While the Sun marked the end of its journey for the day, colours vermillion, saffron, magenta and plum painted the skies turn by turn until the deep blues and blacks took over. Such untarnished beauty did not for once in my life pleasure me. I had lived multiple lives till I met you. I was what the police called a conman. Doctors preferred compulsive liar. The other conmen revered me as an enemy. There were no friends in my business.
Like it happens every once in a while, I met my match in you. You were my glimmer of hope. I could see myself changing, living happier and for once in my sorry life I was dying to be a one-woman man. You made me want to give up everything just to be with you. And the one person I was ready to give up everything for had to be pushed away. My lies had caught up with me finally. I was getting sucked in a web so deep that shivers would run up even a spider’s spine. And the cost I would have to pay would be my life, if nothing more.
I lied to you for the very first time today and also my life’s last. I could imagine the swirling winds of anger inside you. There was a lot you wanted to say. Your eyes gave you away. They smouldered but you said nothing. I broke your heart to pieces but you didn’t say a word. I know not whether it was your love that held you back from lashing out hatred at me or if I was not even worth hating anymore. And I guess I will never know.
As those bullets pierced through my body, your face flashed before my eyes and each lingering kiss felt closer and dearer than ever before.
The old man had been unwell for more than a couple of days now. The fever wasn’t breaking. He wasn’t worried about himself though. He was worried about his garden. He’d newly planted Canna Lilies in them. They were Madam’s favourite. He would have instructed his helper how to care for them well but the helper was on leave. Either ways, he wasn’t too keen on his helper’s work.
This evening, he’d tried walking out to the garden but he barely managed to reach the door of his own room. The doctor had been called. He prescribed some medicines and assured it wasn’t anything to worry about. The old man chided the cook, “I told you so.”
It hadn’t rained for a week now. It was unusually hot. If it didn’t rain soon, his garden would start wilting. In a long time, he wished his helper was here. Or at least the rains were. Either wish seemed far from being realized.
His son was around the same age as his helper. Every time he saw his helper, it reminded him of his son; a reminder that wasn’t happy or heart-stopping, a reminder that was melancholic and heartbreaking. His son was a charm with plants, but didn’t see the charm in them. “I want to do something bigger,” he used to say.
But the old man didn’t know anything bigger. Sure enough, there were bigger businesses he knew about, like the one Sir and Madam were doing. But at the end of the day, even they would come and admire his work. “What was bigger then?”, he thought. Even after his son had started working in another city, he stayed back with Sir and Madam. They loved his work and he used to love working for them. They’d given him a place to stay in their servants quarters.
After the doctor left, he tried sitting up to look at what he could of his gardens. It was dim now post dusk and his feeble eyes didn’t help either. He spent his evening alternately watching the blades of the fan rotate and dozing.
Night fell early and in spite of having slept almost all day, he slept like a log through the night too. He awoke well after the Sun had risen. He was rolling in sweat and blankets. The fever had broken. He turned towards the window and there were drops of water clinging onto the grills of the window.
Hopeful, he went up to the window. It wasn’t an easy walk but far less painful than yesterday. Indeed, they were water droplets. As he stood in the pool of water below his window, his eyes saw moist and glistening grass outside his window. The flowers were gleaming and waving at him in the morning breeze. He was ecstatic. The God loved His work too!
Today, he’s missing. For the past two weeks, actually. Should I rather say dead? Because he was barely being able to walk twenty days ago. A friend, on the man’s request carried him two feet away to where he wanted to sit. Then we saw him take out a packet of smokeless tobacco (Wiki pages lead to dipping tobacco being the most suitable variety) and consume it.
My concern for him suddenly vanished when I saw the pack of smokeless tobacco (commonly called khaini in India). I hastily concluded that he must have brought this situation upon himself. You must be wondering why I was concerned in the first place?
Jump to a month ago. For many days, I’d routinely noticed him and his actions. Those five seconds when I crossed him almost every day. He had a plastic bottle suspended from a rope and he would be moving it in a circular motion. I’d have put up a picture of it, if I had one, but I deliberately chose not to click his picture. I didn’t want to intrude into his privacy or whatever was left of it at least. Out of curiosity, the aforementioned friend asked him one day what exactly was the man doing. You know what he said? In a clear voice, in English, “Life is a circle”.
Another day I caught him muttering something. Seemed a little foreign to me. I heard more carefully, and it took me back to my seventh grade science classes.
He was muttering :
You must be wondering that he must have picked up the formula from someone, somewhere. Or that he must have been hit with early school days memories. Or that he may be a man of good education befallen to such hopeless and helpless times. I don’t know which one it is. And I’ll forever keep wondering.
Coming back to khaini, today it dawned upon me that maybe that was all he could afford to eat! Or maybe that was his escape from reality. Harsh, but true. Unacceptable, but needs to be accepted. Painful, yet routine.
Once at God’s door. No more…
P.S. : Every one has a story waiting to be said. We never spoke. But he still compelled me to wonder about his.
25th April, 2015 : The day man-made aftershocks won over natural aftershocks.
Two back to back tremors in Calcutta around noon today brought us all out of our buildings onto the roads. For a while, we were all dazed and then after necessary precautions went back to work.
I spent the next hour calling and texting people to ensure they were safe.
Then I came home and checked the news and read all I could about possible aftermaths of the quake.
After a long day, when I finally surfed through social media, I realized I had missed out on the most important task to be done after such an incident!
I forgot to update my Facebook status about how, why, where, when I felt and survived the quake! I forgot to share my survival strategies. I forgot to tell people via my Instagram account how the Calcutta skies looked pre and post storm today.
I realized I wasn’t cool enough like this guy who updated his status as “Feeling tremors. Earthquake?”. He was asked by a friend as to why he was updating his Facebook status instead of running down towards safety. His reply? “I am too lazy to run down 10 floors.” He should thank his stars the tremors felt in Calcutta were not destructive enough. Or else his laziness would have made him pay the final price. Very, very cool. I could never be him, try as much as I may.
Oh and do you know it’s also ‘Happy Earthquake Day’? Another status informed me this. People around me are so intelligent! I wonder where they get their brains from.
These are just two gems out of the countless sparkling stones lying around!
I had so many things to do. And instead all I did was feel gut-wrenchingly sad about all those people who lost their lives, saw their lives fall apart within seconds, are still trying to locate their loved ones, have been stranded and are waiting for help, are looking for the gleam of hope through the mount of rubble, are seeing the might of the Earth first hand. Where’s the proof that I did feel this? Where’s the evidence on the internet about it? I guess this is my evidence.
I did it. I did what all of us so calmly do these days. I just reduced the loss of countless lives to a few dozens of words.
Every single day, I was sitting in the corner under the tree – protected from the harshness of the Sun, the stares of Man and thorny ground below. I was waiting for the days to end, nights to fall, life to go on. One of those days you came along like a breath of fresh air bringing the whiffs of flowers and scents of freshly baked cookies. I was wary. You said you only wanted to talk to me. You were sad. You wanted company. I was sadder. I know what you felt. You told me about tales of long lost men and those voyages of the seas, the lands in faraway places and the Heavens where Gods can be. You aroused in me the desire to live, the want to know, the need to talk. I hesitated, stuttered, stammered, paused and then there was no stopping me. I was bubbling with newer energy each day I saw you. I waited for the nights to end and days to come now. One day you didn’t come. I waited all day long. There were no flowers to smell around me. The second day you didn’t come, I ventured from under my tree. I couldn’t see you all day. The third day you didn’t come again. My heart broke when I saw you laughing down the street, playing with people whom I had heard about. You forgot about me when I couldn’t stop thinking about you.
I went back to my corner under the tree – protected from the harshness of the Sun, the stares of Man and thorny ground below but with a heart split open to bleed. Again.