There was a Mr. Das who worked as an accountant. He calculated dues, without hope and without despair. He did not understand passion. When, as a child, he noticed his mother angling herself for the vendors, ever so seductively he did not understand it. His father’s quiet sniffles to ghazals, he did not understand either. A man of numbers. Love, not so much. It would all make a knot in his solar plexus. The most inaccessible part of his abdomen. Aches and ailments troubled him. But the origin of pain was unknown. Not soreness, or a muscular injury or tissue tear. It was simply divine. So, in his 60th year, when his core anchored him to the bed, he sought out a release for the knot. A detangling. He stayed in bed for days, until his sheets became so dirty, they looked clean. And on the 7th day of the week-long meditation, he began to look for the perfect set of hands, with the perfect length and girth of fingers to detangle his knot. So, he began his search for the perfect hands. And found a hoarding on his way to Calcutta. An ad for a tea company. The hands holding the saucer looked just right. He went to the ad agency and asked after the model.
“A jeweller’s courtesan?”
He was told that she had become a jeweller’s courtesan in the countryside and did not take jobs anymore.
“So, it would be pointless to ask her to lend her hands?”
“What for, Das Sahib?”, he was asked. “What kind of a job do you want her to do, we have other models, we are sure, they will fit your requirements?”
“I want her to untangle my knot,” he said truthfully. And was laughed out of the premises.
Over a drunken meal of gravy and rice, a stranger told him about the Woman with the most amazing breasts, with symmetrical beauty spots, like a trail of ants running to and from the nipples for nourishment.
“Her hands, though?” Das asked.
“No one pays attention to her hands, Das. You are a very strange man.”
And he was a strange man, but more than that he was an honest man. And a terrible card player.
Hands or no hands, he was told, he would find all kinds of women at night. In alleys, popping cherries and giving massages. Quick fucks, and English hand-jobs.
His Dinner Partner had been a salesman. After he was done reeling him in, he said , “Provided you have enough money. These services have become expensive, especially if you want a clean woman. Not an old-hag, or a transvestite, not a purveyor of disease and decay.”
Das was troubled, but every night at sundown his abdomen hurt and he would slip into the morning hours, convinced of his endeavour. His search for the Perfect Hands. One evening as he was writhing in pain, on the side of the ghats, he saw the perfect hands coaxing out grime from dirty clothes. With such grace and sophistication that the river ran black and soapy. A technician, a washerwoman, a priestess of the nearby temple? Who was to say who it was? But with that image, Das awoke the next morning. It could have been a dream, he thought, a trick of the mind. By now, the evening Aarti had begun and the temple bells heralded nightfall, and at 6pm his intestines would make space for the pain to spread comfortably. Fleshless cheeks, jagged lips, it looked like sickness mixed with honesty, and it gave him a strange pallor. He ran into his Dinner Partner who asked after him with concern.
“You look like a fish out of water, Das.” He felt like a fish out of water. Like a trout in Kutch. A cruel joke.
“The knot, sahib, is troubling me. You must take me to these women of the night. Women, who they say, make everything better and help people sleep again.”
Das and his Dinner Partner began a thorough inspection of all the hands east of the river. And with every wrong set of hands, he wished only for a dispassionate life. A life of no knots, no slutty mothers and lovelorn fathers. By now the news of two men demanding to see all the women’s hands had spread to the west of the ghats. To hasten the process, his partner had promised all of Das’s savings as a reward to the woman with the perfect hands. So, women of the night, women of the afternoon, and women of all times of the day lined up with their arms outstretched. Washing and lotioning years of neglect by the minute. And a woebegone Das, brought to his knees by the proteins and enzymes of the God of Pain.
“Does it hurt when you lift something?” Asked a voice from amidst the crowd.
“It hurts to live and breathe,” said Das.
“Can I come closer?” asked the cautious voice.
“Please do” answered Dinner Partner, detecting Das’s handicap.
A biblical part appeared in the sea of women as the voice with the Perfect Hands approached the dying man. A perfect set of hands. The enzymes and proteins of the God of Pain worked overtime at their sight.
“I am a doctor at the nearby hospital you see”, the woman began to address the space between the dinner partner and the man in pain, unsure of the etiquette.
“And the descriptions of his pain, from what I have heard, that is, the knot, it worsening at night, it sounds awful: a lot like a….”
Loss of words.
“Awful like a malady of the heart?” The partner tried to coax the lost words into her perfect mouth.
“Can I see the knot?” She asked.
His body assumed the swiftness of an automaton and prostrated in front of the woman who was going to make everything better and help him sleep at night.
“Where is the knot, you said?” She asked pressing his body for the origin of the pain.
“It is a divine pain, miss, have you not been listening? It is a pain of lost time, in the permanent pores of skin, in the follicles of his hair, that is where the pain is. Now detangle his knot, quench his passion.” The Dinner Partner sermoned, and the sea of women became misty-eyed.
“Save him” the wine from within him cried.
“As I said earlier, I am a doctor at the nearby hospital and this looks like a severe case of hernia. This knot he talks of.”
With this she uncovered an ugly bump on his groin.
“This bulge, you see, is a common symptom of hernia.”
“You know not what you speak of” cried the Partner, “the bowl of virility has burst from within him, like an unchecked dam. Tend to his need… Of love!” The quality of the theatrics tapered slightly.
“Sir, it’s a paraesophageal hernia. He needs surgery. Hold him in this position while I get help.” She contorted Das like a spiky fruit in polythene and handed him to the Partner, before diving into the sea of womenfolk. A biblical partition appeared again, and a painless, passionless and now penny-less Das was bundled into the back of an ambulance reserved for accountants like him.