Thursday, July 1, 2010

taanth ghar

It was always an uncanny feeling when I climbed those long winding stairs. I would always turn back to call for Deeksha. She was the timid one but very curious. Deeksha would always show disinterest but I knew her curiosity would get the better of her. I paused for a minute on the last flight of stairs and turned around. I could see her slowly climbing the stairs and grumbling how futile our adventure would be. I giggled and urged her to run up the stairs. Slowly, we would open the taanth ghar and peep through the cobwebs, dust and blur. This was true adventure I told Deeksha just like famous five and secret seven- we could be the troublesome two! She merely grunted and stood quietly. But I could see the gleam in her eyes. Her desire to discover, to explore and to unravel the mysteries of the past was shining right through. We stepped inside the room filled with old vessels, bronze boxes, marble table tops, steel trunks piled on top of each other. We had so much to explore so much to see and we had the key.. the key to the taanth ghar.
The house was a treasure trove. Built in 1750’s it was an epic in itself, every corner had some memory, some story of its own. The house of my great- great grandfather where multitude of families, lived and grew together. We came each summer and we would be thrilled with all the games we could play and each time we would discover something new. Our grandparents would pamper us with all the special dishes, sweets and chocolates. We could watch our favourite cartoons and we were also allowed to sleep late. Deekhsa always loved to hear dadu telling us the stories of the era gone by when the house was bustling with activities- stories where the family would go hunting into the sunderban or where the house had its own poultry, cows and even peacocks. We would always gape for more stories and ask him many questions which dadu would patiently answer. I would love to peep at didu cooking our favourite fish in mustard and fry our crispy aloo bhaja while we nibbled on the food. She would shoo us away saying we would fill our stomach before lunch. The summer holidays were such a treasure, Deeksha would play house and line up all the dolls and toys which have been played with by generations. She would arrange the tiny wooden furniture which dadu had crafted for us. I would be prancing around in the little wooden toy horse which stood in the corner of the long corridor. I would be curious to try and hold the air gun which was kept to scare the monkeys. I would ask dadu to tell me if there were any secret passages in the house, any treasure hidden, stories of deceit, anger and hate while Deeksha would calmly listen to the happy stories of brides coming into the house at the age of seventeen and learning to cook and take charge of the house. We were poles apart and yet together. We would argue and disagree and I would always win over Deeksha. I could yell louder, jump higher and cry myself hoarse. I got heard and I made sure I always did. Deeksha let me have my way, she loved me too much.
I still remember that fateful summer. The summer of 1988, where we had our 10th birthday celebration. I remember the cake was specially ordered from Fluris it was a large cake in the shape of a sun flower for us. Ma said it symbolized us Deeksha and Disha and she sang for us … “as the sunflower that follows every movement of the sun… so I turn towards you.. to follow you my lord……”. She said our names symbolized the path of the future and we were like sun flowers always bright and sunny like the sun. I for one loved the colour of my cake and Deeksha was too busy adjusting the yellow bow on her head. I could not wait to open my presents and play. It was perfect, everyone sang and hugged us. We got so many presents. I just loved birthdays. I kept hunting for Dadu’s gift to us but there was none. I did not show my disappointment but I was hurt. After everyone was gone and we were put to bed, there was a knock on the door. Deeksha opened the door and there was dadu. He came and sat by our bed side and smiled his peaceful smile. He asked whether we were wondering about his gift. I said –of course not, we had enough gifts. Deeksha remained silent as she often did. He held our hands in his and gave us a wrapped packet. I was smiling- trust dadu to be all adventurous. He was super. I jumped to open it and saw an old diary… almost tattered with handwritten pages. He smiled and said – girls, this is your great grand father’s diary- here he wrote everything about the house, the daily activities and the untold secrets. He said here are all your questions and here are all your answers. Keep it safe. I hugged him and Deeksha glanced at him and muttered a thanks. I knew what she would be thinking – more adventure, more secrets and I would drag her in this journey of discovery.
I was gleeful with excitement. Here I had the treasure map, the key to answers- wow! I woke up early and jumped on Deeksha telling her the plan for the day. I had already read a few pages and there was one part of the house we had to see.. the taanth ghar. I told her the dairy described it as the place where sarees were woven but it was later on used for storing various things. It had a cupboard full of goodies which people had used over the years. The diary said I read out to her …….
“…. It’s a room where you will either discover yourself or loose yourself … but you will meet your true self…”
I told her our great grand father must be wanting to sound mysterious but we must find all the treasures. Deeksha paused, I have never seen her like this.. She asked me to repeat those lines and she closed her eyes and breathed heavily. She glanced at me after a long pause and said don’t you see Disha he wants us to find us. I looked at her with a perplexed expression. My weird sister. I told her just come and we will strike gold………

The taanth ghar ‘s door was old and rusty. It creaked when we opened it and we stopped to see the historical mess of decades of things piled together. The reluctance which Deeksha had shown on the stairs vanished, it was like she was someone else as she floated around the room, browsing through the shelves, touching the vessels. I found an exciting looking old hunter and I was testing it around. Deeksha had opened the huge cupboard and though covered with dust she looked around as if hunting for something. I was bending over to pull out the pile of toys hidden underneath the bed when I heard a shriek. I jumped and turned.. It was Deeksha- she was holding a dagger and there was a gleam in her eyes. She was chanting and saying something. I rushed to her for the first time feeling scared. My timid sister was not herself. Deeksha looked at me, there was a peace in her eyes and I will never forget that moment where she glanced at me and smiled. She said…

“Disha- in this room we find ourselves, but to find you I loose me and to find me I loose you.. We are together yet apart, we are separate yet one.. find yourself Disha.. find your disha.. find me.. find me in you……”

I told her Deeksha stop it you are scaring me. I yelled for ma, dadu and didu..Noone heard me as she plunged the dagger into her heart, as she fell , as she silently lay there.. I stood struck … I stood pale.. It was like time had stopped for me.. I faced death..

I wake up abruptly as the matron pushes my chair to the courtyard.. I had fallen asleep again. It must be dinner time now and then I have to finish the sweater I was knitting. Rishi and Neena were to visit me tomorrow. The matron said I was looking better and healthier. I smiled at her. She inquired whether I got any nightmares again. I answered silently that I have dreams. I glance at the setting sun and I still see the gleam of the dagger, the words still echo in my ears. Fifty years and I can still feel her. They say there was no Deeksha, they say it was me and my mind, they say my alter ego created a dual personality. But, it can’t be.. she was there, she was my blood, my other half, my sister.. she was Deeksha.. In loosing her I lost myself.. Whatever they say I know.. She was there and she was mine as I dose off, the book falls on the ground and the page reads…..
“It’s a room where you will either discover yourself or loose yourself … but you will meet your true self’………

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