Culture & Society

Book Excerpt | Khanjar-e-Ishq: A Filmi Kahani

A story of love and fetish, suffering and survival that unfolds across the scarred landscape of a bruised relationship.

A filmy story

Another story for those who still believe in love

‘You are back?’

‘Ummm . . . ’

‘Will you have a cup of black tea?’


‘Why? Have some.’

‘Nah. I will sleep. I’m tired. I stumbled and hurt my toe. You cannot see anything so early in the morning. The streetlights were covered with fog. I walked fast and the wind! Like a whip it lashed . . . penetrating my bones.’

‘That’s why I tell you . . . leave it na. Leave it, leave it, I am pleading with you.’

‘Again? You have to start all over again? Every morning it’s the same. Stop nagging. It’s of no use. Let me sleep in peace for a while. I was awake the whole night. Listen to me. Don’t get angry. It’s not going to be forever. Everything is coming to an end . . . ’

‘Yes. Everything is coming to an end — everything.’

‘You have dragged yourself into this again, you bastard! Why do you keep repeating the same thing? Go, die . . . such negative words!’
‘I am dying. A little bit every day. Those maggots are eating out my liver like ants nibble at sweets.’
‘Stop that nonsense. Stop your melodrama. If you have nothing to say, stuff your mouth with cow dung. Let me sleep. I am dead tired, yaar . . . Let me lie down at least.’

‘Lie down. Who is stopping you? I have kept the bed warm for you. I have burnt the coal, too. Look at the embers — red hot. Even the hot oil with burnt garlic cloves is ready for you.’

‘What? You have again wasted garlic by burning it in oil? You dog! The price of vegetables is skyrocketing, and you are wasting garlic for a massage — I don’t need your massage. What makes you do such things every day, huh? Some spirit possesses you or what? You yourself are in tatters — unsteady on your feet, no control over your limbs, screaming in pain. Look at you, looking like a worn-out plastic tent in one of those government night shelters, and you are coming to give me a massage — you will fall someday, you idiot . . . ’

Garlic massage | Credit: Shutterstock

‘You will love that. You are waiting for that only, you bitch. You are waiting for the day when I go down like a government night shelter tent so that you can savour dal makhni and tandoori chicken. You will wear a red zari saree and do thumka with some other man, you chhammak chhallo . . . ’

‘I will. Thousand times I will do that. Are you expecting me to go to the bank of the Ganga and die there? My foot! Listen to this, doggy: I am waiting for him to die — that’s why I have been making trips to that fu**er’s faram house every night.’

‘Oh yeah? I know everything. You have become a martyr —  Nirupa Roy! Calling him a sadist! Who knows fu**er or lover? Loverboy Salman Khan? Who knows that you are not having fun with that fu**er? That thought does not allow me to sleep at night. I spend the whole night tossing and turning. I burn in hell’s fury. Images of you with him . . . That bastard switching on the blue lamp, playing English music, playing a film on his big TV screen and looking at those men and women in action, while playing with you too . . . ’


‘Shut up, shut up, you dog. Bastard! Why are you killing yourself imagining all that? Stop, stop thinking. Peleeze . . . I’m saying peleeze . . . you should not think ... should not . . . what is the alternative? What would you gain? Why do you hurt yourself?’

‘You are hurting me, haramzadi. You are stabbing me with a knife day and night. You are bleeding me dead. You are putting those burning embers in my heart. You are pouring hot oil over me, you cunt! Who asked you to do this? Even if I did ask you to go there to save my life, why did you go? Why did you not say no?’

‘What was I supposed to do, huh? Tell me, what was I supposed to do? What have you done? Where did you go? Who all did you approach? Did you fold your hands in front of anyone? Did you grovel at anyone’s feet? Saala, you call yourself a man, huh? What else could I do? How else could I collect one lakh to save your miserable life? Washing utensils at people’s houses or plucking eyebrows of those madams at some beauty parlour? Doing pico work at some tailor’s shop? Which job would have helped me earn that much to save you, huh? If you are so miserable, why don’t you leave home and go away?

Why don’t you die in front of a train in Shahdara?’

‘I am dying. What life is this? Every day I die a little. Every night as I shiver in this cold, I burn inside thinking what all you would be doing. You spend the nights in comfort compared to me. At least you get to sleep on Dunpol . . . ’

‘Not Dunpol. Dunlop.’

‘Whatever, teacher. Call it Dunpol or Dunlop. It is, after all, a soft mattress. Not like this old lumpy one. You have fun in the hot air from the heater. Unlike me. I have to keep blowing at the embers the whole night and sleep like a coiled-up millipede because the thin, torn blanket is not enough . . . ’

‘You don’t need to. From today you don’t have to sleep like a coiled millipede. Come with me tonight. Come and sleep on the floor in the heated room and watch how much comfort I have at night. How much fun I have, how much of a Salman Khan-type lover boy he is. How he showers his love on me. Come and witness how this lover of mine ties up my legs with chains. How he puts handcuffs on my hands, how he puts a leash around my neck and drags me around . . . ’

* * *

‘Oye, oye! Look, I’m holding my ears to apologize. Don’t cry, please don’t cry like this. I swear on my mother. I understand everything, I understand what torture you go through. That’s why I burn like this. That’s why I fight as soon as I see you. Everyday a new Kurukshetra...but don’t I heat up the oil for a massage? Don’t I keep the coals burning for you? But woman, my head also turns into a red-hot tandoor. Look what has happened to me. What sin had I committed that Yama’s crab grabbed my liver? With this body, I drove a truck, crossed the borders like a bullet and delivered the maal, loaded and unloaded, carried heavy sacks over my shoulders, and now this body has become a sack with holes. Everything is over, woman, everything is over . . . ’
‘Now what? You stop me from crying and you are howling like a woman! Stop crying now. Am I working every night for nothing? Only a few more days. Three hundred per night. If I work for this amount for a while longer, we can have enough for the first instalment.’

'Everything is over, woman...' | Credit: Shuttertsock

‘What if the maggots eat up my liver before that?’

‘Keep quiet, you donkey. Keep quiet. They won’t. They can’t. Have I not told you? Even the doctors have said so. The moment we have the money, the doctor would burn out those maggots with hot air from a machine. Saala, they will burn in hell’s fire . . . ’

‘Arre, wait! There are some burn marks on your back! Hey Ram! On the waist too and, and below that . . . ’

‘Oh, those. Those are from cigarette butts. Forget it. Just don’t apply hot oil on them. It stings. Maybe some cold oil or ointment will give relief. Or just blow into them . . . slowly, yes. . . slowly.’

‘Like this?’

‘Yes, yes. S . . . l . . . o . . . w . . . l . . . y. Ummmm . . . that feels good . . . yeah g . . . o . . . o . . . d.’



(Excerpted from The Black Magic Women by Moushumi Kandali, Translated by Parbina Rashid, with permission from Penguin Random House India)

(Moushumi Kandali is a bilingual short story writer, art historian and translator. She has published four collections of short stories in Assamese. Parbina Rashid is a senior journalist who works with The Tribune.)

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