Let’s start from the climax of the story. The exposition, the triggering incident, the rising action, the caprices of character development, these are for amateurs – as much in listening as in telling – and we will bother with none of that. The climax of this story is the sex, or rather the climax lies is in that which makes the sex work – the messiness of desire. To see and feel one thing but to imagine, crave for another. To be melted into several bodies at the same time. Yes, we must start at the climax.
You are invited to imagine a character that would be your idea of perfection. Let’s say, a woman. Naturally, stories such as these demand beauty in a woman. You should think of what might make her appear lovely to you.
Perhaps we can put down the following for now (but please do feel free to replace the descriptions with your own) – a heart-shaped face, dark almond eyes, and fierce hair that undulates around her shoulders, a woman who speaks in musical undertones but bustles around with metallic bursts of energy, constantly on her feet, an ignited wire of wit, talk, laughter. Let’s call her Sundari.
Now that we have the loveliest of protagonists, someone you might wish to know, you are invited to imagine a partner for her, a man or woman who can embody perfection too.
But you are faltering as an audience, you are unable to think of what might be desirable to you as well as to your protagonist. Some of you imagine a man – let’s call him Dhavala. Perhaps he is bright-eyed and sinuous, rather feline in his ways, whether it is his curious nature or his love of lazing or even that slight air of detachment that occasionally comes over him.
Perchance you feel compelled to imagine a woman lover, someone who will know how to savour the charm and quicksilver that is Sundari. Mohana, let’s name her – a woman with the colour and wisdom of earth, lush circles to Sundari’s sharp angles, her smile unfading.
If Sundari has the freedom to love Dhavala alongside Mohana, she would passionately and hungrily pour into both, and as tellers of the story, we must respect her wishes. In fact, let’s accept that she is undecided, reluctant to choose, that she has made love to both man and woman and would hate to choose one at the risk of losing the other.
The pleasures are delectable, not comparable, and surely can co-exist if human jealousy can bear it. Dhavala and Mohana are keepers of Sundari’s secret desires, and don’t wish to share her with each other, but are young enough to ride the experiment, to stay together under the canopy of friendship, at least till this incline of our imaginings of plot.
Now we enter the scene of the climax – a deserted temple in the jungle, and as usual the gods have marked it out for one of their thoughtless pranks.
A happy occasion, a picnic in the wilderness, has gone terribly wrong for the trio. Chased and harassed by dacoits, stupid enough to retaliate and call for help, they have been attacked brutally by machetes. There is too much blood on the scene to say clearly what has befallen our characters. Sundari seems to have injured her forehead after falling against a pillar and has lost consciousness.
Perhaps a lucky fall, for she escaped watching Dhavala and Mohana being hacked as they tried to resist, both beheaded. Rivulets of blood entwine the three. Wild howls echo in the distance – the scent of fresh blood is travelling through the trees. Dusk is not afar, and soon their flesh will be torn by the scavengers of the jungle, flesh that had explored so much pleasure together, but is now cold and bloodied.
The goddess of the temple opens an idol eye, and then another. It is tedious being stuck in stone, and it has taken a few thousand years to be comfortable with the jungle sounds. With the unexpected bloodbath, the goddess feels violated. One could say more about how trying this human melodrama is on divine nerves, but it would delay the narrative conundrum, the keystone on which this plot must rest, and that will not do.
The sigh of the goddess swirls through the temple pillars, bounces against its stony ceilings, soaks up the splattered blood, sweeps and rejoins all the hacked body parts, and tidies the scene of the crime as though it has never happened. The goddess closes her eyes again. She is done being bothered with mortality.
Human eyes flutter open, three pairs all at once. Though dusk has crept through the stone windows, there is enough light to see the outcome of human violence and divine caprice. Dhavala and Mohana look at each other in terror – their heads and torsos have been mixed up. Only Sundari has remained whole, unchanged, and only her desire will release them from this nightmare.
Excerpted with permission from Vetaal and Vikram: Riddles of the Undead by Gayathri Prabhu, HarperCollins India.
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