Do you ever feel this way
Do you ever feel
the tickle of a tear drop down your cheek
And wish to never have to hide it
Do you ever feel
the sun drying up that water on your face
And wonder where the vapors go
Do you ever feel
The need to question yourself
and wish you had an answer
Do you ever feel
the sweat draining down your back
and wish your tears could flow like that
Do you ever feel
your laughter echo under your tears
and wish to find an ocean bed
do you ever feel
and wish to tell someone like me
or it's just me
Neither fire nor ice
neither fire nor ice
the world shall have
more apathetic demise
an end in oblivion
neither lore nor legends
wiping the footprints
backwards we shall leave
nothing to reminisce
neither sacrilege nor sacrifice
neither desire nor hate
from what I've seen of despair
the world shall end in suicide
and as always
no murderer shall be glorified
The mango tree in the front yard was waving me goodbye. Its giant branches were stretching out of the trunk like a child spreading his arms, as high as he can, for his father to pick him up. Baba worried that the branches will soon entangle the cable wires which ran all above the street like cobwebs. I glanced one last time at the old wooden template hanging on the biscuit walls of my ancestral house. It said ‘Home Sweet Home’ in a perfect calligraphy, nor too pointy neither too curvy. Baba used to say that excess of everything is bad, even ‘the good’ in excess is bad. I didn’t exactly know what it meant but it seemed just the right excuse to shove in my mother’s face when she would force day’s 4rth glass of ‘milk is good for you’ through my oesophagus. I immediately turned my head to face my husband sitting in the driver’s seat of our inherited antique Volkswagen. Ehsaan knew this ‘wait-a-minute’ look on my face so he turned off the heaving engine which had still been panting due to the strenuous exercise of getting started. I opened the car door and rushed out to fetch the ‘Home Sweet Home’ board. After taking it down and racing back to the inherited antique Volkswagen, I finally settled down in the seat beside my husband.
“What does this mean now?” He said with a sigh.
“That…..milk is bad for me.”
“I don’t know what you are saying but…….” His words trailed behind (like the tail of our inherited antique Volkswagen) as the tyres started to roll. I was obviously not listening and he knew that.
A creaking (not the creepy creaking but a pleasant and musical creaking) door closed with a bang. I knew it was sad, the door, just like a violin player who is thwarted in-between his most delicate of notes. I was sorry for it but had to see who committed the offence so I looked up. Dad was the sinner.
“You made him sad’, said an angry me.
“It doesn’t matter to me if I don’t matter to him. Now listen carefully with your ears and liver and stomach and every other organ you have…..YOU ARE NOT GOING IN HIS ROOM ANYMORE. You hear me….NO GOING IN HIS ROOM.”
“I was talking about the door. Whom are you talking about?”
“Your Baba, let him stay there, in that rat hole, all day until he realises that he needs me. Let him not give me the property and nobody will give him any food or water. Cause my dear what he doesn’t know is that this world is based on give and take. No give, no take.” Again I didn’t understand what he meant but I knew that he was wrong because it felt wrong. I will never use ‘No give, no take’ as an excuse, I promised myself. And I promised myself that I WILL GO IN HIS ROOM. You hear me…I AM GOING TO HIS ROOM.
Dad left and I left behind him to comfort Baba. He might be sad just like the musical door and Dad was his sinner too.
Baba’s rat hole was as small as a rat hole still as big as a public library. The books everywhere and anywhere made it look small but also big. He was sitting in his creaking rocking chair (sister of my creaking door) with his Gandhi glasses on his nose. I climbed into his lap. A pair of matching small legs on a pair of unmatched, one flesh and one tin, legs.
“Are you sad Baba?”
“Because you had a fight with Dad again.”
“Don’t worry about me or him. He just wants what I cannot give him and neglects what I can.”
“What can you give him? Cause he says ‘No give, no take’ in his bad voice.”
“I can give him knowledge but he wants money. I can give him history but he wants antiques. I can give him Sarasvati but he craves for Lakshmi.” Something was shining in his eyes but I could not comprehend it. Years later I would know that it was the pain that was shining. The pain of raising an useless, alcoholic and gambler son.
“Oh! This is sad but I can take your S-a-r-v-a…”
“Yes yes that”
“I will give it to you, my bacchi. But promise me that you will ‘learn not just to earn’ and ‘give not just to take’”
Later that day a blue-red me shuffled in the bed with tomato sauce dripping from my knees. I licked the sauce which was not at all tamatoey or saucy but had a somewhat ironic taste (It tasted like iron). Everything ached, it always did when Dad hit me, but today the pain was less because I made my Baba happy by accepting his S-a-r-a-s-v-a-t-i even though I didn’t know what it was.
I drifted back to the present. We, in my Baba’s inherited antique Volkswagen, were heading towards the orphanage to give, not to take anything, Baba’s books (his S-a-r-a-s-v-a-t-i) and every other tit-bit he owned. He had expired a month ago and the land he owned, that he long ago donated to a NGO, was now a well-developed orphanage.
After completing our work at the orphanage we went to a pawn shop to sell the inherited antique Volkswagen. No, not for money but for the education of the orphanage children (as Baba wanted). I stepped out of the glamourous car with a healthy looking body but a weak heart. While the shop manager talked with my husband, I rummaged the back seat for Baba’s Gandhi glasses. There they were, sitting alone in the corner, maybe grieving maybe remembering fondly their old companion. I pulled them out of their grief, collected Baba’s other valuable antiques and the ‘Milk is bad for me’ board.
“See what you can do with these”
“But why do you want to sell them? I thought you wanted to keep them as memories….” Ehsaan said.
“I have history, I don’t want antiques.” I smiled.
“I will never know what you say.” He laughed.
Sarasvati- Goddess of knowledge, art and education
Lakshmi- Goddess of money and prosperity
Bacchi- A little girl
Lemme tell you something before I leave.....
No, not dark circles darling
they are my battle scars
earned from all those fights,
They are my pride
So what if I have panda eyes
No, I don’t need any concealers
No mascara, no blush
I better be real
than being a plastic Barbie doll
I better be me
than being a perfect picture on your wall
you don’t like me
you leave me
but don’t you try to teach me
When I see a stranger
I was sitting on a bench in the park when he entered my sight. Now I am staring hard at him. Copper red hair, white skin, lean frame, sharp features, hazel eyes…..
Something shines in my brain.
Nah! Nothing. But hazel is indeed a beautiful colour for eyes.
I am looking all around now. My gaze jumping from a group of merry children playing in the sand pit to a forlorn old lady sitting on a bench. Back and forth. Back and forth. And absentmindedly I am again scoping the stranger.
I cannot read him. What is he thinking about? A donut? A number of donuts? A whole mountain of donuts? I am really very hungry.
I study his features. Sharp features with no curves, just edges. There is no expression on his face. His face is emotionless like that of a statue, or more appropriately, an effigy.
Interesting word! I like its taste on my tongue. The way it makes my tongue hang in the vacuum of my mouth is interesting.
Sounds weird. Why is it even a word?
Anyway.....Why is he wearing black? Someone he loved must have died. Someone close. Someone dear. Or maybe not. Maybe it was someone worthless. Someone just ‘someone’. Maybe I know this ‘someone’. I might have crossed him on the street sometime. I may shed a tear for the departed soul. But I don’t have to.
I look at my wrist watch. I should leave now. But what about the stranger? Should I ask for his permission to leave? Should I tell him that his eyes are beautiful? Should I ask him if he likes donuts? Should I thank him for helping me with the intriguing discovery about ‘effigy’? Should I say a few words of condolence for the departed? Should I apologise to him for staring? Nah! He is just a stranger. You don’t greet, acknowledge, apologise or comfort strangers. You are not bound to perform any formality. You don’t have to think hard. You can just come and go. This freedom is the best part about strangers. I like strangers.