December 5, 2023


Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Excerpts: One Thousand Days in a Refrigerator by Manoj Kumar Panda

2 min read


Sentenced to a Honeymoon

Nachiketa was an odd sort of a fellow, an eccentric. Sleeping inside a mosquito-net made him uneasy. A dip in water suffocated him. The smell of incense made him feel as if he was trapped in fragrant mist. He felt claustrophobic in a closed bathroom. He would get upset if the doors of his study were left open. His wife’s company for more than a certain number of hours agitated him. Writing letters to loved ones puzzled him. One night, Nachiketa disappeared. When his wife Deepa woke in the morning she found his bed empty. The door was wide open, as were the windows. Perhaps he has gone for his morning walk, she thought, and did not pay his absence more heed. When he did not return at his usual time she thought he must be with a friend, but felt a slight uneasiness, and a few more hours passed.

Nachiketa did not show up.

As the hours went by, the futile waiting dissolved into a chaos of hope, doubt, debate, solace, solicitousness, assurance and panic. By evening there was frantic despair, fear, tears, hunger and thirst, and the blaring of at least a hundred cellphones.

Nachiketa had left his cellphone behind and his ringtone was that of a mewing kitten. The kitten mewed, remained silent for a while, and began mewing again. This went on for five days until the cellphone battery discharged.

Nachiketa’s disappearance remained shrouded in mystery. Somebody said that Nachiketa had bought thirty envelopes from the post office the previous day. All the thirty envelopes will be posted to one address, one on each day, he had said. They kept guessing and looking for the possible address Nachiketa intended to send the letters to, but without any success.

It took two days for Nachiketa’s wife to find Tooty’s phone number. (Tooty was one of Nachiketa’s former flames.) Deepa and Tooty had fought bitterly over Nachiketa years earlier. But Deepa was now compelled to call Tooty and inquire about Nachiketa’s whereabouts. However, Tooty was genuinely surprised to learn that Nachiketa was missing. She sounded extremely humble and shy yet reasonably convincing when she told Deepa that she had no idea where Nachiketa was. Deepa was, however, not completely convinced. Some of her friends and relatives wanted to know who this Tooty was, but tight-lipped taciturnity was the only reply they received from Deepa.

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