Monday, 29 August 2011

The paean and the pyre

He had never seen gentle smile on his mother. Never had he known his birthday. Since sensing the beauty of this world, his only own and known person was Father Brown.
Father Brown was a clergyman who had spent several years of missionary service in his native place. Devastated Europe after two great wars had a handful of people of ability and sincerity to work for the society and after his successful attainment of a degree in medicine, he wished to spend rest of his life in social service. When he opted for serving lepers in some remote Indian village, a great society of missionary colleagues had considered it a huge loss for Europe; but he travelled thousands of miles with a sacred smile spread over his face like wings of a springtime butterfly. He was soon seen cycling around a few small hamlets—bulged with numerous humans of diverse age attempting to sustain with primitive superstitions, poverty, and ignorance. The soil of civil society was yet to be irrigated with moral values, education, and basic living conditions. It was long past when the man of fifty-four years started residing in a small hut at one edge of those clustered darkness.
The boy pressed his weak palms over bearded face of his old friend; a few drops of blood oozed out from those lips that smiled for its last time. The boy wept for the first time in his life. Through a hot smoky curtain, he could see Mother holding her son; burning and melting, still holding. Within his swollen eyes he held that image so long he could keep those open. He stared at. His body, soul, blood and existence—all were melting along with his dreams—his mother. She held her close to lap, comforting. He could see that divine smile on her face. The boy smiled for the last time in his life. His eyes were dreaming—closed with pain, sorrow, and joy for being through the life; it went on dreaming until darkness evaporated into the eternal slumber.
The next morning was bright. The peace was perfectly pervading all over while a burnt hut and a bundle of charred life inside reflected its muted existence in life, in its entirety.

The boy heard long after about how he had come to stay in Father’s hut. Soon after marrying his mother, his father moved out to other city for work and was heard to have died of some unknown illness. He had still been in the womb while his mother stayed with her leper father in one of those hamlets. Headmen of villages sat together, heard what his paternal grandfather had to say: Witch, she is a witch !
The punishment was pronounced. She would have to leave the village. Her father pleaded, but none heard. The night the boy was born. Not even a week passed when evening sky seemed to prepare for the storm. Darkness swept over with enormous clouds descending like a giant roc. Trees began to dance wildly enough to welcome gushing wind and thunderous lightening. Through a ghostly veil of dusts and jungles emerged a faint glow of light. Now, much distinct, split into several balls of fire dancing in unison, in rhythm of some hidden words of anger. The leper sensed the storm; he pleaded now to his daughter, to flee. But, she was too ill to move. The leper looked at her face—her destiny, her innocent child, his fate and the storm. He ran strong, vanishing into the darkness like a memory of his long past. The witch was dead; her bludgeoned face could not hold its last smile for her unfortunate son. Amidst flames of burning home, there remained an absolute silence in her eyes, only the baby cried on—unheard, unconcerned, and unnoticed.
The morning was bright. When Father heard of the incident, he went straight to the burnt house. Someone had brought the baby out; but even a touched soul had courage to take him home. Father looked around. His roving eyes met with only some vacant looks. His trembled hands held the boy. A new life traversed through hardened soil losing and gaining without deeds—good or bad—yet done.
It was long past. The clergymen continued to care and cure more and more of those underprivileged—never preaching over any gospels. The school he started had only a few students. He was revered as an individual, for his service; but was never considered a part of the society he had served. He continued to belong to them as an island.
The boy grew up slowly. He learnt to love the world. He learnt not to utter a lie. Neither the Father ever taught him to be so, nor was he ever preached of any spiritual doctrine. A solitary cross and the figurine of Mother Mary holding Jesus on her lap remained hung on the wall of that thatched house. He loved the Father for the world he had made for him. He taught him science, literature, history and played with him. Still he missed his mother; sometimes, in dreams he saw her face.
Twelve years of togetherness took them into a new world that flourished with sacred love, trust, and concern for each other. Father had become quite old and feeble. With years of progress, the society that he had served for so long was also far more cured of recurring incidences of leprosy. Yet, he continued visiting houses of ailing people. Nevertheless, newer interpretations were also gathering air—seemingly infused with newer doctrines. Father felt the absence of warmth, but he was happy with his boy and the society that he truly felt to be his own.
Hidden flickers of a raising fire could not hold it for long. Another pensive dusk was waiting for another storm. Inside a small hut, an old man and a boy were closely seated. A sudden gusty wind blew a few pages of the book—the history; the history of civilisation. With his little hands, the boy tried to collect them, but they floated above, swirling around in uncanny swings. A few more sounds accompanied the roaring thunders. The trembling flame of the candle was smiling at the boy. A few bangs on the door. A few words that the boy never heard. He never saw a war. Neither did he ever see a battle. His world of peace was swept away in a frenzied tempest. The Father opened the door. The boy could see some faces shining in lightening and those flames of torches held in their hands. Before the old man could speak, the army barged in. The boy saw what war was. The flames remained while the men departed. The old man and the boy were having their last bath together in that red pool of humanity. Windows, walls and roof were all furiously hailing victory of the achievers. The flame engulfed those blood-soaked human existences as ecstatically as newly born snakes would seek liberation.

4 comments:

  1. What a poignant post Saibal.

    It is pretty evident what made you write this post. I hope whoever is responsible for the atrocities committed against the innocent would be brought to book without any delay.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It is my pleasure, Celine, that you found the post poignant...
    This one was also written long back in eighties...but, I felt to upload it only to honour my dream boy's journey through life that did not offer him any of the trifle wishes of childhood, yet he remained truthful, pious and loving being...he lived it as an outsider within the society.
    The pain is not for the sins, but for the sinners ruining the society faster than one good sense can predict !
    Best wishes, my friend !

    ReplyDelete
  3. I would have enjoyed the writing-if the colour of the font had been light.
    Deep blue on black is not matching with the comfort-sense of one's eyes. You may better ponder over the matter.

    ReplyDelete
  4. @ Anonymous
    Thanks for sharing your expressions..I will surely ponder over; but I stay by side of my honoured company--the darkness ! I fear to lose my dreams in so much of light ! I embrace my dream boy who was born in utter darkness and died too; but did he not have a candle lit within--a gentle light more shining than thousand suns? I leave this question too to my dreams !
    My regards,

    ReplyDelete

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