Kadambari

Anupa Kumar October 28, 2013

If someone at the City Art Museum had ever casually observed a woman who visited the wing that hosted the Ravi Varma collection regularly, they would not have made much of it except she was probably a dedicated art lover, a Varma fanatic even, and would have rarely guessed that the conclusion they deemed best plausible had little truth to it; but if the same someone had decided to make a keener observation and gained wisdom about the woman's singular, steadfast path from the parking lot to the same painting each time, they would have concluded less wrongly about her art patron ship, and a preeminent interference perhaps would have averted a series of ill-fated events that waited to unfold, though it is equally probable that they wouldn't regret not having observed any more than casual, because as these happened, the series of events turned out in angelic favor of the art institution, bringing much needed publicity and a steady boost in ticket sales. Conjectures vary on date and time, but it must have been on an unassuming Saturday evening, that the woman meditatively walked up to Kadambari, Varma's unfinished and final work, and saw the notice stuck to the side informing her in bold and black of the museum's decision regarding its sale to a private collector in Mumbai and statutory farewell by month end, and though nobody ever actually saw her at it, it would be right to surmise that even a word as kolaveri would not have ably expressed the woman's resultant temperament. It must have been during a destined, unending green signal wait at one of the many traffic intersections en route home from the museum, that all the familiar caper films and inspired real-life heist tales jointly nudged her to steal the painting, and soon having scouted the museum grounds perhaps with deep regrets of a lack of foresight to ever have befriended thugs, mafias, such, and a firm resolve yet to bring the robbery to fortunate cessation that the woman chose to seek insider help, and approached the two guards in security. Two Saturdays later from then to the present now with the painting case investigation furiously underway, the older guard has gone on record to state that he had only grunted in bemused disbelief on hearing the woman's criminal fantasy, and it was his younger, more entrepreneurial partner, who despite incessant brotherly advice from him, that decided to bring the plan to fruition; though in more recent news updates, he agreed that it wouldn't be too wrong to say that he must have given parental guidance to the adventurous duo by passing on referrals of who that would arrange for an impeccable reproduction of the painting, after the revelation of which, he went ahead to take the longest extempore oath on television stating that withstanding the lone generous gesture, he had remained a law abiding citizen and would do so in each of the next nine lives. As the younger guard stay hospitalized, his wife appealed to the good junta to ensure that her guileless husband be acquitted, asserting she witnessed the woman threaten him into will while visiting their home with venture capital, and on being prodded about the money, she pronto denied any knowledge of it. In the warmest of scoops as the day retires, the owner of a coffee place two blocks away from the museum, reported that he distinctly remembered the man from newsflash photos and said to be in hospital, come into his shop a few days back; had served cold coffee to him, lemon tea to a woman companion and recalled being spectator to an exchange in the form of 'pleasure doing business,madam' from him, and a half-lipped smile from her in resonance.

Early Sunday morning, for one last time she stood where she would shortly place Kadambari, who she had met on a middle school educational field trip to the art museum; her impassioned quietude seeming to reflect her own, have ever since made her seek her. Later, when her day passed behind a steering wheel with no sign of the guard or the painting, she walked inside and breathlessly listened to the poker-faced older guard's anthropomorphic lie that kindly oversaw the younger guard on his day off, and when she spotted him near the painting with visiting nuns and kids and cats, initially stayed studying him studiously being nonchalant about her, but then when like a tease-smile-tease villain archetype he monologue-d Kadambari to her, to her of all; she, who was sinking with the imagery of her being sent away to some suburban Mumbai home base of an art collector who probably didn't care or know the least of her as the miscreant museum guard, felt the most noblesse oblige to defend the painting's grit. Rusty helplessness then transmuted into inventive discontent finding expression very quicksilver-like in her right hand, which while browsing the inner folds of her side purse met a swiss knife and a can of pepper spray that lied in wait of a potential rapist; made one quick move spraying all over the baffled man's face and then with the knife made a gracious circle out of the painting around the blasé right footed shoe that laid on the floor flirting intuitively with Kadambari's spirit. With the oil-painted scrap of paper safe in her hand and a multitude of story plots streaming into the author's conscious, the alarms of the world blared synchronously as she sprinted out of the building into the streets and hailed an auto-rickshaw into eternity. At dinner, she spilled piping hot tomato rasam over Anand's back hand, momentarily distracting him from the soccer news feed on his phone screen to shout out in pain. Apologizing she glanced at Sid, their three-month old son, who with sagacious eyes conveyed that he knew. Averting him, she ate listening to an enthused Anand go on about an in-app product his team were working on, betted on to be a market game changer, and the divorcing drive of his gusto and her distress started to daze. Needing lone time, she offered to clear out the plates and wash the dishes though it was his turn at weekend kitchen chores. I had this beautiful feeling today morning, of the kind that I've never felt before or will again, she mumbled later into Sid's ears as he gurgled back in profound understanding of that exact feeling which she was referring to, such that the former feeling by her and the latter understanding of it by him would both register the same on a conversion scale artful at gauging thought and emotion and arraying them in digits of micro-nano precision may be, and on futuristic models adept at zepto-yocto metrics, their personal numbers would still tally to the farthest deep. As she watched the child drift off to sleep, she thought about the painting case investigators, who surely having spoken to everyone in town on the petty criminal audacity, would zero in on her soon with conscientious constable women in neatly pinned khakhi green sarees to handcuff her away for them, for good. Or maybe, an empathetic High Court judge holding the trial might waive her offense off, in view of postpartum-psychosis, and she could be back home with Anand and Sid before long. Later, she ditched her pajama pants and slipped on a pair of faded, olive green jeans that she felt would compliment the police women's green better, and curled up next to Anand on the couch in front of the hall room TV, intently listening for the police siren.

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