The Portrait

Dec 9th, 2020 | by  Shramana Ganguly

It was drizzling, those long platter of pearls that soiled the window panes making it misty were accompanied by a pleasant sound that when heard closely almost felt like a rhythm, a song, an ode to the heavens above. Perched on the lowest bunk I scrutinized the scene outside the window, the rusty bars blocking half of my vision, I would push my nose in between those bars, as stations passed with the smell of steaming tea, hot puri sabzi, it would eventually pass, but what stayed was the smell of wet rustic steel bars, paints scraped from some places and the rain dripping on it, you could inhale in that smell once and it lingered long enough to bring back with it a thousand of memories. Ah! I could live it once more, taking in this aroma that nature bestowed I could unwrap your dead presence, play along with those days, grow younger with it, and flood my wrinkled brain whose thoughts are like dried raisins and water it again.

          Was I already there? About 4 years back, I walked or boarded the trams, the lanes of North Calcutta, which once chivalrous now bent down hung low smelling like street foods and tanned antiquities, laughing at peddlers with soiled clothes and urchins who played along with happy laughter and overwhelming joy. Distant chirping of some women as they carried along with their daily chores. I took lanes after lanes unmindful of where I was heading to. In the past few days, I discovered this desperate side of mine that once loved it and was now fighting to win it back. Chained all the emotions of the beloved and pull it towards me huddling past the nasty road with dumb cracks, it was suicidal asking and begging for love. I had soon realized about the fragility of my situation and left those turned stones on my way and there was I walking past the lanes.

            His completely messy hair caught my attention, his rimmed spectacles, brownish skin, half shaved beard, in an unwashed kurta-pyjama. He was sitting on the rock of a tattered house, with broken windows, smoking a cheap cigarette and singing in a broken, gaudy voice. I stood there for about half an hour, and he seemed to take no notice of that. It was beautiful, the autumn, the smell of the setting mixed with the smell of raw paints, it was atrociously alluring. I let my satchel drop as I watched him sketching a woman now, not the regular ones draped in silk and satin but the one he was drawing seemed to be the one rather succumbed with poverty, not noticeable, one who would shed sweat to earn her bread. Hold on, she was a mother of two and that explains her bony wrist. She looked shy but wasn’t the one to beg, rather had her respect heeled up on her bare feet. Is it this that made her look ferociously beautiful?

              He let down his brush, all sweaty he cleaned his spectacles and his gaze fell upon me. He smirked and stood up attempting to stare at his creation from a distance. 

“Go there!” his eyes on me as he pointed at a certain angle, I sensed he was asking me to appreciate it from a distance. I stood up willingly and looked at the canvas scrutinizing it as someone let out a sob from behind. It was him, he wasn’t crying but his eyes swollen up, he stood in an awkward pose. 

“ So you love her?” 

“What!”, He screeched.

“You love that woman. Don’t you?”, I was loud enough to startle the pigeons who then flew away. 

“I do. I do. You are amazed right?”, he was trembling with emotions. 

“It’s not that kind of love that would permit me to take her to bed, cherish her for a day, steal her pride and never see her again. It wasn’t that.”

I stood there, listening amazed but sangfroid. 

He continued,“it was the kind that let me discover the art in her and I made love to her on this canvas with my colours as I attempted to free her.”

“She is married.”, I mumbled. 

He looked away, there was a tinge of jealousy on his face, he gathered his tools, packing his bag.  

“Do I care? She was the kind who would never surrender herself for money. The brat, ugly fellow! How he never noticed it, he pulled her by her hair and dragged her home while thrashing her across her face. She never protested, her lips bled, and she followed the man who never deserved a woman like her.”

            He was ready to leave, the canvas remained there. Having a final look at it, he smiled at me, and left.

There was it, the remains of an anonymous and unreciprocated love. The portrait of the unnamed woman which definitely will be dumped aside as no one would care to see the art in it. I felt giddy, the heat was too much and the smell of North Calcutta hit me hard, the raw smell of paints, tea, the slow platter of rains, I loved a man too. Will the woman ever know that she was loved so much? Not everyone has the bliss of feeling loved.

          I reached my platform. I was that Ulysses heading for the seas, I left my Ithaca, my soils, my roots back, here am I now, a traveller, perhaps a vagabond or just a sailor exploring, learning, romanticizing and living a few breaths, the ecstasy in travelling, the mood like an offensive spring in a voyage picking up smells, tuning new smells as it soared with the next gush of wind to love and not to yield was now it’s dream. 



Shramana Ganguly

Shramana Ganguly

An author in search of knowledge.

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