Original in Assamese: Arpan Saikia
Translation: Bibekananda Choudhury

Pari arriving hurriedly, opened the door of the apartment slowly with caution … immediately she felt the touch of an old putrid smell. She twitched her nose instinctively.

She has been away from home since last four days. There was a seminar of college teachers at Golaghat – regarding the modern teaching method – she and a few of her teaching colleagues went to join there.

Though she had been away from home – she had always been remembering her dearest Rupam. Rupam is her husband – an engineer. They got married last year. She considers her as a kid - quite untidy. What could he been doing during these days! At first she was not willing to leave Rupam alone back at home – but Rupam pressed her to go. ‘Just go … I shall manage. I had been managing till before marriage. You came only now – I am not a baby.’ Rupam stressed at the last few words.

At last she decided to go just because Rupam stressed. A few of her lady colleagues was also going.

During these few days the moment she received a call from Rupam, she enquired with a barrage of questions ‘Have you been eating properly? Wash and change regularly – clothes are arranged in the wardrobe – don’t remain outside till late – it is still cold etc. etc’. Rupam does not reply with words – just monosyllabic assertions. He married Pari after he fell for her – it was him who proposed first.

Now Pari put down the airbag that she carried to Golaghat on the floor of the drawing room and sat down on a sofa with a sigh and closed her eyes. Now it is midday – Rupam is at work. He shall return only around five. How is he now? His face flashed in her mental screen and encapsulated her whole existence. She closed her eyes again. During the last four days, the hours she spent without Rupam was just unbearable. The time just did not appear to pass by. Each moment seemed unending like a year. Oh! now at least it is all over – she will be together with Rupam a few moments from now.

Pari looked around the room. The drawing room is extremely untidy – beyond her imagination. She murmured – ‘dirty, untidy’. The floor was strewn with empty packets of potato chips, bhujia etc. some leftover food is also lying on the table. A few black flies have also landed there. She twitched her nose in disgust. ‘No, it is too much’ – she said and got up from her seat.  

A few pieces of chicken bone are lying on the floor too. An intolerable smell hit her. She opened her eyes widely. Rupam must have got his food ordered from restaurant. She appeared little despaired – looked around expecting something. Her eyes fell on the tables chairs etc. lying scattered in the room.

She entered the kitchen. A huge pile of used utensils lying in the basin of the kitchen. Lucy, the kitchen hand has not reported during her absence. She asked her to come everyday before she left for Golaghat. Rupam, of course informed her that she did not come. Lucy said that her husband is ill – hospitalised.

Pari heaved a long sigh. She felt something jolting her brain. A cockroach lying still on the wall caught her attention. A cobweb has also sprung up at the corner of the kitchen. The house appeared to be an alternative form of hell during her few days of absence. All the colour got drained from her face. She rubbed her face with the end of the chaddar instinctively.

She looked around the dirty kitchen now in mess with sunken heart. The fermented, smelly pieces of the leftovers scattered all around the room. The floor is even dirtier than that. Roti, cooked rice, dal is lying here and there. She had to tread with extreme caution so that so that her feet do not touch anything dirty.

Then something struck her mind. The expression in her face hardened. She shook off tiredness and feeling of despair from her mind. She prepared herself to give Rupam a solid dressing down. She murmured something to herself. She felt – the room has also become messy like her brain.

They bought this brand new flat in the apartment last year, just after their marriage. The payment of instalments is still continuing. It is located along the main road. Their apartment is on the third floor. The morning rays of the sun warms and lights up all the rooms. She is very conscious about her place of residence. She wants to keep it very clean and tidy. But this Rupam – he always gets his shoes dirty like a kid and carries the dirt and mud inside the room, makes the entire room full of dirty spots. He does not reply even if one complaints about all this – just smiles like a simpleton. Actually Rupam is habitually extremely untidy– no use telling him. But the housemaid Lucy is pretty good. She is also conscious about the cleanliness of the flat. Had Lucy been coming regularly – there would have been no point to worry. She also did not come – and Rupam has made the condition of the apartment rotten beyond imagination during these few days of his solitary stay. No use getting angry with him. Pari surveyed the surroundings with a distraught mind.

Perhaps this time Ratul also stayed with Rupam. Ratul came over to give him company learning about her absence. Ratul is still a bachelor. They must have been partying like anything during these few days- Pari thought. She discovered some pieces of broken glass tumbler and an empty whisky bottle at a corner of the dining room. Ratul is really something – very adamant. But he was the solitary link in between Pari and Rupam before marriage. So she cannot rebuke him at all. If they make such mistake he shall just severe this sweet relationship. Once Pari just sat down on the sofa making some noise in deep anger. She looked at her watch – it is already past four.

Ow – the entire ceiling is randomly filled with cobwebs and a few fly like insects have been trapped there. A few lizards are also slithering around nearby. Perhaps all of them have learnt that this house had been practically unoccupied for the last few days. A very dangerous looking spider is a little further away. She was about to cry out in fear. The house appeared so alien to her during her four days of absence. She felt that all around the house – the walls, floor, atop the TV set, on the sofa set – everywhere dust has settled forming a layer. She was very troubled. She looked at the watch again – it is about time for Rupam to return. She asked him to come earlier from office when she rang him in the morning.

Once she looked outside moving near the window. The heat of sun outside has decreased. Scores of city buses, autos, cars are running on the street below. These are increasing in the city day by day. Quite a few people are walking on the footpath too. She looked at the street – Rupam has not arrived yet. Generally he travels from office by city bus service and alights from there in the bus stop just near their apartment.

Pari looked ahead – far. Her sights were barred by the numerous high rise buildings surrounding their own high rise apartment. Only a small area of the sky is visible. She could not look at the sky for a long time. Everywhere those high rise buildings. The sky is hidden behind them.

This time her sight got stuck at the dust, leavings of food, empty packets of fast food– chicken bones bereft of meat, rice scattered on the dining table, cigarette butts– and the shoe stains on the floor. She remained motionless for a while and then decided to clean the room herself. Pari hurriedly took out the broom from the corner of the bathroom and first swept the drawing room and then the bedroom. At last she collected the garbage at one place. She pondered for a second and then picked up the garbage on a dust tray and moved near to the roadside window. She heaved a sigh of relief – ‘Oh at last the house is clean now – tomorrow we should clear the cobwebs when Lucy comes’ – Pari thought.
She waited for a moment with the garbage filled dust-tray and looked below – no one is watching her. ‘This is the chance’. Pari hurriedly emptied the tray passing it through the window.

Leftover foods, dusts, broken pieces of glasses, empty packets of fast foods, bones ripped of meat and other soiled items of home got scattered on the footpath below.

She again looked outside – has Rupam arrived? Pari noticed that the people walking through the footpath has been hopping over the garbage that she has dumped – so that the smelly leftovers do not get attached into their legs, clothes.

Suddenly she saw Rupam. He was walking towards their home after alighting from a city bus. – Hey, Rupam has also skipped over the place strewn with debris and covered his nose with a handkerchief.

This translated short story has been dedicated in the name of Arpan Saikia who left for heavenly abode.

About the author and translator:

The author, Arpan Saikia who completed his tenure of stay on earth in the wee hours of 26 April 2017 last hailed from Fauzdaripatty, Nagaon. An electrical engineer by profession he retired as Chief General Manager of the organization. Apart from a short story writer of repute having to his credit, he wrote many articles on contemporary issues. He has five original short story collections, one translated collection Italian Short stories and one collection of stories RAINBOW translated into English by this translator.

The translator-author, Bibekananda Choudhury, an electrical engineer by profession, has completed his MS from BITSPilani in Systems and Information. He has also earned a diploma in French language from Gauhati University. He has got published works (both original and translated) in Assamese, Bengali & English in popular periodicals and newspapers. His translated poems has been published in 'Indian Literature', ‘Poets International’, Poetry International’, Rupsi Bangla, etc. 'Suryakatha', the Bengali adaptation done by him of the Assamese novelette in verse in the same title by Prayag Saikia was well accepted. His English translated publications include – one short story collection and four poetry collections and one Information Book on Kaziranga, apart from few others in manuscript form. He hails from Bongaigaon and presently stays at Guwahati.

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