By Sumana Roy
Of all political categories we inhabit, it is perhaps the night which affects us most unequally. We share different relationships with the night, whether they are as lovers or wayfarers, as its agent or as its advocate, its critic or as its judge. There is the call centre employee and there is the pathological insomniac, both wooing and weaning themselves away from the night. There is the night-shift worker and his proverbial midnight lamp, and because night exists as one half of a binary most often in our imagination, we wonder whether the antonym of the day’s blue and white collar jobs must be black collar jobs of the night. The night has many devotees – two animals who have had their careers linked inextricably to the night are the owl and the bohemian artist. In this issue of Cafe Dissensus, our writers explore other animals of the night with a sleepwalker’s ambidextrous energy.
Anubha Yadav’s story, ‘Just Wait And Play the Game’, is about how it might mean to live permanently in the night. Her trope for this is blindness, and she employs it effectively, but never without humour and irony, in writing about the relationship between two schoolchildren, one blind, another coached into blindness so as to enable him to see with his ears. It is a beautiful way of telling us how the antonym for day, with its pampering of the eye, is night, its darkness a sense in the ear.
Sucharita Dutta-Asane’s story transposes the colour of the night onto the body of a girl. And in doing that, she brings into play an entire body of narratives around night-coloured women: Shyama, Krishnakali, Kali. The dark lady in this story remains a thing of wonder for the male gaze – a lover, visually conditioned to the excesses of fair skin, does not know what to do with a night coloured body at night. He simply cannot ‘see’.
Koushik Dutta’s night is the oldest metaphor – death. Night claims a father’s life as the son, at last, begins to see how his father had once seized the day but had now fallen to the night.
Aparna Nandakumar’s story, ‘The Blue Room’, tells the story of a night in a blue room in Europe. It is a night that shall become a surname to be borne for the rest of the protagonist’s life.
V Ramaswamy translates from Subimal Misra’s anti-novel, Actually this could have become Ramayan Chamar’s tale, to show us a watchman’s night, the person who guards over our nights.
Arundhati Ghosh’s story, ‘Anwar’, interprets the idiom “ships that pass in the night” through two scratched filters – socio-economic class and religion. Can Anwar be loved only at night?
Anindita Das writes about a night god, as seen through the perspective of an Indian woman in America. In this seemingly innocent narrative, she writes about the racism inherent in South Asian societies, and how a Hindu society that worships a black goddess is ‘scared’ of the violence of ‘Black ghettos’ in the United States. All these perceptions come to be challenged by a dark god of the night with a knife in his hand.
Mrugank Indurkar looks at intersections and divergences between parallel worlds of sleep, wakefulness, half-asleep states, and dreams in his story, ‘Notes from the Parallel’, where three people, divided by gender, place, and religion, meet in the only space possible. The night births that space and that baptism.
Abhimanyu Singh’s story is energised by smack, and oftentimes it is a trope for night itself, darkness which makes crime and creativity, both often interchangeable, possible.
Sunil Sharma’s story is about a special category of people who exist as functions of the night: insomniacs. A son talks to a long distant caller about a dead father, Proust and Hegel, the disappearance of dialogue until the telephone line goes dead and a dead man appears. Who is this dead man? In that figure is an answer to the phenomenology of the night.
And Gopa Nayak searches for her namesake in her story about that fateful night which changed the history of human civilisation – the night Gautama left his wife and son.
Night is rhetoric and a health drink. Night is question as the day is answer. Night is about abandon and abundance. Night is home and hotel. Night is thumb and toe. Never long enough, night is also surplus.
And so when we come to “Raat ke humsafar thak ke ghar ko chaley …”, we are never quite sure of the possessive case. “Raat ke humsafar”: Are these the night lovers? Or the lovers of the night?
In between these two loves falls the shadow.
Here is the Night, in eleven instalments.
Photo-credit: Sumana Roy
Sumana Roy writes from Siliguri, a small town in sub-Himalayan Bengal, India.
For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.