A tale from rural India
Young Panak considered himself a thinker and writer; his colleagues considered him opinionated and mad; his thinking was at variance with theirs, he was stubborn and bull headed to boot.
The human ‘soul’ was the singular obsession of Panak’s preoccupation. He would contemplate it for days, in deep thought – missing out on food, snacking when hungry, and sleeping fitfully at night.
I suppose ‘soul’ is a combination of energy, a life-giving force, with somehow a destiny intertwined. But what is this force? And what is energy? Both terms are so vague and interchangeable. He decided he needed a ‘soul’ to properly study it. But how would he get hold of a ‘soul’? Nobody had ever done so.
He would kill his wife.
Yes, of course, killing her would help his experiment; he would have to make sure he captured her soul - that was the whole idea – he wanted her spirit.
Panak lay awake at night: he thought of ways to take her life and the method he would use to capture her spirit.
Kanika was his wife of five years, but there was nothing between them; he wouldn’t miss her – she never was anyone he thought about; she was just there. At times he didn’t notice her, forgot her existence, he would see her as she walked past, a couple of feet from his nose, and he would wonder who it was until his mind came back to the present
Panak had married Kanika when she was fifteen – good looking, good figure, but dumb. Her father had let out a big sigh of relief after the ceremony. Her family had painfully accepted that no one would marry her, for she was dull and stupid. The malaria that had struck her down as a child had affected her brain: she would sit for hours looking at nothing, saying nothing. She was ‘all grown up’ now and though her brain was underdeveloped, her body had matured unhindered.
Panak had married her because his mother kept badgering him to ‘marry’ before she died, ‘I’m getting old, son,’ was her constant whine. He didn’t want to marry at all, but his mother’s hounding was distracting him from his writing, from his study of the occult. Though he had eventually conceded to marry, he was angry at being coerced; he would like to ‘turn the tables’ on his mother.
During his travels through the country to collect material for his writing, he had visited the village where Kanika lived. One look at the girl and he knew he had his revenge. He would marry this 'retard' and show his mother what comes of harassment.
His mother was horrified when she saw the girl, but he insisted. If she wanted him to marry he would marry only her.
And so a wedding took place.
That was five years ago; he had slept with her once. He would not take her out. And as compensation he paid her bus fare back to her village every few months; she was grateful and happy to go. But her parents looked sad on seeing that fate had struck their only daughter this cruel blow.
She had made a friend in the village pundit who was always patient with her: he would explain to her, like one would to a child, that which she could not understand. She learned slowly. She didn’t mind him groping her breasts in exchange or making her handle his front part; it did nothing for her; she was glad to please him and grateful he took time to explain things to her. He had entered her a few times too, not in front…
“No, no,” he had said, “that will put a child in you.”
She realized, over time that she had a certain hold on him, tenuous though it may be, it was there. She had never had sway over anyone before.
“But how am I going to think like you people?” she asked the pundit on her visits. “I know I am stupid and just cannot think, but you’ve got to help me.”
He gave her herbs to eat and concoctions to drink saying it would help her. But it did not and she became more insistent.
“Eat a lot of brain in your diet,” he told her in desperation, “it will help your brain develop.”
She had consumed brain in her diet: chickens’, goats’ and sheep’s for years now and it had not helped.
“It’s not working,” she told him.
“You are eating the brains of animals; they are not very bright so it is not showing quick results. Perhaps, it will take a long time.”
And then one night ‘like a bolt from the blue’ a thought entered her dim mind: it would have to be the brain of a human being. Someone clever, someone clever like her husband. That’s it, she decided, she would have to eat her husband’s brain.
She mulled over it for months; she would have to kill her husband and eat his brain. But she could not think of a way to do so. She studied him every day: he would sit at the dining table, oblivious of his surroundings, pen in hand and eyes staring into space. She would walk around him a few times, but he would not see her. This looks too easy, she thought; even she should be able to kill him.
Of late, Panak noticed his wife kept staring at him. Could she possibly be picking up some faint brain transmission from him indicating he planned to kill her? These dumb types had some strange powers. He looked hard at her, but only encountered a blank look from her glassy eyes.
She confided in the pundit:
“You said I was eating the brain of animals and as animals are not clever it is not helping me.”
“Give it time, it will help eventually.” how was he going to get out of this one he moaned?
“I have decided to eat a clever brain.”
“What do you mean, what’s a clever brain?”
“I’m going to eat a man’s brain, a clever man’s brain – like the brain of my husband: he’s clever, his brain should help me.”
The pundit was staring at her open mouthed. She couldn’t
be joking – no, she was too dumb to joke. Oh my God, she is serious!
“Look, don’t be silly that won’t help.” Lord, what had he got himself into?
“Of course it will help – you said so yourself. And how can you now say it won’t help?”
“Just relax, Kanika. Let me think this out, don’t do anything stupid.” Please, God, help me, he prayed silently.
“Have you been lying to me so you can play with my breasts?”
“No, no, I haven’t been lying, promise!”
“Well then it is settled. You will have to help me.”
“Help you…to kill your Husband?”
“Can you think of any other way I could eat his brain?”
Panak was putting the last touches to his plan. There were still a few lose ends he would have to tie up. He had located a lead lined coffin: “It’s completely air tight,” the undertaker had assured him. Well, that was one angle that was covered. He still had to talk to a Christian priest. He needed clarification on certain points: if a devil’s spirit could enter a human body; then surely a human spirit could be made to enter an animal’s body - stood to reason. He would have to ensure everything was perfect; there would be no second chance.
He would refrigerate the coffin by filling it with ice and after drugging his wife place her in it along with a ground squirrel. Whilst her body would succumb to the extreme temperature, the squirrel would go into hibernation and survive – squirrels could do that. It would survive until a certain temperature; the trick was to catch it before it succumbed and so ensure that its weakened metabolism would accept his wife’s spirit. He would then have a squirrel with a soul.
The doorbell rang jerking him out of his reverie.
“Yes?” He opened the door tentatively.
“I am a pundit from the village your wife comes from. May I come in please?”
“Okay… I am busy though.” He noticed the saffron robes and the smell of incense about him.
“I won’t take much of your time.”
The pundit had come on a whim; he didn’t have a plan, and would have to play it by ear.
Kanika walked in and her face lit up: he has come to help me, how nice! She smiled at the pundit and joined her palms, “Namaste! I’ll bring you some tea.”
“Well, what is it you want?” Panak asked, somewhat annoyed at being disturbed.
“Nothing really, I was in the area, I thought we would chat.”
“Chat! About what?”
Punditji scratched the stubble on his chin, “Well, I believe you don’t get along with your wife…I mean you don’t exercise your conjugal rights…”
“What’s it to you?” Panak was now getting angry.
“I believe you married her to spite your mother. Well, your mother has been dead these four long years now – God rest her soul - should you vent your anger on an innocent young girl? She has not been at fault, so why torture her? Give her a chance I dare say she deserves it.”
“Right, okay! So you have now had your say, finish your tea and then I would appreciate if you left.”
Kanika went to the woodpile at the back of the house; she picked up the axe and ran a finger over the blade: it was sharp enough - it would have to do. Punditji was here to help her; she must do it now.
She had heard that in the ‘Hindu Tantric’ way when a woman was to take the life of her husband she would loosen her hair, bare her chest, and apply mustard oil over her upper body, her breasts, and nipples. Kanika did that now and holding the axe aloft entered the room where her husband was conversing with the pundit. Both men looked up, their mouths fell open: Kanika was panting with excitement; her bare oiled breasts heaved rhythmically and her eyes stared out demonically.
“Hold his arms,” she shouted to the pundit.
But both men were too shocked to react. Kanika, with raised axe moved towards her husband. The men jumped up: Panak grabbed her arms and twisted her around whilst the pundit removed the axe from her grip.
“Kill him!” she screamed.
Panak turned her around and slapped her hard twice on the face. Kanika collapsed on the carpet in a heap, her nose bleeding.
That was three days ago. Panak had kept her sedated and she had slept all day. Panak assumed she must have suffered a trauma, possibly because he had not touched her sexually for years now – not since their wedding five years ago, and she was a young healthy girl. He would compensate her before he killed her: let her die sexually contented.
Next day Panak gave her a lethal dose of sedatives. He had packed the powerful sedatives in ten capsules that would dissolve in her stomach in twenty minutes – time enough to make love to her for the last time and to give the final touches to the coffin; time too to place the ground squirrel in a sequestered corner in the coffin.
Panak disrobed and walked naked to his wife’s bed and undressed her. She looked at him with big eyes, but didn’t say anything. He stroked her breasts: she did have a very lovely body he saw, and then he entered her. When he climaxed he heard a little involuntary moan from her – that touched him. He too had enjoyed it very much and had sweated freely during the embrace. He got off her gently and went to the room where the coffin lay.
He sat by the coffin thinking: perhaps, he should give her a chance; she had really done nothing to displease him. If, when the sedative began to work, he were to exercise her, forcing her to walk and induce vomiting she would recover from the effects of the sedative. Of course, if he put her into the ice filled coffin she would die. He wondered which option to take.
This was a whole new development: for the first time in his married life he was thinking of her and of her feelings. The pundit was right, it was no fault of hers that she was struck by cerebral malaria as a child and had suffered brain damage; perhaps a neurosurgeon would be able to do something with her… he would have to investigate that line.
But what of his experiment… he would have to put it ‘on hold’ until he could get around to it. It really needed to be re-thought; he would take one thing at a time. First he would see if his wife could be helped; it would probably cost a heap, but he now felt he owed it to her.
Kanika crept up very quietly behind him, axe ‘on the ready’. She could feel the sedative taking hold - she must hurry. He was crouched over the ice filled coffin and did not hear her. She lifted the axe and brought it down hard on Panak’s head: splitting it open and killing him instantly. The momentum of the downswing threw her off balance; she tottered and fell headlong into the ice filled coffin jolting the lid shut. She struggled feebly, but the sedative had now taken hold.
She relaxed and let the soothing waves overwhelm her.