Thursday, May 30, 2013

Point of View

The moment has come. He has lifted me in his hand, and no one may ever know what I meant. His other hand is putting a bundle into shredder and I could be next. I doubt if he will give me a glance. I have not lost hope but can destiny be changed.

The shredder makes a soft grinding sound and its shining blades whine for more. It would cut me like a cake, first tearing me off and then splitting me into bits. I would be reduced to pieces of junk.  

You may think what a piece of paper can mean. You may even accuse me of boastfulness. I do not blame you but the confidence which comes when everything goes well. You succeed in life, have secure family and childhood and nothing can go wrong. A hallucination takes over and you feel that there is only good in this world. You also believe that everything that you have is here to stay.

You can continue to believe that till life hits you with a brick on head!

Anyways who will appreciate my effort; I am just a dirty wrinkled rag. Can words scribbled on me change my worth? On a dark lonely night, I was quietly slipped on his table. For weeks I was buried under heap of papers. I cautiously hid myself. It was suffocating and hot, but I survived that. I waited and prayed that he gives me a glance.

Today when he has picked me up, he is not in a mood to read. The pile of papers has grown and he wants to clear them all. Some go into the trash bin but most are being diverted towards the shredder. His hands are careless but firm; they hold me tight at an edge. His fingers rub my ink.

They are hard and coarse, but that was his past. He was not so careless at that time; he was not so certain about life. His world was small and his dreams were large. He struggled hard to make his mark.
Many years have passed and now he lives in his carefree world.

He has held me for some time and he has not moved. His gaze is fixed outside. Maybe he is enjoying view of the sea. He recently shifted to this sea facing room, another sign of his upward ascent. The sea makes a loud noise. It rhythmically rises and fall but he does not get the message. He has refused to see other tell-tale signs as well.

Men feel that fate changes out of the blue but they ignore destiny’s subtle hints. For him, even I was sent.  
His eyes appear dazed. He is looking outside but his thoughts are somewhere else. May be he is thinking about his wife. Theirs had been an arranged marriage but she made his world. He was hardly an ideal husband but she was always there for him; without any bitterness, without any complaints. He never truly realised how much she meant to him.

Perhaps he is thinking about his kids. They were small just few days back, he can easily recall their first steps and today they are ready to face this world. He wanted to play with them, participate in their growing years but time just passed. Very soon he would take a long holiday.

He knows his family would not blame him for not being there. They would understand. Of course everything may not be rosy but they love him. At least he believes as much.

I do not see even a faint smile on his face. On looking carefully, I feel that his expressions are sombre. Maybe he is planning his next professional move. His business is at crossroads and he has to take some bold decisions soon.

His partner and his childhood friend has been his strength. They started all this together and he could trust him with his eyes closed. In fact he is more than family to him. Of course they had some differences but creative people always have that. He knows that his friend will support him. He hopes as much.  

He might even be thinking about his health. He was so involved in this work that he neglected his well being. He recently got unwell, but it was a minor affair. It did keep him on bed for a few days but recently he has started gaining his strength. There is nothing to be worried about. All his tests have shown improvement and everything would soon be well.  
He is a good man and everybody knows that. He has even helped many beyond his means. He has been fair even to his foes. He has also discharged his duties and his family will vouch for that. He is a self made man. 

That is the reason I feel sad. I feel sad because this is an unfair world. Kind men meet brutal fates. I may not change anything but I wish to prepare him for what is to come. I pray that it does not so happen that one day there is no ground beneath his feet.

Cool sea breeze has entered the room and I think he is back from his dreams. His eyes are looking towards me and his fingers move on my surface. The shredder is still making a whining sound. I want to scream but I cannot utter a word or move; I only carry a message. It is he who has to read it. If I fail, he will have no one else to blame. 

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

An Ode to that Wrinkled Face

This is not a story. A story should have a beginning and an end but this has only memories; distant and vague. The sad part is, not many are left.

She would always recite same stories; a story about some shepherd and his sheep or that about an obedient son. I would lie down in her lap and would fall asleep while listening to those. She covered me with her saree’s pallu, and I felt warm and secure. I have never slept so comfortably at any other place.

She was short and frail. Her hairs were silver and grey, and during winters she would comb them in the sun while I dozed off in her lap. Her skin was wrinkled and formed parallel folds. I played with the skin around her palm and face. It was so different from mine and I still remember its feel. Her cheeks were hollow and there were no teeth left. She had dentures and her face changed when she wore them.

I liked her hollow face.

She wore white cotton sarees and had two silver bangles. To amuse me, she would take them out and rotate on earth. I close my eyes now, and I can see them spinning, two bangles with blackened silver and linear grooves; I hear the metallic sound when they fall flat.

I locked her in bathroom one day. No one was at home and she kept on banging at the door. I cried and cried, and my neighbours broke the door to release her. The first thing she did was to console me. I still wonder why she never got angry at me.

She was my only friend. My father and mother went out for work and it was with her that I spent my entire day. We would start with Peek-a-Boo, then she would chase me while I ran and after that she would colour my picture book. She was my Aladdin’s lamp and no wish could remain unfulfilled. She got my favourite toys, helped me bunk school and avoid eating vegetable curry that my mother gave. She would quietly bring in chapatti and milk which used to be my favourite dish. She would fly with rage if anyone scolded me and would pack her bags to leave. My parents would invariably relent.

In the evening she took me out for a stroll. I held her finger and she would fend off elder kids who wanted to play with me. Some people would tease her that I was not looking great, but she would defend me with all her strength. How could her grandson not look good?

Her wooden rosary bead was her constant companion. She would keep on rotating it in her hand and murmur god’s name. She did that even while she slept. Every day she gave bath to Lord Krishna’s statue and performed her daily rituals. Then she would put a small chandan tilak on my forehead. After that she would put on her glasses, take out Gita and fix it on a stand. She chanted it in her soft voice, harmonically moving in the front and back. I sat on her lap as if it was a swing.  

She was particular about doing all her work herself. She would wash utensils, clean clothes and cook her food. She insisted on doing all this even when she was ill and this resulted in frequent fights with my dad. No one would interfere and in the end, both will not eat till the other had food. This banter is still fondly remembered at our home.

I do not know what kind of lady she was. It sounds weird that a grandson should know what kind of women her grandmother is. She is just a grandmother, period. Today when I think about her I do not remember her crying, I do not remember her laugh; I can only recall her serene face. I try to guess if I ask her a particular question how she would react to that. No answers come. I can only see a smile on her face.

I do not have her pictures with me. Her solo images exist, but we will discuss about that.

I was eight when she left. She started falling sick and was admitted to hospital at frequent intervals. When she was discharged, my parents behaved in a strange way. A bottle of Ganga jal was always kept beside her cot. My father would sit holding her hand, and at times his eyes were wet. I was not allowed to play with her but they would ask me to listen to her stories. She was often tired and would not recite them in her usual animated tone. I still remember the last story that she told.

My parents never told me that she was going to die. Somehow I gathered a vague feeling that she would not stay with us for long. She had been admitted to the hospital for quite a few days and I was alone at home with an aunt when a telephone call came. I overheard that she was no more.

I kept looking outside the window waiting for her arrival; my tears would not stop. A large crowd gathered at our home. She was brought back in an ambulance; and when they took her out I observed that they had put cotton in her nose. It appeared that she was in deep sleep. My father’s eyes were swollen. Incense sticks were lit around her dead body. Everybody cried and it was a sad scene. I had never seen so many tears. I was asked to kiss her for a last time. Her cheeks still had those folds.

I was quietly sent to some other place and I do not remember much about that day. Her last wish was to be taken to some particular ghat in Varanasi for cremation and my dad honoured that. I resented balding of my head.

A photographer was called and most of her pictures belong to that day. Other than that, her large picture, in which she is sitting on a chair in an attentive pose, is present at our home. Probably the one who clicked it had an idea that it could be garlanded one day. I cannot relate to that picture and she appears unnatural in that pose.

Her void still exists. Why did she leave me so soon?

I see my son playing with my mother and pray that he is more privileged than me.