“Look. There’s a blue ring around the moon. A blue halo...why?”
“When a great soul is born.”
“You mean, a great soul is taking birth right at this moment? With us as witnesses! When the soul is born, will the halo disappear?”
I burst out laughing.
“What’s so funny?”
I kept on laughing. “Will the great soul waft down from the moon?”
“No, from the womb. Surely one great soul is not such a tall order for a country where a child is born every ten seconds.”
“Then there should be a ring around the moon every night.”
“Do you look at the moon every night?”
“Yes...I have seen it for the first time tonight.”
“Aha, that means a great soul will be born as your child.”
“Yes, yours and mine.”
“How do you know?”
“Because. When two people love each other, the way we do, a great soul is born to them.”
“If it is!”
“What if it is not?”
What a fool I was. There they are. Both of them. The child and he. Both on the moon. See how they wink at me from of the halo. Whenever there was a blue ring around the moon, he would call out to me. A soul flew down to earth. It was born within me. And, it was a great soul. A soul is great because it is a soul. How can it not be great?
The moon did not have a halo every night.
I did not look at the moon every evening.
I did not go out every day.
The evenings passed inside closed rooms with barred windows, bereft of the moon. Even if he were to think of me every day, the ring would not always form. It is not that easy. Eight years have passed. Our child would have been in the fourth form now. If there had been a child. It would have entered my womb under the halo of the moon. That was how it would come to me, if it were to come.
Had it only been eight years? Nine? Ten? Innumerable years?
When there was a blue halo around the moon, there was nothing but the blue light. I was inside the circle of light. A soul was born within me. I took a hand mirror out of my bag and captured the reflection of the moon in it. Now the blue circle lay close to me. So close that I could stretch my hand and touch it. I did not. I had become smart. I did not try to shred the illusory veils covering reality. Suppose as I stretched my hand, it banged against the mirror...would the dream not shatter to smithereens? I did not need to touch it.
It was enough to know that I could if I wanted to. The blue circle was there, captured in the mirror. So close. Spellbound, I looked at him.
“Come, let’s dance.”
“Are you happy?”
“We want to dance when we are happy, do we not?”
“Why don’t we?”
“I don’t know.”
“Then find out. We are happy. Every fibre of our bodies is singing; every nerve is throbbing; every limb is pulsating. Yet, we do not dance. Why?”
“Exactly. We do not dance because nobody does. We are afraid...how can we, when no one does...what will people say? Tell me what comes to mind when I say “people,” quick.”
“Go to hell,” I said and laughed.
“Don’t laugh. Tell them to go to hell. Tell them we shall dance, whatever they say. Let’s dance.”
We began to dance. In each other’s arms, under the blue halo of the moon, to the beat of the music coming from afar.
The beat faltered. We kept on dancing.
The music stopped. We danced on – bewitched and entranced until we fell exhausted on the grass entwined together. Under the circle of the moon.
I clasped the mirror in my palm. Let the moon’s reflection shake and shiver but remain within my grasp. Slowly, I began to dance to the beat of the music playing far away. Slow, slow...
“What, Mrs Goyal, what’s happened?” a voice rang out.
“Sozzled, is she?” More voices cackling with rude laughter. “Why dance alone? Give us a chance. We are all waiting.”
“Have a heart. We need partners.”
“What do you think we got the band for?”
“Come inside. We have everything. Dim lights, music, men!”
“And drinks. Our dear brothers are all soaked.”
“So are our dear sisters. These days sisters are more enterprising than brothers,” they snigger.
So many voices. Calls. Invitations. I was in the midst of a party...
Mr and Mrs Saxena cordially invite you to cocktails and dinner.
Oh, yes. Mahesh had accepted on our behalf yesterday. Mr and Mrs Goyal will be very glad to come...Glad indeed...one danced when one was glad...under the blue luminous aureole, in the open, enraptured. A soul was born.
I went inside, caught in the circle of public voices. Mahesh rushed towards me.
“Are you all right?” he asked anxiously and tenderly.
“There is a ring around the moon,” I said.
Mahesh took my hand in his. “So?” he asked. People laughed.
Mahesh’s hand touched the mirror.
I snatched my hand away and put the mirror back in my bag.
Now, I was a public person.
Now, everything was all right or everything was all wrong.
“Are you not feeling well?” Mahesh asked again.
“Then let’s dance.”
A “no” that was a scream and quite inappropriate in that room. So many people were dancing in the room under the dim pale light, pierced by screams of music. They danced because everyone danced. They were the symbols of the success of the party, of the gracious hospitality offered by Mr and Mrs Saxena. They danced; so we assumed they were happy. Theirs was a societal happiness.
They danced with a new partner each time, in keeping with the unspoken rules of parties. They were not there to break rules. If a few of them were to stop dancing...Mr Saxsena...Mr Goyal...all the others, all of them would stop. No one would dare dance alone.
If the beat were to falter – the tape were to malfunction or something like that – they would instantly stop dancing. The only way they could dance was in a group, to external music. Never alone, never to the rhythm within. This was a public place. The cocktail party hosted by Mr and Mrs Saxena. They were all social animals. Mr and Mrs etc. They danced together, stopped together, and changed partners together. Many chests rose and fell in unison with their breath, but not one heart dared beat on its own. It was appropriate that they danced under a pale light, as faint as the pulse of an invalid. The blue light of the moon was meaningless here.
I stood quietly in a corner and looked on.
I was in the room but free of the prison of the light and sound of their party. It was good none of them knew I held the blue halo captive in a mirror in my bag. I shall have it with me always, wherever I go.
Excerpted with permission from Chittacobra, Mridula Garg, Speaking Tiger.