New Moon

There is hardly any mati tel.

The amber coloured medicine bottle from the backyard dump of village PHC, its label long gone, shows the loosely-twisted wick resting comfortably on the concave bottom at one end but hides the fact that it is all dried up. The fluid level has been unnoticeable since days, which everyone did and did not notice, until tonight when poking its head from the lid, the wick, which breathed fire a while ago, is now chocking, everybody thinks, as if for the first time there is no mati tel.

Nima always threw in some kerosene to light the kitchen fire. Mother could instead, reignite fire from the remains of last night, blowing into the iron pipe, clearing up the ashes and spotting any piece of charcoal warm enough. Nima hasn’t mastered that art. She can’t puff into the iron pipe too hard, she can’t pick the right coal. But often she tries, storming up a cloud of smoke and flying wisp of ashes. She imagines mother’s magic. Mother could just whisper through the pipe into the range and start cooking. If she picks up the pipe these days, all she does is cough into it. Lying closer to the kitchenette, buried in comforters made out of worn out saries, hoping to get some warmth, she called Nima’s siblings a while ago to come lie next to her, keeping her warm. Budha was overjoyed, jumping into mother’s bed, tucking his feet inside the comforters and asking her when would they eat, while Angie said she had to study.

But the flame that danced flamboyantly is being deposed by the darkness that cheered it a few minutes before. Few red globules glow bleakly; it is the past tense of fire. Probably the pitch black, thin line of smoke doesn’t blacken the roof the angular cleft anymore. The cleft was on the verge of disappearing from the wall and the walls into the night. The night, Nima knew, would persist.

(to be contd.)


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