I aimed the camera at Tribhuvan, as he swung the seven kilo mudgar behind his shoulders in an anticlockwise direction. Droplets of sweat trickled down his chin, sliding down his bronzed torso. The Howrah Bridge looked imperial in the background.
It was then that I spotted it. I got up, stupefied.
The sunbeams cast their golden hues on the serene ripples of the Hooghly. Yellow taxis and blue buses raced against each other over the bridge at a frenetic pace, honking their horns loud enough to startle the pedestrians. Urchins dived into the river, giggling, and dunking their heads under the water. However, not a soul seemed to be perturbed by the sight of a flailing hand right under the bridge.
Tribhuvan looked at me. “Relax, bhai. This is normal here. In fact, we are now immune to it.”
Someone called him from the akhada. Promising to join me in a few minutes, Tribhuvan walked away. I looked at my notepad. I had gathered enough material for an article on mud wrestling in Kolkata.
The hand popped up again. This time I discerned something glittery wrapped around it. Is it a gold bangle? A chill ran down my spine.
I approached one of the numerous boats dotting the banks of the river. “Will you take me to the other side?” I asked a man.
“No. Not now,” he drawled, smoking his beedi. “Come later.”
I opened my mouth to mutter an expletive, but paused midway as my ears perked up at that still-melodious voice.
“Bumba da!” the voice pleaded.
I sat on the edge of the boat and lit up a Marlboro. I blew a couple of smoke rings, but memories of Sayantika made their way through them, like tigers jumping through the circle of fire in a circus.
That’s it. Of their own accord, my hands fished out a hundred rupee note from the pocket of my jeans and waved it in front of the boatman. “I am taking your boat. I will give you another hundred when I return. Ok?” My voice quivered a bit, but he relented. I picked up the oars.
How long have I been rowing? The boat swayed in the gentle breeze. The hand resurfaced and glided towards me gently.
Things became as clear as a crystal. It was her call that made me fix up an appointment with Tribhuvan. Until this day, I had no intention of interviewing someone who was not a celebrity.
“Spare me, Sayantika,” I mumbled.
The hand gave the boat a slight nudge, and it toppled over. I screamed and apologized to the innocent girl for violating her body, and pushing her to the precipice of death many winters ago. The Hooghly welcomed me into its mud-coloured swirls. The water made its way into my lungs. A sense of shame mixed with relief engulfed me, as Sayantika got her revenge.
Mudgar – A type of mace
Akhada – Traditional wrestling ground
Narayani V Manapadam