By: Somrita Urni Ganguly
(You’ve read the Laila-Majnu story, have you not? This one is slightly different. The poet wrote it after Majnu was lost to her.)
Laila uttered Qais’s name like a prayer every night –
his face was the blood in her veins,
his thoughts her sun, her breath.
The petals of the water-lilies felt like Qais’s breath,
whispered against her ears – velvet, smooth, soft.
She rushed to the lilies to claim them for herself.
The forest smelt like Qais –
raw, vibrant, musky.
She rushed to the forest to claim it for herself.
The man, axing the tree-trunk under the fiery tentacles of the sun
reminded her of Qais’s sweat.
She rushed to the sweat, to claim it for herself.
The adolescent’s legs looked like Qais’s,
the teenager’s hips swayed like Qais’s,
the bachelor’s arms were built like Qais’s.
She rushed to them to claim them for herself –
the legs, the hips, the arms.
She soon got rejected as the town-whore.
They ostracized her –
her and her frenzied desire to possess Qais,
and her mad, mad need to make Qais her own.
She left the village, and started staying in the forest.
In her dreams she had already married Qais –
had become his wife and his whore.
She had parted her legs for him, to take him into
the security of her womb every night;
she had borne his children.
She had surrendered herself to him –
her body, heart and soul;
her cunt, blood, breath and sweat.
In her dreams.
Only her dreams.
And then Qais came to the village one day.
Laila stood outside the village wall,
seeing the man whom she had dreamt of
and made love to in her dreams,
night and day;
drinking him in with her eyes.
Qais walked into Nazneen –
As she came out of the pond one starry night,
Draped in water
And covering her bashful maidenliness with a wet saree.
She was exquisite.
Like crushed roses in cream.
He thought he beheld divinity before his eyes.
He embraced the trembling dove-like beauty
and sought her hand in marriage.
Nazneen was like Laila,
and then again she was not.
She had none of Laila’s traits –
neither her wildness of spirit,
nor her animalistic passion.
She was the other of Laila –
She was the good that Laila’s evil enhanced.
But yes, she did have Laila’s lips –
lotus pink, full, soft, thick.
Qais kissed that mouth,
which looked like it had been painted by some artist –
exclusively for him.
Laila saw Nazneen’s mouth.
And she saw Qais.
She saw her God betraying her.
She saw him pimping himself to the village-belle.
She saw her husband mating with another.
Her husband – in her dreams.
But for some, dreams are reality:
indeed, greater, and more real than reality.
Laila waited for them to be married.
And then she set fire.
She set fire to their bedchamber.
She set fire to the twin who had been the other to her self.
And she set fire to Qais who was her self.
As the cottage was reduced to ashes,
Laila realized that with Nazneen she had also burnt down
the little good that was in her.
How would Qais ever love her now?
And then it struck her.
Where was Qais?
And who was she?
Laila had killed herself too.
(The writer has completed her Master of Arts from the Centre for English Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, in May 2013. She continues to live in Delhi.)