Reflections in a Murky Pond

What was a pristine spring of hope 24 years ago is today a murky pond- my mind sullied by education, society, relationships, expectations, ambitions....Here are a few reflections i am able to make out before the hyacinths take over this pond..

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Return of Innocence….

Every step of hers was an excruciating decision. She was going back to a place in time- the moments, the era she had denied existence for the last four years. The journey from that place till here had been devastating and she was taking the way back now. What was she thinking? Was she thinking at all? She had not even noticed when she dropped her umbrella, when she became half wet in the drizzle that was trying to wash away God knows what ; and when she dropped her resolve never to tread the path she was currently racing on. One phone call was enough to melt down a wall she had so assiduously erected over the last few years…..

Before she knew she was standing on the footsteps of Lohia Hospital. She felt a soul wrenching pain run all through her body. Four years ago, it was here that she had lost everything- her past, present and even the future, and here she was again ready to lose whatever was left of her.

Four years ago, the same white edifice of the hospital towered over her as the tombstone of her dreams, ambitions, expectations, joy, hope and even her real self. Her eyes still preserved the sight of the this white tombstone fade away in the horizon as she tried hard to wish away the emptiness in her womb that was slowly sucking her soul and the emptiness left by the absence of a shoulder her tears so badly needed. For four years she had turned her eyes away from the images, her ears away from the sounds and numbed her soul to block out the pain. Now she had invited back her past with all its stench.

Here she was rushing to him when he needed her. There were questions in the air that chased her every step of the way: “Where was he when you needed him? It was his child too…..Why didn’t he come as you writhed in pain losing the baby and your motherhood?........You are as busy as he was that day or for that matter any day; so why are you here?........How can you forget all that happened?....Why are you doing this?......” Then there was a sound: “It’s him……” and the questions melted away into the background. She was looking through the glass door at a face she had chased away from her dreams every night for four years; a face she longed to see every day of the last four years; a face that was the centre of her life before she threw the face and her life out of the cocoon of her denial.

As she sat by his side she started mumbling and all the words trapped in her heart, in her mind and in her soul found their way out. The words had been incarcerated for four years and flowed from her lips like an unstoppable mountain brook. It didn’t matter that he was unconscious for the last two days; she knew she was reaching through to the only man she ever reached through to. She held his hand and a tear rolled down her cheek on to the hands approving the union. Four years ago when she lost her child and her marriage she lost a little more- she had lost her innocence, her ability to trust- her soul mate had left her alone in the most painful moment of her life. Today, somehow she had redeemed her innocence. She could forgive again, she could trust again. She had finally accepted what she had denied all this time- he still meant the world to her.

She didn’t notice when darkness evaporated and sunlight slipped in to eavesdrop on her monologue. She didn’t notice when, after an era, she slept on his hand again - the hand which would give her a pat every time she did so while she went off to sleep talking to him late in the nights. She didn’t notice when he regained consciousness in the night and gave her a small pat.

The rain had washed away a lot the previous night- today, it was bright sunny day…..

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Thousand Unspoken Words.....

The stench was unbearable, but she was the only one on the beach who could feel it. She sat there on the bench with a carcass of a cherished relationship. She had been sitting there for hours while the carcass decayed. The sun could not bear it anymore and took shelter in the sea. The sand beneath her feet shifted to get away from the stench. He had left long back after a thousand unspoken words had been exchanged……

It had all started six years ago on this very bench with an exchange of a thousand unspoken words. They were always a strange couple: like the dry sand and the sea which inevitably ended up kissing each other. She hated his “stone hearted dry pragmatism” and he hated her land of utopia; she hated his eternal silence and he hated to wait for a moment of silence, she hated his dry humor and he hated her “hysterical spasms of joy”…..Yet when they were away the hatreds were in unison- he hated to miss her and she hated to miss him. Their respective pillows were witness to a thousand resolutions that they would not never see each other again.

The morning of denial matured into the noon on that very bench, where they were supposed to meet and buy a gift on the way to a friend’s birthday. He was spot on the time and she was late as usual. The arena was all set for a shouting match. The sun, sea and the sand looked on in apprehension. He looked at her, moved his lips as the words on his lips delivered a coup and went back into his throat. She looked at him, her eardrums anticipating the words that never came. He just stood there with the wind getting restless with his flowing locks. All that they had known long back but never accepted even with their lips to their pillows was conveyed in a thousand unspoken words in one moment of silent madness. He walked towards her; their hands completed the coup of the words, coming together involuntarily. As they walked on the wind and the sea did their best to make up for the absence of syllables.

It was all six years ago or may be a century ago- she could not tell, nor could the sun, the sea and the sand. Today too he had come spot on the time and she was as usual late. Today she wanted his wait to be eternal but she knew that like the denial six years ago this one too had to end. The stage was again set to be drowned in a sea of words- complaints, excuses, explanations, expectations. The noon was melting into the evening and the wind had deserted the sea. The creak of the bench registered her presence on it. They didn’t look at each other and for a few seconds or an eon, both could not tell, the only sounds they heard were the rustling of clothes against skin. He turned to her and she to him- their eyes looked into the abyss in the other. They groped for those turncoat words that had deserted them six years earlier. In all that had changed in these years the words had not and they still remained renegade. Probably they didn’t realize that today they were not needed- they had lost their importance in all these years.

Her eyes still groped in his- searching for that glimmer of hope that she would never find. His eyes did the same. An epitaph was being written- and epitaph of everything that they ever had. Both knew none could stop it now. The moment had passed. Now the epitaph could not be effaced. Today the eyes had made up for the thousand unspoken words. She didn’t notice when he walked away. He didn’t notice when he walked away, he had left himself forever on that bench.

The darkness had descended upon the beach. The bench was deserted. On it lay a thousand unspoken words wondering if they could have saved the carcass that was buried there, had they not played the deserting game today. Alas they were too late- a thousand unspoken words………

Monday, October 09, 2006

Death of a Mother........

A gust of wind pushed itself through the window, ruffled the white curtains and made a glass of water its victim. The clink of the metal on the floor pulled her out of her reverie. The searing pain in her left leg cut through her body like knife in butter, only to be disappointed at its crushing defeat for she didn’t even twinge. She stared blankly out of the window of ward no. 223. Could she actually see her government quarter where the cacophony of six children playing, fighting, pulling tricks on each other drowned every sound that competed for attention; where she was running after them with their homework books simultaneously keeping a mental note of the time in which the rice would be ready; where silence finally descended upon the house as her husband walked in at 5:30 sharp; where she saw her three daughters leave adorned with fine wedding dresses and tears; where she welcomed three beautiful girls with her sons, again adorned with fine wedding dresses and tears; where her black hair gave way to the gray ones; where she and her husband spent 30 years.....Of course she could not see all of it. It was so long ago and that era had passed her as the autumn passed the maple leaves, leaving them on the mercy of the winter and the snowy ground.

She was nowhere but in a hospital bed with a broken thigh. Today the husband wont come at 5:30....He would never come. After 35 of marriage he finally found a mistress in death and deserted her forever. There was no cacophony of children but the hysterical scream of silence and the scream awoke her to the fact that it was 12:00 in the noon and nobody had come since morning after her daughter left for her home. Today is the day she was to be discharged and she had to go home. Home- finally the spasm in her leg took her over as she recited this four lettered word in her mind. Finally the sword of reality had cut through her cocoon of memories. Where was home?

Was it was her elder daughter's house, who could not take the responsibility as she could not convince her husband to keep a "physically challenged lady" in her house. Was it the house of her other daughters who were themselves "ill" or had too little space for an extra person. It could definitely be the house of one of her sons of whom one was in the army with a wife doing a teaching assignment out of station, another married to a bank officer and the third who had not spoken to her for four years after a bitter fallout. So there was little possibility that one of these would be the four lettered word home as none of them had the space or time for her. So where was home? Perhaps she was too demanding for an old lady of 78 with six well-off children. So she looked for other four lettered shelters for her. Perhaps there was a ROOM for her if not a HOME.

Ever since the doctor had announced her discharge date she had heard passionate debates among her children as to where that ROOM could be? Finally they had decided on a novel formula that each one of them would provide that room in their houses for two months each and all the expenses of the treatment and a personal caretaker would be paid for from her pension. She always knew she had intelligent children. She had always been proud of them. So where were they? Perhaps deciding who would be the first in the arrangement. That explained the delay very well.

Another puff of wind blew in and brought with it tiny needles of raindrops. Water streamed down her cheeks. Were they the raindrops or the tears? Even God was unwilling to guess. The deserted maple leaves outside the window were being crushed by the winter rain. She felt her thigh go cold and moved to pull the quilt but suddenly stopped and started smiling. It didn’t matter anymore. The eldest son walked into ward 223 that evening. He had crushed maple leaves sticking to his sole. A woman, who was once a mother, lay dead on the bed - her face wet with the fresh winter rain. Her quilt was romancing the glass lying on the floor. She had finally found her HOME.......