I worked hard for half an hour on field. Rivers of sweat took curly paths down to the steps irrigating my entire stretch. I walked back to the garden. Horrid sunshine could not wipe out colours of those beautiful flowers—some were yet to bloom, some needed covers drawn. I caressed each of them and my wet palms could feel their innocent hopes. I spent a long time there—watering the soil, prune some unnecessary shoots and weeding out grassroots.
Upstairs I slowly lifted myself. Alone I walked through the long corridor. Six wide rooms were hung on its wall with all encompassing emptiness in existence. It was already nine when I stood before the Lord and mother Mary—prayers on lips, candle in my trembling hands.
It was just like another Sunday—an off day for the maids and cook. My son and wife must have reached the temple in remote high of Himalayas. They would not be reached over cell for a day more. I needed to take care of her Lord here. White marble sparkled in halo emanating from inside the temple. I placed the flower tray at the feet of Lord Shiva, hung the milk pot over the Lingam and prayed what a few sentences I learnt from her.
Time did not move as faster as I wished. I walked in the kitchen, washed overnight dishes and made a pot of coffee. Sipping over it, I glanced through the newspaper—uninterestingly bulged in useless items. The giant clock knocked eleven. I had always envied it and once considered it my choicest enemy for my father’s loving concern for it. He used to wind it every morning, wipe it with fresh white linen until it dazzled in its brown shining skin. It was probably gifted to him by my grandfather.
I came out of cold chamber. I lit another fag. Smoke swirled up, played with southern breeze for a while and vanished into whiteness of void. I finished my coffee. It was burning noon outside. Still, I was not enjoying comforting cool air in closed compartment with an enormous vacuity laughing at me.
I ran out with an empty sack on my back. I let it hang as leisurely as if to set for a trip—a journey to a never-fulfilling destination. Under the torrid sun, I treaded on gently through the county road, evenly stretched till it traversed below the railway bridge. Then it ran along the flight of a fly to end at desolate corner of not-so-long railway platform. The station did not have much to praise sans its glorious imprint in the history of Indian railways. It had existed for ages since railways had its first journey in the orient. It had been a silent audience to those proud hissings of the giant machine, painfully suppressing its burning soul. It stood as a mute spectator to witness panicky run of people when an iron-mammoth sped by trampling gentle soil of a tranquil county.
I could count more dogs than human figures over the platform. The sky was aflame with no clouds to console its parched skin. With a pallid face it stooped down to the horizon. Down train to the city was announced by some sleepy voice. Three sets of rails were still asleep. Soon one would wake up in sensing metallic reverberation through her body. It would have a momentary tryst with her chivalrous paramour for whom it had awaited so long. With sweet reminiscence of his virile presence in her eyes she would again fall asleep and dream on.
I boarded in one deserted EMU coach. One old couple was dozing on the backside. Ahead all thee rows were vacant. Two milkmen were discussing something at the end row. I could see none else. I moved on through the aisle to those seemingly vacant rows. I was about to take my seat by a window when I saw a little boy on the other side of the row. He was half-awake. Hot gushing air was fashioning newer and newer waves with curls of his abundant hairs. He was holding a wooden box—some shoe polishes, brushes and a few dirty cloths—by thinly palms while his half-closed eyes were set to longer than its foci. I gazed on his gentle face adorn with wide brows, a straight nose and perfectly pink lips holding an uncanny smile.
The train stopped at another station for a while but none boarded in. I was not feeling that alone. I peeped through the window. I looked at those huts, buildings, pools, paths, trees and accompanying tracks, all moving in a sequence—nearer they move faster. I was enjoying being alone when someone stayed nearby. It was a peaceful silence; a silent peace.
The boy straightened up. Stared straight at my eyes. Smiled. It was ingenuous yet melancholic. His eyes were as wide as my son’s. I smiled. Another station came. One peanut-vendor pushed in. His toiled face crafted with signs of futile struggles had numerous streams—streams of sweats, sorrows and life—flowing down to infinite hollowness of life itself. I bought two packs.
The vendor disappeared. I put one pack of peanuts between hardened palms of those soft little hands. Speechless we watched each other. I was frantically searching for some words; what to say? The agony of being is to experience whole of it. The life does not offer liberation from such excruciating pain. Finally, I spoke out.
Where will you get down?
Just one following the next.
The boy paused for a longer time, but spoke again.
Where will you get down?
Don’t know, maybe, to the city.
He smiled quite broadly. He looked like angel amused by my insecure destination. It prompted me to justify my words.
I mean, I don’t have a plan to go to any specific place. I have just been out to be out of inside. It is Sunday, an idly long holiday for me. When you have enough time to spend but nothing definite to do, it makes you feel caged in futility of life. One feels nice being in deeds.
I see. I enjoy doing work. I have no holidays. Since my mom got injured while working as a mason-maid, I have been out for work even when I had fever.
What does you father do?
He stays away. People call him a thief. But, he loves us too much. When he comes home after a month or two, he brings sweets for me and my two little sisters. He doesn’t drink or beat my mom like every family in our slum. He wanted to send me to school. But, I don’t like that work. I enjoy what I do. So he put my next sister to studies. Ha ha, the following one is sure to go too when she grows up.
You enjoy your work. If you study then you can learn more things, get a better job.
I don’t need a better job. We are all happy at home. I earn a lot. And, I really love the work. I can make an old shoe shine like a new one!
How much you earn a day?
Enough ! Even on dull days I can earn 20-25 rupees.
His eyes were innocuously sparkling with all pride of achieving and satisfaction. Yes, enough. My childhood crept slowly into my entire judgement. A one rupee coin was more than enough for me and my two cousin brothers. We did not have added flavour of own earning over it. Yet, we used to celebrate that day as a millionaire. We would wait anxiously for an old gentleman. The Cakewalla—a Bihari with a peculiar Bengali tone. He used to carry a large black trunk. We wished so long to see what treasures were there inside. We loved the most the first sweet smell from inside when he would open it; slowly lifting one tray after another. The prettiest ones would be surely in the last layer. On most occasions, he used to give us some attractive items as gratis. But, the sense of having enough evaporated through years of maturing. We silently walked into the world of dissatisfaction, unhappiness and wanting.
I have to get down now. I like you.
The boy smiled as widely as his little face could hold it. He got down waving his slender hands.
I smiled too. My thoughts stood defeated. I stood utterly defeated amidst all my boasting successes in life. I felt alone again. The world seemed crushing upon me and I wanted to get out of those falling walls and roofs.
I got down in the next stop. I wanted to come back home. I wished soulfully for a return journey to the place that I had left so carelessly. I wanted to come back to the abode of happiness that I had not cared for so long. The deeds were all for doing. The love was all for loving. The prayers were all for praying. The soul roamed chasing a forlorn solitude that ignored those loving eyes, comforting hearts and warmth of togetherness shamelessly.
I keyed in. The summer day had almost faded into the twilight. The last rays of sun had intoxicated the world. The day’s work had ended for the birds. They would soon share their nest together. They would sing the last tune for the parting day.
I stretched myself upon the settee. The night unhurriedly drew its curtain; a cool breeze poured in, wiped my forehead, and softly touched my face. Afar the stars stared at me with tiny twinkling eyes. A wet flow ran down. My eyes were lost in holding those sopping dreams; it drenched my skin, went deeper bedewing the veins and arteries, and the deluge swept away the soul cages with whatever it had wished leaving behind only some shiny droplets of emotion and a few unpaged promises.