Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My first Love affair.

“You are so good my friend. I feel so relieved after talking to you. As if the burdens of my heart get wings and casually flutter away like a butterfly…”

“You are so beautiful my friend, I just feel like looking at you and doing nothing. I feel everything is possible, that anything can be done because I have another moment in my life, another possibility of looking at you…”

“You are so magnificent my friend… its such a wonderful feeling to be in your company… All my desires seem less in front of my desire to be with you… to talk to you as I am doing right now, as I will go on doing forever… Until the time I find that I don’t want to enjoy my life… Until the time I think I will die…”

The tree was crooked in shape. Its twisted branches seemed somebody’s hands stretched and pulled in unspoken agony. Yet it held its head high, and never let it bare its pain, its sorrow. If ever it shed its leaves in autumn, it did not expose its pain or penury. It kept on putting up its façade of grit, as if his pretense would empower anybody passing by it. It stood at the periphery off the cliff, hanging behind almost in a way of falling down below in the deep abyss of the valley. But it never fell down. It never compromised on the faith. Of the young little boy.

The boy always came to the tree. Everyday, he would run all along the path from his cottage on the hill to meet his only friend in the valley. He brought all his near and dear possessions along; his blanket that he always carried behind him, the very short sweater his dead mother had sewn, which he wore even in the mildewed summer, his collection of distorted clay figurines built by his tiny creative hands… all the other things which substituted for the lack of toys children of his age generally had. Occasionally he would also bring along a prized possession earned by him, which included things like a nickel ring too big for his ears or fingers, or a small bell which the priest of the local temple gave as a gift, or an Alphanso mango given by stray tourist as mark of their pity towards his impoverished condition. And all these he would show to the tree with a look of pride achievement. A brazen, happy look of sheer ecstasy of hope… surrounded by a blanket of hopelessness.

“You are such a good friend… you always listen to me. Do you know that nobody listens to me? Papa doesn’t meet me. Mumma always stays in god’s palace. She doesn’t come down to take me also there. She enjoys it all alone. Do you know I am pretty angry with her? Indeed I am. How can she enjoy at all, leaving papa and me out?”

A little brown leaf fell off on his shoes. He picked it up and happily scaled out twig-by-twig of its papery veins. In the end all that was left was a skeleton of the original leaf. So happy was he off his creation that he decided to give it as a gift to his friend.

“You keep it my friend, as a mark of our friendship. I hope you’ll treasure it as much as I do.”

But that leaf, just like happiness and good memories, was blown away by the cruel wind of time.

“You have disappointed me, oh yes you have. At least you should have taken care of something important to me? Papa breaks all my clay toys in fit of anger when he doesn’t get money to buy yellow water. Mumma never bothers to come and see what I have lost or gained. You were the only person who used to pay attention to me. Now I wont show to you the new thing I found today. Huh!”  

He didn’t stay with the tree that day. He moved around everywhere, tried to be out of sight of anything remotely tree-like. But in the dense valleys, it was not only very difficult, but out of question to not to see a tree once in a while. Frustrated he decided to go to the riverside. At least there wont be trees like that on its banks…

He was playing with the stones on the banks. He found he had natural flair for it. Small stones with rather sharp edge were sent to the other shore in one…two…three…four plonks plonks plonks, jumping like wild gazelles.
He discovered that he could have fun even without the tree. He decided to not to go near the tree for sometime.
“Let it learn for its carelessness.” He told himself without conviction.  

He didn’t go to the tree that day, thinking of it as a punishment to the tree for its callous behavior.
“Only then it wont take me for granted next time!”

It started to rain late in the evening. He looked out of the wooden box like opening which was supposed to be a window, to look at water drops falling carelessly down everywhere. A shaggy dog appeared suddenly in front of his house, drenched and visibly whimpering. It shook his body feverishly, sprinkling off the water on its fur. But he still kept on shivering and moaning piteously. 

He felt an unknown kinship, an inexplicable bond with the dog. He was eating the last morsel of bread he had for his lunch. He looked at it, then looked at the dog. Then their eyes met for sometime. Then he threw open the door of their shanty and beckoned the dog to come in. After a few jerks of his body, which sprayed water allover in the empty hut, he gave away his piece of bread to the pitiful creature. And watched happily as he hungrily gulped it down and swiped its wagging tongue around its still hungry mouth.

Slowly, the rains subsided. Just about twilight, when only the sound of slow dripping water splashing on the puddles outside the hut was heard over the omnipresent swoosh of breeze, the hut’s door banged open, and just like a member of some barbarian tribe, his father entered inside, preceded by an axe, dripping with… oh my god! Blood!

He cringed away into the shadowy corner of the hut. A few drops of the blood fell down and he realized they were actually water drops. Though he realized a new thing. Splinters of wood were sticking out from the edge of the axe. He was just left in denial.

One fierce look and the dog ran out of the house immediately. When he re-returned his glance towards him, he wished he could also have done same… but there seemed no way of exit. All he could do was to cower in one corner and wait, in anxious anticipation for a loophole.

And surprisingly, his father turned away the very next moment. He dropped the axe in one corner and went on to arrange to light the firewood he had brought along with him. Slipping around slowly, inch by inch, he sidled himself from the room, and exited tiptoeing. As he started to run once he was outside, he thought he distinctively heard a mirthless laughter ring inside the wooden hut. 

His feet stumbled and tripped and fell down out of exhaustion. His breaths became quicker and sharper and every new stride sent a shoot of pain running by his side, yet he did not stop until he reached the tree. It was for the first time he had gone near it so deep into the night, in fact it was first time he had dared to venture outside the shanty after the nightfall. Everything seemed different and strange. Every next corner seemed to contain some ghost, and every hidden space in darkness seemed to call him out. But he did not stop to hear them. He did not stop, till the time he had reached the home of his only friend left in the world. 

And then he slipped and started rushing down… down… down… uncontrollably.

                                                                            *

When he opened his eyes, sun was shining brightly on his eyes. He opened them lightly and rubbed them. He looked around, it was an unfamiliar place. He got up and saw a tree stump ahead. Just as he reached it, a terrible pain shot across his stomach. He sat down leaning on the tree stump and exhaled deeply. Cool breeze sifted his hair easily and contentment washed over him. A few dead leaves rustled around him. He opened his eyes.

And then he saw it.

And in the next second which felt like an eternity, he realized it.

And he felt he could just have fainted.

But he just sat there in disbelief.

And turned around and looked at the stump.

And picked it up from the ground, and stared at it again.

And then the low cry escaped his mouth.

But the tears did not fall down…

It was the same leaf he had carved out as a gift to the tree.

He saw his father working on the tree next to his. But he didn’t seem to notice him. He kept on pulling his axe up in the air and bring it down with a huge resounding thud. He did not move either.

Then he looked at the place around him again. And saw a deep cliff run down just behind the stump. And beside it, marks of something going down the hill.

And then he looked at himself. And saw the sunray passing through him.

And he understood.

And he was filled with sudden, inexplicable joy.

And he sat down again beside his friend, united with him in death.

And he picked up yet another leaf and started working on it.     

   

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Here now... And... Then...

I am not much adept in adjusting to heights, much more in an extremely chilling atmosphere. But that day, the occasion demanded me to comply with the situations and keep my fuss about the unnatural acrophobia, and even more peculiar timing of onset of chills; to myself. The view was exotic to say the least. It was not many days that you get to see your city nightscape laid out before you like some life like canvas of colours and fascination (unless of course you are living on these terrible heights. But I won’t count you in) so I must not complain much as of now.

To let me begin, let’s start with the reason I landed up at that secluded highs of the city tower. As usual and as cheesy and clichéd it may sound, it was my girl. Though this scenario was affected more by innocuous inquisitiveness than adolescent anticipation. There you go, this shows how life can sometimes cheat on you worser than a promiscuous partner…

Our love story is, or rather was never a perfect one. I guess it’ll be too imprudent to call it the greatest or the most touching or associate it with all those frilly epithets you usually come across with love stories. No. Absolutely not! We weren’t like that.

Matter of fact-: Now that you come to think about it… I doubt if ever it was love. I guess we had both succumbed to weak circumstances, which finally culminated into disastrous and mutual misconception.

The fact cannot be ignored that our relationship wasn’t exactly a paradise on earth when she had called me on that high rise, on the New Year’s Eve. I admit this. We were going through that waspishly poisonous phase that descends into almost every relationship. That puppy love, rosey-dovey period seemed to have evaporated, as if it were a myth. Nevertheless we were carrying on with ourselves through those tough waters… Maybe because of an incandescent yet dimming flare of hope from each other, or maybe because of selfish or ulterior reasons of god-knows what inferences, I dunno. Memory of that lull phase between the fall from grace of our love and the developments-laced New Years Eve is still repugnant.

Anyways, it came as a bit of surprise that day, when she called up to meet. And my surprise turned part horror, part suspicion when Leela told me about the time and place of our rendezvous.

Yes, Leela is my girlfriend, who had called me at the dead of the night (though this city never seems to die at all; endlessly droning like some insomniac monster) for some unknown and unfathomable reasons. This particular building had some Frankenstein number of floors, which will be better left unknown, or else I will have to puke on these pages. But if I were to put across an estimate, I’ll bet there were at least half of a century.

Since it was an office premise-cum-shopping arcade, entering the building at given time was not a problem, more so on New Years Eve. Thus staying on the balcony of the 25th floor of that gigantic skeletal glassy bastion was quite easy.

Let me mention you this. If you have ever visited this city you’ll come to accept the commonly acknowledged fact that December nights are no less than rattle breaths of Hades (that lord of underworld in Greek mythology. We correlate because of the freeze of the underworld.) But never in my wildest dreams had I anticipated those breaths to be so damn bitingly cold! These unmerciful gusts of winds moved slowly and deliberately as if they had an impertinent life of their own. As if teasing the already beleaguered man, they would blow like freight trains and seemingly pause at the contact of slightest human touch. One minute on the pedestal and goosebumps had erupted all over my body. Shivering and clattering of my teeth was not out of place after another minute and in the next one, and I started to get alarmed that the progressing inactivity in my body was not because of freezing of my bones!

But the next second, a shadow cut the gleaming slit of light which was falling across the gateway on to the balcony. The shadow was decently tall, beautiful, and seemingly danced like a flickering flame. Slowly it emerged out of the dark corridors to reveal its visage and after so long a time, something within me stirred when I saw her face.

Before some time, seeing Leela had become some sort of a habit. It no longer excited me as it used to do once. It had regressed into something like a daily ritual, like eating food. And who the hell enjoys eating the same food all over again!!?

But on 31st eve, her appearance on the doorway sent shivers and cold rolling over to oblivion, dispelling the cursory darkness in the ambience and enlightening, or rather, enwhitening the gloomy atmosphere. Suddenly blood was surging all through my body, and my heartbeats became extra vigorous. I became conscious of some tinkling in my background, as if someone was playing a particularly soft-romantic note on a piano with a base of violin. It all returned back, those past days of long lost sensation of love, they all came back to me gift wrapped, and with a sprig of bouquet. I felt the same excitement I used to feel when I met her, the same gush of adrenaline pumping through me, making my hand shiver reasonlessly. Somewhere down the line, I was falling in love all over again …

She had dressed impeccably in a black gown, her hair tied up behind in a tight bun, and a look of austere superiority in her make-up less face, shining like a glowing beacon. Her eyes reflected the same blaze they had when we had met for the first time I had proposed her. Her demeanour made me forget the coldness of the night; in fact, it made me forget the coldness we were sharing over the past few months. Things seemed good and right suddenly again.

She crossed the threshold, and came closer. I was facing the door then, with elbow resting nonchalantly on the wrought iron railings. She came over and entwined her fingers in the hand that was resting by my sides; and stood facing the skyline, in an opposite direction. After ruminating the sparkling dots of city lights, she turned her face in my direction to return my affectionate gaze. Even in the darkness, a flare seemed to be dancing in her eyes. Her hand was warm, and her touch affectionate, something that I had sensed only after a long time. After some intent moments of eye talk, she came and pecked my cheeks and whispered solicitously,

“How are you?”

It was this that stumbled me. Not the kiss, but that extra something in her tone, which seemed foreign. I had this unique sensation of tones. Whether she had fought me, or caressed, her tone had always had the same modulation. But that night, suddenly, an extra edge appeared in her greeting. This extra thingy hurt my ears, as if a scalding new, unseen object was slipped into them.

“Me…” I stuttered, partly due to the return of cold and partly due to excitement, “I am fine… nice place, by the way…” I said, unable to keep out a hint of contempt in my tone.

“Oh Arjun…” she sighed, again in the same irritatingly alien baritone.

“What?”

She took her time to sort out what exactly she had to say. To her it might have been few minutes. To me, it was ages. It was like hanging from a perilous cliff.

Finally she spoke. And when she did, again it felt as if the cold had disappeared.

“How many days has it been since we have enjoyed each others company truly?” she asked, looking over the railings.

“It’s pathetic. Don’t even ask me to recount.” I answered spiritedly, playing with her pinkie. Somewhere her appearance that night raised my hopes. 

“I mean don’t you think, we have been pushing the cart too long for our own good?” she continued her diatribe.

Again my heart plummeted. What is this girl up to? Why such melancholic questions?

“Yeah, it’s high time I think we made a difference to our relation.” I continued my endeavour in vain…

“Exactly! That’s why I have called you up here tonight.”

Now if I had been stumbled before, it was nothing compared to what I felt then.

“Here for…? You mean…? Hang on…I don’t really understand you… what’s this all about?” I stammered.

“I mean, isn’t it better to release an agonized jinn from his captivation, than earn his curse?” she spelt her intentions. I, on the other hand, was left to bewilderment for next some moments before the final blow struck.

Was it my imagination, or did actually a shadow had leapt up on her face, I don’t know about it. All I know that something had crossed her silken countenance. Somewhere her expression was contradicting my hopes.

“Arjun…” she said slowly, and tersely, as if emphasizing on each syllable, “I called you here to liberate us from the burden we are carrying from so long…”

There she goes; one card already open. Had it not been her tone and shadows prancing her expressions, I would have taken it as a sure cue to rekindling of flames. But something woefully dissimilar seemed to have been written in destiny.

“Arjun…” she continued in her mildewed narration, “I think its time to move on… to different space…”

She looked up in my eyes. And there I saw the stark reality being played out for the first time, although I did not recognise it immediately then. I saw for the first time in her eyes, not love, not affection, but compassion… Mocking compassion… Laughing compassion… Giggling, guffawing maniac compassion… Compassion disdainful of my weaknesses and failure… Compassion chiding me for my final defeat... 

And then the golden slit was again eclipsed by another shadow. The shadow sliced the slit of light in a perfect nodal way, generating a crescent halo across its mass. And through the dust particles falling head-first on the balcony, I understood what her third and final card was…

The shadow stood on the door ledge, cross legged and leaning on the ridge. From the quaint distance, the shadow was giving out the same vibe of mockingness which Leela so painfully displaying to me. I was not able to see the face, but am sure it carried the same scowling grin which was playing on Leela’s lips. She extended her right hand towards me, holding something in her palm, placing the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle our intertwined lives had become.

While my excitement turned into fits of seizure, in a slow and deliberate motion, she brought forward her left hand. On it I saw sitting smugly, a new ring on the third finger. And in her outstretched right palm was the ring I had presented to her in proposal of my emotions.

With a crash of realization that made the winds stop and time still, it all dawned on me like falling dominoes…

She hadn’t come there for any reconciliation…

She was there for the express purpose of ending our sojourn journey together… for ending our foray together into the hell-like-paradise of love…

…In the older tale, it did not turn out like this. It was Arjun who had triumphed over Eklavya… both had vied for the same goal, but in the older tale, fate and history had chosen Arjun. Eklavya had had to back out of the game as a loser, as the mocked one. It was Eklavya, who had to bow his head in obeisance to Arjun’s submission.

But in my tale, it was the unseen Eklavya who had beat out Arjun in the race for love. In the final foil of the deception of human nature, the plot had turned against Arjun. Destiny and love choose this unseen Eklavya over Arjun…

Or rather Leela did…

She left my hand and glided back to the threshold, lost into the gossamer folds of darkness. And then after an eternity of crushing silence, her shadow united with the one on the door… and I could not look further…

I looked at the ring she had returned back to me. A single ray of light hit it from the corridor and the silver glinted in the gold of light strand…I finally came to know it… it was all over… her train had changed tracks…

I looked up at the lacy velvets of the scaffolding that the sky was. Did I imagine it that time, or did the stars had actually backed out slowly from the face of it…? It seemed I was not alone in my sadness…

Sharp at twelve, behind me, in a blast equivalent to that of a cannon, BANG! A shoot flew vertically up at the sky until it reached my eye level. And then, the shoot bloomed in front of me, creating a lavender flower in midst of the sky.

When I again cast a glance towards the sky, all the stars had disappeared… all that was left in the sky to glow were the arbitrary blasts of colours being issued from the multitudes of fireworks, a symbol of celebration, for the new beginning of the New Year…

But there I was, celebrating a new end, all on my own and alone, Here… now… and then…