Mulberry Maps

Mulberry Maps

The shards of glass tainted with blood lay scattered in the room like the crushed mulberries trampled by the foot of naked children in an abandoned backyard. If one could switch on the lights of that room, or perhaps, hang the sun on the ceiling, one would see the impressions of the fruit on Neel’s right cheek, on his arms and on the barren yard below his neck.

But in the Room number 21 of Highfield apartment, where Neel lived with his husband, Joseph, everything was dark for the past six months. It was only on one ordinary day when Neel decided to hang the trembling sun on the ceiling. He picked up his phone and called his mother several times.

However, it was the fifth call when he finally got the courage to speak up.

“Maa, Ne..el. Neel.”

“Neel? H..how are you, son? After six months? six months! six…”

“I want to come back to India. I can’t live here anymore with…”

“Oh, did it take you so long to understand that there wasn’t any closet at all? After untying a seven year-old marital knot? I always knew that leaving Sayema to marry the firangi guy‘ could be the worst decision you could ever take. So now you know how unnatural same-sex marriages are? And why can’t they work? Look, it’s not too…”

The courage that took four phone calls to build, shattered in four questions.

“Maa, I haven’t called you up for this. I am still sure about my sexual orientation. I can’t stay with Joseph because…he beats me. My decision to marry a man wasn’t wrong. Joseph isn’t the right one. And, I can’t stand these episodes of violence.”

“Domestic violence? Is that what you mean? In the same-sex couples? Who do you think will believe it?”

“If it rains, the water falls over our roof, too. The heterosexual couples are not the only ones who’re getting drenched. The storms affect everyone. It doesn’t knock the door to check the sexual orientation of people, Maa. Don’t build another closet for me.”

“Goddamn your closets! Somebody threw a word in the air and everybody is sneezing this term ‘closet’ since then. Closets! Closets! Closets!”

Maa hung up the phone.

The mulberry like impressions on his skin grew darker. The sun fell from the ceiling.

But at that time, he knew how to catch it.

He rang up Sayema, his wife who had helped him in getting out of the closet.

“Five months of suffering and you didn’t call me even once? You need to pack your bags and come to my apartment. He’s not the only man out there. We’ll find the right one for you. First, we need to get a lawyer and talk to him about the divorce,” Sayema said as she peeled the mulberry maps from his skin.

“Do you think getting a divorce for a homosexual couple is easy, Sayema?”

“Is living there easy, Neel?”

Neel knew that answers to both the questions were same. He didn’t know what the future would bring, but he knew that he had to get himself out of the land of crushed mulberries and fight for his rights.

He kept his dull pants, vibrant shirts, the leather shoes and the ball of sun in his briefcase and walked away.

The only thing that he left behind were the mulberry maps, a deafening silence and a tale of courage.

~ Eshwarya Khanna

(Photography by Arif Khan, Editing: Eshwarya Khanna)

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Pochemuchka (a person who asks too many questions)

‘Pochemuchka’ – A Russian word for a person who asks too many questions.

Anwar,

Can you see the clouds growing into shapeless balloons, tired of getting bigger, and wanting to be ruptured? Can you count the number of times they have woken up from their sleep to discard their nightmares in my dreams? If I tell you that I can see one word everytime I gaze at the clouds, will you travel all your way to read it too?

If I tell you that your promises weigh more than my metaphors, will you still ask me not to hold my metaphors on my tongue?

Anwar,

I know there are too many question marks resting on my tongue, and I wonder why they transform themselves into bullets every time they reach to you, and into atomic bombs when they can’t. I wonder why they change their meaning everytime you look at them and vanish when you don’t.

I wonder what there is when you aren’t, and what there isn’t when you are. And what there is when you are and what there isn’t when you aren’t.

Anwar,

Do you remember when you told me that we can calculate the exact number of stars in the sky if we sat together for three hundred more years; and if we spend the exact time in calculating the number of questions I ask you every day, we’ll run out of time?

I know you are miles away, but I wish you could see that skies are out of stars, tonight.

And so am I.

There are no more questions hanging on my lips and I swear if there were any, I’d swallow them. Metaphors are not my language and the question mark is not my favourite punctuation anymore.

Anwar,

But, instead- there are clouds growing bigger every second into shapeless balloons, like parts of my body that harbour love, wishing if you could come to rupture it; there are 4783 times I have woken up from my sleep, which means that I had about 47883 nightmares I want to tell you about; the one word that I read before has expanded into four – from ‘toujours’ to ‘La tristesse durera toujours ‘. (‘forever’ to ‘this sadness will last forever’) The same words that Van Gogh uttered to his brother, before he died.

And now, your fake promises are easier to hold on my tongue than my own metaphors.

There aren’t any questions anymore, but everything else except them.

Anwar,

I wish you could come back again and we’d watch the sky losing its stars, like children lose their teeth, like we’d be losing each other.

I wish you could come back again so we could see the clouds running away from each other, like the children in our towns do, like we’d be running from each other for the rest of our lives.

I wish you could come so we could see the sky turning into a smoke city like the teenagers would have transformed their hearts if cigarettes were as big as their obsessions, like we’d be turning ourselves into, after we part our ways.

Anwar,

I have now forgotten the art of asking questions, for I couldn’t make you remember the art of loving me. But do you have the strength to make me learn it all again?

~ Eshwarya

(Photography by : Arif Khan )

 

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