A Flavour of Sweets

“Who are you?

Do you want to know?”

Abdul was making his way through the squeezed-in streets of Old Delhi when I had asked this question of him. The fat sweet shop owner passed a sharp glance at him as he entered his shop to begin the day’s labour. As always, I was most disinterested in the chores Abdul was running through the damp shop. His urge of cleaning all the tables and waiting on the customers was incomprehensible to me. He had been doing that every day with the same energy since the 5 years that I had known him. “Why do you have to keep doing this? Do you really believe THIS is all you can be?” I would inquire, but in vain.

At home, I have always enjoyed the freedom to pester him for his indifference towards me. Mother has been really ill lately. She’s coughing half the time of the day and sleeping in the other half. So, every time she gives instructions for the things to be brought from the market I speak in his head the loudest I can. It is delightful to see his face redden with anger as he feels embarrassed to make his mother repeat her words. Oh! How much I enjoy my glorious moments!

But there is something exceptionally wrong with him today. I have been hovering in his mind since the morning and yet he hasn’t silenced me even once. I troubled him during his afternoon sleep and especially during his precious sneak into the school for over hearing lessons. Yet, he did not respond. Perhaps he would think something after this plum of a person scolds him for coming late.

“Welcome Sahib! Have you arrived already? It’s just 3 pm. Why don’t you take some rest and return by the evening?”

“That is in fact a good idea, Abdul! He is letting you take a few hours off by himself. Just say YES and leave.”

“I am sorry, Murari ji. My mother was not feeling well today. So, I stayed back with her to take care of her for a while.” And like every day, Abdul has put his wrong foot out today as well. But why should I care. He’ll have to take its humiliation all by himself. It is not as if I am bound to this plum man.

“Everyday the same excuse! I curse the day I employed you in service…….” Here we go again. I don’t understand why he even goes into the effort of repeating the same banter. It would spare me so much pain if he just checked Abdul’s reason with his mother. “Of course, he isn’t lying! If only you could care to investigate, you selfish man”. I don’t understand any of……

“What have you done Abdul! Where do you think you are going?”

“What is happening to you? I can’t understand a word you are thinking in the midst of your anxiety. I need you to calm down.”

“Home? You’re running home? How do you think that can help? You have just shoved the plum man and run off with a box of his jalebis. How do you think he’ll bare that!?”  He isn’t listening to me again.

But why should I worry for mother’s scolding. He’ll be the one culprit of the theft of jalebis. He’s been the one who has betrayed his conscience – mislead ME – and served his interests. The Law would not spare him. The plum man might already be looking for a policeman!

But what would I do? I can’t even present my case.

Here’s mother! I’m sure she’ll teach a lesson to Abdul.

She looks frailer than she was when we left her for work. A drink of water might just rejuvenate her spirits and make her sturdy enough to beat this Abdul!

“Go ahead! Offer her a glass of water.”

Mother doesn’t look so well to me. Her hands are shaking and her voice is failing.

“She should better lie down, Abdul.” She’s pointing at the jalebi box. I think she’s asking where it came from.

“A Lie! What a liar you have become Abdul! I wish I could tell mother how you bought that box by exchanging a fist with the plum man”

She’s asking for a piece of the sweet. I don’t blame mother. She looks too tired to scold him right now. Maybe a bite of the jalebi might make her feel better. I think the only place where Abdul’s and my thoughts intersect is – in the smile of our mother. Perhaps, the Plum Man does have something to be proud of. His sugary sweet has indeed lit Abdul’s face. For the first time in today he is finally thinking about his reminisces – the good old days when father used to bring these jalebis on the first day of the month. I haven’t seen mother smile at us like this ever since father left us here.

That was then. And here we are now. With mother lying on the same old cot and smiling at us with the same touch of sorrowful warmth. She raises her hand to bless us. Only I can see that this blessing could never be more misleadingly disguised.

“What do you cry now Abdul? When you know it was you who chose to embitter her final breaths with the stolen bite?”

He isn’t thinking anything anymore. Where must he be going? The street outside is as alive as it can be during the twilight. He stood there in the middle of the bazaar and looked around him. Faces with innumerable masks leading to oblivion. And there! Mother shined down at us in all her glory. The stars were shining and brighter still, because mother could always illuminate her company. Yet, has anyone found her there?  Why would the world care of another passing in the realm of unattainable sweetness? Murariji’s shop is open and full of customers who cannot notice him passing by.

In the squalor of the Past, the glimmers of the Present are serving to set new touchstones for the Future. While here he stands.

Down here were the peccable tangs of sweet life and up there the impeccable scintillate of eternity!

“You stand in their midst – as their temporary custodian.”

 

 

 

Photo credits: http://www.anapnoes.gr/mia-mitera-den-chriazete-syntrofo-gia-na-megalosi-charoumena-pedia/

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A Memento

It is often in the most grievous storms

When all the trees lie down

That one little sap, in solitary gloom

Smiles wide above the ground.

It smiles because what winds couldn’t shake

Holds him firmly by its feet

It laughs because what the sun couldn’t break

Protects him while he chuckles his teeth…

In the gush of joy, he wildly sways

For the hopeless has found a hope

Like a drop of dew that wanders to the flower

To hide its bloom and elope.

Chapter Five

Words of wonder, words of might,

I’ll be always in your sight,

Stars are grey and sky is white,

Wake up to the morning light!

 

She was humming the rest of her mother’s song because she couldn’t remember the words. He on the other hand sat still on the rock and listened with his eyes closed. The repetition of words could not touch the heights of memories onto which he had descended. For both of them, the song held a special place. They could hear their mother sing it when she cooked the meals, strolled in the garden, laid down on her sick bed and even when she sewed dresses for their bears. So many fights had that song resolved in minutes, for none of them could afford to make a sound as their mother sang.

“What a failure of memory! How could we forget the song!?”. She felt distraught after giving her hardest thought to the next stanza. No matter how much She tried, the words couldn’t crawl from her memory and reach her tongue. It felt as if there was a surge of words for which She couldn’t remember the sound; and when the sound came to be the words were lost in the air. Her frustration was unreachable – at least for the boy.

Unlike her, He sat with his eyes still closed and his body swaying to a mute music like the flames cheering the heart of fire. “What could He be thinking?” She asked herself. And when She couldn’t find the answer by herself, She sought it from him instead.

“Which song are you swaying to? Do you recall the mother’s song?”

The boy did not open his eyes, nor did He stop his swaying. From the complacent smile which He held on his face, He merely said, “I don’t remember it, of course! But I don’t need to either”.

She moved closer to the “swaying-pendulum-of-a-boy” and tapped his shoulder three times. But it wasn’t to stop the boy and return him from his musings. So, She stood by his side and started to enumerate all the ways that could interrupt his sway. After a successive line of petty ideas, She settled on the one which held the most promise and least activity – a splash of water! So, She collected the biggest coconut shell the island could hold and filled it with a taste of the salty waves.

With the notorious bowl of her plan between her fingers She told herself, “If I don’t count the 5 times that I fell over my back in the water, I think this has been by far the best plan!”.

She tip-toed her way near the oscillating boy and smirked to think about his face drenched in the cold, salty water. She stood behind him and raised the coconut bowl right above his head. As She waited for him to come under its target, the boy suddenly stopped and opened his eyes to look around.

Finding her behind him, He turned his head and asked “What are you doing?”

“Nothing! I was just standing and looking at the ocean” She said as She tactfully put the coconut shell by her foot. Her conscious smile made him suspicious, yet He chose to let it be for another time and pulled her by the hand to sit on the rock. She hesitatingly sat down beside him, looking at him eagerly.

“Do you want to hear mother’s song?” He didn’t wait for her nod and said, “I’ll show you how you can hear it in your memory. Just follow my steps”.

This time He waited for her nod and She smiled to show her approval.

“Great! Do you remember listening to mother’s song at her birthday? Do you recall how we sat together on the sofa as she sang to the party? I need you to close your eyes and imagine us sitting right there. It wouldn’t be difficult since both of us hold that memory the dearest! Just try! Close you eyes and hold your knees like I do and then just recall!”

She scoffed his idea in her head yet played along thinking lest her laughing might hurt him. So, She sat eyes closed on the rock and looked into the darkness ahead of her eyes. To her surprise, soon the memory of the mind trickled its way onto the darkness ahead of her. A bright light first, then a hazy figure of a woman – her mother as she recalled, standing in her white party dress. She could not see the other figures but her mother stood in the front – strong and beautifully! As She looked on, She heard the whispers in her memory turn into silence. And from the silence arose a feeble resonance. Coming from far deeper in the darkness and echoing in her mind. HER MOTHER’S SONG! She pushed her way through the binds of eyes and shushed her confused mind’s noise.

The more She left her self, the more she caught the resonance! As her mind lost its shackles, her mother’s voice started to ring like music in her ears. What a splendid song it was! A music that came from her heart to her soul and a song that rang with the chords of memory!

Splash!

With a sudden flush, the darkness was washed away from its portrait. As She opened her wet eyes and put away her hair, She saw the boy laughing wildly over the sand. It seemed that He had found the water filled coconut shell.

“You can’t out smart me! I don’t see why you even try M.” He said as He wiped his tears of joy.

But She remained still on the rock. Her agitated face opened her thoughts – “Was it a dream? Had I fallen asleep?….I cant feel my hands and legs. Did I hear mother’s song?”.

She could barely comprehend him as He collected the shells around her feet and said, “What are you thinking? You look so pale as if you saw mother. Oh well! Good for you I’ve run out of water. So, don’t mess with me again!”

Words of wonder, words of might,

I’ll be always in your sight,

Stars are grey and sky is white,

Wake up to the morning light!

 

He trotted off in happiness singing their mother’s song. Though, She sat firm and wet on the rock, only to close her eyes and anxiously look for her mother in the emptiness of the mind.

The Deserted Banquet Hall

You have been here a long time now, Gertrude. What do you recall looking at the patch of the dark sky which reaches your eyes through the concrete forest?

He sighed. It was indeed dark and the thought of the arrival of an evening mosquito swarm (for that is what the people graded it to be) broke his meditation. So he said to me, “I can’t believe I am talking to you again. But then who else do I have to fill my company, it’s not as if people have friends anymore. The last conversation I ever had was with a Chat Bot that talked like a woman. So to answer your question, yes I try to recall a moment, years from now when I did make memories.”

From days of your father to this moment, Connecticut has become alien to you and unrecognizable to me. In the farthest East upon the barren surface of the Great River the sun did shine yet it didn’t glow in your company but burned you with itself. And as I looked ahead, the far dimming lights of New York City which shimmered at a distance your spirit could never achieve instigated disgust for the odour of its coxcomb life. In this ever ambitious world here you sit everyday within your part of the sky looking on to the darkness as the constant reminder of the life today.

He motionlessly looked on the sky bereft of stars (as he would say) but which was hidden behind the dark clouds of dust as I could see.

It had become a matter of everyday now. Gertrude’s lonesome seating on the roof provoked my intrusion for in the silence around him I heard afflicting thoughts from the time past. In the month of October when leaves did rustle under his feet, I lingered today to hear the presence of nature’s daughter around him. It was between this chasm of then &now, where I got lost every time he looked at the far and familiar night sky. And to my agony, I could not reconcile him to find acceptance in a world he thoroughly unaccepted.

You should probably go to Martha. You are again sinking in yourself ————-Before I could say more, the above said Martha, the sole living companion of the only un-automated house in Connecticut, poked into view bearing her usual face with which she hinted that she didn’t quite understand his behaviour and got irritated with her ignorance.

“So you peeping into the sky again, lark?” she ejaculated.

“Not the sky, doll”.

I tried to evade her.

“Dad, you know you don’t have to lie to me”, was her protestation.

“But my dear, with your face covering my view, how do you expect I can be looking onto the sky now?”

I generously smiled at her stamping feet with which she often indicated her helplessness in rescuing his humour from her innocent anger. And as she would have it, soon I and Gertrude were back in the “petite” apartment he called his house. It had been carefully maintained to be as antique as possible. It was thus that it had the old ceramic paint coatings which now withered from time, were majorly covered with portraits of Connecticut that he drew from my memory. He enjoyed lying at the stitched bag of sponge he called a “couch” while Martha began her persiflage.

But today was different. For a reason I couldn’t identify, Gertrude lied down on his sponge to look over at his oldest painting which he saved as a bearing by his father. The painting never took my attention for it couldn’t instigate my love for art which was lost in my transaction with the Present; but with Gertrude it became somewhat like a gadget to which he drew back every hour of the 24. It was contained in a wooden frame which was cracked at corners and the picture presented the image of a young boy in mid twenties standing in the middle of an empty banquet hall. The glance of the boy seemed to interest Gertrude. Even with the tears that rolled down his eyes the young boy curved his lips to smile looking at the maple leaf crafted on the hall’s floor.  Within minutes of meditation, the painting of the mysterious boy flushed Gertrude’s face until a tear held with cold embrace his heated cheeks.

But it seemed I wasn’t the only one who noticed the deluded weight, for Martha exclaimed as haughtily as a child used to do in 21st Century pointing at the picture, “Is he experiencing another of those modes you call “emotion” papa? I wish Mr. Brudge taught us that in the class of Humanology.”

Gertrude just smiled.

“But is he sad or happy, papa?”

At this question of the little Martha I felt a deep hollow in my heart that numbed my thoughts. While I had no weight (for such is my constitution) I felt burdened with a load I seemed to be familiar with. To all I experienced Gertrude sat frozen at the face of her who didn’t notice his fixed gaze.

But Martha frivolously observed, “He looks happy to be sad, papa. I think he’s smart like Treck”.

He didn’t bother to hear the gross details that Martha went on to provide of Treck’s intelligence, and got up on his feet to face the painting he mused over. For in a moment of Martha’s persiflage, he stumbled over his only inheritance.

And he spoke in my ears –

I remember how my father sang to me, though the words I can’t recall

Yet its music reaches me now, of the song sewed with “pleasures in all”

It spoke of shallow reach of joy and the faithless showers

Afar did the freshness reach of the splendid flowers?

Ah! Its morning opens its gates and now its climes I do I see,

Affection drawn from sorrow is the truest there can be. *

 

 

*Gertrude is referring from Thomas Moore’s “In the Morning of Life”

Little Happy Things

The smallest, merriest things are they

Looking at you, I suppose

Your charm be equal to what words of play

A poem or a goofy prose!

That little squirrel pecking her tail

Slumbers as i look and laugh

I wonder how you changed my pale

When compared to my books you’re half!

I glare at the moon and its mangata

I’m assured like begets like

As it shaky curves upon the water

Draw a curve on my face as a smile!

The swirling wasps and swinging bee

Present a choir that I see

While my nearest neighbour, the ‘mosquito’

Won’t stop buzzing the chords to me!

The giggling tree consoles me

Happiness is but such small

Its ladder grows towards peace

Flourishing at the cusp of pall.

And even though nothing makes sense

Life and its troublesome caricature

But yet it will someday when you know

Only in bedlam is Nature…!!

Chapter Four

I don’t know what to do! M. has not been playing in the sand today and He doesn’t even look at me. What would have mother done? Would she have hugged him to sleep or stayed by his side? As I picture her here with us, I see that she would have cried for M. But what am I thinking? She can do much more than that! So, what if crying is the best thing that life has taught her? I am sure she would have done something more creative. What could it be?

Such was the turmoil in her mind as she looked at M. lying still over his long green leaves, barely moving and feebly breathing. She sat down right beside him but fearing that He might see her troubled, she slipped herself behind his back. No thing about the condition of the sleeping child could be seen from the place where she sat. She could not hold his hand or check his temperature or even look at his face as it flushed with red at the onset of the granulated sea winds. “What a waste!” She thought, “I do not know what I must do nor do I know how I must pass this time. If only M. could speak”. But the sick boy, by now red as a cherry and frail as a cotton bud, did not move a muscle. “How can He ever know what I am going through. It’s not him whose to sit still looking on at thin traces of life”.

“Un….Deux…..Trois…..” – Practicing the French alphabet on the sand was indeed very difficult. But with M. lying in the front it became an even more cumbersome task. She had to do something else. As the time passed the violent tussle between the still world around her and the noise of the thumping ocean took her away from her un-physical friends and stopped her eyes at the stiller body of the boy. How could he be lying motionless for so long? “I thought He would never tire away. But it seems that the sickness of the soul soon takes over from the weakness of the body”. Then, could he be dead now? Maybe, maybe not! And in case He DID happen to die, would I get to keep both the teddy bears? And what about the flowers mother got to them every week? Would she get to keep them too? It was an alluring thought. But, what could she possibly do with both of the bears? She detested the brown colour. And yet she would have to look after the brown teddy if HE DIED! No! He has to wake up and take responsibility of his teddy bear. She could not let him run away from the people who waited for him.

A giggle – or was it? Did he crack a laugh? Can he do that at such poor health?

Suddenly the boy moved. His red face was slightly brighter now, or maybe it was the sun which had glazed her eyesight. But, his round brown eyes shone with a tear of mist that made it way round his cheek as he giggled and turned his face towards her. She did not seem to understand him one bit. Can sickness make somebody crazy? She contemplated on that last thought a little longer. Uncle George did look crazy as he caught the “sickness of argument” from the “House of the Bounderbys”. And, Aunt Christi literally walked with heels over head after her night at the Mansion Party – “She sure did look mad” smilingly She whispered. And here was another Gramplean Heir knocking his wits off! She couldn’t help asking about his funny matter of delight.

“You nearly scared me with your stunt there M. And now you dare to laugh it off! Give me one good reason why it is so funny”

He almost choked in his breathe and huffingly said, “Didn’t you see that? Mr. Crab over there has stranded himself in the midst of the ocean!”

“So? What makes that funny?”

“I think it is a funny joke. The ocean did not need to swipe poor Mr. Crab off his feet. Look at him! For all he knows the world around him is merely a painted canvas. Would his being at sea make any difference to him when he never knew the shore. For all I know Mr. Crab might be singing “Heave-Ho! Off we go…..!!! aloud to the fishes. You can’t possibly threaten someone to their life if they’re already dead M.”

“This sounds funny coming from a person who was dead himself a while ago. How I delighted to think I might get all the flowers mother would bring”, she said with a pretentious sigh.

“I can’t be dead M. I am with you even if you are not with me.”

He turned over and She watched him resume his “death sleep”. While the granulated winds now rushed past her ears and brought the red of her younger’s face to her unsuspecting cheeks. Was it the silence of the warring elements she could not tell, but in that very quiet she found death and life together – for once!

Thousand Splendid Suns…..

In the damp of night of a colourless garden

Often a wandering firefly flows,

And as it makes it way ahead

The color of the garden, it glows.

It hastens to sit on the red beauty

That tickles and kindles his heart,

It paints my eyes with red to think

If only this colour he could impart.

Then he runs to follow the dandy green

After all, now he hates the grey

But wait there’s the violet waiting for him

Rush! Before comes the day.

He merrily glows on the orange buds

And wobbles about the whites,

To finally sway on the pinks

And glare upon the night.

The night is drenched in hues of blue

But flickers of colours spark,

As his light illuminates the flowers

And spreads, glittering the dark.

From far above as the winds look down

With the stars, then they say for funs

“The garden blooms with twinkles (many)

Like from a thousand splendid suns…”