Night of the HONEY moon

Comrade Joshi could see his voice on TV. "See," he told Amit and me once when we paid him a visit, "Do you see that.. how it is going. Now Bill Clinton will hear it… How? I think I can tell you people… Although it's very advanced technology… You see this here," he said holding a centimentre of space between his thumb and forefinger, "It is a transmitter. And one like this is fixed below his table in Oval Office."

Comrade Joshi was a seer. He could see things others could not. "He is fully mad now," Khimda told us after he left that day.

Khimda warned us about Comrade Joshi's madness. He said it could be very attractive. A strange thing to say, but that was Khimda. Comrade Joshi, Khimda told us, was a second generation Communist. Then somewhere in the late Eighties Comrade Joshi lost the war against the Capitalists. Soon after, he lost his mind to the bourgeois boobtube.

That was his release. His glasnost. His perestroika. And it happened slowly-over the years-inside a small dingy outhouse of his huge ancestral bungalow. On top of a hill. Through a TV.

The night before the war we'd seen the full moon. It was an unusual honey colour. It came up suddenly from behind the hill like a huge gas balloon escaped from a child's hand. And then it began to melt slowly. We could see the honey moon turn into vapour, the vapour into air, and the air into tiny drops of the moon. The melting moon settled on exposed surfaces: on leaves, on grass blades, on clothes and hair. And then we went up to the terrace. To say goodbye to the honey moon. It was a sight none of us had seen before.

The honey moon, Khimda told us, did something to wild animals. It made them come out of their lairs and hunt. It made them seek out other animals and prey on them. When they found these animals they pounced on them and killed them. The killing helped them deal with their hunger. Their fear of dying. Their fear of the honey moon.
Khimda was a mathematician. That night when we sat on the terrace saying goodbye to the melting moon Khimda was playing his flute. The only man-made light we could see were reefer-dots changing hands and mouths. Light, floatey music swirled out of his reed like smoke rings.

Khimda had let out a genie.

And he had us hooked. There had been talk of war during the day. The signs had been building up. Our small and sleepy world was suddenly going to war.

The smoke rings broke Khimda's heart, punctured his soul and tore out of his lips like newborn butterflies.

Khimda had two sons. Partap, the younger one was a soldier. He had gone to the border to fight for a piece of his country. But his guts failed him when the first shots were fired. Two swift wounds seared through his stomach before he fell to the ground, dazed and bloodsoaked.

The news of the incident was broken to Khimda on a piece of telegram paper. The details came in later with the 'martyr' as the dead are known in the Army. Partap had strayed too far into the line of fire, the officer explained as he handed Khimda the remains of his favourite son.

Khimda's arithmetics didn't let him mourn Partap's loss for too long. He brought home his sister's son. This way he still had two sons. Sundar, the magus of the Kitchen, and Rajesh, his deputy at the griddle wand.

Rajesh had come to Khim's to replace a photograph. A grinning boy-soldier draped, daily by Rajesh in a circle of frail red roses and plastic straws. The picture was the last taken of Partap before he left for the war.

Wars were always wars, Khimda used to say. Because wars had no names. Or addresses. Khimda believed, they all came out of one giant whoosh of fear and hate. And they only spelt loss. How could you give your loss a name, Khimda told his family. Wars were wars. They only spelt loss. Names were unnecessary for them.

We were behind the world by a day at Khim's. Newspapers reached us a day late. We had a PC, but it took hours to go online on days there was power. But we had time, in its strange, mutant form. Sometimes it moved fast, sometimes like the slow-moving dust of a beaten track. What we call real time came and visited us sometimes with the news breaks. The rest of the time we floated in a soup of sounds: of deafening silences, of Hagar's self-help guitar and of Khimda's killer flute.

It was a time when we didn't need much. Before us were these huge chocolate-chip peaks. Behind us, the green and brown hills grinned and waved at us with their sun spots and pine cones. We made fragrant fires from twigs and pine cones. We heard Hagar and Amit sing Passover songs at night. We exchanged stories from our past. We navigated the hills on foot. We breathed in and we breathed out and didn't wonder why.

The TV, with its black and white shadows, brought us back to the world and its wars. Khimda's TV had no cable. But it did a good job of breaking news to us. And teaching us the timeless art of waiting.

Not over yet…


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