K.R. Meera is a multi-award-winning writer and journalist. She has published short stories, novels and essays, and has won some of the most prestigious literary prizes. The Unseeing Idol of Light, K.R. Meera’s latest book is a haunting tale that explores love and loss, blindness and sight, obsession and suffering-and the poignant interconnections between them.
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
Deepti had gone missing one day before the TV centre in Thiruvananthapuram was commissioned. On their last day together, Prakash and Deepti had mostly talked about TV.
‘Considering the state of affairs here, we’ll probably get to watch TV by the time our son goes to college! Though I sometimes wonder whether we will ever really be so lucky.’ Deepti laughed, the rich timbre of her voice reminiscent of a finger knocking softly against a bronze pitcher.
That laughter and her question had resounded so often in Prakash’s ears that he had refused to purchase a TV in his home for a very long time. TV, to Prakash, was inexplicably associated with misfortune. In the shock of losing Deepti, the nerves controlling his vision had separated, making him blind. As it turned out, he never really had the luck to watch TV, just as Deepti had predicted.
Much later, when cable TV came into vogue, Prakash had two unexpected visitors at the town’s government college, where he was employed as the chief librarian. A young woman and a man had dropped in, carrying a camera and a microphone.
‘We would like to interview you since you are a blind librarian.’ The young woman brusquely extended the microphone towards him.
‘Where did you get such pretty lips, my girl?’ Prakash’s brazen query stunned the woman.
‘Ah, you are not blind, are you?’
‘Aren’t we all blind in some way or the other?’
Opening Chekov’s Collected Stories and turning to page 132, Prakash started reading out from ‘The Husband’, the book held close to his nose.
‘It makes me sick to look at her!’ he muttered. ‘Going on for forty and nothing to boast of at any time, she must powder her face and lace herself up!’
The young woman peeked into the book and, seeing that he was perfectly correct, beat a hasty retreat. However, after they had left, Prakash regretted sending them away. Deepti might have seen the TV programme in some corner of the world, recognized him and returned to spread light again in his life. Immersed in this thought, he became extremely frustrated.
Even after so many years he had not been able to reconcile himself to Deepti’s departure. He had been completely prepared to be a father, and eager to play with his little son, when Deepti disappeared. In his mind’s eye, he repeatedly saw how, on that evening, seated in the kitchen, Deepti and he had enjoyed platefuls of ada with their tea.