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Unfinished Bridge

Madhukant Kalpit
Translator: Dr. Atulkumar Parmar

I stopped.
I was shocked by the crackling sound. I immediately looked in the opposite direction. Something had been broken down of the unfinished end of the bridge. Labourers were gathered. They were shouting and making noise. Different but strange sounds were coming out. I resisted the oscillations of the sound and started to walk quickly.
I stopped suddenly.
Somebody was calling me from the back. Nobody had called me after my mother’s death. There was a scorching heat. Uncovered skin by the chappal was also burning. Eyes were also leaden by the sunlight.
It was not that all the social relations were broken. Someone called me, but I didn’t like it. I found the speech just as hollow and empty words. People entered my heart with an old sound. My mind was lost in thoughts.
This happened to me so many times. Afterwards I tried to understand and recognize.
‘Why didn’t you speak anything?’
Still I hadn’t looked back. Something still tried to plunge in my mind.
Cloud came. Eyes were relaxed. I was also relieved.
The colony in front of me was looked like a painting in the sunshine. From many huts, smoke was coming out. There was no wind; so fire pit was full of smoke. I wanted to return. A woman had asked me something but I nodded my head. She must be satisfied with my sign answer. An old man sat on a cot stared at both of us while smoking a hookah.
Unfinished construction work of new bridge in front of me was also going on. Girls passed by me with their swinging chest and raising eyes. The girls were also like unfinished bridge – I muttered. Cloud moved away. Once again, the sun shone with extreme heat. My eyes tried to close themselves. My head became heavy. The old man told me that the owner of the construction site would come late.
The owner of the construction site passed through the thin wall of blood and entered my body. For a moment, I was trembled. After sometime, I was balanced. When mother died the owner of the construction site had given the expenditure for cremation and other death rituals. For people the owner of the construction site was a kind man.
The huts covered with tarpaulin and jute bags looked like a patch on the sunshine. Because of wind, the smoke was flying high.
‘It’s good that you have come.’
There was a dropping sound in my mind. Rotlo was put in the pan with a thrash. I was trembled at the sound.
The old man stood up hurriedly while keeping the hookah slanting on the small fence. He moved away as a goat came towards him. Then he climbed the creeper (which had come down) on the hut. The old man was peaking something but nothing can be understood amidst the noises of all sides. For some time I stared.
The owner of the construction site was a good man – I muttered. Then gradually I got angry. My voice sank in me along with so many past events. Something was floating on the surface.
Was corpse of my mother floating?
I remembered the moment when I cremated my mother. I didn’t cry. There was an acute pain of somebody had left.
Was the agony floating?
I tried to see minutely. Lot of sunshine was tiring my eyes and me. Therefore, I was a little bit tired.
I wanted to return. The sounds had increased also. The sounds were mixed in each other so I could not understand exactly. However, there was no head for me to understand what were the sounds suggesting. All of them were sounds of the construction work, which was going on.
I walked quite a long distance, came near the construction site, and stood.
A naked child was rolling his finger in its nostrils. I asked something to it. Instead answering it nodded its head and went away smilingly.
Smoke was trying to move upwards at far.
I was sweated. With an increase in humidity, restlessness also increased in my body. In addition, there were continuous dashing sounds of the construction site, which increased my uneasiness. I didn’t like all these things from the past few days. There was a big water tank nearby. I stepped towards it. Swinging reflection of the sun filled my eyes. Suddenly uneasiness passed through my body like a short-circuit. I opened my eyes. The owner of the constructed site woke up while crumbling his laziness. I turned my face. I was full of contempt for the owner of the construction site. Now I felt that if the owner of the construction site has married my mother then today she might be alive!
Coward – I uttered. I remembered past of my mother. I also went through social periphery of the owner. The owner tried to explain me how a man is helpless before societal norms as a teacher explains to his students in school. Sometimes he was lost while discussing positive sides of the caste hierarchy. At that time, it was fine for me.
Now I felt if my mother had been from an upper caste family, perhaps…
Mother was a labourer so she died.
Bitter memories of the past expanded gradually like a bubble. I didn’t wait for the bubble to burst. Bubble burst and uncountable cycles of past toppled down on me. All the intrigues were soaked in the blood. My neck was dampened. I wiped sweat from my forehead.
I was walking fast.
Girls were making joyous noise on the scaffolding while passing large iron troughs. Their hands were throwing troughs harmoniously. The concrete mixer machine was also making noise simultaneously.
Another boy came and stood before me. I understood that the owner was calling me. I felt that something had scrolled my legs. The thing that had scrolled my legs was heavy. Then I tried to pull myself.
An old security guard was smoking a bidi near an iron cabin in front of me.
Once again, he smiled at me. When he came to give a letter of my job to my house, he also gave me news of the owner while going back. Still he was staring at me. I was amazed on his style of looking with one eye. He didn’t changed his eyesight so I said to him, ‘I came to meet the owner.’ Afterwards I realized that there was no need to tell him all these things. Even I did not want to meet the owner. For the last quarter and a month, I was regularly thinking that I should not come here to meet the owner. Last news of the owner was, ‘take money and don’t worry for any matter.’ I had a strong dislike for the kindness of the owner.
I was given compensatory job against my mother. This compensation had also flared a scorn as I did not want to progress where my mother lived. I said slowly in ears.
The car was parked. The owner must be waiting.
Everything was waving in my mind. I desired to break all these things.
I walked as if I was grabbing myself.
Huts were looked clean.
Smoke had risen up and became a blot in the sky and now it was steady.
Sunshine was extremely yellow, bright and scorching.
I had come quite far but still the toppled down noise had joined me with them.
Everything was quite clear on the surface. Slowly my weight had been increasing and I was sinking deep and deep.
I stood steadily and looked at everything and I found myself just before me. I was busy in building a bridge to cross me.
As wonder was not getting over so I saw myself repeatedly.
And there was a huge blast.
Suddenly I was shocked. Suddenly came on the surface.
I looked around.
Everything was as it is.
Then from where did the terrible voice come?
Once again, I peeped and looked in myself.

Endnotes :
Rotlo – thick pancake of flour made by patting dough with the hand.

Dr. Atulkumar Parmar, Asst. Professor in English, Mahadev Desai Gramseva Mahavidyalaya, Gujarat Vidyapith, Randheja, Gandhinagar, Gujarat. Email: