There are woods behind, full of tall nameless trees. Those ageless witches covered by thick barks have taken over the lands with their dark long branches, and narrow spaces between themselves. The grass at their roots have obliterated brown. The earth there is sheltered, with grass and mighty goddesses of the forest. The rain falls softly on this cushion. It is more than water and moisture. It has taken the abandon of the clouds, the wisdom of grandmothers and freewill of the winds.
The lake ahead is trying hard to contain a turmoil erupting from within its depths. Tiny waves scarring its surface betray the secrets it wants to hold. The clouds tease him. They unleash a drizzle that will touch, entice and infiltrate its barriers. The spies within will get lost within the currents and rebel against their own mother. The revolt turns into a wild dance of passion and restraint. All water, held against its will by the greater powers of sky and earth. Where would the child go? It seeks to escape with the favorite uncle, the wind. But that traitor of the gods, he will drop them the moment it hears the roaring of the thunder from Zeus.
I sleep on the earth. Waiting for that stubborn, helpless son to make a choice and escape. He can rest with me, or take me along to whichever faraway land he seeks for adventure. I care not for my footprints to be left for worried search parties. All I ask is for him to leave the scent behind.
The neem tree outside the window looked bald and deprived. It had shed its leaves. The mango tree next to it was in bloom, as if mocking its neighbor. Little did she know that no one cared for its flowers, but someone definitely missed the neem’s jade green canopy.
Her mirror was missing again. She didn’t miss it, but she noticed its absence. That explained her barren looking walls. A lone lamenting voice coming out of a machine created disturbances in the air. The only kind she liked.
She sat down, trying not to look anywhere and to hold that moment to herself. To enjoy that solitude and peace, all by herself. The sun was growing weak, ready to sink into dusk. She wished it would hold on for a moment longer and not slip in to the cloak of evening, not just yet. She liked the way it fell on her window glass, touching it, not cutting across in a rush to reach the floor.
She looked at her overflowing book shelf. Part pride, part regret. There was too much white space around she felt. Birds outside were talking to each other, she wished she could know who they were. She didn’t want to understand what they said, that would be an uncivil intrusion on their freedom and privacy.
Her windows were left open, to let her room breathe. Her mother, had she been present, would have asked her to keep it shut, for fear of mosquitoes. But for now she wasn’t there and the room could behave however its owner wanted. This room was home. There was no one here, no one’s possessions encroached upon its territory. Everything inside was hers to call home. She would have wished for this to be an ever-present state, a perpetual ownership.
A knock forced her to pause her reverie. “Have you paid the rent yet?”, asked someone. She shook her head and went back to staring at a tiny screen. There’s a price to pay for everything. But it’s never too big a price if you can call the purchase home, however temporary.
The lament continued with another tune, with another softer voice. Her eyes returned to the flowers that covered every branch and caressed every leaf on the mango trees. It was said that the flowers had a mild sweet scent similar to that of the lily of the valley. She didn’t know whether she’ll ever be able to confirm that. She didn’t know if she would be around to see the fruits either. But that could wait, she didn’t need to concern herself with that at the moment.
For now, contentment was to be the flavor and rhyme.
This is the perfect date, no webcam between us, he thought.They shared a Diet Coke and ate fries.“I’ll wait for your status update.” She received a text as soon as she reached home.She updated her status immediately : 2nyt ws awsm, gr8, lulzzzzzz.The boy, heartbroken, deactivated his account.
“Drop your Pants!” The security guard yelled at me. This was going to be very very embarrassing.
I dropped the pair held in my hands right away. Whoever thought people would want to wear buff colored pants, let alone get caught stealing them?
>Once upon a time there was a girl. She thought of too many things, dreamed of even more. She believed in a few things, hoped for even fewer. She questioned too much, but answered all by herself. She smiled too much, but never knew if she was happy.
One evening, on a ceasing winter’s day, she met her Hero.
She never thought she would meet a Hero. He had wild dreams, and wilder ways. He cared not for things usual, but pursued things that others had no time for. He was her Hero and she cared not for what he was, because she knew only of what he would become. Her thoughts, dreams, beliefs, hopes, questions and answers, smiles were all for the Hero.
He called her his Muse. And she felt special to be his Muse. Was there any greater joy than to be an inspiration? The Muse and the Hero, they marched along that dangerous path of discovery and adventure. There were many ideas to be ensnared and many to be enslaved. He would conquer, she would guide. He would wonder, she would reflect. Life began to run, but time had slowed down. What was time but a construct of science meant to keep mere mortals on their toes? Why think of time when the imagination begged to explore other passions?
One afternoon, on a reluctant rainy day, she saw the first fall.
It was as if she had been knocked down a long flight of stairs and had collided with a solid wind. That solid wind had turned into a sea, that carried her and sank her, then brought her floating up to be charred by the sun and then calmed by the night’s tide. She could have left, but she stayed on. She didn’t want to be a bad Muse.
The sun rose and sank. Ships left harbors and charged into storms. Buds bloomed and leaves shed. Snow fell and fires burned. Something gave, everyone took. Seasons fled, time dipped into decay. She stayed in a corner, called when needed. But she didn’t know if she was there because she was called or because she was needed. She didn’t even know if she was needed at all. She didn’t know if she was even wanted at all. Maybe there were others who wanted her.
She saw herself falling. She watched as her Hero fell. She tried to help her Hero rise, while trying to help herself from fading away. The Muse and the Hero stumbled and picked up, fighting and faring along. Sometimes she would watch her Hero, with real people and the real world and try to ascertain where she was. She would see the sun, from under the deep ocean and know not how far from the surface she was.
One morning, on a summer night’s end, she began to question.
Does a Muse choose her Hero and make him a Hero? Or does a Hero find a Muse and give her the status of a Muse? Does anyone care for the Muse when there is a Hero? What does a Muse ever do to leave behind for herself, apart from the shadows of the Hero’s footsteps? Can a Muse’s only existence be to inspire and not ask for anything more? What does the Muse do after her Hero leaves for another Muse, for another life?
Was that all that was left of her being a Muse- being just a feeble spark on the dim horizon?
Or does every Muse fail when she begins to dream of her Hero turning into Pygmalion? Can a Muse never dream or hope, but only support those of her Hero? Could the Muse leave on her own accord or did she have to hang around till she was forgotten? Was there any greater misery than to be just a Muse?
She realized she knew all the answers, but didn’t like them at all. So she kept questioning till she was exhausted of all her answers and knew there was no escaping the questions. She asked till she couldn’t fight the answers, till she defeated the questions.
One wintry night, past some springs and monsoons, the Muse decided to cease to be.
She looked out of her window, and knew she cannot look outside anymore. She had to bid farewell to the Muse that had been for a Hero. She had to bid farewell to the caterpillar and the statue. She had to leave the depths of the ocean for the cliffs above. She had to stare at the sun straight in its face.
There were dreams to be chanced upon, thoughts to be given attention to. There were beliefs to be wrestled with, hopes to be given birth to. There were questions to be chased, answers to be discovered. There were seasons to be seen, places to be experienced. There were things to be done. There was time to be reclaimed.
There were swaying fields and dropped arms, cotton clouds and burdened orchard trees, fiery sunrises and unfettered souls, and other such inconsequential sights to smile for without asking why.
>(This was written on 18th April 2010. I’m finally moving it from drafts to published in the hope that seeing it online will goad me to pick it up and finally complete it.)
He lived with one mantra- Give each day your best. One day at a time. Fine, two. He woke up with one and went to bed with another. He woke up today thinking positive thoughts as prescribed to him by his spiritual quack. He suspected his quack suffered from some personality disorder or schizophrenia or some other mental mumbo jumbo for he changed ways as often as the weather changes its mind in Springfield. But he deduced that could come from what his quack called “transcending spiritual and metaphysical boundaries” or maybe he was just a big old oaf making much money selling out the inner gods. He stopped himself from thinking too much about it. He had a long day ahead of him and he really needed to get started.
His first customer for the day was a Mrs. Mamona Aergias. She lived alone in a single storied small house on the street behind the supermarket and opposite the theatre. He hoped this time she would listen to him long before dozing off on the table. He rang the bell. There was no answer for a full one minute, he counted. He rang the bell again, two in a row, and was about to complete a set of three when the door opened, and a face hidden behind layers of fat poked itself through the gap.
“Good morning, Madam. I hope today would be a good day. Here, have some coffee.” With that he nudged the door open and entered.
Mrs. Aergias eyed the coffee with distaste. She wanted to go back to sleep, but she could never refuse a free offering. She pulled her robe around herself, took the coffee and plonked herself on the couch and switched on the news. He sat himself down across her on another seat and thanked an unknown god that Mrs. Aergias was too lazy to go and get her TV repaired of the sound problem. All they heard was a low droning sound and watched as the reporter showed them a midget with a beard that reached his feet. The midget was apparently trying to set a record for growing hair that was five times his height.
“So, have you thought about it?”, he asked.
She shook her head distractedly.
“Well, let me go over it again with you Mrs.Aergias. What I have here is a thing that could solve all of your problems and make you a more complete, wholesome human being. You would do good not just for yourself, but for those around you. Dolorium1618 is the solution to all our problems. Imagine this, you wake up and have this severe pain plaguing your mind and body and soul. What would you do?
“Take a pain-killer”
Exactly. What if there was no pain-killer that killed it?
Mrs.Aergias shot him a look filled fury and dread. Why would the man just not leave her alone?
“I don’t know”
“See… There’s no real pain killer.”
“Ahh.. There’s no real pain then either,” she chuckled at her own marvellous wit and logical deduction.
“There’s no real pain killer, but there’s real pain. There’s pain when you can’t hear your favourite talk show host bitch about the latest model. There’s pain when you have to stand an hour in line to buy your favorite brand of bacon. There’s pain when you want to talk but there’s no one around. There’s pain when you have to wake up every day and wade through life’s small, but plenty, futilities.
“The only way to deal with it is to embrace it. Pain will make you stronger by pushing you to act. By pushing you to harness your energies and channelize them in the right direction. Hence Dolorium1618. Start with 4 pills a day, you will have to do something about the pain. It will wreak havoc inside you. You’d be forced to go out and about and seek help. At the same time, you will learn to accept it, understand it, make it your friend. How’s the coffee?”
“Not half as bad as I thought it would be”
“Do you think you want to come on our free trial programme then?”, he laid subtle emphasis on the word free, making it come out casually, as if it was part of the deal doled out to all customers.
Again Mrs.Aergias seemed to struggle between two extremes of wanting, and she knew she would succumb. She was a woman who would take death if it told her there was nothing she would have to do to be dead. He almost believed that she would embrace death more enthusiastically if it came her way because there was nothing to do after that, nothing that she knew of yet. And hence, it was even more important that he converted this one before she chose the easier way out.
– To be continued. (hopefully soon enough)
>Florets of sinopia and xanthous,
On a bed of smaragdine.
Stains of solferino and ferruginous,
In a cyaneous sea.
Nankeen feathers on a columbine tail,
Aubergine blooms on lovat floor lie.
An aeneous blaze on a waking star,
Leads the son under a cerulean sky.
>She doesn’t know why she thinks of that day. She doesn’t even remember his name. Not properly at least. She has been thinking of that day a lot lately. She tries to reconstruct the events leading up to it, she remembers most details. But not his name.
It had happened when she was seven or eight, almost fifteen years back. She can’t believe so many years have gone by and she recalls it only now.
It was second period- History, in 3rd E2.
The teacher, Mrs.Gulati was considered to be strict. She didn’t hesitate before doling out punishment and called lions “loins”.
She was her usual talkative self, he was sitting quietly. She never bothered to ask if he ever listened, at all. She’s not even sure if they talked, if they were friends, or just partners waiting to be assigned to a new companion any day. It was his birthday. But he wasn’t wearing the customary new, casual dress. Every kid loved the opportunity to not dress in regular uniform. Not him though, he seemed his usual calm and composed self. There used to be some rotation, ensuring every pair got their chance to sit in the front rows. They were in the fifth or sixth row. She isn’t very sure, but she remembers wherever they were sitting, it gave him enough time.
“Take out your textbooks now,” Mrs.Gulati calls the class to attention.
She reaches into her bag and starts looking for the pink writing on the pages that had been treated as blinds, common method employed by most students to help identify books. It was taking her too long to find that book, he was already sitting straight, with his book in front of him. She abandons her search and begins to prepare herself for the ultimate humiliation. She has forgotten to pack the book back, now she will suffer.
“Those who don’t have the textbook, go sit on the floor.” Mrs. Gulati was walking between the rows, inspecting, ready to unleash the first round of punishments. She was walking two aisles away, slowly heading their way. Three students had already made their way to the floor.
He looks at her, as if studying her, his options. Silently he moves his textbook to her side. She accepts it quietly, like a mouse. Her chatter and chirping gone, mute. She doesn’t even question the fairness or unfairness of it all. She just doesn’t want to be sitting on that floor.
He stands up just as Mrs. Gulati approaches their desk. She looks at him, realizes it’s his birthday by the big pack of toffees sitting on their desk. She wishes him, takes a toffee, but no one is spared from punishment. Not even birthday boy. She walks towards the back, inspecting. He knows what’s to be done. He picks up his notebook and goes and joins the other students sitting on the floor.
She’s still keeping quiet, still accepting his kindness with a shameful silence. She looks at him, wondering how angry or humiliated he must feel. He looks straight ahead, his spectacles perched on his nose, looking up at the board. Where she was earlier dreading being sent to the floor, now she’s dreading the end of the class. She couldn’t face him. She has no idea about the lesson, only remembers reading the text blindly, twisting her fingers and looking at him from time to time.
But the class finally comes to an end. They are given some homework and reminders to bring the required books. She forces herself to remember for tomorrow, to avoid another today. He returns to their desk, dusts off his pants and sits. She passes the book back to him.
She doesn’t remember if she had thanked him or not. She doesn’t remember if that bothered her then or not. She doesn’t remember how rest of the day, the week, the remainder of the year had had gone. But it’s been bothering her lately. She has realized only very recently how big an act of kindness it was on his part for her, at that time. He had left the school at end of that year.
His name may have been Shepherd. Or Stefford. Or neither. She feels infuriated at herself, how she remembers so many other names from school, some of whom she hadn’t even talked to ever, but has forgotten his name.
So many people from your past now stalk you. She has tried looking for him. But she doesn’t remember his name, has no idea how he may look now. She doesn’t know if she will ever find him and will finally get to thank him. Maybe he would have changed by now, maybe he would seek her out to reclaim the gratitude owed. Maybe someone will read this, ask a friend who’s known by this name if he remembers being the nicest guy for a talkative, annoying girl. She knows this is plain day-dreaming.
But she still holds some hope. To find the birthday boy and utter a very delayed “Thank you”.