Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Quite a few months back, my car halted at a traffic jam. It was busy morning I recall. People shouting, the incessant honking of horns, and vile exhaust pipes bellowing clouds of smoke everywhere. The sweltering heat didn’t help either.
It’s a strange, looking out at the world from a car window, sheltered in that cocoon.
Nearby there was footpath. It was a regular Kolkata footpath with a muddy gutter; shaded partially by trees, people moving in both directions, not a care in the world.
This kid in school uniform came sauntering down the path. A tiny little thing walking with these jerky hops, fiddling with the bottle strap that hung around his neck. Now he collided, bag and bottle and all, with another man. He was old, very much so, walking with a discernible limp. The dark glasses and cane showed that he had lost his sight. On this abrupt push, the child fell down, grazing his knees and elbows.
The man had stopped. He bent over the boy and tried to grab his arms. I couldn’t follow what was happening. Now I saw those knobbly old hands clumsily patting that little head, then feeling for his legs, chest, trying to make sure that the kid was allright. It was weird watching two strangers caught up in the middle of a busy street like that. The kid in the mean time was getting impatient and trying to release himself from the old man’s grasp. He succeeded at last. When the man was sure that the boy wasn’t hurt, he smiled and let go. And then things went to back to where it was. The man clutching his cane, trudging down the road and the kid skipping his way to school.
The car started to move.
It was such a simple incident, yet a few weeks back when I passing through that same road, it came flashing back.
I don’t know if you’ll find this happening in other cities of the country, perhaps you will. But for the time being, I’d like to think that this is what makes our city so different from the rest. It’s not always about the calculative ones who try to carve their way through this rat race, there are others too. Somehow I believe our city still has some warmth left in it. It has a quaint old rustic charm to it, lurking in the most unlikeliest of places. And the smiles are different too. I had read in a book by Roald Dahl that a true smile always reaches the eyes. If the eyes are smiling, you’ll find a tiny spark dancing in there. I’ve noticed those sparks in a number of eyes, all over the city. The kid in a muddy jersey playing para football, the maachwala on a Sunday morning, a lift operator at a shopping mall, a fellow passenger in the bus, the lady selling plastic flowers near new market.
And in the old man’s dark glasses.
It just makes me fall in love with our city all over again.
The silence was deafening. She was scared it would wake up mother. It stretched over the tips of her toes, making them curl. She wanted to pull up the covers, block out the silence. But that strange numbness had set in. A cue.
Mother had bought the wallpaper from a traveling fair. It had green leaves and tendrils playing on a pretty pink backdrop. The vines spread intricately, forking and uniting, the leaves strewn all over. The airy room called for it. The naked walls were clothed again.
Time and dust had tarnished the glow, with an occasional tear or a stubborn stain. A crinkled old thing, forlorn and harmless. In daytime when the house was awash with a flurry of activities, she could hear the swings creaking in the backyard, the pantry door banged again and again, mother calling for her tea. The vines remained a mute spectator. The lunch trolley was brought in, mother came to visit, the sheets were replaced. Sometimes she cast a wary glance at the dusty old thing adorning the walls. Mother remained silent.
And now, the darkness had set in. And the vines were moving again.
It started with an innocent squeak, the crinkle of dry paper. It wasn’t smooth. She could make out bumps, little hillocks as the sheet flowed over the slopes. It was moving towards the door now. And then wood wasn’t wood anymore. The vines had swallowed up the door, her only means of escape. They were moving faster now, with a growing speed. A cluster of leaves had devoured the washbowl. The paper was moving at the same ferocious pace, now covering the carpet on the floor, edging slowly towards the foot of the bed. The tendrils were now climbing up the four poster, they had reached her feet. She could feel the vines now, slithering across the bedspread, tying her down. A single one snaked across her arm. And then suddenly she couldn’t look anymore. Had the clouds extinguished the moonlight? Or was the silent so intense, she couldn’t resist? It was the vines again. And the pink of the wallpaper she could feel on her face. She was bathed in pink now, that sick pink mother had loved so much. Only the pink had been drowned in darkness. Now the green of the vines and the pink had become one sordid colour.
She was desperately trying to stay afloat but the her boat was heavy with leaves and vines. She hadn’t even noticed the water. The room was full of it now. She could even hear the water outside. The clouds had finally won the battle, she could hear rainwater sloshing down a lonely drainpipe. Or was it the water of her sea, the water around her boat? The storm raged on. The sea was in turmoil, the waves had soaked her pigtails, her nightdress. She hadn’t noticed, too busy maneuvering her precious vessel, aided and abetted by the vines. The water had diluted the barely visible sallow pink, the paper now a sodden mass slowly making it’s way around the boat, it’s new toy.
And then, without warning, the storm calmed down, the paper stopped playing, the vines released her. Her throat was parched, she ached for water but it had disappeared. So had the boat. The wallpaper had returned to it’s rightful place. And the darkness had taken it’s leave too. Sunlight was streaming in. She could here the familiar sounds of the house waking up. She felt strangely calm today, that hovering nervousness had left her. A trifle elated at this new freedom, she decided to take a walk around the room after lunch.
The walk proved to be fruitful. She had never realized how dusty and worn out her room was. There were cobwebs in the corner and the floor creaked. As she stood near the window holding on to the broken blinds for support, she saw a man outside. He was standing near the porch in a white shirt, looking at something she couldn’t see. The man stood there for quite sometime.
The morning had been quite an awful one for Charlie. The row with his wife had spoilt the day. It was the heat, he kept telling himself. And the baby. Ever since the baby had arrived Charlie had known that their cheap fourth floor walk up apartment wouldn’t do. They needed a larger house, the baby needed it too. But times were rough, and his savings were trickling down. Finding a cheap house in a decent neighbourhood was seemingly an impossibly task.
And that’s when Charlie hit the jackpot. The house was perfect. The merciless sun bore down on him and his new shite shirt was drenched in sweat but he didn’t care. He had found was he was looking for. It was a dilapidated old thing. Which meant that the price was probably low. Charlie knew he could fix the broken blinds and rickety doors with some help from his friends. He read the sign with a smile again.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
The consequences are painful, a persisting sickness that refuses to leave you.
Laughter sounds stale, and memories are never enough to fill that half empty glass. Once you found solace in crowds with the noise and shouts and barks but now the crowds have alienated you, made you the enemy, pushed you away. The evening sky mocks you. The bleak rain fails to wash away your despair.
The streetlights are too bright, voices too loud. You grope your way through the smoky haze that has settled on you so snug, so comfortable. There’s a desperate urge to shrug off this sickness that clings to you, but the last reserves of willpower have seeped away.
There’s a parade ahead, some heightened celebration…is it the festivities? You memory fails you. But the crowd is coming again. You can almost make out the smiles on their faces, the brightness in blinding. And then you hear them. The music of contentment. It’s like an old scar that won’t heal, the flow of blood you cannot stem, an overwhelming pain that stabs you over and over again. There is something flickering inside which screams for release, a gaping hole that aches for fulfillment.
But you were always the weak one.
Oh how can you brave this crowd again?
I am standing beside you. You have denied me so often, daunted by the path I offer, hesitant, faltering. The “sickness” you called me. A blanket you thought you could lift and throw away. Yet you clung to me. I worked my magic, took you in my arms, lulled you to sleep.
And so here I am. Again. So close to you. You can feel my breath on your skin. This time you don’t recoil at my touch. The crowd is nearing. I take your hand in mine. We walk ahead. Oblivious to the jeers and cries. You and I.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
I have been sitting in front of the monitor for the past quarter of an hour vaguely realising that I have nothing much to write today. I would be lying if I said nothing much has been happening lately, but to sort out all the muddled thoughts that cloud my mind nowadays is indeed a herculean task. Framing them into meaningful statements also doesn’t seem easy.
Now I’m sounding lazy.
I have recently developed a liking for the colour green. There are a number of reasons for this:
Ø When my exams were going on, a fellow student helped me through a particularly nasty question paper. I don’t remember the face, but I do happen to recall a very bright green tshirt the person was wearing.
Ø Quite a few days back I stumbled upon a painting I had made as a kid. I couldn’t make head or tail of it but there was a lot of bottle green on the sheet of paper. It made me want to paint again. With bottle green.
Ø There is a tree which stands just behind Maddy’s house. Whenever there is a sleepover at her place, I make it a point to brush my teeth leaning out of the large window, facing the tree and it’s sparse foliage. Now that Maddy’s exams have come knocking and sleepovers are rare, I miss that gnarled old thing.
Ø I have recently bought a pair of flip flops, green in colour. They make my feet look almost pretty.
A number of recent developments have caused me to take notice of the way my life is shaping up. I feeling like making some drastic changes, doing something reckless and out of the ordinary. It’s probably because nowadays I’m sitting on my ass doing nothing at all. When you’re idle, you get a lot of weird ideas. Not all of them are bad though. Just that wimps like me need a catalytic push which will set the reaction into motion. I am still waiting for that push.
Now I’m sounding lazy again. Damn.