Bamboo Flower, a novel – Part 53
By Akendra Sana
“Bamboo Flower”, serialized here, is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental
contd... from previous Sunday
Oh Mother! I have done what I wanted to do. I could not rest. Because I knew you wanted me to make one last attempt. Knowing was important for you. I do not know if it still is. Because I have not learnt anything new. It was just one name I was after. Yes you wanted me to trace that name, the person would follow, you said. One name we found in the notebook. I do not know if I have gained or lost. You always said effort was necessary. You also said one may not know how it all happened but we may come to learn something we could not comprehend when we all were together.
I do not know if you would approve of what I have done. I left no line untouched. I went and tried everything possible to know more than what I already knew.
He was different. I have not met anyone like him. His concerns are different. Killings, kidnaps and disappearances, all seem normal to him. But what disturb him are bamboos flowering and rats increasing. I hope I helped him as much as I think he helped me.
How would I know if my brother ever was in those places? He just disappeared. For me this is a pilgrimage because I only know you, my mother, my god wanted me to ‘investigate’. You know that this will not throw up anything new.
I will no longer cry. Remembering you telling me to go to Manipur and search for the footsteps of your son, my brother made me cry every time. And every instance I write about the turmoil in Manipur I know I always start with a drop of tears.
Mother, you know I yearn for some balance, a balance, a state of mind to reconcile that your son, my brother has gone for good, never to return, but we deserve confirmation, would anyone, my partner of last night included ever give a clue. He showed some promise but nothing that would provide the answers I seek. Nini cried holding the photograph of her mother she always had in her bag.
Twenty months earlier, when Joy and I came to Imphal to holiday you were worried, mother. You did not want us to go without you. Joy then said why we are grown up. Yes he was grown, he went out an evening and never came back. I was devastated. Only after you reached Imphal a day later could I become coherent. What a waste! He was strong and alert. Was it the cesspool that is Manipur that sucked him in? Or was it his decision to be away and be gone like many others to join one of these “underground” groups. What motivated him to do so if he had or was it a case of mistaken identity, picked up for “investigation” or to be eliminated? Mother, you understood Manipur. I am learning.
You discovered “Rajen Hao” scribbled in his notebook. Joy left with only the clothes he was on. The searches you organized, the messages you sent out, the visits you made to police stations could not bring back Joy. I am continuing what you began. This is a beginning. I have “researched” Rajen Hao all this while and needed to be with him. But is Rajen Hao normal, I now wonder. What are his concerns and how did his name enter Joy’s notebook. The only name that appeared demanding pursuing. How I miss you now, mother! Joy left and we do not know whether he will ever return. Convinced that he would never return, you, mother gave up everything and you are now gone, Nini sobbed throughout the night at the hotel.
My anger, my worries all have dissipated. I do not know if I am what I used to be. Or have touched a line I cannot retreat from? Joy gone, you gone; I do not know where I should pick up the threads from. My efforts may all be in vain. Joy did not leave a trace. Life possibly ends in uncertainties. But my brother was so real and strong. Why has he not returned? Manipur is sublime. It will remain so. But sometimes it consumes. And we know how it does. Joy present here, gone now. Everything left behind as if only a new morning awaits. Mighty Lord Koubru has been kind. My friends all have been warm. They knew my anxieties. Uncle Pao and Aunt Kim at their foothill house have been understanding and warm. Bem and her mother-in-law have been discreet. I could not have asked for more. The messages I sent before I took Rajen Hao had helped. But we all know life cannot be stage-managed all the time. I should now be more careful.
What we have been through must not be experienced by anyone, I plead, Nini almost murmured. Should not there be a Manual, a set of guidelines that can be followed when someone goes missing in Manipur. The phone numbers you must necessarily contact, say in the first few hours, the influential persons you must reach out to who could help and of course all the actions and non-actions you must follow in the hours, days and weeks of the disappearance, all these can be spelt out in such a manual. Will anyone volunteer to be of such a service? What a service it would be to humankind and for this civilization in Manipur to sustain, she spoke silently.
From tomorrow, I am going to be on my feet through Paona Bazar, Thangal Bazar, BT Road and all the central streets of Imphal and I will dress differently so that I am not recognized should anyone familiar passes by. I have not yet given up. Let me see Mother if there is any lead. I am confused but I will continue looking for clues.
After some days of incognito presence Nini left Imphal to be all alone. And to her, she was again going to be the individual who is strong to be on her own whatever the circumstances and to live on her own terms. None would henceforth know what I do and what are my concerns, she once again told herself.
To be contd...
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