Buddha Smiles

An enigmatic story from Ritamvara, where relations and realities collapse with Kafkaesque horror. The salvation is in Buddha’s smile.

The freedom of the sky was an intervening rebellious act in my wait. My wait was uncertain, impossibly pompous, never a fried fish in protest. It was a Thursday night. My brother failed to heat the oven, neither did I do so. We slept like crocodiles on the dry river bed of the broken arm chair, two wooden planks to guard our sleep. The cooked fish curry of yesterday smelt like little boy’s trousers decked with the smell of pee. I woke up from the dark cloud. Hunger seemed to be an engulfing Sun of the Eastern communism. I tugged my bra on to the breast of Hunger. The bra was waiting for an action all throughout the time that I slept as awkward shaped jostling of the space. Words were asleep on the green marble table. The television with an impertinent sentiment was a bored intruder of the yawning dining room. I held my brother by his wrist and howled at him in his sleep. He returned that with a smile of the milk curdled sour. The neighbour’s light stood a constant bleep in our dark window shard.

My mother was buried yesterday in the electric turret of the screaming water of Ganges. She was an innocent orange lollipop on her death bed. Four men carried her body with all gusto. They shivered to look at her dead eyes but they missed sucking the orange lollipops. They were men in wrappers. My cheek bones were tough. They never craved for a tear drop. I gave a hard jab to one of the diamond tear drop that mistook its path down my tough bone. A thirsty fly sat down to drink its salt. The word of the night was crawling, as different body parts of the same religion in another world of Mecca or Medina. I sat down on the broken chair. The crackle of the chair made me listen to the rattle of my mother’s bones that must be out of the Hindu flesh by now, cremated somewhere, in my brother’s dreams. His curve of smile was knitting the missing beads of my mother’s hair. The night was a long stretch of kneeling, lifting, flipping over and dragging through it.

The person, who is out of all a night is my father. His voice is the cartography of a different globe. He is a Man, two short eyes, a sovereign nose, a republic face, a monarchical forehead (a confused concussed demure). His body was an utterly shouting stadium in my mother’s wait. (She never touched him). The dawn peeps through the long glass kitchen window. I look at the twin leaves of the tree. I remember how my mother used to sit for her prayer on those osteoporotic knees. I wish the leaves were the eyelids of her death (the holy Tulsi leaves). The morning is a waiting of anonymity. The door bell rings. My father swiftly crotches past the door.

He looks at me. I return back. It is a festival of lights for him. He placed some fair stoned diyas (earthen lamps) for my brother and me. I denied holding anything of light in that lamp. He knelt forward to kiss on my smooth forehead. He assured me that his clean shaved face had no lipstick mark to hold that day. I pressed him tight, grabbed him. His warm penis touched my thighs. The broken chair pissed off into an orchestra. I lunged forward. It was a crescendo now. My mother’s index finger thumbed further some music of the Sitar. My festival in touching his manhood was a lighted diya. Further, I oiled the diya to rationalize his logic behind shifting to that wrinkled face Nepali woman with high pitched voice and red cherry smile.(My mother was too simple for her lips). My brother caught the Man by his breast and limited his stay.

We revived back to be the toddlers in our mother’s wait. My brother kissed the arm chair like a baton on the cat seeking to lip over the milk bowl. I warmed some. My brother sat to take it with the crispy cornflakes. He whispered, ‘maa, we drove him out’. The chair returned the favor with a wry smile. My brother drummed up, ’I shall be off to office’. He went for a shower and off for the day’s haaj.

I was all alone to myself. I peeped here and there like a devil rooted weed in the broken city wall. The house that we cradled as a baby is a prison in my wait, an old man waiting for pension in government files. I touched the magical glass unicorn in the locker of the almirah. It is a mutual love bridge between my parents holding the locker of divorce papers, our photographs in a smile and some naphthalene balls to smell fresh of the gap. I questioned the innocent eyes of my mother. It never had the slightest temptation of sex. Her dark skin was never a surprise of man’s touch. She was plain like my stories where characters are not doldrums. Less of conversation, characters are dumb monopoly. Sometimes a father added, to fold the pink skin with layer by layer epidermis. I was tired of thoughts. Phrases were reciting songs in my head. I wanted a sleep.


I see a butcher’s dog. Hold on, I see a bric-a- brac shop in the perplexed heart of the city….drive away, a gigantic Buddha under the ruins of the palace Sherab Wangchuck. My mother, now, I see, words are fairer under her eyes, rewind a little….Sleeping under the wrinkles of the city thousand small Buddhas…hovering as flies round my bed. I hear the monastery of Bhutan gongs the bell. The sound travels a swish in my hair, a sloppy ponytail, I sleep with. My sleep turns around… I call upon my mother, ‘Maa…Maa’. She stands a bestial Buddha between my two breasts one of another mountain. She is a smile of Buddha’s poised face between my scars.

The doorbell rings a parrot. I open the door. My father comes with the pork smelling women. They talk of possession. I hold onto that arm chair retailing my position. I wait with two lotus eyes of the Mountain Buddha. Business of the day is done. They leave. The Buddha of my slumber is a smiling Buddha. I chant ‘Dve ‘me bhikkhave dhamma saddhammassa sammosaya antaradhanaya samvattanti. Katame dve. Dunnkikkhittam ca pada-byancanam attho ca du.’ My mother rests not in heaven nor in hell but in the eyes of the Buddha in ruins. I light the fragrant incense sticks. The smoke possesses my city house. The house crackles down. I am the open sky of freedom above the reincarnated Buddha Dordenma Statue.

©Ritamvara Bhattacharya

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Ritamvara Bhattacharya

Ritamvara Bhattacharya

Ritamvara Bhattacharya writes from a darling's heart, Darjeeling. She believes in what Sylvia Plath said, "And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." She writes for the pleasure of doing so. She writes for the 'I am' in her heart, a voice that creates ripples and sensation
Ritamvara Bhattacharya

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