Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mr. Ray, Part 3

Mr. Ray
by Scott Bradley

If you missed out on reading Part 1 & Part 2, you might want to go back to read them first!

Is compassion nothing more than the cultivation of virtue at the expense of another? Does the saint use the suffering poor as monks might imprison thousands of chickens to fund their spiritual quest, or another raise cattle for the flesh on their bones?

He had one last thing to tell me as his mind steadily dimmed throughout the day, but I did not hear him clearly and fear that I did. “I raped my sister,” I thought I heard.

It was Durga Puja, ten days in which straw effigies of the mother goddess of Calcutta are carried and worshiped in long processions throughout the city. I jumped a trolley and slowly swayed back to the Brothers’ House through crowds of pilgrims coming to pay homage to Kali, goddess of time and change, and alter-aspect of the selfsame Durga, the Divine Mother as Warrior. Yes, there were other Mothers in Kalighat.

The next day was Saturday and I went on an errand to the old factory. Sunday was mass for the Brothers and a day off for me. Thus it was on Monday that my eyes immediately fell on the empty pallet. He was gone and I hadn’t said good-bye. I would find him behind the cistern. This was an experience I could have done without. Many things in Calcutta came to a halt during Durga Puja and the collecting of the dead was one of them. I did not expect to find a full house. Nor one so befouled by the stench of rotting human flesh. But I entered just the same.

I remember saying good-bye and sorry to Mr. Ray but in honesty I don’t remember his face. It is the image of twin stillborns that fills that place. One hopes they were stillborn. In any case they, like many before them, were left on the doorstep of Nirmal Hriday, “Pure Heart”, because the mother could not afford the wood to cremate them.

“Well, he got his wish — he left,” said Sister Luke when she saw me leave the morgue.

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