Excerpt from novel - Anamika

For days Anamika looked inside the postbox. It was to form into a habit. She hadn’t cried since Rajbir left. She didn’t cry when her letter didn’t receive a reply, when the telephone didn’t ring or when the clouds returned and brought memories of childhood’s first rain showers. She didn’t cry when the local theatre screened Mirza Ghalib again. She didn’t cry when she heard the familiar couplets of poignant Urdu poetry played and replayed and embedded in the deepest recesses of her mind. She didn’t cry when she stood alone in the pouring rain and watched young lovers walk by, or when Rajbir’s parents sold their home and moved away. Then one afternoon she baked a cake and forgot to take it out of the oven on time. She cried then as if it was her heart that had burned and not the cake.

Layer upon layer of emotion fell over her.

There was nobody to share her pain. She felt buried somewhere inside the four walls of her house. It had far too many nooks and corners etched by the past. She felt isolated with the chiming of doorbells that didn’t bring Rajbir in. She felt coated by the sounds of telephones ringing, street vendors arguing, car horns honking, and breakfasts cooking.

Layer upon layer upon layer.
Neighbours talking about all and sundry. Stopping her in the porch to speak of newspaper headlines. Was the news of murders so exhilarating? Was it important to know in one chance meeting what she was studying, wearing, doing, eating and whom she was meeting?

Layer upon layer upon layer.

Monosyllabic replies, “Yes,” “No,” “Hummnn, I read the news. Very sad,” “Philosophy and psychology.” “This sari is from Papa’s shop,” “Having lunch at the club,” “Meeting a friend,” “Goodbye.”

Layer upon layer upon layer.

Songs on the radiogram, cinema talk, loud parties, dinner table clutter, lonely sunsets, balmy breezes, still nights, changing seasons. Peel off the layers her soul seemed to cry, “Check once to see if I’m alive.”