She gazes at the pilfered sky set on the ceiling of her room, an uninspiring imitation to the original artist’s craft “with as little as possible” imagination into play. A bit weary but very much awake she tries to makes herself comfortable with a little shift to left while moving her right hand underneath her head. The mattress was pushed and bruised by her constant torment, she even crawled into a ball and pinched herself close but nothing worked. Was it the anxiety taking over her mind or was it the dilemma of her heart? Probably she already has answer but for life of her she was totally blank then.
With the little sigh and “humph” for added effect she just settled herself back punishing her pillow with her fist a little more. Her mind wandered in all directions never staying for anything more or anything less. It was as if she was in a flea market standing their haggard by chaos around knowing not what she was doing there. The street vendors were shouting the most aggravating sounds as an Auntie was imparting her negotiation skills with the girl of gen-next. To be frank the girl is looking baffled with Auntie’s depth of knowledge. The whole scenario revealed the debacle of her mind and how crazed her sleeping pattern was.
It had been more than a fortnight since she had a good night sleep. She always ended up in the same fatal position of drowsiness gazing at the artless ceiling wondering about trivial matters but never giving in to sleep. The night blooms in her peripheral vision lassitude she felt not in her body but her mind. Though she has tried everything the darkness carries more appeal than morning, to her state of mind seems to be under wicked spell. Awakened though tired she is in night the morning routine feels like an obligation every day. She follows same set of rules each day of waking up, eating, working and eventually sleeping. Redundant her days have become so in night her imagination gets active as she feels in control then and she plays out different scenarios some from memories and some just wishful dreams. In the end she felt like ticking Time bomb which will explode soon leading to massacre of emotions in her days of fiasco.
Annant heard it all; the music, the anger, the love and the war. It was all that defined her, made her who she was. Similar to a tree who had its branches and roots spread over wide towards the sky and the ground. She also kept her arms open wide not knowing that instead of praying she was ready to embrace a peculiar feeling haunting her heart. The pray of hymns didn’t seem that strong today. Her brows knit together she concentrated keeping the eyes shut. And murmured the words she remembered but the words forming in her mind weren’t the one she was actually breathing from lips.
It was like a cosmic revelation to her, queer but a piece of unsolved puzzle. She needed to put the markers at the right place. She needed to understand her brain and her heart was not in sync. The roots grounding her were trembling. The flesh of hers could feel contradiction in her and it was not good. Especially not now, when she needed to keep her wits together make the mark she required, no, needed to make. She opens her fist to feel the wind or something that could trigger her senses but not lead her to the path of cacophony. Biting her low lip she felt an epiphany no matter how harsh this storm is, she needed to fight, to survive. Never mind the constant thumping of her pulse. Nevermind the cry of sharp No, screaming through her nerves causing goosebumps. She has to make it through, try one more time, face her demons. Stronger she act stronger will she be. In the path of procrastination and anxiety she was her self-made destruction. It will take time to build something meaningful out of her life. After all Rome wasn’t built in one day and this was her whole life 8,766 days she left behind and fragments of lifetime yet to be lived.
“To be human and not hope is like watching sunrise without feeling its warmth.
To be a person who is looking for validation is like a starving artist wandering aimlessly for inspiration.”
She sat down patting soft cloth on her face checking her reflection in the mirror while doing so. Her demeanour was poised and elegant when she kept the cloth back but her eyes crinkled just a little and lines were creasing her forehead. She was frowning, at what she saw, the sparkling eyes seem dull to her. The natural rogue on her plum cheeks reminded of her predicament. Holding in her breath for few seconds she sucked in the bloated tummy. The image floating in front of her eyes felt grotesque to her. This is not how she should feel she knew that but every night sitting here the tawny fingers of hers touched and followed a pattern of masking her face. The fingers try to paint her contour in certain way so she looked beautiful and felt beautiful. Perhaps then he will notice her think of her little more and then he may whisper sweet nothings in her ear like he did . He will not look tired (“Possibly he was tired of looking at her” she thought) and would pay more attention then look weary when she told him about her day.
Her eyes fell on various tubes, gels, expensive creams she used to become his Fair Queen. Yet nothing seems to be working she even started eating less (though when he just switch on T.V. in the living room in their room alone she finds solace in the tub of ice-cream) to reduce weight. In morning she joined yoga classes to help her get better and healthy. While in night she thinks of putting two fingers inside her mouth but is scared to do so. The eyes of her turns into saucer as the surge of anxiety hit her. The tears well up as a quiver is formed on her lips but she tries to keep it in, by biting her lips. The man she loved did love her back, always sweet and respectful to her but still she wished he looked at her in manner of amazement and pride. The way he once did.
The lights of the other bathroom went off and a shadow of man entered in dim lit room. She saw his every move with bated breath. While cleaning his glasses he looked at the cot on the other side of room. “Is she a sleep?” he asked while looking at her reflection in the mirror. “Yes” was her dichotomous answer not knowing what else she could say. He nodded “Hmm..Good” he said to her while moving towards the bed “Are you coming?” he looked expectantly at her “Is something bothering you?” this question startled her. “Um..N..no” she stuttered”Why do you ask?” looking at him curiously. He shrugged “You are not sleeping or eating properly for a while”. She bit her lip and closed her eyes, he noticed. Hope rushed into her system but she tried not think much of it. “It’s nothing. Everything is alright.” she lied as he looked at her curiously “You go on and sleep, I’ll be there in a minute” she said as she hesitantly smiled at him. His eyes still were curious but nodded and he went to sleep. Her insidious secret was safe for now but she had an idea she will crack soon. She knew her thoughts were far from being cheerful and could be hazardous to not only her but their relationship.
She checked on her daughter before going to bed. Trying to enter her side as gently as possible without waking him up. s she joined him her mind assessed her earlier conversation with him “ He noticed” it whispered. Something welled up inside of her as she turned over facing the cot. Suddenly she felt his arms around her which surprised her. His embrace was negating the doubts forming in her mind. In the end perhaps everything will actually be alright. And perhaps in his embrace she is already beautiful and validated.
Ode to Her
Let her sleep through the lullaby sung by her Mamma
Absolve her from your pride, from fate and karma
Deliver her to the doorsteps which she can call her home
Immensity of her bravery on other people never prolonged
Fortiude that she had bitter life didn’t hurt her
Forcing her to move forward in storm
She is courage, She is survivor
The palpable sky on eve of partition couldn’t understand the grief which divided an ex-British Colony. The celebration turned sour when families had to leave their home and decide to be part of one of the two great nations, Union of India and Dominion of Pakistan. The family of my maternal grandmother was under the same dilemma being a Hindu family based in the city of Lahore. Both countries were painted red with blood and violence on innocent people. With the glare of harsh reality set up on many, friends and family couldn’t move forward with the so called independence. And many who did had to travel forward leaving behind the carcasses of their loved ones. On one of such days my Grandmother and her family waited for the passenger train which will take them from Lahore to Delhi. While the station was chock-full of people having no time to do more than worry of one’s own safety and look inquisitively at the guards doing rounds. None of these people noticed a toddler just 6-8 months playing gaily on railway tracks. Then moment of abeyance set in when the train was seen approaching making large rattling and hoot like noise. Suddenly cry of little baby sitting on track was noticed by many. I don’t know if she was the one closest or the only one who had the courage. But a girl of around 15 years saved the little baby while losing her hand in process. The little baby was her brother and the girl was my grand-mother. Was it the adrenaline of the situation which led her to do this suicidal act of heroism? Or was it just plain fright of losing one more person who was close? From the day my parents told me the story of her life as refugee, in poverty, marriage (to be saved from being “raped”), determination and fortitude with which she lived not only inspires me but humbles me too.
To me she is:“ The Angel who survived darkness”
The woman with weary lines on her face and parched lips was peeling out red pinkish rough textured outer shell of lychee with her small thin wrinkled hands. Suddenly she looked up towards me, her kind grey tinted brown eyes smiling at me when she said “Want some.” I hesitantly shook my head to say no and gave a very awkward smile. You see though I was hungry and the fleshy fruit looked quite delicious but I’m not very comfortable talking to strangers especially whom I met on a train. Some of you may call me paranoid others might call me cynical to think that a scrawny old lady could poison me with fleshy citrus fruit. I accept this sounds foolish but if I have nothing on my mind I have these random theories. Though most make no sense like my thoughts over how I as a child believed I was the only human and everyone else are alien including ma famille. I know absurd. I realize it now but once I totally believed my brother is a Martian.
I’m startled out of my reverie as I look outside of the window and see people on station are bustling around most minding their own business. I see a chai wala serving cutting chai to one gangly bespectacled man holding newspaper under his armpit and another portly man with funny mustache. Both of them seem to be arguing or more appropriately ‘debating’ over something. I guess it must be about the state of Global vs. Indian economy. I sigh putting my right elbow up on the window with my fist under my chin. The old lady intriguingly gazes at me with another one of her smile. “Getting bored.” Rather than asking me if I was,she states the fact bluntly. When I say yes my voice is no louder than a whisper and crack due to hoarse quality. The lady nods and silently offers me fruit again. I finally give in as I can’t ignore my rumbling tummy in no time everyone will hear it too. I take one lychee hesitantly and then another after which I’ve finally eased in to her company.
As we are eating in comfortable silence she asks me if I was going to Amritsar. I shake my head and reply “No, actually I’m going to my cousin’s wedding in Jalandhar”. Suddenly twinkle in her eyes faded a bit and I could see hint of melancholy there but thinking I was just imagining it I asked her where she’s going to. “Amritsar, I live there.” she said “I was visiting my brother in Delhi.” After that conversation flowed between us. There was something really positive about her that lightened me up. It’s not that I talked much, as it is not in me to but her pleasant smile and twinkling kind eyes made me feel humble.
She was an ordinary lady a bit scrawny with salt pepper hair. There was something really motherly about her, making me feel really protected. Let me rewind and then play the whole scene again so I can understand what just happened. I sat next to wrinkly old lady who shared her food with me on a train, a complete stranger and I feel protected. Yeah! Finally I’m losing my mind. I give a snort and the old lady gives me inquisitive look as if she didn’t get the joke. Again I look out of the window saddened by my own thought process. I’m just 20 years old and even smiling seems like a big task to me I want to ask her. How can she be nice to a stranger wasn’t she afraid?
At this moment she was telling me about her family how her son got married few months back. She was talking animatedly about her family with so much joy, it was like she found magic dust in middle of ocean. Her eyes were sparkling when she told me about how sweet and kind her son and daughter-in-law are. I felt infected by her joy and a bit uneasy because I’ve never laughed and smiled so much in an hour. I was afraid something will happen and take this moment of innocent happiness of someone else’s perfect world away from me. Not many people I’ve met or raised by have shown me this level of sincerity.
Everyone around is carrying so much baggage. Till now I was living in a kettle burning hot like water blowing out steam, yet here sits a woman before me definitely suffering from knee pain and age. But she seem to be content of what she has and it’s not the quality of not knowing me that makes her sounds so happy. It looks more like an essence of her to be pleased and twinkle, just being positive of what she has. Right now to me she seems larger than life rather than an invisible stranger I sat next too. Her attitude, her positivity I cannot explain it can only be felt. And I feel good, better actually all my complains and grief’s seem small, she makes them small. I’m here, sitting with a stranger laughing with her amazed by her and finally I could feel it again the way I used to feel as a child. I’m again a believer even if it is for a while. I’m becoming messianic.
….to be continued