A Death Refracted – Part 4.4 – The First Knot
The First Knot:
Derry retreats into her “mind palace” creating a Bollywood style matchmaking show to deal with what is going on. The first suitor has been called onstage to make his pitch….
They’re in the courtyard of a farmhouse. It’s just off the main road, dirt tracks leading into the fields surrounding it. The driver – Derry’s learned his name is Parm – has parked the car in the shade of a squat Banyan, its top shaped into a football, matching the water tank that rests on the roof of the house in front of them. Strange black shapes – Derry cannot make out what they are – hang from its branches. Nestled among the knotted roots is a band of dogs, who lazily lift their heads, look at the newcomers through sleep maddened eyes and satisfied there is no threat round themselves back into their slumber.
The sun is sharp, even at this hour, and the heat heavy……….
Enough of these preliminaries! says Mandyra’s impatiently. We know, we know this already. This has been. Let it lie. Let us get to the crux. Let us hear from the anointed one.
The courtyard melts and Derry’s borne back into the longhouse. She’s seated on the throne, her mother and the farmer’s wife either side of her.
The boy enters the chamber at the wheel of a towering Massey Ferguson tractor. A beast of a machine, pimped, humungous tyres making it as high as a London double decker bus, polished red gleaming, festooned with streaming lights, bunting and Khalistani flags, the figure of Guru Gobind, sword aloft, proud on the cabin roof, radio pulsing drowning the last echoes of the sirens’ song. He parks his fantastic steed in front of the fire, jumps down with a flourish and looking across at his mother, who nods, begins a bhangra, the end of his loosely tied turban fashionably draped across his bare chest. He hops across the floor; gyrating in front of Derry, his loose trousers flapping he lip syncs with the radio:
Mera nam ha Bahlo
Jindagi mere nal chalo!
Hanh korya, mere korya
Me hai teri fantasy!
His mother nudges Derry and whispers, You won’t find another like him.
Her mother leans in: He is a fine-looking boy. You will make a good couple.
When cows fly, she thinks. Yet despite knowing it’s sheer lunacy, all that is happening is totally surreal, the ludicrous dance induces a bubble of laughter. It rises inside Derry, shakes her. She tries to suppress it, keep a straight face. It threatens to burst from her. She manages, just, to contain it, but she cannot stop the pop of a soft fart and she coughs, looks at her mother, hoping no one has noticed.
Mandyra raises her hand and the music dies down. How about that for an entrance! Isn’t that impressive? She turns to ask the audience, Can anyone top that? and they respond with one full throat: YES!
Mandyra orders, Silence. Let’s stay our judgement until the end. She floats gracefully towards the suitor. Bahlnoor, my noble rider, that was quite a spectacle. Now present yourself. Make your play.
I am a simple farmer, he approaches Derry his eyes fixed on her, the shadowed space between her legs, the hidden honeyed matrix of her sex, the son of a farmer who is the son of a farmer. India is my land. Into this earth I was born, on this earth I was raised and this earth I have tilled. This earth is my life. India is my life. It is my blood, feeds my blood. I am a man rooted in India who feeds India.
What a suitor, Mandyra sighs dramatically. He cuts into her so he can feed her. That is a dutiful man, a hint of cynicism spices her voice. Can there be a purer love? Her strange eyes settle on Derry. Is that not not true Dearie?
Derry’s hypnotised by the other’s look. Doesn’t know what to say. Is strangely fascinated by the unfolding spectacle round her. Waits.
You must strip your eyes of all colour, the woman instructs. Look past the cloth, the paint, into the white citadel. Unself your self, uncolour all that is before you. Let your self be unnumbered. Be true to the essence of you.
Just silence inside Derry, all dimensions stripped, spaceless stretching in all directions. Her fingertips she cannot see.
Let your self be my self.
Uncurve your self into my being.
The touch of the woman’s voice washes over Derry. Stitch by stitch she feels her self unthreading, feels the other’s needle weaving her into her unfinished tapestry.
Unstitched she is. Stitched she is.
Come boy, declare your love, urges Jago.
The boy stops in front of Derry. He’s still barefoot, unwashed. Her disgust undiminished she moves her gaze from his feet not wanting to vomit. She notices his belt, a cut of rope, darkened around the many knots, shaped the same as the banyan’s strange fruit, tied along its length. A sickle hangs looped from it, its blade discoloured, a dull rusty red, and there are what seem to Derry, thin threads crusted onto the metal.
He passes his eyes the length of her licking his lips – she’s seen that look many times from the men in her father’s circle, the “Uprights” who, when Bonny was engaged, came to solicit her in the health shop she worked weekends, pretending they needed advice on their ailments, needed ointments, handing her slips winking.
Left hand in the pocket of his swelling trousers he scratches at his scrotum sack.
And he is keen to rise to the occasion, Mandyra playfully invites the cameras to come in close, the audience to witness the protuberance now making itself visible. The strains of Nights in White Satin drift through the longhouse.
What do you want from a wife? Jago at his left shoulder prompts the boy.
Apart from a good deep fuck now and again, Mandyra casually comments, now at his other shoulder.
His eyes briefly take in the woman before he withdraws his hand from the pocket.
Shoot your hand, my farmer’s son! We are all ears.
Falling on bended knee he begins, My wife will be as fertile as this earth. At the coming of spring I will till her, and at the fall of the year she will give birth to my sons. In Seven years……
Seven sons, his mother interjects. He’s always wanted sons who will stand with him, keep him standing when he is dead and fill his eyes with seven sons each.
The mother’s words resurface a memory in Derry; that picture in her grandmother’s house is of her grandfather. He’s being held upright, dead, by his five sons, moments before he will be taken, borne on the shoulders of those same sons, to the family’s cremation ground. On the wall behind the men there is another picture visible, that of an octopus on a rocky beach, tentacles strained, coiled to spring towards her. But it’s the eyes which leave her trembling? They are those of the woman Mandyra.
The boy speaking again breaks into her thoughts: I am the only son of an only son. All that is his will be mine. With my sons I will build my own house. With these hands I will nourish them, their sons, and their sons…
Looks like the only thing you’ll be nourishing is your cock! Mandyra’s remark draws a hoot from the audience. She continues, Have you given any thought as to who will bear the girls for this army of sons? Will they fall like fruits from a tree?
He is a good boy. His mother again, voice rising to be heard about the hubbub. He will keep his family well. He is at work before the sun is up and long after it has set.
And what are you working on, boy? Mandyra asks. Her tone shifts darker; What keeps you from your house? Are you out collecting your knots?
He is a good boy.
Mother not of mine, hold your tongue. Let the boy answer. How many have you broken?
I cherish my sister…….
But not the sisters outside your courtyard?
I cherish my mother……
But not those outside your walls?
I uphold my family’s honour…..
While breaking that of others. How many have bled for your pleasure? HOW MANY?
The woman’s words take flight, shimmer as they rise towards the ceiling, the fire tempering the echo created in their wake. And in that echo looms the dark rooted banyan tree. Mandyra takes it into her hand.
Do not talk about honour before these people. This, your banyan, has stood for over three generations. Where it is there was once a willow. More than fifty roots have starved that womb of water, throttled the passings of its moon. Roots fed with blood by your father, his father and his father. And now you stand here belt a reminder, knotted with trophies, your peeled fruits hanging amongst its branches. HOW MANY MORE WILL BE YOURS?
The audience is hushed. Expectant.
The boy bows his head. Breathes deep, his shoulders rising. Then slowly he stands, says: You bitch! Women are nothing without men. We give you meaning. We begin and end your story.
Is he not a proud cockerel? Who among us would not desire to be woken by one such? her voice is heavy with contempt.
You slut! You cock sucking whore! You think you can stand there in your fucking Western pant suit and mock me, a little spittle escapes from the corner of his mouth. What do you know about our traditions? Those whoring trousers do not lend you any power. They can be taken down like this, he snaps his fingers. Who do you think you are?
Mandyra is now beside Derry. She’s inside Derry, and Derry finds herself looking out through the eyes of the other. The boy stands shaking, face red, fists clenched.
I am your grandmother.
I am your mother.
I am your sister.
I am the world’s womb, Derry hears herself saying.
You are nothing! He shouts. You are the dirt beneath my feet, cast off cigarette butts. We, he shouts slamming his chest with his fists, have shaped you, coloured you, clothed you, fitted you into what you are. You begin when we see fit to seed you….
I am the NOT YOU. You cannot knot me. I am…….
You are a piece of shit!
………My own self.
Then you go fuck yourself!
He moves towards Mandyra hand on his sickle, stumbles, falls to the floor.
Stand up boy, do not waste your words. His mother rises to her feet shaking her head. Put away your blade. This girl is not for you. We were misled. This is not the crop we were hoping for. Let us cut this proposed knot right now. We were told she was Punjabi rooted. Clearly she is not. She is nothing but the world’s cunt.
Mandyra laughs, Mother of bastards, unhinge your sex from that of your man. Look at your breed…..
My son is not for you!
….and ask yourself; if he were another’s would you seek him out for your daughter?
We will find someone. A girl who knows her place.
I am certain you will, Mandyra sighs. Many in this country have no choice but to sell. And the world is awash with slave markets. But you are right; this girl is not for you. She will not end up another knot on his belt. She turns to Jago. We must take our leave. There is work still to be done. She backs away from the mother and unwraps her self from Derry’s, takes her from her wet nipple, tells her, Be true to yourself. The only currency we will recognise is love.
Jago gathers her cape and folds it across her right arm. She gestures, bows to the audience.
This knot will not be. We must go, taxi on to the……