Saturday, July 22, 2006

Mallorka (Part I)

It was evening, and the sun went down the horizon at the sedate pace that could be expected for a day where nothing of any importance had occurred. Atleast not for Mallorka. She walked down the broad expanse of Chowringhee at a slow pace counting each tile on the pavement with the seriousness of a jobless individual who can afford to take note of every dull second moving by, having completed its given tenure to the end. Ragged children cluttered the pavement pursuing the firangs who loomed large on the road, though they tried their best to fade into the surroundings. No one disturbed her. Her absorption in the ground and the casualness with which she held her handbag was sufficient indication that there was nothing of value in it.

Suddenly she speeded up and dipped into Park Street to find a telephone booth. The emptiness of the entire day had given her sufficient time to pore over the events of the last few days. They had been as numerous and cryptic as the clues of the Sunday crossword. It was evident that another min had to be called into detangle them. With the little left on the prepaid and no job in view, it was better to find a PCO. At the booth, three teenage girls crowded around the only instrument, one of them lounging in her fake DKNYs and Lees and chatting away with a boyfriend. The other two stood by offering encouragement and moral support for what was turning into a battle of the telephone. Mallorka sighed. She knew these kind of conversations only too well. Given the cheapness of local telephone calls and the kind of pocket money college kids received, they would never end. She picked up her mobile and dialled the number.It was not the voice she had expected to hear.

“Welcome to the Setland drilling company. If you know the extension number you wish to reach…”She hung up after checking the dialed number on the screen. It was the number she always had for Kevin. Suddenly the other end of the line had metamorphosed into the Setland drilling company. Of late a great many of these puzzling things were happening. Picking up some chanachur and a copy of the Telegraph, Mallorka decided to walk to the maidan and think over her gameplan calmly.

The maidan was crowded with office goers stopping by for a bite on the way back home. Young couples delighted in find a haven crowded enough to hold hands without attracting attention. Mallorka managed to find a grassy patch a little distance away from this assembly. True there was no tree cover here but the heat was fading away now and it was better than being constantly assailed by the cries of the ice cream wallahs and puchka redies. Spreading out the newspaper she lay down on her stomach with her legs up in the air and started reading.

PIL filed against woman for wrongful use of name. The story was taking place in the dank rooms of a family court. A tiny man with rimless glasses perched on his nose sat in a chair at an elevation to one end of the room. He was the judge. It was evident in the white wig that was placed on his hand and the hammer that lay before him on the wooden table. Her mother was standing in the witness box while a lawyer with a sweaty face cross examined her. Every two minutes he paused to mop his face with a large dirty handkerchief.
“ Mrs. Sen, May I ask you to tell me, how many years ago did you go to Palma de Mallorca?”
“Twenty three.” Her mother was answering him in the precise cold british voice she always used for servants and door to door salesman.
“ And is it a coincidence that you have given your daughter the same name?”
“ No. My husband and I, we decided to call her Mallorka, since we honeymooned on the island and very much enjoyed it.:
“ You are aware that in the light of the divorce proceedings underway currently, your husband has filed an injunction prohibiting your daughter from using this name, as it does not rightly reflect the change in circumstances?”
“ Mallorka is spelt with a K. Not a C as the island is. My daughter is therefore entitled to using her name until she desires.” Canned laughter rolled around the courtroom boisterously though no one could see where it had come from.
At this point, a man came running into the coutroom shouting, Evidence, Milord, Fresh evidence. The courtroom which had been fairly empty until then suddenly filled with people running in, all of them shouting strange things in different languages. Three crows flew in from the ventilator opening above the judge’s place, cawing in abandon. The lawyer wiped his sweaty face again. Her mother had lost her best cold voice and was trying to scream above the din, all her rounded bengali vowels showing. The judge was banging on the table with his hammer, order order.

She woke up and found that it was almost nine o’clock. The Maidan was still crowded and noisy. The strange dream hovered around her as though it had decided that it would like to walk out of her untimely nap and plant itself in the more comfortable and spacious area of waking consciousness. Trying to shrug it away, she walked to the road and hailed a taxi. It was time to go home. On the way home, she continued thinking about the dream. It was one more link in the chain of strange events that begun the past week when the company vice president had called her into his room to let her know that he was quitting. But it was a chain in which all the links seemed to have a size and shape all their own, no one piece like another.
(Part II should be up in a few days - under some editing)


The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Yay! Very interesting...and I think this story is as cryptic as the Sunday crossword too. Please put up part 2 soon.

apu said...

Yes, M'am - part 2 coming soon :) This one seems more cryptic than it really is, simply because its not complete yet...

Srihari said...

Fascinating! It grips you, and gets you hooked! And.. and..bonus points for the name Mallor(c)ka.

I'm so much better off reading rather than writing ;)

Raghav said...

well written. Look fwd to the 2nd part

apu said...

Thanks, Sri & Raghav. Part 2 coming up !