International Writers Magazine: Indian Dreamscapes
Translated by V Ramaswamy
dream every night. I dont like it at all if I dont
dream. When I cant, the next day feels utterly empty. I
feel hollow inside. All day long I roam the streets. After dreaming
again at night - I am at peace.
All my dreams are
strange. Sometimes I dream Im gnawing and gorging on human bones.
Fresh warm blood trickles down the two sides of my mouth. Slung around
my waist is a golden stone, the heel bone firmly gripped in my hands.
I chew away at the bone to my hearts content. With practiced ease,
I eat with my eyes shut. As I feed it strikes me Ive been gnawing
away at these bones for ages on end and yet my hunger does not subside.
As soon as I realise this I am filled with grief. To take my mind off
that sorrow I try fiddling with the golden stone slung around my waist.
At other times I dream my face has changed. No one can recognise me.
Acquaintances pass me by when I am near. In those dreams my eyes burst
with tears. I feel humiliated by my friends and relatives.
Sometimes I dream Im blind in one eye. Lame. Face covered with
pock-marks. I wear a dirty shirt over a lungi. I limp around at the
bus-stop, staff in hand. I beg people for money. My eight-year old daughter
accompanies me. People treat with me pity. Or they are disdainful.
Every now and then I have a nice dream. I see a tiny stream, a tiny
dinghy there. Im sitting on it. The tide comes in. The waves splash
against the banks. The boat rocks and sways. I rock too. The water,
the boat, the little waves, all rocking forever, rock-a-bye baby ...
Sometimes I see Ive climbed to the top of a tall building. From
there the people below appear midget-like. How tiny the buses, the trams
and the roads have all become! I see them in an entirely different perspective.
I really enjoy this dream. This one is quite different from the ones
I usually see. Thats why I like such dreams.
But some dreams terrify me. I might dream that theres been a conspiracy
whereby all my organs and body-parts are removed and all kinds of other
things are stuffed in their place. All these dreams appear to go on
forever. I dream that plans are afoot to somehow transform me overnight.
The exterior remains unchanged. Only all the inner organs are removed.
I really dread such dreams. In terror, my whole body turns icy.
When I awaken, I stay lying in bed for a long time. I press and feel
my joints and ribs. I feel as if someone has indeed metamorphosed my
inner parts. Standing in front of the mirror, I examine my face. A kind
of suspicion seizes me. I go out to the street. My mind is constantly
crowded with gruesome thoughts. I cant think about anything else
for even a moment. Cigarettes feel tasteless. I dont feel like
looking at the women on the street. I dont like reading the newspaper.
I have no enthusiasm to shave. I dont go to work. I just roam
the streets, the sun beating down on my head. When I spot friends I
hurriedly cross the street to the other pavement. Roaming around thus
all day, legs weary, I return home in the evening and lie waiting in
bed for a nice dream.
But its very hard to have a nice dream. After all this time, having
dreamt so many dreams Ive realised its not easy to dream
a pleasant one. Yet I lie waiting in bed for at least a passable kind
of dream. But the worst of dreams crowd into my head. The dream where
Im munching human bones appears. The changed-face dream comes.
I dream Ive become the blind, lame, pock-marked beggar. I lie
in bed, sometimes motionless, sometimes restless. Sometimes I try my
best to think about something else. But nothing ever works.
The sounds of railway shunting from the station far away float by. The
clock tower strikes, dong! dong! into two, three at night. The eerie
silence of night collects and gathers around me. I lie there eyes shut.
Sometimes I open my eyes.
Motionless darkness surrounds me. Cockroaches walk over my arms. Rats
scurry around near me. A few crows wait to peck out my eyes. My body
begins to decompose in the suns sweltering heat and raw darkness.
And crows, jackals and vultures wait nearby to tear, dig into and devour
it. I see vultures circling in the sky above casting their shadows on
my body. I see a crow staring at me from the stump of a dead tree. A
pack of jackals lie in wait for the kill. Their teeth are sharp, the
taste of fetid blood on the tongues.
Everything goes haywire! I feel nauseous. Nevertheless I still wait
for some nice dream. I pour out water from the earthen pitcher and drink.
From out of the darkness a maroon flower and the golden stone simultaneously
float into view. The bloody fragrance of the maroon flower emanates
from my lower limbs. My reflection appears on the golden stone. A half-eaten
horses skeleton is laid on my right side.
A camel advances, crossing a river. A naked woman sits atop that camel.
My mouth turns dry at the sight. No sound leaves my lungs. I minutely
study the camels ashen colour, its ugly, large belly, its curved
neck, hump and face. I try to identify the womans face. But I
fail to recognise her. I see only her bare golden legs dangling on either
side of the camel.
From the south, the grey camel treads the rivers water and advances
steadily towards me, the nude woman on its back. Like a spill of blood,
the maroon flower petals float away into the distance in the streams
water. The golden stone turns pale. On the dead tree stump nearby the
fiendish crow lies in wait. The vultures circle the sky casting their
shadows on my body. My body rots in the heat of the sun. I try to reach
out and cling to whatever I can, but my arms are paralysed. I try to
leave everything and escape. But my legs wont move. Lying helpless,
utterly bereft, I wait for some good to befall me. But my eyes burst
with tears. My face drifts away in the tears and in a trice that water
rains down on this rocky earth. My heart is heavy with grief.
Like inevitable fate, treading steadily, the camel crosses the river
and advances towards me. On its back the unclothed woman. The
womans face is unrecognisable, its blurred. I see only her
lovely golden legs and the camels ashen belly. Its long legs are
knee-deep in the mountain steams clear water. It tramps over yellow
flowers and green vines.
The heat is stifling. Sunlight and darkness accumulate together. The
crows and vultures fix their sight on their target. From close to my
left ear an extremely loud Ka! Ka! cry emanates. On the right side the
half-eaten horses skeleton lies conspicuously.
The grey camel advances with the nude woman on its back. It crosses
the river in the south. I can hear the tread of its hooves. I see its
unmoving eyes. The crows, jackals and vultures all call out in unison.
The shadows of the three creatures troop in procession over my body.
The sunlight and the heat hasten the decomposition of my body. The maroon
flowers become invisible in the distant stream. The golden stone turns
I am enveloped in silence. No more tears flow out of my eyes. All my
grief and sorrow reaches a point that is beyond perturbation. Theres
nothing for me to see, nothing more to think about. In vain had I waited
here, under this sun, for some pleasant dream.
© S Misra (1972) and V Ramaswamy June 2006
This is a translation of the original Bengali short story "Uth"
by Subimal Misra, a critically acclaimed Bengali writer of India. The
story is anthologised in Subimal Misras Chottrish bochorer rograragri
(36 years scuffle), published by the author, Kolkata (Calcutta),
See also The
Subimal Misra (born 1943) has been writing since 1967. He has written
only for small, non-commercial literary publications (or "little
magazines"). Misra is regarded as the leading anti-establishment
and experimental writer in the Bengali language. His first collection
of stories, titled Haran majhir bidhoba bou-er moda ba shonar gandhimurti
(Haran Majhi's widowed wife's corpse or the Gandhi statue of gold),
was published in 1971. Over 20 volumes of his stories (or anti-stories),
novellas, novels (or anti-novels), plays and essays have
been published. Most of these have been published and distributed by
the author himself. Misras most recent book of stories and essays,
Kika Cutout was published in 2006. Now a retired school-teacher, he
lives in Calcutta.
Translated by V Ramaswamy June 2006
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