#4 – The Beginning

Sometimes I dreamed about Father. He looked thinner than when I last remember seeing him, and I always had the same dream. He pushing me to and fro on a swing in a lush green meadow on a spring afternoon, and we are both happy and shouting, and suddenly from out of nowhere a riot breaks out, people come towards us holding lathis and guns, and Father standing in front of me, protecting me from all of them, and shouting, “What do you want?” And instead of getting a reply, someone shoots him, and he falls. That was the dream. And the same dream kept on coming every now and then; I did not know why. This had never happened in real life. In real life, Father was quite different. He used to toil hard on the fields and by the time he came back home, he hardly had any energy left to strike a conversation with Mother or me. He used to eat, then take out a bottle of rum from one of his cupboards, drink and go off to sleep. He was very silent at home, no fun and no frolic, unlike the dream. Perhaps the dream was what I really wanted in my real life, only the former part of the dream though.

How I ended up in this city with Aunt and Uncle and Sam is a long story, and it starts way back with my grandmother. Grandma was nearly seventy and she needed treatment for her ailing back. It was not possible where we lived, and so Mother and Father arranged for her trip to the city. Since she was to go alone, and since that was unsafe given the current situations (riots had just broken up in Delhi and a lot of people were being killed unnecessarily, and a lot of trains were being burnt without any reason), my parents decided it would be nice if I could accompany her. Not that I would be of much help, they knew that. But then that was not how it all started. To start would mean to go to the beginning and explain how all of our lives intersected and how I am what I am today. It all started back in 1932 when in a small house in a corner of the world, a baby was born.

In autumn he was born and was a fair lad. A few more autumns came and went by and he struggled to live the way he wanted. For around him were talks of independence and wars. He saw Gandhi walk around, and did really consider him his idol, and in one of those fair summers, he learned how it felt to breathe freely. 15th of August it was and it was 1947, and the British had left India in the hands of Indians and then what we did of that all of us know. He married the prettiest girl in town and they had a gorgeous daughter who married a handsome man and they had a handsome son and thus I opened my eyes to this world. It all seemed distant now, yet to go to the beginning sometimes means to search for one’s roots, search what one actually came here for, and try to live up to that motto once you finally find out your purpose.

And so that was how it all began. My life. And a few years later, so it was that I was transported along with Grandma’s luggage to a posh town, where everything was ten times faster, where breathing required skill, and where being rustic meant you were stupid. Yet it had only started. As Grandma used to say, “Child, this is only the beginning.”

Hopes

Mothers, with their mortars and pestles,
Crushing red chiles on hot afternoons,
The aroma of spices, floating in the air,
Their smiles, their chuckles, and the whispers,
Their daughters come back,
Pails of water on their heads,
Their gait ever graceful,
Their faces benign.
She sees them from her cot,
Too old to rise up now,
Remembers how once she was the daughter,
And how once she was a mother,
Now too old, her only children,
Are her hopes, which she nurtures,
With loads of care, as she once did,
For her children and her husband.
She closes her eyes,
The heat makes the dark turn yellow,
She can feel the light with her eyes shut,
And her children float by, in her visions.
She hopes one day they will come back,
Their heads on her lap,
They will narrate to her stories,
From cities long forgotten,
From borders between nations,
From mines deep down.
She can smell already,
A tinge of love, floating in the air,
Her husband sleeping on the cot beside,
The toothless smile, the grey beard,
His auburn eyes, which can only stare,
She turns and finds it empty for now,
But hopes someone will sleep on it,
Before the night ends,
Before the winter ends,
Before her life ends.

Winter is Coming

I sit outside in the balcony, sipping from my cup of tea. The slight tinge of ginger in it helps me stay awake. I see the sun, red as blood, uncover slowly at the eastern edge of the sky. It isn’t morning yet, but it will be, in a few minutes. I like this time of the day. It’s the time when the birds chirp and yet none fly out as yet, waiting patiently for the first ray to fall on their nests. The wind is chilly, I need a thick shawl, but I don’t want to go inside as yet.

In another hour, I’ll leave for work. Then it will be nine hours of tough grueling on codes written by big professionals out there, but right now my mind doesn’t want to think about that. I smell the air, a tinge of perfume of the girl in the next verandah, potatoes frying in oil, and gulmohur flowers. I imagine how life would have been if I had been a bird, flying at sunrise, returning at sunset. On a second thought, I kind of actually do the same, only I ride inside a bus instead of flying. People come out of their houses once a while, stretch and go back. Some dogs are awake on the streets, but they seem too lazy to bark, and they keep lying down anyways. I hear sounds of bells ringing. The pious lady in the adjacent house strictly observes an early-morning pray-time, and now I smell the incense sticks too. It seems as if the olfactory senses are the only ones alive inside my brain right now, and my fingers continue typing without realizing what I just finished writing.

Even though I try not to think much, my mind is clouded with lots of thoughts, which are really unsorted, and I make a mental note to sort them based on priority once I am ready to begin my day. I bring out another cup of tea, this time making sure I enjoy every sip, but it gets over, just like the one before. Winter is coming. I can feel it in my bones. It reminds me of Game of Thrones, of the Stark family, of the Red Wedding. Then it reminds me of Lady Stoneheart and I smile a silent smile when my devious mind tells me I should let out this spoiler to a friend of mine. But I dig it in, postponing it to a later time. The cycle of thoughts is a wondrous process, moving from one thing to another as swift as a deer, until you forget how the train started. The floor is cold, and I cannot put my feet down. I check my phone once a while, seeing if it’s time; I could as well put an alarm, but find it tiresome to do anything right now. Yesternight was good, we went to a pub. It has been over ten months since I last went to one, and my entire college life kept creeping inside me back and again all the while, until I left for home, my parents and the regular monotonous life that I lead.

And now it’s time to go. I need to take a shower and then get ready for work. So I’ll catch up later. Bye!

Thoughts of a Thirty-Something

I think of the times, when I wore orange,
When people loathed me for what I had done,
But deep inside, each knew for sure,
He had a little of me in him.
I fought, ay that’s true, and fought for good,
But who accepted that in public?
None, but only a few true at heart,
My wife, ever so loving, one of them.
Today as I sit, my daughter on my lap,
I weave a thousand dreams for her,
And think of the times when someone,
Did the same for me too.
I smile within, but then a horror,
Strikes me deep in my heart,
If I didn’t keep up to them even a bit,
Why would she do so?
She asks me of her grandparents,
I have no clue what to say,
But I tell her they are somewhere around,
And at nights I do fervently pray,
That it be true.
For life is simple, and only meant to finish,
Much like the dinner we have at night,
But how tasteless it is, how insipid right now,
Only my heart knows, only my heart.

A Sultry Afternoon

I sat in the main hall, flicking through the channels on the television to see if there was anything worth watching at that time of the day. It was unusual for me to stay awake in the afternoon, most of my family prefers a short nap in the afternoon so that they can continue with their work in the evening more efficiently, and so the house was always usually silent, except for the persistent sound that the tap water made on the base of the sink, “Tip, tip, tip.” But after years of hearing that, I had kind of become immune to that sound, just like the chirps of the sparrows who came thirsty, quenching their thirst from the small bowl kept in the balcony during summers.

After a while I switched off the television, went to the kitchen, scanned the refrigerator for food, scanned all the cupboards for anything that would take more than five minutes to eat, then realized that I was not hungry at all, and came back, sat down and switched on the television again. I had to keep it at a low volume, not wanting anyone to wake up from their deep slumbers on some stupid songs or probably a wrestling match, neither of which was on television then though. I looked through the window and there was a mynah near the bowl of water. I tried to open the balcony door ever so slowly so that it wouldn’t fly away, but the screech of the door gave way to its suspicions that I would grab it and probably eat it right there and then, and it fluttered away almost instantaneously. I stood in the balcony for a while, the sun on my face, causing small drops of sweat to trickle down my spine, but I had to be there. The plants needed water, or they would die.

When I looked up at the sky, the clouds were turning black. It would rain soon, it seemed. The bear cloud was gnarling at the mouse cloud, and the dragon cloud stood still where it was. Then in a moment, the bear turned into a woman looking down on the earth, whilst the mouse turned its face towards the dragon. A dragon that would breathe out water, I thought, muffling my hair clumsily as a girl walked by on the street opposite. And then the wind started to blow, swaying the thinner trees so that they almost kissed the ground, many of their leaves falling on the ground and swirling up into the sky like a tornado. The smell of wet mud arose from the garden beside and the dogs ran inside the buildings, whilst the pigeons started flocking into the big tree opposite. I turned back and went inside, closing the door so that the dust wouldn’t turn in. I have always been fascinated by the dust, they seem to me a way nature teaches us the value of memories, and how we sweep both of them out at some point in our lives.

Slowly, the dust settled down, back to the ground from where it rose. The rain helped it cool down, get down to where it was, and taught us that we cannot fly for more than was intended for us. At some point, we need to go back to where we started, and restart the process, over and over again. The sky had no dragons anymore, the black being replaced by white, and the grey with a blue, which would soon turn red and then black. I had always been intrigued by the various colors that the skies could assume, depending on other factors. It taught me how we should sometimes succumb to the circumstances around us, and become a little more complaisant, without bearing any grudges. For come morning, the blackness would wither out again, giving way to fresh dew, the chirps of birds, and a light to guide us through the rest of the day. And depend on it we must.

#13 – The Death of the Raven

Syra moved stealthily, all the while surefooted on the slippery ice, while she made her way into his room. She stood at the entrance, looking at the entire room, her eyes moving from one corner of the room to the other, deciding if it were the right place she was in. Then she entered.

Outside the door, a man waited. He was a cobbler in his days, now he had nothing but his son and a wife who didn’t remember him although she was always around. Kazh, he was called. Once he had a happy life, but now only the remnants of it in his memory served to bring up a smile on his face once a while. He waited. He knew it would not be long before his guest came up. And soon he did. Clad in brown, fur and leather, always bearing a wicked smile, his hands stronger than any that ever lived, he came and stood by him. He was his son, Fahhr. Or so everyone thought. But Kazh knew the truth. Only if he could speak up.

When they entered man and son, Syra lay on the bed with him. She tried to cover herself, but after a moment she decided it wasn’t worth the effort. He stood up. “Kazh and Fahhr.” He smiled. “I have seen you in the litter, and heard a lot about you as a boy, yet I knew not that our meeting would be in this fashion. People think I am dead. You would know I am not.”

“Yes, headmaster. But.. there is this I cannot comprehend. We saw you get buried in stones. How did you manage to come back amidst us, back from your afterlife?” The headmaster only smiled. “There are things I have learned, boy, in this journey. And much of it you may not believe, though know this for sure. The Things are for real. I have seen them, and they are coming. Even as the raven on my window-sill died today, it croaked and I listened to it. It said, ‘Fly! Now! Fly! Now!’ Do you know what that means?”

“No,” came the reply.

“Then I will tell you,” replied the Headmaster. “I will tell you. I will tell you. For now, it’s our time to fly.”

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The Journey – 2

Read the first part in The Journey – 1.

For in my previous life, I was but you,
Now you are dead, didn’t you realize so?
The woman in sand put her hands over her face,
She was alive, only a moment ago.
She had crossed the barrier of one afterlife,
And now was born in another century,
She would have a brother, a child and a husband again,
In a world where everyone was free.
Freedom is what she came looking for,
And freedom is what she had got,
If not for her, for another her,
Her voice welled up, and in her throat got caught.

As she sat softening the soles of her feet,
Which had turned hard for the sand she walked on,
She knew what next she had to do,
That she would have to walk on and on.
For on the other side of the meadow rested another desert,
Its sands hotter than the one she burnt herself through,
And at the other end rested another of herself,
One she knew through and through.
There would be large walls, and larger iron gates,
Breaking them would be difficult, that she knew,
But the walls within oneself were stronger than those,
And broken them had only a few.

So she walked and she walked, by the light of day,
And she walked and she walked, by the shade of nigh’,
She had been dead once, and she knew for one,
What is dead may not die.
She didn’t know if it was the right thing she did,
Or if she was trotting the opposite way,
But she walked and she walked, never stopping,
The desert would still be miles away.
She heard a song her mother used to sing,
The words didn’t come, but the music had,
A faint tune that carried over the sands,
Said she could walk some more, it wasn’t that bad.

A dragon flew today in the skies above,
Its hiss as loud as thunders in the rain,
And it turned the sky from a blue to a red,
Carving in it a fiery lane.
But she walked and she walked, never caring about it,
Though it came and perched on her back,
And after a while ate a part of her meat,
Charring the rest of her shoulder to black.
The nights were colder, the fires never burnt,
She shivered in her cloak, though it was good fur,
Her dreams were wavy, she thought of other lives,
And someone in her ears some words did murmur.

A fortnight later, the desert abruptly,
Gave way to a mighty castle of stone,
It was huger than any she had imagined so far,
Its door carved out of a huge mammoth’s bone.
She heard voices inside, her own kith and kin,
From a life she led once upon a time,
Where her breath had been taken away from her,
On account of someone else’s crime.
Her journey had ended, she would relive this life,
Undo things that were best undone,
Before she moved to the next spoke of the wheel,
Around which all her lives spun.