Umber Ranjana Pandey1
“DOB: 31/12/1983. I write in Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati and English. I write poetry, fiction and plays.” – Umber
(I casi son tanti)
Idrís is a name for enoch in Persian in A Dictionary of Persian and English in The Roman Character by the late Ramdhun Sen, second edition printed at The Baptist Mission Press, Circular Road Calcutta, 1841 but in Bow Bazar of Calcutta, Idrís bai ran a bordello in a maisonette attached to parrots, fowls for cooking and other warblers’ shop. Idrís bai liked better to call her whorehouse a cabinet of curiosities or vaseful of deflowered buds. Sometimes she called it menagerie of beasts of beauty or bêtes noire of wives’ breasts. She liked better to come up with a new bon mot every time she badinaged with the frequenters of her cabinet of curiosities or vaseful of deflowered buds. The craftswomen started toiling at their parlour after twelve o’clock in noon and moiled till early dawn. It, as my eminent readers know, used more elbow grease than any other kind of drudgery.
Ghurfah is a Persian word for an upper apartment and Gharqáb for deep water in A Dictionary of Persian and English in The Roman Character by the late Ramdhun Sen, first edition printed at The Baptist Mission Press, Circular Road Calcutta, 1839 but in Idrís bai’s pack of bêtes noire, Ghurfah and Gharqáb were the names for Siamese twins. They were conjoined at waist but the axons and dendrites of breasts of both the twins were fastened to Ghurfah whereas the axons and dendrites below the ribs were fastened to Gharqáb. When the guest manipulated their breasts, Ghurfah cried with joy and while tupping Gharqáb howled with jouissance. Ghurfah and Gharqáb were the costliest among all the deflowered buds. A footman, who was old and a leper and who’s name was Cujjamali, had spread a rumour that Ghurfah and Gharqáb could be dying anytime soon and nabobs, rajahs, seths and their sons and sons-in-law rushed in flock to copulate with them.
Ghurrah is a Persian word for the first day of new moon in A Lexicon of Persian by Munshi Chitraram Kaul ‘Farásh’ published by The New Britainia Press, Hazratgunj, Luckhnow, 1871. Idrís bai liked to call her consumed, sallow fille de joie Ghurrah. Ghurrah was given to frequent ghusl and often ran high temperature and thus she too was costly for the blokes like her warmth on nippy nights. Manmati was exactly similar to Ghurrah. She too was given to frequent ghusl and often ran high temperature, had sallow complexion and was consumed. She was slimmer than Ghurrah. As opposite to Ghurrah who smelt of sweat and attars, Manmati like an image in mirror did not smelt of anything. Ghurrah used to dress in chinoiserie costumes and Manmati used to dress in turqueries.
Bajjar Singh Dungarwal came every fortnight. He had a head full of thick, twined, black hair and large, kohled eyes. His build now reduced to shadows but still the whores of Idrís bai’s menagerie of beasts of beauty, discerned the wrestler’s sinews and bones left on him and nurtured reveries to spent an afternoon with him. He paid a small price for Manmati and spent his time with her. He never knew Manmati like mirrors did not smell. He never undressed her for he never consummated his bargain like a scrooge does. He clasped Manmati in his arms. He shivered in the bosoms of other whores of Bow bazar for he too was given to calenture. He found Manmati quite chambré. His oft calentures were not due to sailing as he was a enameller.
A poultice needed a bag of flaxseeds, butter, vinegar and onion layers. Bajjar Singh tied such poultices at his throat, on his abdomen, in his armpits and on his buttocks. His wound suppurated for a week or two and when it festered to its fill, he ran to Manmati. Manmati opened the poultices and with a roughened tea towel wrenched the sore. Bajjar Singh gave a loud cry, of ache or of rapture or of both, Manmati did not know. Manmati too, a woman without any kind of odour, felt comfort and the warm in his festering wounds; she kept her nose on them and inhaled its fetor. Pus soiled bed sheet was an object of virtue and Manmati never had it laundered in years.
The most joyous one festered on scrotum. Bajjar Singh tied poultice on it for days and days. When septicity grew unendurable, he returned to Manmati. Manmati slowly untied the poultice fastened over his shrivelled testis and inflamed scrotum, his membrum virile stood like Sir John Falstaff, fat and malleable. She swabbed his scrotum with a sordid rag, it poured forth five or six spoonful of pus and Bajjar Singh kept crying. The fetor filled her lungs and both slept in the puddle of pus on their wickerwork bed.
Bajjar Singh narrated different reasons different times for the corruption of his flesh. He was born in fief of Jher Qasbat in Gujarat. It was dreaded for its venomous reptiles, basilisks, ichneumon flies, gharials, bats, peregrines, falcons and owls, lions and other man-eating grimalkins and other homicidal folkloric beasts. Most of the waterbodies were befouled by these beasts and country people had to cover miles of distance everyday for water. Bajjar Singh’s father Sillabadan Singh when returned along with his wife Nauratan devi after their marriage, en route he found a stepwell. It had seven storeys underground and the wedding procession decided to halt in its draughty interiors on that torrid day. The footsloggers found its water honey-like and cool as if with snow. When Sillabadan Singh too jumped in to swim in water, a strange, huge beast decoyed by his supple, warm calves, caught his heel in his canine teeth. The manful rajputs ran naked for their swords and daggers. Somehow they ensnarled the beast in a zardozi dupatta of the bride.
It was a basilisk, a ophidian egg hatched by an owl or a hawk. It was nine foot long and seemed like a gharial with plumage. A vaidya suggested not to slaughter the basilisk but counselled them to take it to their burg and observe the monster. It was a revolutionarily scientific step in the fief of Jher Qasbat. They brought it to their village and kept it in the dungeon of Sillabadan Singh’s minareted mahal. The basilisk ate the bitterest and most tart, mephitic fishes and other aquatic lives and had dyspeptic constitution. It exhaled cloy wind, its sweat resembled honey, faeces molasses and its semen syrup of fructose. They called it Shiritukhma or Shakkartukhm. It grunted in dark and squirmed as the heat grew with day. Sillabadan Singh ordered its plumage and unguises be afired.
Sillabadan Singh’s wife Nauratan devi gave birth to Bajjar Singh after nine months of their marriage and Bajjar Singh grew in that saccharin air by day and night. After five years, Some profound bugs infested Nauratan devi. Her abdomen suppurated and turned bulbous. She took to bed and pyrexia. Firstly, pus formed in form of bulbs around abdomen and then grew towards lungs, heart and oropharynx. The vaidya collected her urine in a glass jar and took it to observe. The urine too contained dead white blood cells, tissue debris and serum full of sugar. Quickly the jar of urine was attacked by ants and houseflies.
‘Madhumeh’, the vaidya announced to Sillabadan Singh. Nauratan devi suffered acute diabetes mellitus never observed by the vaidya now in his nonagenarian years. He informed Sillabadan that such an acute diabetes mellitus might be long-term sequelae of coitus with Shiritukhma. Nauratan devi in delirium and agony confessed that Shiritukhma few times attacked and raped her. Initially, she felt sickened with its scad like dermis, mellow phallic and gooey belly but when emitted his seeds spermatozoa inside her, she felt as if she bathed in honey cultivated on orange blossom. Sillabadan Singh, apoplectic with rage, fought with Shiritukhm for hours and hours and butchered it to pieces. He then sent the villagers to Morwi to entertain themselves in Russian circus on his expense and sent Nauratan devi to an ancient saurian pothole in the jungle. He thought of five and a half years old Bajjar Singh as a bastard offspring of Shiritukhm and sent him too along with Nauratan devi.
In the stygian pothole, Nauratan devi for hours swore at Sillabadan Singh and Shiritukhma derangedly. Bajjar Singh cried among scorpions and other arachnids. After the night, he overcame his fear and brought jujubes. He thrust it in his mother’s mouth and ate it himself too. Nauratan devi festered in humid pothole expeditiously. She showed symptoms of rabid being and did not drink a drop of water. When Bajjar Singh poured some in her mouth she gargled and vomited it along with pus. The French philosopher Pascal observed that death, the fifth act of life, is always bloody. An afternoon, when Bajjar Singh went collecting jujubes in jungle, Nauratan devi’s putrid anatomy burst and she died. Bajjar Singh unknown to phenomenon called death, thought of her bursting and death as sign of repose and dug a channel to drain the matter. He waited alongside the corpse and tried pouring water and thrusting jujubes in its mouth. It perished and all kind of bugs and insects attacked it but Bajjar Singh persisted. A night when he slept, two corpse-eating beasts took the cadaveric leftovers. Bajjar Singh cried at twilight, thinking his mother has left him.
Rats, ants, flies, spiders, skunks and other lowlives feasted on sugary carcass of Shiritukhm and when the villagers returned laughing and discussing the antics of circus girls, a major bout of the Black Death pounded on them. Everybody died in Jher Qasbat leaving Bajjar Singh alone.
The night when Bajjar Singh recounted the history of his life which corrupted his flesh and spirit, he had a wide, thick poultice fastened over his left breast. Manmati unknotted it slowly and pus burst out and formed a puddle on bed. Bajjar Singh gave a cry of aching and rhapsodies. A spider smelt pus, flew and perched on Manmati’s right eye. She jumped and the wicker-lamp fell on Bajjar Singh’s head. It bleeder profusely but Bajjar Singh did not let her or anybody touch it for he believed the suppuration of cerebrum would be the most potent bliss of his mortal coil.
Bajjar Singh tied a large mustard plaster on his head and it maturated slowly. Day after day, millilitres of pus collected and when he could not walk out of vertigo and all thoughts drained out of him to make space for pus, he came to Manmati. He now reduced to being a gargoyle, ran high temperature and mumbled a newfangled tongue, Manmati did not understand. He fell on bed, his head bloated and liquified dangled by the bed’s edge. Manmati as their custom was, brought a rag and punctured the fester. A stream of pus ran out and Bajjar Singh crooned or cried mildly. At once, he went quiet and died. Manmati suffered zoster sine herpete, intoxicated on such a miasma of pus, slept in corpse’s arms. By dawn, rigour mortis caught the corpse and all the grandees horizontales of Idrís bai struggled to unfurle corpse’s maulers to free Manmati from its clutches. Cujjamali, the footman, dumped the corpse in Ganga.
Manmati’s herpes zoster worsened. Idrís bai, a pragmatic merchant of corporeal pleasure, knew Manmati’s worth in her vaseful of deflowered buds as she attended to the strangest of their guests. Marwari Seth Bhimamal Kundalia, who ran numerous iron foundries in Calcutta, liked to spend his noons with Manmati. He ate half cooked pulses and intact black peppers before coming to Manmati and then laid on the bed like a woman in labour. Manmati had to keep her nose near his rectum and he farted loudly. He did not do anything else and paid very handsomely. Similarly Nabob Qamar Alam of Chaprar brought bedpans of all kind of metals like of brass, of copper, of silver, of tin and even of gold, whenever he came. Manmati had to drink all sorts of sherbet and juleps and urinate into these bedpans. The sound of such fountain brought jouissance to Nabob Qamar Alam of Chaprar. Owner of shipbuilding firm, a Parsee man Doctor Shenshaw Potwalo too paid handsomely and had an immaculate vice. He asked Manmati to act as if she was dead. Then he observed all the mortuary customs of Parsees and prepared her for funeral. A Dalmatian named Umbre always accompanied Doctor Shenshaw Potwalo. Idrís bai knew only Manmati was capable of keeping sombre while Doctor Shenshaw Potwalo cried and sang elegies to her in Gujarati, and only Manmati was competent enough to tell Seth Bhimamal Kundalia what he ate in luncheon smelling his fatulence. Only Manmati could urinate as per Nabob Qamar Alam of Chaprar’s whims.
Idrís bai tied a carrycot in their scullery for Manmati and called for Oncl Pleafaunt. Oncl Pleafaunt was a scrimshanker ran out from the army of The East India Co. He then took to French customs, learnt old and new French and claimed to be an homme de france. He was a barber in army and now turned himself into an apothicaire. He sold purgative, cold remedies, readymade poultices, mustard plasters door to door and treated small wounds and maladies. He sutured gashes and claimed to be an expert in administration of tourniquet. He was fond of usage of enema on spinsters and retired hos.
He in 1843 wrote a romance in a branch of Volapük (a universal language created in the late 19th century by a German priest called Johann Schleyer) Balta- full of iambuses in melancholic flow and gloom. He titled it The Marriage of Cijjamali and Manmati. In the poem, Manmati marries Cujjamali. Oncl Pleafaunt made Cujjamali not only a leper but a hunchback too as per the custom of Romantic poetry of that time. Oncl Pleafaunt writes that everyday, Manmati washed Cujjamali’s leprous anatomy and kept the bathwater afterwards in bowls in her chamber. She loved Cujjamali so much that she needed his malodour in her breath all the time when Cujjamali went to beg. Cujjamali behaved well with Manmati on the days he got many foul rotis in alms. They feasted on it and made love. On unfortunate days when he returned empty-handed, he beat Manmati with a dog-bone he kept to support himself and slept stuffing his heel in her mouth. He fifteen years before the publication of Charles Baudlaire’s Les Fluers De Mal, used the phrase Le Fluer de map for Manmati as he found her a carnation of evil.
I hereby seek excuse from my eminent readers for they have to make do with Oncl Pleafaunt’s version of Manmati’s account as I do not know what became of her afterwards.
Bajjar Singh, as I mentioned earlier, gave different accounts different times about the corruption of his flesh and spirit. Once when he had warm, very comfortable fester ripened under his left buttock and Manmati squeeze the pus, he gave a different history.
He had a twin sister Chandravadni. She had lovely limbs and a hairless quim when they both were nine years old. The grocery-keeper of their mahal brought various succulent fruits, animals and roots for them to eat and bitter and tart venomous lowlives for Shiritukhm living in the dungeon in the mahal. Chandravadni was fond on chewing succulent being especially aquamanile beasts. An absent-minded scullion once cooked and served them with Jampachad serpent. Jampachad serpents were said to be immortal and death-dealing. Chandravadni as was fond on devouring such succulent beasts, ate all the seven chopped pieces of Jampachad.
After seven days, she festered on her forehead, on her throat, on her lungs, on her heart, on her liver, on her hairless quim and on the sole of her right foot. Bulbs of pus formed here and grew into ball day after day. Doctors, vaidya and haikms, everybody felt defeated with her malady. And once a night a Hakim Shewkh Revandchini Barmaki came from Raner. He observed her pupils and announced that eating Jampachad serpent is the reason of her illness. He told their father Sillabadan Singh, mother Nauratan devi and Bajjar Singh that she should be kept in dark and cold chamber for she will either turn into a serpent in heat or die.
Seven days after suffering in dark, the suppuration fell open and seven Jampachad serpent came out of her wound to go towards water.
1 The writer gave two headings to his tale though the second one seems apt..”
Illustration: Swarna Jana