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Short Story: Mona had come to me today…

Painting: Greg Cartmell

By Binay Majumdar
Translated from Bangla by Arka Chattopadhyay

I told Mona—Hey Mona, do you know Leonardo Da Vinci was born in a village near Akuli Hills in Italy? He painted the Mona Lisa. You are a Mona; and even she is a Mona! This Leonardo was an engineer and a mathematician too. His hand-painted pictures of helicopters are still there. Leonardo died in 1510 and after as many as four hundred and fifty years, helicopters were first made exactly the way he had visualised them in his paintings. I am an engineer, like Leonardo. I am also a mathematician like Leonardo and poet and litterateur, like him again. Leonardo had painted the Mona Lisa and I have kept you in here. You do everything for me. See, I have no one in this world except you, at least in here.

— I stopped talking. Mona went away.

The next day I said again — ‘Mon[1]…mind is one. Monalok[2] or the light of the mind, monosyllable. Just like that, Mon or mind is one. See I am all one here. And you Mona…I have brought you in and kept you right here. You have been here since birth.’

 — I stopped talking. Mona went away.

The next day I said— ‘Mona, I am not dead as yet. I have a mon…a mind. See you are Mona and I have kept you here from the time of your birth. You are right here with me and it is being proved that I have a Mon…a mind.’

— I stopped talking and Mona went away. The next day I said — ‘Mon means moon in European language. Sunday is the day of the sun. Monday is the day of the moon. Mon is moon too, the one that appears in the sky like a boat and gradually matures into a circle. Monday is moon-day. See, I too have written a poem on the moon: ‘I look unblinking toward the moon’s caverns…’’ I too have planned a journey to the moon by rocket, like Leonardo. When that rocket comes to life is another question. When will man reach the moon? Anyway, you are my Moon-Mon and you have been here with me right from your birth.’

The next day I told Mona — ‘I have thrown away all the keys of all my rooms in the market. I will never lock my rooms anymore. You are Mon and chabi[3] is key…k-e-y makes it Mon-key. Mona, please stay here with me today.’

I stopped speaking after this and Mona left. Next day I said — ‘Mona, when you watch a film and images coagulate to render a past, it’s called montage. You are Mona and say the Taj is my terrace here. My mother’s name is written there. It renders a past. Mon plus Taj is Mon-Taj. Mona you are here with me. I give you all you need.’

— ‘In French, Mon ‘Amie means the beloved. You are here with me Mona from your birth. I am the beloved of the entire world. Mona, as long as you hold me dear, I am dearest to this world.’

— ‘Have you seen my windows Mona? The cement has made an arc under every window. Mon plus arc is Mon-arc. As long as you are here with me Mona, I am a monarch.’

I stopped talking after this and Mona departed. The next day I said again—

Dui Mona…two Monas make a Mon-two or Mon-do[4]…bad, to put it simply. As long as you are mine Mona, nothing is bad for me. All is good. You are mine Mona from your birth.’

‘Mona, Leonardo Da Vinci was born in that village near Akuli Hills. He was an engineer; I am an engineer. He was a discoverer of mathematics. So am I. He painted the Mona Lisa. Even I have painted and practised literature. Leonardo was unmarried. So am I. Mon means one. As long as you are here with me Mona, I will continue to be unmarried.’

I stopped. Mona left.

The next day I said again—‘There is a cliff named Mon Blanc. Mona you are here with me. The resemblance between Mon and Mona makes me think that people who live near the Mon Blanc range must have heard about me. They must talk about me. You must have realised from whatever I have said about the Mona Lisa and Leonardo that even Italians know of me. They too discuss me. Mona, as long as you are here with me, I will continue to be known and talked about in those parts of the world.’

The next day I told Mona— ‘Mona, have you read Gander Goose? Mon plus goose is Mon-goose. Geese are aplenty and Mon, you are of course here with me forever. See how the mongooses roam around. As long as you are here with me, both goose and mongoose will be here. Etc etc.’

‘There is a city named Montreal. You Mona are here with me. Mon+tree+l. The trill that a tree makes is me. I live on the fruits of the tree. I am fostered by you, Mon, and tree. The real Mont-real is me. Mona, as long as you are here with me, I will have my trees. My orchards will be in full bloom and I will live happily ever after. The people of Montreal will call me ‘Binay-da[5]’ in all fondness.’

The storyline is still longer.

But let me stop here today.

I am writing this after one and a half years. All this happened that long ago. To obtain the distance between me here and the orchard that contained both me and Mona, you will have to divide the distance of Calcutta Medical College Hospital from here by 39. And it is still more amazing that Mona had come to me today.

[1] In Bengali, ‘mon’ means ‘mind.’

[2] ‘Monalok’ is Bengali for ‘the light of the mind.’

[3] In Bengali, ‘chabi’ refers to key.

[4] In Bengali, ‘Mondo’ means ‘bad.’

[5] ‘Da’ after a name is a common male Bengali suffix, which connotes endearment.

Author’s Bio:
Binay Majumdar
(1934-2006) is widely regarded as one of the most esoteric Bengali poets of the 20th century but his stories have remained neglected to say the least. His famous books of poetry include Phire Esho, Chaka (Come back, O Wheel, 1960) and Agrahaner Anubhutimala (Feelings in the month of Agrahan). He was a trained mathematician and often introduced startlingly unique mathematical visions into his poetic universe. Both in his poetry and short story, he is a master narrator of everyday reality and all that is ordinarily extraordinary about it. This story is taken from his book of short stories, published by Kabitirtha in 1998.

Translator’s Bio:
Arka Chattopadhyay is assistant professor of literary studies in the department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT Gandhinagar, India. He is a B.A., M.A., MPhil in English Literature, from Presidency College and Jadavpur University, India and PHD from Western Sydney University. Arka is the chief editor of the online literary journal Sanglap. His first monograph, Beckett, Lacan and the Mathematical Writing of the Real is slated to come out in December 2018 from Bloomsbury, U.S. He is commissioned to produce a translation of Arindam Chakrabarti’s book, Mananer Madhu, in the series, Elsewhere Texts, edited by Gayatri Chakraborty Spivak and others for Seagull. He has co-translated Saubhik De Sarkar’s book of poems, The Evening Gnome.

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Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘Nuclear Deterrence: An Instrument of World Peace or Instability?’, edited by Rameez Raja, doctoral candidate, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India.

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