To discover

In the pristine hills of Darjeeling, everything smelled sweet except her mind. Yesterday night when she had suddenly woken up, she saw she was alone on the bed and on the bed a bit far away, the second bed of the room, a black silhouette was moving. Or rather a black silhouette of two bodies intertwined together. Seemed like someone was bending over someone else right below the face and the head was mildly moving or maybe it was still and something else, something long, probably a hand was slowly moving in a wave-like manner creating black waves against the white window.

Clearly her mother had left her and moved over to her father’s bed and clearly they were not sleeping. Though she didn’t understand what they were doing, she was old enough to know they were doing something with each other’s body – strange sounds came. She turned to stone. Her repulsion was ultimate. She couldn’t keep looking for long and wanted to cry out loud. She remembered the switch board in the room was on the wall just next to her. She should be able to reach it if she stretched a bit. Should she? She felt everything inside her twitching with a kind of pain and she could hardly gulp a rising ocean. She turned and pressed her face in the pillow even harder. She didn’t want to hear or see. She didn’t want to breathe. She didn’t even want to live.

At first everything seemed all muddled. All her calculations, beliefs, seemed shredded in bits and pieces. Mummy was hers entirely, wasn’t she? How could she leave her alone and go over to Babai’s bed? Not only did she go, they were up to something that she didn’t understand. Something that her parents couldn’t do in front of her. Something they couldn’t share with her. Something that needed the dark of the night and her to sleep. She was in class seven, thirteen years, and though the biology book talked about how women reproduced, she didn’t know exactly how things happened in reality.

To everyone in the outside world, theirs was an ideal family. It was indeed. A very happy couple with the loveliest daughter. They were presently on a family vacation to Darjeeling. It had continuously rained for the last two days but today it was all clear. They had even seen the Kanchanjungha from their room early in the morning – her parents had woken her up when the first golden rays of the sun started bathing the snow-capped peaks. It was so orangish and gradually more and more peaks became sun-bathed and yellowish. She had fallen asleep after a while. Their hotel was a little distance away from the Mall, towards one end of the winding road leading to it, and seemed to be the ideal place for unadulterated rest.

Later they had walked along the road in light sunshine, past the Mahakal Kali Temple, past the rows of Bhutias selling woollen wares lining the road, right down the cobbled road till Keventers’. Her mother had bought her marshmallows from the House of Candies and even a stuffed pony from the Oxford Bookstore. Though she was thirteen, she was still so fond of soft toys. She then rode on one of the real ponies in the crowded Mall circle and had some softee ice cream. They then walked back to the hotel and after a sumptuous dinner with her favourite dishes, had gone off to bed with she and her mother on one bed, and her father on the other. The double-bed room of the hotel had two separate queen beds, separated by a bedside table with vase, telephone, tour guide of the place and glasses for water.

Her mother, like always, had read a chapter from the storybook they were reading, and then applied powder on her back, and after all the usual bedtime rituals, both of them snuggled cosily under the blanket, while her mother switched off the bedside lamp. She had protested and said let the light be on for it was a new place, it was dark and she was scared. Her mother had explained that she wouldn’t be able to sleep properly with all that light in the room. And that she would soon fall asleep and that she’d always hold her and have a hand on her, so she wouldn’t feel scared at all. ‘But that wasn’t the real reason, was it?’ She felt her face getting hotter as she thought… ‘this is the real reason, wasn’t it?’

She felt a kind of sour taste in everything and the next day she refused to have anything for breakfast. Her mother seemed worried and kept asking her what had happened. ‘Nothing’, she kept saying. That day was clear too and her parents insisted on going out for a walk. She didn’t want to of course, but her parents insisted because they couldn’t leave her alone in the room. Reluctantly she had to accompany them but she walked at a distance either in front or behind them.

She actually wanted to be left alone because then she could just walk away – yes, walk away, is what she wanted. To get lost in the hills, drowned in the rains, killed by falling in the valley. She just wanted to run away from herself, from last night’s memory, from her parents. How could they, whom she trusted so much, do this…?… How could her mother, who was her best friend, abandon her and go to her father?…

Usually she thought her father looked so handsome, her mother looked so beautiful, but today, she thought, they looked really horrible. She didn’t even want to look at them. Everything they said sounded hollow and deceitful,. She wanted to shout and tell them to stop lying to her! Just once, when they were very insistent on her answering what had happened, what was wrong with her, she snapped back saying, ‘You really want to hear?’ But immediately she controlled herself and turned away saying, ‘I don’t think so … you wouldn’t want to hear…’ and she walked away…

But time does heal. And it does inculcate peace and comfort. And the stoic, silent formidable mountains in the distance. Standing guard to aeons and ages of evolution. The green moss-covered ancient trees, looking so sombre and grave. Holding on to the curved sides of the mountains, never to let go. Everything had a soothing effect on her mind. She sat motionless looking at the fog and mist shrouding the valley below. Her eyes vacantly scanned the clouds that hid the mighty mountains behind them. Droplets of water veiling largest mountains. Often great truths lie buried under specks. And who was she to question Nature’s ways.

Gradually tiny lights started glittering on the sides of the mountains. And though darkness descended outside, much of the gloom in her mind was dispelled. By evening somehow, the matured girl that she was, she had begun to see things in a different light. The evening air kind of soothed her strained nerves, sweetened the sourness inside her a bit and there was a kind of reconciliation she was arriving at.

It wasn’t like her parents were committing some crime or sin or something shameful. She knew that was what the biology book didn’t say about how females reproduce. She knew that was how she came. She knew that was how she’d become a mother herself. She knew that was how everyone came. Everyone would come. But some discoveries, some truths, nevertheless hurt and cause pain. And what she unwittingly saw last night caused her to suddenly grow up. That night she didn’t snuggle her mother with the same warmth like before. Only the distant mountains knew why.


Soumyanetra is an associate professor at the Economic Research Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata. She has two collections of poems, You’re the Mecca I never want to visit (2019), Que Sera, Sera (2022), and a collection short stories How Long’s a Day (2021) She is the Winner of Asian Literary Society’s Wordsmith Award Contest 2020 (English Poetry) for her poem “An Elegy for the Unborn”. She was invited to participate in Sahitya Akademi’s Young Writer’s Meet in May 2021. She is also a passionate Bharat Natyam dancer.


Add comment

Enable Google Transliteration.(To type in English, press Ctrl+g)

‘సారంగ’ కోసం మీ రచన పంపే ముందు ఫార్మాటింగ్ ఎలా ఉండాలో ఈ పేజీ లో చూడండి: Saaranga Formatting Guidelines.

పాఠకుల అభిప్రాయాలు