Sunday, June 10, 2012


Streaks of sweat trickled down our newly tonsured heads. Despite the riotous chanting of mantra during the last rites of our grandfather, which demanded our presence, we decided that cricket required more attention. Our grandfather died of a heart attack, after which a wave of abominable melancholy struck the entire household, except the two of us. It wasn't that we didn't bother, it did affect us, but only for a while. Like love, sorrow in adolescence doesn't stay for long.

It had been three hours that we had been playing cricket. Tired as well as a little afraid that our mercurial Mama would reprimand us for being so callous, we decided to call it off. I, Shantanu, 14, carried the bat and the wickets while my cousin, Ashwin, 12, brought the remaining equipments viz. gloves, pads and the ball. To prevent ourselves from being caught red-handed returning from the playground despite the lamentable situation, we sneaked inside through the back door. The entire family was meditative to the tune of the plump pundit chanting mantras in his typical nasal tone.

ॐ त्र्यम्बकम् यजामहे सुगन्धिम् पुष्टिवर्धनम् ।
उर्वारुकमिव बन्धनान् मृत्योर्मुक्षीय माम्रतात् ।।

Unconcerned with the process, we entered a room, darkened by the dusky sunlight peeping through the windows. I was sweating profusely due to the sultry atmosphere in the room. I hindered Ashwin from switching on any lights to avoid people outside in the aangan to realize that we had returned from the playground. I closed the door and the two of us lay on the ground, looking up at the dark ceiling.

'My entire pant is wet because of sweat. God, now I can't even change it as my dry boxer lies in the other room.' I uttered helplessly.

'Mine too.' Ashwin muttered, heaving a sigh.

The sun had dipped further down, dusk was giving way to the dark ghastly night. The room was now totally dark. I twisted and turned; made some noise with my clothes as though I was playing tug of war against the ceiling. Except for the very dim flickering light of diya kept outside seeping through the crevices of the door, there was nothing that could bring even a trace of light to brighten the room up.

There was a stark silence in the room, the blatant noise made by the pundit outside was somehow numbed by the closed door and the sudden rhythmic sound that Ashwin heard.

'Shaan bhaiya, why are you shivering? Bhaiya?' Ashwin asked, worried.

''s nothing. I'm just playing video game, ah... with joystick,' I replied, slightly panting.

'Why are you breathing heavily, are you okay? Should I call someone?' Ashwin asked, concerned.

'Hell no. Stay here. Join me, do you want to hold the joystick?' I moved my right hand to grab hold of Ashwin's left and pulled it towards myself. Owing to Ashwin's nervousness, it took a lot of effort on my end to pull his hand on me.

'Grab it. Leave it free. Isn't it big?'

'What's it bhaiya? It's hot,' Ashwin muttered, afraid.

'Don't worry, just keep playing with it. This way. Do it faster, then I'll show you how to play with yours.'

Ashwin nervously caught pace, continued stroking for two minutes until his elbow started hurting.

'I can't do it anymore. I'm tired.'

'Don't stop. I will beat you if you stop. I'll complain to Mama that you broke my video game.' I asserted.

Two minutes later, I wiped Ashwin's shivering wet hands with the curtain and made some more noises with my clothes, which stopped after he heard the sound of zipping.

Ashwin felt a sudden encroachment inside his pants. In awkfard fear, he oppugned, 'Shaan bhaiya, what are you doing?'

'I'm just making you feel happy. Be relaxed.'

'Shaan bhaiya, don't touch it. Nobody has ever touched it before.'

'Arey, I'm your elder brother. I have seen you naked at birth, you don't need to feel shy. Just trust me and see how wonderful it would feel.'

The next five minutes Ashwin didn't speak a word. Another five minutes went by and he was panting.

'Even your joystick has got size. But where is the proof of your masculinity? It hasn't arrived yet.'

'Bhaiya, it's hurting me, please stop. Please. Oh god, there's a weird sensation ... oh my lower stomach...oh, oh...sigh.'

'Done. How does it feel? You had plenty of it stored, you never knew it, didn't you?'

'Bhaiya, what was that? I am feeling really frightened.'

'Don't worry Ashu, it's just excess energy inside you. Keep throwing it aside from time to time.'

'I want to go outside, Bhaiya.'

'Don't tell anyone about it otherwise I would tell Mama that you broke my video game.'


The next three days, Ashwin's behaviour had completely changed. He was clinging to his mother all the time, being totally disinterested in me. I realized that what had happened was not right. Not at all right. However, being just 14, my conscience wasn't righteous enough to make me feel sorry. Idle, I became involved in the puja-paath, with frequent long breaks to the loo. My joystick missed Ashwin. Five days later, the families dispersed in different corners of the country and the memories of the dark room was buried in the dark corner of both of our minds.

Seven years later.

21st October, 2010
Today, a very distressing memory came crawling into my head. As I am at my grandmother's place, I was asked to sleep in the very same room. Yes, the very same room where once I had physically abused Ashwin. I couldn't sleep the whole night. Though it has been seven years of the event, but ever since my conscience came into being, I had been bitten by the self-hate of doing something so vile in my utter senselessness. The ghastly memory of sexually abusing my younger brother aches my heart every time it flashes by. Sounds of his nervous breaths, worried voice and shivering body haunted me the entire night. I kept staring at the dark ceiling, in hope that the dark speckle of bad memory inside my head could be erased, but alas. 

I wonder what would Ashwin be thinking of me. That I'm homosexual, who assaulted him? Oh no, that shouldn't happen. God, someone tell him that I was just curious. It happens at puberty, doesn't it? He would be carrying hatred against me, he would never ever forgive me for what I did in my utter irresponsibleness. How would he feel when I tell him that I have a girlfriend? That I'm straight. I had just crossed puberty during that phase, that's why I was so sexually charged. Would he believe me at all? Maybe he would consider me a bi. Or maybe, he won't even talk to me for what I had done. Fortunately, they live so far that we haven't met again. Or fortunately, nobody died in the last seven years that could have brought the family together. Oh what shit I am writing. Maybe I should catch some sleep.

'Shaan, wake up.'
'Mom, come on, let me sleep. I couldn't sleep the entire night.'

'Get up. You have to go to the railway station in half an hour to pick someone up.'
'Who is coming now, I'm really tired Mom, please let me sleep.'

'You'll be delighted. Wake up.'
'Oh Mom, please tell me who's coming.'
'Your childhood mate Ashwin, along with your Mausi.'

My sleep disappeared in a second. It was as if someone had poured down a bucket full of steaming hot water on my face. I jumped up from the bed, as though, it had a spring on it. I washed my face, four times and reconfirmed from my mother, 'Ashwin and Mausi, right? Why are they coming? They didn't bother to remain in touch with us or grandma for the last seven years, how come now suddenly, they are coming over.'

'He has just finished his schooling, is done with all the examinations. They are moving out of their town after seven years, as they were busy in his education. It's time to celebrate. They are giving a surprise to your grandma, that's why they didn't inform us beforehand. Don't tell her about it at all. Also, do bring rasgullas, on your way back from the station.'

I was flabbergasted. The faster I wanted to run away from the humiliation, the nearer it appeared. I had no idea at all as to how to go ahead. As I bathed, I decided that the first thing I would do when I find Ashwin alone would be to apologize to him for what I had done in the past, for spoiling his pleasant childhood and make sure that I would convince him about my being straight, this wish was somehow more important than every other one.

With hesitant steps, I went towards the car - old Maruti 800, started it and drove to the station, along with my Mama. The train was exactly fifteen minutes late, which is quite a feat for the Indian railways. As I surreptitiously watched through the moving bogeys, I saw the oval face of my Mausi sitting in the coach that stopped right in front of me. My Mama and I immediately went inside the coach and just when I entered, I was stopped by an extremely handsome young man with long hair smiling at me.

'Hi Shaan bhaiya, how are you? Do you recognise me?' He said, flashing his mild smile.
'Oh my god, Ashu, how are you?' We hugged; the warmth was fake from my side as I was feeling really cumbersome.

The inward awkwardness was suddenly sublimated by the welcoming behaviour by both Ashu and my Mausi. It seemed that my wrongdoings of the past had been obliterated by the sands of time. I felt somewhat relieved, but at the same time, the urge to apologize became stronger as soon as I saw the tall, fair and handsome Ashu. I didn't want him to have any hard feelings against me and at the same time, I wanted to get rid of the remorse that had stayed in me ever since the day that dark room threw its darkness in my life.

We went back to the bungalow, which was an archaic sprawling duplex built by my grandfather who was a very successful doctor. My grandmother tells me that it was the first bungalow to be built in the town of Burla, way back in 1959, when my mother was just born. Amidst cheers, jest and hullabaloo of family get-together, the stark silence of remorse in my heart continued to storm my soul. I wanted to talk to Ashu personally, but we were never left free to talk to.

We didn't even realize how the day got stolen by the bright moonlight and sumptuous dinner, comprising of three subzis, dal and pulao, that were served in front of us, which I swallowed after first swallowing my considerable guilt.

'As we have limited beds, we have decided to put one extra bed in each room. Ashu, you sleep in Shaan's room, we have put an extra cot there. Your Mausi will come in Grandma's room.' My mother said to both of us.

Horrid thoughts about the previous night pervaded my mind. I realized that this was going to be worse than the previous night. But at the same time, I was prepared to apologize and get free of the heap of guilt residing in my gut. Carrying our blankets on our shoulders, we went to the room. I was rehearsing inside my head how I would begin my apology statement. We entered the room, the bed was already set, I dumped my blanket on my side and waited for Ashwin to drop his on his side, but he carried it on his shoulders throughout.

'Bhaiya, please turn off the lights please.' Ashwin said to me in a sleepy tone. I did what I was instructed. The wave of awkwardness embraced me tissue by tissue. Ashwin dropped his blanket on the bed, hearing the sound of which I was mightily relieved.

I lay down on the bed, hid inside my blanket while he was still standing. I waited to sense the right opportunity to start my monologue.

'Ashu, I had to say something.' I began.

'Haan bhai, tell me.' Ashwin said and jumped on the bed, pulling my blanket towards him. I felt bizarre, so much that for a few seconds I lost track of what I was saying.

'Bhai, tell me.' Ashwin asserted as he made himself comfortable within my blanket. Yes, my blanket.

'Ashwin, I am ...' A swift movement near my pubes interrupted my monologue. It was a hand - a fair, big and handsome hand, hidden beneath the darkness of my blanket.

'Even I am gay, bhai.' Ashwin said and caught hold of me. Dumbstruck, I started shivering. I couldn't see. I couldn't feel. I couldn't smell. I couldn't taste. I could just hear.

'Bhai,  you don't know how thankful I am to you. Ten years ago, had you not helped me out, today I would have felt so bad about myself for not being straight. You made me realize that I was homosexual and I don't need to fear anyone. Thank you so much, bhai. All the while, the sheer thought that you were like me, and doing good for yourself, kept me going through the hard times.' Ashwin continued as his grip became stronger.

'Bhai, I had always thought of you and tonight, I want to repay the debt that I had been waiting to repay all the while.' Ashwin said and inched closer to me.

I can't describe how the next twenty minutes went. For all I knew that I had unknowingly physically abused him once, he had the right to unknowingly avenge from me once. Once, for all.

I didn't tell Ashwin anything. Anything about everything. The next day, I left my granny's place without telling anyone. There was a new remorse troubling me now. In a snap, I called my girlfriend and broke up with her. I told her that I had cheated with her and she didn't deserve me. I didn't tell her how, when and where. She cussed at me. She cursed me. I didn't respond back. I cut the phone.

She didn't call back. Just SMSed: asshole. I echoed her SMS loudly and it hurt.

I had been abused, twice, at the cost of remorse. And not surprisingly, I felt better.

P.S. This is just the first draft. Requires more drafts. This is the first time, I have written on such a sensitive topic. Suggestions/critiques welcome.


Sayantan said...

And once again.... u r such a beauty to read.....
It is too a controversial and sensitive issue to write about.... U hav to write it to the edge, one step more and it would hav turned into a vulgr, and one steop less, it would hav turned into a lame........
But hats off to u bro, what a narration...u sarted at the edge and comptited at the edge, and the best part is u hav thoroughly maintained to be on the edge..... Nice piece of fiction... U r such a inspiration.. keep wrriting and keep inspiring :)

Shivang Chopra said...

Certainly agreeing with what Sayantan said, it has been written with a very fine balance. It is neither erotic, nor sexually explicit. One needs balls (sorry for my choice of words :P ) to create something profound like this. I can say that this is the most mature piece that you've written so far. The pleasure, indifference, pain, fear have been utterly well woven. This better be a part of a book Harsh, 'cause a single post is not enough. Thanks for writing. You inspire.

Sayantan said...

It really is a tough stuff (#Labels) :D

Anonymous said...

agar sach hi kehna hai to "please add some humour in the stories as serious waale to mahadevi verma aur fanishwar das renu ki rachnaaon me bhi mil jaate hain"..

megha kedia said...

agar sach hi kehna hai to "please add some humour in the stories as serious waale to mahadevi verma aur fanishwar das renu ki rachnaaon me bhi mil jaate hain"..

mithil said...

You did good actually...such a small margin for error..bravo

Anonymous said...

As has already been said before, this was an awesomely restrained and mature post. And taking a bit of creative liberty, I am gonna suggest a bit of modification in the transformation of the girlfriend to girlfiend. When Shaan calls the girlfriend and confesses about his cheating, she first gets angry and then herself confesses to cheating on him with a girl and telling him that she's a bi. #randomidea :)