A Moth’s Grief
By Ayushi Chandra
I Like a war-torn messenger I carry the darkness hidden in my belly, until it eats me up and throw up words I don’t understand. Maybe we invented the language of abandonment, of solitude and of patient ache. But we invented a language for ourselves, where we try to make sense of humans and their weird ways of hurting each other. Mother told us how we were born, from a tiny flame burning in the darkness, our wings were created, charred and stained with the blood of our ancestors, from the pale magnolia flowers we borrowed the butterflies desires to be beautiful and carved a hollow in our warm chests, the memory of flying. Our grief wasn’t of loneliness, our grief was of the desire to be looked at, lovingly. When I flew, I always gazed at the blue soft cloth above me, they called it ‘sky’. It smelled like a long lost cousin of mine, who died as his wings were torn apart by a child, melancholic and angry, ready to burst any moment. His scent stained on my belly frenzies, like the thunder. I inherited all the pain, the anger, love, loss. I just don’t know where to pour them out. At times I pretend to drink the sun, swallow it whole and bring back the darkness I desire so much. Faintly, faintly, my heart beats as I try to fly towards it, knowing I shall never reach, knowing I will splinter into pieces.
II A grief shared with two bodies, mother told us how we were so similar to the women dressed scantily in the dark streets, and women who have no name, and women who breathe as the lights die down. I didn’t understand her vague words then, but now as I wander nomadically around streets, lanes and crevices, I realize how close we are to humans as they are to us. It was a big old house, painted in blue shades, and white borders, there were twinkling lights around the metal poles of the windows and on the balconies I saw them- the moth women. Beautiful to look at, ghastly still. They were an organ of melancholy. With every breath they took, their breasts inhaled thousand years of agony and exhaled a softened acceptance. If I was the sound of a gurgling pond nearby, they were the howling noises of the wind under the metal roofs. It was a place of all sorts of clamors, of honking cars, of men whistling, of women shouting and softly caressed sounds in the locker rooms. I tried to balance myself on the saree of a woman. She was moss like- dark skinned, damp and smelled of a distant rain. Her lips were painted red, eyes smudged a deep black, and her hair had ‘gajras’ to mask her true scent. My wings were tingling with a soft sensation, the feeling of a woman. It wasn’t a pleasant as I imagined, it was twisted, sad, angry and train wreck. The moment I touched her saree, I felt it all. The insurgence of years and years of pain knotted in her belly like the tangles in her brown hair. Mother did say how we were capable of eating up a human’s past and their emotions. Twilight hour was the busiest time for these women clad in glittering bangles and messy hairstyles. The woman I perched myself on for some time now, didn’t seem to notice my presence. I wish she did. Her name was Juhi, and she smelled like those flowers too. If you ever knew how much I wanted to kill myself, which is funny since I am just an insect, yet I do feel- intensively and intrusively, you would laugh since I will die very soon, before humans create another apocalypse. Juhi had wanted to kill herself too, I felt her sorrow banging loudly against her chest as she sang to herself a strange Hindi tune, her mother used to sing for her every night. She stopped believing in God the day the blood came out from all the wrong places and never sang publicly the year, her mother died from AIDS. She was like her as well. A habitual suffering imbedded in their bones. I never wanted to intrude in her personal life, but my gifts were beyond fate. Perhaps it was the strange hand of destiny who brought me to Juhi. She was so much like me, orphaned, lost, disliked. We both were starved for affection, yet we nourished loneliness for a long time forgetting the feeling of ‘love’.
The red lights flickered above us, there was a sudden power circuit. I wasn’t too happy about the darkness however, I could feel Juhi relax which made me relax. I knew I shouldn’t be sitting on her saree for too long, so I tried to fly to the nearest window. The slight fluttering sound startled her and she threw her hands in the air, swooshing blindly. I was scared and in panic I flew to the ceiling and sat there. Suddenly the lights came back, I saw her staring at me with her big black eyes, heavily smudged with kajal. She had been crying. Juhi said something and sat near the window. Stealthily I drifted soundlessly and sat on her pallu. I glimpsed upon her childhood draped in golden light, her teenage in flashes of erratic paint, spluttered on the floor and her present muddled in black. Suddenly an auto honked, as Juhi eyed the man below the window, who was waving at her. Must be another customer, I thought. However her mouth twitched in a fear. Humans were capable of myriad of emotions, my mother used to say. That is what made them humans, the capability to go through so much. The bald headed man whistled at her, with a swift motion Juhi shut the windows and locked the doors. It was strange. Why was she scared? Who was that man? Then I saw it, how this man had left her mother, how he mistreated them, how he wanted all the money. He was Juhi’s father. A downpour of bangs came on her door, few moments later. Everyone was shocked why she had locked herself in. They kept yelling curses at her, trying to break in. But Juhi lay comatose on the floor, recalling the numerous times that swine had hurt her. He was back for more. I always found it beguiling how humans enjoyed hurting each other, like a game, endlessly. “Go away” she yelled, her voice was sharp yet soft. The man gently coaxed her to open the door. Juhi looked up with her tear-fed eyes and took a knife. I knew she was going to kill herself. In that brief moment I hoped to save her, but I am just a moth, maybe I will carry her soul to the moon, the least I could do for her. With a disturbed motion, she slid the knife in her stomach and blood scattered like an unholy hibiscus torn petal by petal. Just like that, a life perished in front of my eyes. I was petrified on her saree, unable to move as her weight weighed me down. The weight of many bodies and many souls. Soon the door was broken, a boundary was crossed, and people flung inside like a swarm of religious bees. They stood there, motionless, pin drop silence. That man’s eyes didn’t twitch, he opened his mouth and said something like a curse and spat on her. I was befuddled. How much do these humans inflict? Now as her body was lifted, I flew towards the salted windows, the night air crisp and heavy with a lingering melancholy. For a moment I could see all the similarities between Juhi and me. She and I were like two spoons of grief stacked against each other, incapable of changing. God comes to our houses but we were too exhausted to open them and drink the light. A moth’s grief is a grief of human’s and their repressed selves. I remember Juhi as a flower crushed too early, long before her scent would blossom and coalesce with the summer wind. I nourished her scent, which smelled like dead leaves and rain, just like I nourished every one of my family’s scent. Weeping I fall in a dream where our sorrows entwine themselves like a lover’s fingers. I am no longer alone but I am loved and I am happy.
By Ayushi Chandra