Heart

A Girl

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As a little girl Ill at ease with the tenderness of her age ran across the road I saw in her running into me a rage of perplexity. A bag she carried clung to her frail bones, eyes had sunk deeper into the underfed face and the palms faced me in the crotch. Left to wonder if she was trying to avoid being run over or running into a stranger, I reciprocated with a gesture. The older woman behind her made note of the conversation and pretended being indifferent and preoccupied with her own errands she was out for.
I met the girl again later in the evening in my moment of recollecting all that had transpired through the day. She reappeared as the same malnourished bony creature bereft of a sense of health and affluence. This time around, her hair browning in the sun, the logo on the shirt she wore and the pleats on her skirt too rose in my thought. Mindless as it was thinking of her, I found myself ruminating aloud of education, abdication and adoption. What would the city, the school and the books do to her? Leave her alone or drag her into the grind. Will she be the older woman walking at ease behind her or will she grow into a caged sparrow always in need of unneeded attention and artificial affection?
It has been a while that I crossed a road. Had crossed a railway track as a child on my way to school. That was an initiation for me into the belief that one is ultimately left to fend for oneself. I wish to preach. Preach to the little girl. Preach health, reading and a lot of freedom. It would be difficult to find her at the moment. If I do later, I might just be busy crossing another path. Roads choking with vehicles are quite easy to walk through. Sparsely sprinkled with little girls are not. Vehicles don’t come home with you. Little girls do.

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The Earliest Memories-2

English: Mango tree in full bloom

Red and black ants swarming the chipped bark of the mango tree that rests on the ground. It rained all last night. I pick up this piece of disowned wood and see that it is in shreds and has been rotting while lying untouched on the way. Thanks to all the rain and absence of any sun. Fanning the ants running on my hands off I walk ahead. One of my legs sinks in the mud. The slipper refuses to leave the swamp and I try to lift my foot out of it. I try doing so forcibly. The slipper parts unwillingly and emerges accompanied with a spurt of smooth soil- water paste all over the back of my shirt and trousers. All potential energy of the earth gets converted into kinetic. This splash over the uncovered portions of my skin irritates. Walking further ahead I bend to scratch and itch the feeling away. The little muddy droplets mingle with the hair on my leg and clog the free flow of my fingers over them.

A plot of thoroughly tilled land comes my way. Men, women and children would possibly bend all day and sow the paddy seedlings today. The tractor on a previous day has already dismantled the plain earth of this field as it must have existed and its ploughing blades have left a uniform pattern of undulating crests and troughs in the furrows. On the face of it, this zig zag of the soil appears solid and undaunted by the excessive pour. Believing it to be taut I put my right foot on one of those little mounds only to check if it is actually as dry as they all appear to be. The foot sinks and sinks. Oh! It sinks and sinks further.

By now, the lower end of my trousers must have a thick coat of useless clay uniformly painted over it. The folds that I made in the trousers a while ago must be heavy with a lot of slush settled down in there. The mess I am in!

The mere thought of walking on a concrete road laden with baked bricks feels like bliss. A monkey on the nearby guava tree jumps around from one of its branches to another. So many fruitlets it spoils that otherwise would have matured into full awesome tasting fruits.

From the grotesque muddy path through the field that I am in, I see the road that I did not take because of the distance it could have added to my walk back home. People walking, riding on cycles, scooters and motorcycles seem to move so freely as if the air around them were lubricant of a kind. The one encircling me is static and has edges so sharp that I can’t move. It is one of those moments when the world appears indifferent to one’s plight. I will never be out of this mess, I am convinced. Frowning at myself, I curse the moment when the decision to take this ‘shortcut’ was made. Should I go back to where I started from and then choose that royal road? No- That would be a lot of walking back. The destination is still very far off and I choose to somehow proceed once again. I think of all the lovely things imagined about these villainous fields- “Ten thousand I saw at a glance, tossing their heads in sprightly dance” must have been one such field teeming with smiling daffodils. And also of all the songs that are shot in such lands- the ones where the heroes sing and dance and romance. Who would know of the marshy nuisance these fields are once a year at least. It is only mud here and nothing else. Earth that sticks, stains and perturbs. Throwing away the slipper should help I think. Even to throw it away I would need to take it out of the mucky gorge in the first place. The braces of my chappal stretch to their limit as I pull my leg out once again with all the effort possible. The braces are about to snap. The earth releases the leg and retains my slippers. In the process I lose balance, my hands search for support. There is nobody around and no tree trunk to hold on to. Just the expanse of the fields with a few trees here and there. A fresh contingent of super dark clouds approaching me from the distant horizon. I fall on my hands and the moist green grass on the strip that divides the fields between brothers wets my palms. Broken and crushed blades of fresh green grass, numerous tiny dark shreds of rotting wood and a little insect land on my palm when I regain posture. I rub the palms against each other so as to drive off the rot and the insect and the greens. The palms don’t rub as smoothly as they would when I get up early morning everyday. To dry these palms I once again rub them against my butt and the soft cloth of my trousers takes care of the rest. My hands smell awfully bad. As if testifying to the act of murdering nature- the one I just carried out twice- first in my head and then in the depths of my heart.

Heart

The Earliest Memories

(Watched A Dangerous Method in the evening and was once again tempted to believe in the power of the methods of Psychoanalysis. The film in a way inspired this post.)

How I despise the pace at which this moment keeps passing by. It was rich with possibilities and forever in my memory will it remain. From the hinterlands of memory another that comes to mind at once is here in words.

It is an ultra sunny day in July or August in early 80s. The class at the primary school in the village is on. Seated on a mat in line with some five to six other girls and boys I shout with them “Six twos are twelve, six threes are eighteen…” and keep pinging my head up and down in sync with the rest. Ameen is on my right. The color cubes and the paint brush he has in his bag vie for my attention. Ameen draws and sketches very well. The cut quarter of a lemon or that of an apple made to lie neatly beside the whole fruit. Or even a bunch of grapes. The lovely curly motions of his pencil that would bring those berries to life on paper. In the wavelets of the pond overflowing nearby, rays of the sun twinkle like candles. Four naughty ones are swimming across the pond and calling each other names. They did not come to school today. The head boy pronouncing of those judgments on the relations between digits is asked to stop and go to his seat. The bell rings and all of us shout “Chhuttiiiii”. We collect our things, pick up our bags and run out of the verandah of the school. My eyes search for Ameen. Will he get his color box tomorrow? Don’t walk with him beyond a point. He takes a separate route back home. Mine passes through the field where peas are grown every winter. White clouds run amok on the canvas of the blue sky. Panting, running and panting again, I reach home. My elder brother has come home for a few days. It’s his break time at the engineering college. He gives me his glasses, and I try them out. The world around me goes as dark as a night. I remove the glasses and look around. Get disappointed to see that nothing actually had changed. Put the glasses on and it gets dark once more. Believe me, I have searched for those glasses at so many opticians till date and yet none of them have ever shown me one that makes it appear so cloudy and rainy as those first glasses of my life did. My brother is tall, has so many friends. Everyone seems to love him. To talk to the men who till those pea fields, he sits on the cot with one of his legs spread out and the other hinged around the knee forming a triangle of a bridge. A pillow in his lap may be. He laughs, pats me somewhere on the cheek and asks everyone if I was doing well. He has these lovely shirts. Stripes of blue and red and white- I have never seen any of those in any of the shops I have gone to myself. It is raining today and he throws away his plate in anger. Steel bowls make noise and Pooris dance. His motorcycle bathes unabated in the rain. I am busy with a Hindi children’s magazine. Engrossed in finding out the missing resemblances in a set of two photographs in the puzzle section of the same. I have to find out fifteen differences in all and so far have only marked out three. A game of Ludo is about to begin. The four colored houses in the game are receiving their occupants. Four heads will soon lean over them and the ‘tik tik’ of the dice in the small box will decide futures.

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