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The Wife's Lamp

Ayesha Ahmed

Kishen breathed out, dejected, as he sat in his veranda basking in the heavily fallen moonlight. Somewhere, in the distance, he could see the fireflies glittering. The lawn was overflown with the persistent cooing of a night bird perched on some branch of the banyan tree, perfectly hidden from the eyes of the onlooker. There were no clouds that night. The sky was inky blue with stars splattered all over it. Glowing in complete form, the moon seemed to be putting forth such melodious lullabies, that even the hardest of hearts could be drawn into sleep. At times, he could feel the soft breeze tingling on his bare neck, the way a new learner plays on the keys of a piano, cautiously, with utmost care.
It had been past midnight. Lying on the bed, while his mind betrayed all rationality, he waited for sleep to illuminate his land of dreams but when it had not, he had decided to go out in the veranda. The loneliness of his room grieved him to such an extent that the company of Dame Nature then, had seemed like a blessing. He indulged himself in appreciating the beauty that night, praising The Almighty for His surreal creations that find their place in every human heart. He praised Him more than he usually does, for lack of anything better at hand. Soon, the night bird retired to repose and left the lawn drowned in silence. In an attempt to fill the vacancy, he began humming a tune he had heard on the radio. Only after a couple of lines he stopped. His crackling voice appeared to be interfering with the harmonious chords of Nature.
In the niche, the old bronze lamp flickered and went out. The oil in it had finished. At the time of their wedding, his wife had received this beautifully carved bronze lamp in her dowry. It seemed that it was her most prized possession. She fiercely guarded its bright flame, religiously replaced the oil in it, rubbed it with polish twice a week to maintain its sheen. However, this new darkness blended with his temperament in such an astonishing way that he absolutely made no effort to light the lamp again. In this darkness, he pictured himself with his beloved wife. In the days soon after their matrimony, she would clad herself in her floral night gown and after dinner, they would stroll in this very lawn, hand in hand. Sometimes, they would even fall asleep on the dewy grass after a long, engrossing conversation. She would ruffle his hair with her soft fingers with pensive affection in her eyes which always left him overwhelmed. He remembered how she always neatly tied her long hair before joining him at his side on the bed, how she would smile when he couldn’t find his things in the morning, how well she knew the verses of the Holy Book, how she smelled of curry and spices after a long day in the kitchen, how she would always wait for him to come home. She had always been a peculiar woman; strange and at the same time special in her own ways.
That year, the monsoon had been merciless. Brahmaputra overflowed its banks with a monstrous animation, swallowing everything that came in its way. The floods left in their wake a string of infectious diseases. The local doctors had given her a weeks’ time to live after she was diagnosed with pneumonia. It was severely acute, they had said. Soon after the diagnosis, he had lost her forever.
He twitched, turned to the other side and glanced for long at the bronze lamp. Once upon a time, the lamp had bosomed the fire that burnt so bright like their love. Now, the fire was dead and his heart was empty. He tried several things in several ways, but none of it could take away the pain that she had left behind for him. The Almighty knows the longing that strains his heart on nights like these when everything around reminds him of her. With heavy eyelids, Kishen curled up on the floor and soon, the thin veil of oblivion fell upon his senses.
As if on cue, a wisp of cool breeze rose from the undergrowth, rustled among the banyan leaves playfully and shook the hibiscus flowers as if kissing them goodnight. Then it sauntered leisurely across the lawn, at a strolling pace, towards where Kishen lay. On reaching him, funnily enough, it seemed to pause for a passing moment, holding still. Then delicately, affectionately, it blew all over him. In that moment, extraordinarily, the empty lamp in the niche of the corridor suddenly lit up again, the flame in it shining like an infinitesimal sun. The breeze, with its soft fingers ruffled Kishen’s hair, tingled on his bare neck and quickly retreated to nest itself among the leaves of the banyan tree once again. The slight activity awoke the night bird. It adjusted its feathers and drowsily cooed one last time. The moon covered itself like a shroud among translucent clouds and poor Kishen, oblivious to everything that had just taken place, remained fast asleep.

 

This work has been published in Beetle Magazine's August 2020 Issue.


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