Title – Rasia, The Dance of Desire
Publisher – Rupa Publications (2017)
Price – Rs. 295/-
Excerpt from chapter 2
Raj Shekhar Subramanian
My entire being arouses with a protective shield towards this woman. Seventeen years of togetherness is a long time. When have I ever been a husband who wakes up, orders breakfast, takes bath, goes to office, watches television, has dinner and kisses the wife goodnight? Manasi isn’t tired of my creative whims. At least, not yet. Rather, the unpredictability keeps her entertained. My demure wife though, has her own ways to follow her mind. Without the least warning, she goes ahead with things without considering the consequences they might have on me and everyone else around her. Just like her secret visit to my orphanage. Just like she had agreed to marry me on an impulse, even though I had promised her neither luxury nor riches, no undying romance as suitors usually do.
What a strange evening it was when I saw her for the first time.
That was 1998. I had landed up in Kolkata for my final round of meetings with Britannia industries. I was being absorbed by the organization in their supply chain wing post my B.Tech. The city was celebrating the Saptami day of Durga Puja, and was all decked up in pomp and gaiety. Every lane was crowded. After finishing the formalities with Britannia, I was walking leisurely through Rashbihari Avenue watching people pouring into the sari shops, pampering themselves.
So lucky—this privileged class!
I had broken free from my orphanage and moved to the college hostel when I was sixteen. I topped various examinations at all academic levels. The Government, since then, had taken special care of me. I thrived on scholarships for a large part of my life. That made life easier, but I never had the opportunity to splurge. My funds were limited, and I had vast plans with the money I had for the days to come.
The sun had set; darkness was slowly taking over. The city, with its lamps and lights, seemed to awaken to welcome the evening festivities. Distracted with my thoughts, I had unmindfully landed up at one of the pandals*, lit brightly, surging with visitors. I made my way through the chaos and pushed myself forward. A young girl in her early twenties, flawlessly draped in a cotton saree, was dancing with the dhaak** that played. Her vigour wasn’t impaired by the growing crowd watching her. I could tell from her moves that she wasn’t professionally trained. Yet, she had a style—of youth and feminine abundance, of letting go and not holding back. She smiled as she stretched, bent and whirled around; her muscles and body reflected serene fulfilment. Her eyes, beneath a big maroon bindi, sparkled with mischief.
The girl had stained her feet in red. Alta, the local people called it. Her hands and neck were adorned with simple gold jewellery. She was not too fair; huge eyes and thin lips outshone every other feature of her body.
‘Who is she?’ asked a fat, middle-aged woman standing before me.
A thin, younger lady responded, ‘Manasi; daughter of Nobarun Bhattacharya, the priest of the puja.’
The first lady smirked. ‘Oh! Thakur Moshai’s*** daughter? Why isn’t she as fair as her father, then? Had she been fairer she would have been pretty. She is as thin as a grasshopper.’ She covered her mouth with the corner of her sari and giggled.
The other lady made a face. ‘She can dance because she is thin. Had it been you, the stage would break and Durga Ma would leave for the heavens three days before the scheduled departure.’
The smile faded from the fat woman’s face. ‘I would never be dancing like that in public! Hasn’t Thakur Moshai taught her some decorum? No culture, no manners, poor upbringing!’ She looked back at the stage angrily and then spat, ‘Disgusting!’
She turned to leave and almost fell upon me. She glared as if I was responsible for the unsought collision and disappeared.
Not that I understood any bit of their language back then, but from whatever I heard I could make out a few things about the girl. My brain was racing. I kept my attention settled with her, as she abruptly stopped, gasping heavily.
The breathlessness, the perspiration that soaked her forehead and neck, her chest rising and falling, mouth open to draw in extra air—I knew those after-effects of an adrenaline rush, just after someone has danced her heart out. Who knows whether she lifted the end of her sari to wipe the sweat off her neck or to bury her face behind it! But pleasure shone through her pretence of guilt.
Following her eyes, I found an old man glaring back at her. The abrupt halt was in response to his angry gaze. Slowly, he shifted his eyes and walked ahead to offer the evening puja. The girl stood in a corner watching his devotions, oblivious that she was being intently followed by a stranger. The old man finished in an hour’s time. Both father and daughter reached out for the dhanuchi****.
I pushed myself further to watch this right from the front, annoying the people around. Together they performed the famed dhanuchi dance of Durga Puja, coordinating beautifully with each other. At one point they balanced a dhanuchi on each hand and one on their mouth. The crowd cheered. As they jumped, swung and whirled round, not even a tiny bit of burning fibre came out of the lamp.
I knew this was the girl I wanted to marry.
*Pandal: a temporary temple made to house the deities during festivals
**Dhaak: special drums used
***Thakur Moshai: Bengali term for priest
****Dhanuchi: big earthen lamps burning coconut fibre and camphor to emit fragrance and smoke
About the book:
Two women wait for him at two different ends of the crossroads. He knows which path is his, but he can’t walk that path till he has attended to the other. One perfect couple. An obsessed seductress. A bharatnatyam show in Manhattan, New York. One hell of a love story. Raj Shekhar Subramanian and Manasi, both Bharatanatyam dancers, are made for each other. Till an obsessed fan, Vatsala Pandit, enters their lives, testing the man’s character and his wife’s patience. But then why does Manasi invite Vatsala to her Bharatanatyam show, for a dance of passion with her husband—the very man Vatsala wants to take from her? Why did Shekhar agree to take in Vatsala as his student in the first place?
This singular love story deftly explores the many facets of love—mutual trust, obsessiveness, the arrogance of passion, the need for self-fulfillment , the yearning for the beloved, and the complexity of modern relationships.
About the author:
Koral Dasgupta is an author, columnist, academic and amateur painter. She runs a boutique storytelling platform, http://www.tellmeyourstory.in, which hosts short stories and poems written by people from all walks of life, across the world. Koral is also an advisory member for Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) Mumbai. She teaches Marketing Management to postgraduate students, branding and consumer behaviour being her focal areas. Rasia: The Dance of Desire is her third book.
Koral is based in Mumbai, India.