(CHHATTISGARH SERIES: KALPNA AGREES FOR RAIPUR is the seventh short fiction in the Chhattisgarh Series by Stephen Gill. It is about love between an Indian married woman and an Indo/Canadian writer. One believes in love and another in detachment. The result forms the base of the chapters on Kalpna, raising questions if these two views can co-exist)
KALPNA AGREES FOR RAIPUR
Reghu was convinced that detachment theory was based on self-love. Every object of creation manifested the love of the creator and every creator loved his creation as a mother loved her own children more than the children of others. A mother would freely give whatever she could give to her children, expecting them to love one another. The Supreme Creator had the same expectations. His gifts, like the water, air, the sun and earth, had been for His creatures to share among themselves. It was wrong, Reghu believed, to say that one should be at peace with himself or herself first, before creating peace in the world. What would happen if everyone practiced detachment? Solitude to meditate on detachment was the creation of ego. Love was positive and enriching. Love and peace, two sides of the same coin, had been manifested in actions in freedom and fear is their serious inhibitor that leads to detachment in self-sought woodland. Reghu used to advance such arguments to Kalpna against detachment theory.
It was Reghu’s belief that detachment was mythical and Chhattisgarh was a mythical region to meditate and discuss. Detachment was behind the deadly war of Krukshetra and now his own love, Kalpna, was at war in the Krukshetra of fear. He knew sages had been renouncing the world as Buddha did. In their renouncement, they did not see every drama in a detached way. Buddha and Guru Ghasidas from Raipur had been in action to extend their love beyond the borders of the self with their lifelong unwavering commitments. Reghu
was going to point out this belief again to Kalpna, whose compass of detachment had been leading them to the land of confusion.
Kalpna had agreed to come to Raipur, the capital of the black art, where women were hacked to death under the pretense of being witches, humans had been sacrificed and tongues offered to gods and goddesses. Most of these incidents took place on the days of Navratra, a festival of nine days of dancing, staying awake in the night, and sometimes worshipping a virgin girl. During this festival, animals were brutally murdered in religious rituals. Often three Navratri sorceresses, who claimed to be skilled in witchcraft, slapped people to unchain them from even the AIDS and cancer. They used to appear in black saris and bare-feet with their hair loose and flowing. This treatment from sorceresses was getting popular with villagers who worshipped bullocks, unlike those in North who worshipped cows as mother. In this region satanic spirits who exercise their power on certain nights were said to congregate under old pupil trees in deep jungles. The individuals who happened to be under those trees had been tortured by these spirits in one way or another.
Several brides suffered because of the centuries-old beliefs of their in-laws, and citizens lost peace because of self-proclaimed holy men who for a fee assured people to reverse their losses in business and suggested dates and times to start new ventures. In spite of government interventions and educational institutions, witchcraft thrived here. What enticed Reghu in this more than five-thousand year-old area had been the godmen who helped people with mantras in exchange for money to get their lost loves back. Reghu was going to meet Kalpna here to shape his relations for years to come.
Reghu had seen neither Kalpna’s picture nor heard her voice when they were at the threshold of their affair. He had not met anyone who would tell him something about her. A couple of friends who heard about Reghu’s love began to make fun of him, accusing that the poet in him was flying with the wings of fancy. One friend said that his love might be dumb, blind or black as the moonless night was. To Reghu, these points were off the subject because they did not know the meeting of the mystical rays that give birth to the ecstasy where the fusion of two souls exists. It was this fusion that Reghu expressed in the lyrics of his ravishing longing for which he began looking for opportunities to meet any soul who would listen to his blissful feelings which lingered endlessly in his daily life. He knew he was not going to be bankrupt by sharing his ethereal floats with others as a scented summer breeze.
The thought that someone from the high caste and a coterie of intellectuals cared for him was itself ravishing. Kalpna used to say she made money that was more than enough for her family. Reghu believed this part because college and university teachers in India received handsome salaries, though he was unable to understand why Kalpna had brought her financial status into their relationship. At one point she had hinted that the financial aspects should not be discussed in their relationship, yet she often mentioned her salary in which he was least interested. The more he thought of it the more it appeared baffling.
As a poet with boundless drives in the land of his adoption, Reghu had no time to build a decisive bond with any. On the basis of his limited exposure, he began to realize that women in Canada were independent and the Diaspora even more. He felt that the women of his mother country had their own attractions. Those attractions panged him to nourish his bond with someone from India, who began to appear gorgeous in saris and shalwar-kameez, and with ways both amorous and graceful. When Reghu was laden with these images, he came in contact with Kalpna. About two and a half years ago she had emailed a poem to him to assess if it was publishable. Reghu replied and hinted some suggestions. This initiated their relationship.
The initial thrills pushed him to the point where he did not feel any necessity of asking personal questions. He was just exploding to share his thrills, which were much different from what he used to express in his own poetry. His thrills did not let him to be dogged with nightmares of doubts. On the other hand, he was secure, feeling that there was no mistake in loving a person with whom he shared core values and with whom he had planned to align his future. He was not willing to entertain doubts, knowing that doubt is a word for fear and if there were any fear, it must be healthy, fulfilling and restoring with something that he was not able to explain. To Reghu love was giving and giving grows into a garden of diligently pruned roses. Reghu aspired for a rose from this garden because it spreads a fragrance that could give zest to his living with a promise of abundance of grace in his writing. He believed that truth was the rock in love that Kalpna would sanctify. That was what Reghu had cared about, caring the least for anything else.
However, continuous prods of his friends began to shake his beliefs. He attempted to see her picture online but she was not there. One day he decided to hear her voice. He fixed a time and spent the day thinking of her and the things to talk about. The start was frustrating, because the sound was not clear. Whatever the reason, their talk ended more or less in confusion. As a result, another day was fixed. Miraculously, the sound was clear. After that it became routine for them to talk and share a few lines of affection. Their amorous lines, though brief, began to strengthen their ties. She knew Reghu from his books and websites, but for Reghu just her name and the word love used to transport him into the realm of rapture.
The day came when Reghu was to see her at a conference at Meerut University, near Delhi. He asked her to book a room in a hotel in Delhi in his name. He needed her help because he had been out of India for years and did not know how to contact a hotel from Canada. Moreover, usually expensive hotels advertised online. It was also because he wanted a room for weeks and hotels jack the price up by four or five times in dollars when they got requests from Canada or the United States. She accepted the responsibility but did not do anything about it. He thought Kalpna did not realize the problems of one, who had been born in India, but had been in exile for decades. He ignored it, looking forward to seeing her in person at Meerut University conference. The only way to be in touch with her was by cell phone and Reghu did not know how they worked in India, nor even in Canada. He depended on his niece who just gave her own cell phone to him without describing about how they worked or how to use them.
Reghu’s problem was to have a place to use as his home for six to eight weeks where he could leave his luggage and where he could go lightly anywhere within India and come back. He felt relieved when the university of Meerut agreed to give him a room in its residence for a month. Food was a problem, but still he was happy and the room was comfortable. Kalpna arrived the next day. She phoned Reghu to let him know in the evening that she was staying with another female delegate a few blocks from him and would see him in the morning. Reghu spent his night in a web of excitement and delicious thoughts.
He got up early and waited in his chair after his bath. He did not lock the door from inside. There was a glassed window, large enough like a wall, in the kitchen, where she stood and smiled at the appointed time. She came in and gave a slight hug, staying for a few minutes. She went every morning for an early walk and came to see him for a few minutes. They started becoming intimate.
The fourth day after the conference, she was with some male delegates. He invited her to his room to plan after the conference. She promised to be there within minutes. He rushed to his room though he wanted to have a bite and tea somewhere. She had repeated that she would be there in minutes, but she took two hours. By that time, he had given up hope. Her excuse was that she was upset over something and went to a restaurant outside of the campus with them. He began to think that her promise was not serious. She could at least have phoned him. Reghu ignored this part also. After the conference, they had a month to be together in Delhi, Jalandhar and Ludhiana.
Reghu came back to Canada with unforgettable memories and also unforgettable lies. He began to forget those lies when he started receiving emails in which she cried that her destiny had been cruel to her for finding a mate of her liking late in her life. Once in a while she sang sad songs of suffering because of separation. They were sentimental dirges from Indian movies. She used to say that her friends and even her husband had hinted that she must be in love, because she was often forgetful and walked deep in thought. Whenever anyone mentioned Reghu’s name around the college, she used to feel something passing through her spine, she often said. She also said that she did not have a friend to share her intimate feelings as she did with Reghu.
She used to write something along these lines:
“It is difficult to make my heart understand that you are very far and there are seven seas between us. I miss you and I remember that moment when you spread the bed sheet on me thinking I might be cold. I love you and again want to be in your arms. Will the Lord not give me a chance to live again with you?”
In another letter she wrote, “Do not answer this mail but after so many days I feel like writing I love you. I miss you so much. Words are not enough to tell the whole story but you can understand it. I again want to be in your arms, cared for and loved and secure enough not to think about self, as I can feel you thinking for me. I thank you very much for being with me. I never dreamt of such life with a lover like you. You actually made me feel what love is. I would like to die for a moment of peace and love. I would like to have eternal rest lying in your arms. Thank you for giving me this love. I love you. Delete the letter after reading it. Reply is not necessary. We may talk over the phone.”
In another letter, “After knowing you I came to know what happiness is and what it is not.” In still another letter, she wrote, “I feel hurt if I see you sad. I love you.” In one song, she expressed herself in Hindi, translated as:
How much I love you ask your heart.
I have given my heart to you
this life is yours.
A few days after that she wrote, “My heart compels me to listen to your voice, but checking this desire, I imagine you working or sleeping like an angel with a soft calm smile on your face. I badly want to be with you to rest on your shoulders. I love you.”
In another letter she expressed herself openly, “You not only shattered all my thinking about life, but also gave me a reason to be happy and live. You gave me happiness. I love you and only you. I am not able to explain what I miss the most about you. I again want to
be with you in your arms resting peacefully on your shoulder with the confidence that you will not deceive me. My every heart beat remembers you and my dreams still touch the marks of your kisses embossed on every breath, face and neck. Love teaches me how to concentrate on work when you are not here by my side. I love you very much. You have never been a simple human soul for me. You are so such more than that, an embodiment of my ideals, a being to be worshipped. My every nerve burns to light the shrine of my heart where you and only you live with your flame.”
These letters propelled Reghu to visit India frequently. Their second meeting was in Simla, where she went for a refresher course for six weeks at a research college. She offered to arrange for Reghu’s stay in a hotel because she knew Simla and also because she was from India. She knew that Reghu had been visiting India once in every ten to fifteen years for a week or so and had no central place to stay. Reghu did not hear from her about this arrangement. A week before, she told him over the phone that the hotel had no vacancy. It was just a matter of one phone call for her to book a room or even a visit because she was already in Simla. Instead she went with her husband for sight-seeing for weeks. Reghu was in Delhi with his niece and her family. It was a complicated and time-consuming process to arrange a reasonable accommodation at a reasonable price with the help of his niece. He lied to his niece that he was going to Simla to attend a conference. He hated this lie.
At Simla, she shared that once she borne love for her husband to the extent that she was willing to burn herself alive, as it was the custom in India, at the pyre of her husband if he died. She also shared that her husband had disappeared a day after the marriage for unknown reasons. A few times she attempted to kill herself because of the mistreatment by her husband. Once she hanged herself and was about to die. She was untangled from the rope by her husband in seconds. She showed Reghu several scars of the self-inflicted injuries which she had made with knives. She did not want her friends and relatives to think that her marriage was a failure. In order to keep him, she said that she tried to become pregnant in spite of a warning by her doctor that she was likely to die at the time of delivery. Kalpna confided that she had not shared these episodes and thoughts with anyone.
She opened up more and also gave Reghu more shocks by failing to honor her appointments and in other ways. Reghu interpreted those shocks as hide and seek. It could be some sort of the game she played, he began to think. Once or twice she compared herself with the roles of Radha and Meera. Did they also play hide and seek? he asked himself. He was eager to find it out in this visit to Raipur, while sitting face to face, examining her activities more closely. Reghu’s thoughts often went to Krishna and Radha who might have played hide and seek in the jungle of Vridhaban. Perhaps the trees and the mountains of Simla appeared as a microcosm of that world. Reghu believed that love was from the infinite, and in the beloved’s oasis there were only pleasant waterfalls. She appeared as an embodiment of love when he met her in Delhi and Jalandhar, and after that in Simla. At the same time she puzzled him. What hurt him the most were her enigmas or packs of lies which she covered with her theory of perspectives? He came back to Canada not very happy this time.
She had completely stopped talking about her husband now. Reghu never asked her even about her daughter and her work. Reghu was certain that her husband knew about him. A couple of times, she made it clear that any person could talk to her husband about her relations with Reghu; he would not believe it. He had full faith in her even if she were alone in a room with a male the whole night. He was aware of her meeting Reghu at Meerut, Delhi, Jalandhar and Ludhiana and then in Simla. She was constantly in touch with
her husband over the phone and discussed personal matters even in the presence of Reghu. He did not want to create family problems for Kalpna. He was happy that she was meeting Reghu in the full knowledge of her husband. When he came back to Canada, their long talks over the phone were reduced to a few minutes because Kalpna started complaining. The fact was that Reghu enjoyed talking to her and therefore often forgot the time. However her lies had been painful, particularly when she failed to keep her appointments but he still cherished her company. It was a joy to be with her and eating in restaurants. It was also a joy to discuss about his writings and about the coteries of intellectuals in India. These were gone from their talks, as if someone had instructed her to stop them.
One day, she deleted the personal email ID that she had created under an assumed name to write in confidence. Reghu was terribly upset over when she did that for no apparent reason. On asking, her answer was “she did not know why she did that.” Then she promised to create another ID but never did on the pretext that she was busy and would do it shortly but that day was not coming. To find out the truth, Reghu gave her an ultimatum to do it within two days or he would sever their ties. As a result of his ultimatum she came up with the replacement that she used nominally.
The tone of her letters changed but love still lurked there, though it began to sound phony. In most letters she asked for time to breathe, for freedom and not to be questioned. She often expressed her fears and wanted to move out to another college in another province to teach. Reghu did not know if she had ever tried. In spite of asking, she never shared the sources of those fears. Reghu was cautious in asking personal questions, as it was also against his own nature. If there were any questions, they had been to enable him to understand her. He still gave her the benefit of doubt and considered her thoughts about
detachment and perspectives as the main culprits for causing confusions. Her letters and conversations were something like this:
“Are you also looking forward for my coming to you? as I actually want to be with you to gather a few rays of sun to make life easy.” Or the letter would say, “Sometimes I feel depressed. It is only you I feel who can understand my problems. I also can follow only your words.” These letters were sent after the conference of Kaligarh University.
Reghu was puzzled primarily because she did not make use of the time they had in Simla and than at Kaligarh University meaningfully. Their meeting at Kalligarh University conference was fully filled with her murky and nebulous attitude. Reghu was invited as keynote speaker to its international conference that had been coordinated by Dr. Pujari. With the help of Dr. Pujari, he got her invited to the conference to present a paper and also to chair a session. Kalpna had agreed to come to the conference a day before and stay a few days after the conference. On the contrary, she came on the second day of the conference and stayed far from the university for a day or two and left earlier. For transit back and forth she had to depend on her group. She did not wear the ring that Reghu had given her and wore her clothes in a way that Reghu never appreciated because she did not look nice in them. She had gained weight, and had lost her charm. She came to his room to collect what he had brought for her from Canada. She picked up those items and rushed to the conference hall. She did not have time to sit, chat or hug or smile. It was shocking for Reghu to receive this treatment from the one who once had claimed to be Meera. Perhaps it was the outcome of her practice of detachment, Reghu tried to console himself.
Reghu decided to ignore her when delegates approached him for autographs and pictures during the conference hours. She came to a room where Reghu was chatting with a female delegate. As this delegate left, thinking another delegate wanted to talk to him, she rested on his shoulders and began to sob. She was not the same who came to his room a day before. He closed a part of the fully-opened door to avoid the delegates seeing her crying. She complained that a respectable speaker had misbehaved with her. Reghu wiped her tears, consoling her. She said, “I love you,” and left when another delegate came in.
Reghu was puzzled over her sudden change. So far, she had done everything to displease Reghu, beginning with the ring he had given her as a gift, the clothes she wore, her late arrival, her attitude when she came to collect the items she asked him to bring from Canada and many other minor irritants. He did not know what to make of it when she came as a brave beloved and wept at his shoulder, expressing her love, caring for none.
She left the same evening, waving Reghu at a distance. Another opportunity for Reghu to know her was gone. What hurt Reghu the most was that she attributed her invitation to the conference and chairing a session to her former teacher who happened to know Dr. Pujari. When Reghu told her that he would talk to Dr. Pujari, Kalpna became uneasy. She asked Reghu not to discuss it with Dr. Pujari, who had told Reghu at more than one occasion that he was inviting Kalpna because of him. Such conference participations helped delegates to obtain departmental promotions. Reghu was also uneasy because she was ungrateful. In spite of the weird behavior, her emails and conversations, as well as the episodes from her married life had instilled a deep empathy in Reghu for her.
To cleanse his doubts, Reghu visited India to see her in Raipur. In spite of his suspicions, he decided to continue his minimum relations with her thinking that there could be some sound reasons for those patterns in her behavior. He began to dwell on her good qualities. Outings with her were fun as they discussed Indian mythology and intellectual life. At the same time, he thought of advertising in a newspaper for a companion who was a writer and a teacher of English literature at a college or university or a retiree. Life was becoming dreary. He was not concerned about the person’s appearance or age or position. He looked for a companion who was understanding and reliable. He did not go ahead, fearing wrong responses.
When a niece of Reghu invited him to the wedding of her daughter in Noida, near Delhi, he grabbed the opportunity to meet Kalpna again, who lived in Indore, a city in another province, with her husband and daughter. She taught English Literature at a government college. She had been happy to come to Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh, to meet Reghu. He had proposed to meet her in Raipur, not because it was a mysterious capital of a mysterious region known as a part of Dakshin Kosala and had been in existence since the 8th century or more. Reghu knew the area had been mentioned in Ramayana, Mahabharta and the Puranas.
The area had been ruled by Surya Vanshi kings, including Rama who was from the Solar Dynasty. Lord Krishna was said to be from Chander Vanshi or from the Moon Dynasty. Reghu thought of Suriya or the Solar and Chandra or the Moon dynasties as two sides of the same coin. He felt both had been interconnected in the natural world where the moon and the sun were equally important. Individuals found their manifestations as he and
she, hot and cold, life and death, light and darkness and so on. Both were complementary because one could not exist without the other. The moon and the sun were as important in the universe as they were for a human. In mythologies the wise persons had explained truths with the help of symbols whose interactions gave birth to cosmos.
The human body, Reghu believed, was a microcosm of the cosmos in which the left side was the moon and the right side was the sun. Above them was the mind that was Sarswati in the form of the head. Chinese medicine theory was based on the two complementary aspects of life which were He and She. Human shared these traits which should be in balance that was regulated by Sarswati, goddess of knowledge. It was true that there was hardly any person who maintained a perfect balance between both natures of He and She. Every individual inherited them and grew one nature more than the other with the acquisition of food of education and experience. Parental impacts also played dominant roles. Reghu was eager to know which part was dominant in Kalpna.
Raipur had also the culture of the godmen, who had been receiving their blessings from politicians, who patronized them financing their ashrams to establish their vote banks. Many of these politicians faced criminal charges connected with rapes and land grabbing, and even killing. No one questioned the existence of corruption and no one accepted it. Some suggested the need for additional laws to stop corruption, knowing that in Independent India there had been legitimate courts and investigations, as well as skilled and concerned judges and lawyers. There was no need for additional laws.
Raipur was also on the way to modernity. It had several good colleges of all types and three universities. It had a college that had been assigned exclusively for the children of royal families during the English period and now it was for anyone who could afford it. This was the college where Maharaja Pravir of Bastar studied. He wrote a book in Hindi in which he explained about his divine rights for the Adivasi of Bastar. All the copies of this book had disappeared after his assassination. What was in that book and why that had not
been translated into English remained a mystery for Reghu. He believed that there must be a copy left either with his wife or with someone or at the printing press where that book was printed. He had often heard that Maharaja Pravir led a simple life. What did it mean he wanted to know. Reghu was sure that the college where he studied must have some information about Maharaja Pravir, particularly about his days as a student.
Around Raipur, the Sirpur area was a Buddhist center in the 5th century. It had been often mentioned in mythological epigraphic records, and had the Laxman Temple that was built in the 7th century. It also had Rizin, where three rivers met. Raipur was known for lakes, waterfalls, palaces and lush greenery. Buddhism and the supernaturalism of that region must have impacted Maharaja Pravir. One project of Reghu was to trace them.
Reghu was going to decide in this mythological and supernatural setting if he should continue this meaningless relationship with Kalpna. He had the blueprint to live and let live. But lies… particularly constant and deliberate… had no place in his blueprint. Where there was honesty, there was no need for detachments, cover-ups and perspectives, Reghu believed. He knew that development of the structure to live and let live could not proceed without awareness of the need for dialogue. In his relationship, no religion or language was involved. She had often mentioned detachment in which Reghu had no faith, because it gave a false sense of security. Unresolved problems sought refuge in the subconscious, where they kept bothering in one way or the other. Their temporary exile of forgetfulness did not give the peace that was beyond understanding.
India was known for the sages who preached detachment to practice in daily life. While accepting or giving bribes the citizens of India unconsciously practiced detachment.
The more they heard and practiced the more they got used to it, caring the least for the image of the country. They used the word love only in their prayers.
There had been sages in India who preached and practiced prema or love that had been the emblem of Mother who was an embodiment of unconditional love. These sages preached that the water of care nourished the plant of relationships. For Reghu detachment was living with a guilty conscious, and was based on self-caring.
Detachment was one area that Reghu had planned to discuss with Kalpna, but he was not sure if she would come to Raipur. In most situations, she had dishonored her promises. To avoid his disappointments he had combined his visit with other plans. That was what he had done when he met her at Meerut University and at Simla and again at Kaligarh University. He combined his visit to Raipur with his project for the Chhattisgarh Series in which he wanted to research also Maharaja Pravir, who was assassinated for his love for the culture of the Adivasi. This love was not the outcome of detachment.
Raipur was a convenient city for Kalpna to come because her sister had lived there. Under the weird shades of Raipur, Reghu was meeting Kalpna to decide the course of his future. He could see the clashes of two cultures, yet Reghu did not want to rush to end a relationship under the mist of doubts. The lack of emotional cleanliness was causing toxic impact on his well-being. He was meeting her in Raipur to clean his house of mist.