One Night Stand

By: Athena Ningthoujam

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Traveling for me is like breathing. As breathing is needed for my body, traveling is needed for my soul. Before the tiny, shape-shifting virus decided to shake up our lives and make us dance to its wily tunes, I have been going to this small eating place, known locally as hoten (a small local eatery), where an Abok (grandmother) sells hot snacks called bora and other different kinds of foods called singju, kanghou among many others. The best thing about humble places like this is that one can eat as much as one likes without much worry about the bill at the end of one’s gluttony trip. 

I, as usual, was having singju and bora with changang (red tea) at Abok’s place. There were several places like hers in the area but I always ate at Abok’s. Abok’s singju and bora were the talk of the area and they were absolutely the best. She served the boras hot which always made me crave for more. It was not just the boras which she served hot but also the warmth which came along with the foods. I am not sure what I craved more for were the hot boras because they were hot and delicious or that the boras came with her warmth. 

She lovingly called me eshu (grandchild). Other neighboring Aboks who were also selling the same foods teased her whenever I came to her place, “See, nashunupi (granddaughter) has come.” 

There was something about Abok. Whenever I ordered for a plate of bora, I noticed that she always gave me one or two pieces more than she gave others. It was the same with singju or kanghou or changang. She always gave me a little more of everything.

In my eyes, Abok looked so beautiful like a Goddess with the graceful lines of her wrinkles decorating her sparkly eyes and her silver-grey hair shining in the sunset. She was like Goddess Emoinu to me. In the cold winter nights, I yearned for her hot boras and changang. She often visited my memory with her teethless smile as I could not travel there everyday because it was a little far from home. 

Suddenly the news of the pandemic hit the world. The lockdown was imposed and everything was shut. I could not go to Abok’s. I broke down because I could not even call her up as she did not have a phone of her own. I often felt like running away to Abok. I just could not stop thinking about her. 

As the lockdown extended, I started to get worried about her, thinking if the lockdown affected Abok and her family badly. Sometimes during the lockdown, I skipped my lunch and dinner as I just could not get myself to eat. When I was about to have my lunch, I suddenly remembered Abok smiling at me.

One evening, I really thought of visiting Abok so I got dressed up in a frenzy. Then my mother stopped me saying that there were strict lockdown restrictions. I knew that but I could not stop myself. As my mother knocked some sense into me, I got into my room and shut myself in. Mama tried her best to get me to come out of my room to have dinner. She said she made my favourite boras and eromba (a dish) for dinner. But she failed. I skipped dinner that night again. I got sick the next morning.

I was burning up. My parents were worried and got me tested for COVID-19. The results came in and I was tested negative. My family heaved a sigh of relief on knowing that. So, maybe I was burning up inside with all the emotions I have been feeling for days and months during the lockdown. The pool of emotions dwelling inside of me peaked so high that I caught fever! 

That night, I thought of how Abok must be spending the night. Was she okay? Was she healthy? Did she need help? So many questions ran through my mind. I remembered another Abok told me that she lost her youngest son a few years back. Abok looked lost at times although she laughed often. I could see pain masked in her eyes. Maybe, she laughed often to mask the pain from herself. Then I told myself inside my head, “Whenever the lockdown is lifted and the situation gets a little better, I am going to request Abok to let me spend one night with her at her home.” 

I wanted to know about her life. I wanted to let my guard down and be vulnerable with her, then maybe, she would also let her guard down and be vulnerable with me and share a small part of her life, her stories with me. I wanted to spend that whole one night listening to Abok. This is the one-night stand I wish to have. And I wish to travel across the most distant corners of the world for many more one-night stands like this with people like Abok. 

By: Athena Ningthoujam

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  1. ‘One night stand’ usually refers to sexual relationship lasting only one night but the writer here has beautifully put up how it can be interpreted in a different way. How one night stand can also be a relationship between an elderly strange woman and a young lady who is curious about how the world works for the old grandma.

  2. ‘One Night Stand’ is beautifully knitted with thread of life’s happenings to make every reader feel emotional tone and imagine that the events, which the author depicts drawing the indigenous backgrounds during a crucial period, took place in her real life and her writing style moved us to humanity.

  3. ‘One Night Stands’ is skillfully narrated with the threads of life’s rare moments to make every reader feel emotional and compassionate about an old woman who struggles for her livelihood during a crucial period of time. The story is so awesome that it indeed works for humanity.

  4. Love the nostalgia and feeling of comfort woven into the story. The way the phrase “one night stand” has been interpreted is unique and brings to light the beautiful moments the author shared with a good vendor.


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