bed sheet. As she stood up, her gown slipped away. She walked towards a sleek touch screen towards the door. There were numbers racing wildly on it. Some blue and some black. Her pictures flashed now and then; helping the computer decide her best features and characteristics.
As she watched the busy numbers whiz past one another and her, Amba wondered what her genius baby would grow up to be. She would never know the pain of a nine month journey. Would she call her a pervert if Amba told her that she emerged from inside a woman? That a word like ‘imperfection’ exists? Where would her conscience come from?
The next day, Amba emerged into natural light to be with her fellow- people.
Cameras were flashing everywhere. Photographers ran from every direction attacking her. She thought cameras made people see what they really looked like. This was hell. Her bodyguard held on tightly to her.
“We only want to ask her one question! Just one!”
“Miss Amba, is modernization the way? Does this country need a fresh start? Or should we go the conventional way; the one that we have known for years?”
“Why am I connected to this debate? It’s for the bloody scientists to find the ‘truth’. “
She thought she had signed a confidentiality letter with the scientists and doctors. Amba felt guilty.
"Miss, artists know the truth. It’s for the scientists to prove them right or wrong.”
She hated those scientists. But she hated these people more. Even though they were superficial, they saw so deep into someone- like the word hate itself.
“Well, the concept must carry umm … the essence. It must hold the values that matter. A different form must have the same fair chance and umm… opportunities. They must be nurtured and grown, to the point that they blend and become like you and me. That’s what life has taught me.”
“Where do you see potential in this new proposal?”
The crowds kept still; like the deafening stillness before the coming of a black storm. Amba’s eyes dug into the half- eaten tar on the road. She looked up to find the fire- green in everybody’s eyes.
When the new people came, no words existed. The earth was silent, grey, cold and populated with men who were so smart that they did not utter a word. They only used codes, consisting of numbers; and used sign language to communicate. They were all children.
But words lay everywhere… in the dark alleys, on coffee mugs, on train tracks and in gutters.
Everyone wanted to trace their roots. They wandered around these unknown spaces and stared blankly at the strong, bold structures of the words. But nothing registered. It was a code for them, that got inscribed in their memory and they moved on.
Sphin-X walked amongst the piles of words she had to sort. As she surveyed the room, the codes kept feeding in- 6^9/; 5! 840-2; 777):*8; fire- green...
Sphin-X glanced at the bundle of unruly papers. She shut her eyes and stared at them once more. Code name fire- green. She went towards it, blew the dust away and tried again. Fire- green.
She picked it up silently and put it into her boot. Tears trickled from her eyes to her non- verbal mouth and with a heavily beating heart she scanned the room for more codes. She exited the room to a quiet corner and began to read fire- green. 667-9)) 38*! 247 + 07 …
Sphin-X glanced at the cover again. Fire- green.
She wondered how many people inside saw what she saw. If everyone could read one phrase or word, could they discover an entire part of themselves and put the puzzle together? Was it true that every generation only lived a section of themselves?
“Fire- green! Fire- green!”
She began screaming the words out loud.
“I am fire- green!”
Three shabbily dressed men came running towards HER.
“Quick! Give me the list of de- codes.”
“I don’t know which code she belongs to!”
“Fuckin’ hell! Just give me the book. We will have to try many of them.”
As they began chanting the codes one by one, parts of Sphin-X began to shut down. She lost her balance, dropped the document from her nimble hands, her hair fell, her cheeks melted and her tears froze. She was silenced even before she fell to the ground.
The men were panting.
“I hope nobody heard that.”
One of them kicked her legs. They fell to pieces.
Nadia met her as soon as her heart stopped beating in this lifetime. She was waiting for her at the entrance.
To know that Nadia could feel her flesh was overwhelming. She took baby steps towards her. She stood there, lovingly, and bent down when Nadia came towards her. She lifted her up and gave her a deep kiss on her cheek. Nadia began crying.
“It’s ok to cry, love. You have come a long way. Am with you now. Don’t worry. I will make it all ok.”
Nadia never saw the man beside her again. Maybe he never came this side.
As they walked into the white wilderness, Nadia saw many mothers with their children. Some were playing in the sun, some were walking and some were simply laughing. This is where Nadia stayed and watched you.
“Your conscience makes you what you are. Most people think that they control it. That is why I made you wait to find your answers. Your mind was receiving filth. The noise was so loud that you could not hear your conscience. It had to burn you for you to take notice of it.
So when you meditated, there was fury, anger, dirt, sadness, peace. Your conscience kept your sanity all that time. Because you let it help you.
We must make people understand what they do to themselves. They just don’t question anything anymore.
The field of fools all sleep a few hours after the moon rises. This is the time when they are most vulnerable. It is in this time that all the consciences take control. They are invisible and go congregate at the Muhandi’s (the geometer) home. It is situated in a space that no human can enter. No nuclear fury, no bloodshed, no bombs, no rape. Here, he gives each conscience a plan of the dream. In this map, a conscience can change certain parts of the dream, but he cannot tamper with the main idea of the dream. After the dream is corrected, the conscience takes the dream and plants it into its person’s mind.
“So was my meditation a dream?”
“You cannot call it a dream. Your conscience brought you to me because after sometime the map did not work on you. If it planted something in your mind, you did not register it. Even the geometer came to plant it once and he failed!”
“The meditation was a real test to see if you actually functioned like this or there was a malfunction in the dream maps. I extended the test because I felt like the connection started growing between us.”
“Your conscience and you became one.”
“You need to help the Muhandi give direction to the conscience.”
“But you said humans cannot enter his home.”
“What makes you think you are human anymore?”
“The journey will be long, and your human side will try splitting from the conscience but be strong and go on the path. Be steady and you will reach. If there are doubts on the way, carry the azra lamp. When in need, it will show your conscience.”
She lay me down and put me into a deep sleep. In this sleep, I traveled. I looked back many a time, but all I saw was a smoky grey, almost as though doors were closing onto me.
I remember beautiful memories- of the laughs I shared with the family during tea time; of watching baby turtles finding their way to the sea; of watching J open his gift with utmost care; the best stage performance; renting an auditorium just to be alone… it was all flesh and blood. And what was going to happen? What if the plan would destroy me? What if the consciences simply died?
What if I could never see my family again? My last words were in the form of an sms. How would I tell him now that I had aborted? That his mother expected me to marry him? How I wanted to address corruption?
Concentrate on the goal.
After 5 weeks, I came to the geometer’s doorstep. He lived in a simple, tastefully done up home. Each room was filled with files and boxes- neatly labeled: topic of dream, date; time of year; effects.
I know all this because I saw it before he allowed to me to enter. I knocked three times and got impatient. I was tired and it had been a long journey.
“You’ve got a bold conscience. You found your way in!”
“I like your home.”
“Your mother tells me you were very observant and sharp right from the time you were in her womb. Am sorry to hear about Sphin-X. I was informed about her only recently.”
I ignored him.
“How does one rob a conscience?”
“We need to keep the fools in a deep slumber for a week. In that time, we will cleanse their consciences and plant them into the new people.”
“How do we cleanse them?”
“We? I will make the plan. You will do the rest.”
“What do I know?”
“You look worried. I thought you came prepared. Oh, here they come.”
The consciences were beautiful. Probably the prettiest creatures I had ever seen. They wore long flowing gowns made of satin that matched their faces and hair. They descended quickly and soon we were surrounded by thousands of beautiful strangers.
There was complete silence. Their eyes glowed into my fire- green. I looked at the masked creatures in my view. There was a fierce and direct eye contact.
“Do not take your eyes off their eyes when you talk to them. This is the way they communicate. If you do not look at them, they become weak. “
“Friends! Here is somebody who lived among the people, left them in search of us. She is here now, after many years. She has come to save you.”
I blinked voraciously. I cleared my throat and began.
“You usually leave every evening. Tonight will last a week, because the body that you reside in does not do justice to you. You belong to the New People and I…”
“They don’t know who the new people are.”
“New people… I have someone who belongs… belonged sorry, to the new people. She was my child. But she never grew in my womb. None of the new people came from wombs. They are slaves of your masters.”
“They look like your masters, with a hint of plastic and steel. They are flawless, efficient and gentle. Your masters torture them and you sit inside them. Tell me, have any of you ever told your master about the way you feel? I know you cannot see the new people, but I am sure that some of the tears, burns and darns on you are there to tell you something.”
“When was the last time you were used apart from supplying dreams?”
“When did you last hear your voices within your masters?”
“When did you pray last?”
“When did you think last?”
I stopped abruptly. My voice had become loud and shaky. The Muhandi’s hand rested on my shoulder. He offered me some ice syrup. I drank it in the midst of a dusky silence.
Over the remaining days while the consciences lay silent, the geometer made images of the new people for them. He was precise and rarely erased anything. He never drew Sphin-X.
Each conscience was given information about one person to learn about. The bonding happened almost instantly. They were hungry for one another. They were also mingling with one another to exchange information.
“This seems to be going well. But you have a task left.”
“Killing the fools. I know. I have decided to do it tonight.”
As I walked into the chambers of fools I knew they were helpless. Without their consciences they could do nothing. I calmed down at this thought.
As I turned around, I found many eyes staring at me. They were cruel, revengeful and bloody. Their breathing was deep and the drone began to make me feel giddy. They were all deformed. Some had no ears, some were handicapped and some had a lot of exposed raw skin. They moved towards me, the mange- covered zombies. One of them gurgled at me, in want of spiteful words. Their speech was barred. They made sounds to communicate to one another.
“You were monsters. This is your true face. You needed a slow death to realize it.”
Would my family think me to be cruel? To let my fellow men suffer? No. They were not my people. My daughter was. How much she suffered. How she melted. How she broke. And how they laughed. How they laughed at all their brutal killings.
“I hope you and I can forgive each other one day.”
I took out my azra lamp. It began to glow in my palms. I threw it up towards the swirling grey dust. It expanded and transformed from a dynamic ball, grew from resembling a toad to an angry alien to a human baby. She spread her body across the heads of all the fools and descended on them with a force that was so strong that no one could hear. There were uncivilized screeches; whining and throbbing that was witnessed. The killing lasted until I fell to the ground. I was exhausted. The azra has drained me of all my strength. It entered me again, like air, and I awoke. The field of fools had been reduced to just a field.
I returned, mentally bruised, to the muhandi. He had spent the entire night working.
I smiled at him. There were no words exchanged. We knew everything.
“What are you working on?”
“For the first time, I have drawn something that is beyond the canvas of a dream. I wonder if it will take shape.”
“It’s time. Let us set them free.”
“Set out like fire and find your bodies. Make them beautiful and green.”
The consciences descended and found their bodies within seconds. They entered through the finger-tips of the new people. The new people awoke with shock, and gaped at the green glow seeping into them. Their stiffness disappeared and some of them began running, screaming with joy. The metal and plastic became pure flesh.
I missed Sphin-X when I saw these joyous people. I could just imagine her, tears bleeding from her face, laughing. She had my smile. I shed a mild tear.
The geometer gave me the drawing. It was the picture of a mother and daughter.
“Your last task is to embrace your daughter.”
She stood right behind Amba. She looked so fresh. It felt so unreal. She remembered fighting with the doctors to give her the colour of her eyes. That was her only condition with this new technological advancement. They had told Amba that it would defeat the idea of a mass. She remembered walking out the hospital after ripping the needle out of her skin. She drew blood in front of those silly doctors and scientists. She grabbed some paper from the receptionist’s desk and stormed into the nearest coffee shop. She wrote for five hours and walked into a company called NOW! and submitted an edited version of her fury. They had to accept it- the handwriting said it all.
Amba’s article was in the next week’s issue- ‘DIRTY TECHNOLOGY’
The city started throwing tantrums. The war had begun. She sat in her pent house and watched everyone with their banners, quotes from her article and debates everywhere. All Amba wanted was an apology from those assholes.
After a week, when technology made no progress, she received a visit from one of the scientists. Amba observed him from the peep-hole. They are so typical- their pastel shirts, spectacles, wrinkled hands and those eyes that are greedy for more grey and automation.
He came to apologize on behalf of the team. After Amba’s protest, many women had stormed out the way she did. This routine made them re- evaluate their programme.
“Your baby can be personalized.”
“I will be there tomorrow. I am not interested today.”
Her thoughts fell faint when Amba felt her arms around her waist. She glowed in her rebirth and never stopped.
The field of fools were put into a permanent slumber. They made up a pretty story for the new people. The scientists wept when Amba’s Sphin-X conceived a baby.