Tea Leaves Crushing


 Tea Leaves Crushing



When we sat on the wooden bench inside the loneliest hovel you can think of, the tea garden across the street seemed to yawn hard amid its afternoon nap.

A leopard hid there the whole day the other day. The diffident- looking shopkeeper told us.

The sunlight seemed to slip and spread its wings on the leaves as if you could see the leopard right there blinking its eyes in the unreasonably strong sun of late autumn.

A woman passed by with three wicker baskets one on top of the other. The edges of her glass bangles sparkled in the oblique sun.

The tea stall owner was sitting on a different bench -- a placid man with a distinct mark on his forehead. The quiet slouch of a narrow passage separated us. The light and shade made sure our shadows would not be wasted.

The leopard hid there the whole day. It can hide in the garden so easily, despite having such radiant colours on its skin. He said.

Water was hissing on his small stove. I saw two tiny butterflies fluttering against each other over a narrow channel at the back of the shop.

They come out of their hideouts during twilight. He said. There is something about darkness slowly foraging in the forest. There is something about the evenings and the animals. He repeated.

He poured tea leaves into the seething water. It assumed the colour of the evening. If only evenings could have a colour of their own and if tea leaves in water could give it a name, I thought.

It was so quiet that when clouds of dust were kicked up by a car and the plants rustled in the garden, I could almost hear the leopard rasp.

Among the tea garden and the rows of houses, in the century-old factory, the crusher, the blower, and the drier thundered away. The luxuriant green leaves morphed into scorched-bronzed dust there.

Evening is a strange time. He said.

It certainly is, I said, sipping on my tea.

One night it came out from where it hid. The leopard. He said.

The mark on his forehead was so distinct now, I felt one could touch it without doing so. 

That night we killed it.

The scent of leaves whose very souls seemed to have been emptied out by the crusher, pervaded us.

Yes, we trapped the leopard and killed it with local weapons-- whatever we could lay our hands on. And then only did we bury the body of the woman it dared to tear apart.

Somewhere a child whined inconsolably. A lullaby, sieved through the mesh of the evening, came from the distance. Then both died down imperceptibly.

She was mine, that woman. He said.

A small bus went on the high street, whistling. The odour of the crushed leaves became oppressive now. I tried to feel the blaze that would turn them impeccably brown in a minute.

She was the only one I had. Since she is gone, evenings bring a torpor I never get over.

The air of the twilight was slowly giving way to that of the night.



1.      Rongili Biswas


Rongili Biswas is a bilingual writer and musician based in Kolkata, India. She writes in English and Bengali (her mother tongue). She has published a novel and a collection of short stories and has edited three books. She has also published fiction, creative non-fiction, memoirs, travelogues, features and reviews in journals, literary magazines and periodicals including The Telegraph, RIC Journal, Potato Soup Journal, Down in the Dirt, Café Dissensus, Raiot, thespace.ink, Mad in India (Tendance Floue Editions)Humanities Underground, Yawp Journal, Muse India, and Wion.

Rongili has recently finished writing a novel on nineteenth- century French literature and Gustave Flaubert. She is the winner of two literary awards. Her novel ‘That Jahangir who disappeared from custody’ has won the prestigious 'Bangla Academy' award (2015) and one of her stories, ‘The Ballad of the Palm Trees’ has won the 'Katha' award (2005) (the best story of a year in a language in India). An economist by profession, Rongili has published widely in development and public and political economics.

Some of her writings can be found at:

         Prose-poem: The Love Bugs, Plum Tree Tavern, forthcoming.

         Short Fiction: My Playmate’s House, Down in the Dirt Magazine (Scars Publications), August 22, 2022.

         Short Fiction: The Size of Sorrow’, Potato Soup Journal, April 7, 2022, http://potatosoupjournal.com/the-size-of-sorrow-by-rongili-biswas/

     Creative Non-fiction: ‘Dreaming about Stendhal: Ashes of Roses, The Tale of a Disappearing Grave, and the Charterhouse of Parma’, Yawp Journal, February, Edition V, 2022, https://www.yawpjournal.com/edition-vi/dreaming-about-stendhal%3A-ashes-of-roses%2C-the-tale-of-a-disappearing-grave-and-the-charterhouse-of-parma

      Impressions: ‘The Dream of a Leaf and Others’, RIC Journal, https://ricjournal.com/2021/03/19/the-dream-of-a-leaf-and-others/ 19 March, 2021.

  Impressions: ‘The Riverbend at Eventide’ and ‘The woman gestured to a Cat’, the space.ink,https://thespace.ink/literature-and-fiction/fiction-poetry/impressions/23 July, 2021.

      Article: ‘In Quest of Flaubert: Palimpsest as a Narrative Mode’, published in Jadavpur Journal of  comparative Literature, 53, 2016-2017.

     Short fiction: ‘L’ombre Ancienne’, published in Mad in India, Tendance Floue Editions, France, 2008.

     Feature Article : ‘A day in Barkhola: Memory, history and the fading everyday in India’s Northeast’ https://cafedissensus.com/2020/03/21/a-day-in-barkhola-memory-history-and-the-fading-everyday-in-indias-northeast/, Café Dissensus, March 21, 2020

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