Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Arrival of the Birds

This is a sequel to an older post "The Passing of the Birds" which can be found here.


She smelled of funeral. He craned his neck, trying to catch a glimpse of her but could not spot her. The whiff of the perfume he had caught began to fade away. He turned around wildly, desperately trying to drink it in, to capture it, to smell it…deeply, but it waved off into oblivion. It sparked memories of a time that had once been…

It had been a really long time since he had seen her last. He did not even know if she actually existed or was a figment of his imagination. But then who was to say what was real and what was not? Or rather who was real and who was not? People told him that he had become a shadow of his former self. He wasn’t even sure if he had a former self. Things change, people change, life changes. It’s a gradual process. Can one draw a distinction between what was and what is now? But then, he argued back: if she indeed was real and if he had indeed seen her, shouldn’t he be able to draw a distinction?

Frankly, it was muddled and confusing. He did not have the heart to go into it. It was clear that his arguments were convoluted and self-contradictory. His thoughts recessed back into her memory, if indeed memory it was. That’s how it would usually be the case. He would be busy musing about things and his thoughts would converge onto her. That smell. The smell. Her smell. He wondered who’s funeral it actually was. His? Certainly not…he felt awakened to subtleties. He felt awakened to what was beneath the surface, to the colours seen in grey…

And he wondered about the birds…it seemed that the birds had really left. He had become deaf to their song. Or to music in general. The songs he had once loved, those CDs were packed in a box, stashed in a closet and forgotten. Their lyrics and melody a mere illusionary memory. He strained himself to try and remember the tune of one of his favourite numbers but could not. He sighed heavily. They had been replaced.

*

He came back home and settled back into his chair. The road to the café had been routine, the timing though different today. He had been inevitably delayed and had not been able to reach the café at the hour. Had I been missing it all along, he wondered now? What if the hour had changed and he simply kept to the old hours and hence stopped seeing her? A chance event had forced him off the usual track, and he had caught the perfume again. He wondered what it would be like to see her again…would she recognize him? More importantly, would he recognize her? Of the latter, he was completely sure. He would recognize the funeral in the perfume immediately. Even today, the perfume had been different. Yet, tragically the same. It was a different funeral at different time.

An envelope of heaviness encompassed him. He wanted to sketch. He wanted to paint a landscape in all the glory of monochrome. Black and white, streaked with greys. They were the same. He wanted to listen to tragically beautiful sad music but could not get himself to get up and put something on. He thought he heard the opening tune of Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen but it passed in a moment. He thought of all the beautiful music out in the world, the kind that would smother you in their melancholy till you became one with them. It was like one kept absorbing the sadness in them till the bubble broke and one was suddenly released. Like a prisoner on life sentence, suddenly finding himself free, just when he was getting used to it. Would he want to be free?

He felt himself getting restless. His thoughts were all over the place. He felt average. Mediocre. He felt his frustration at being unable to paint the picture he wanted. As if he were an artist who wanted to paint in black and white, but only found himself with colour tubes. Or a musician who wanted to compose the most heart-breaking violin solo in history, and found himself without one.

He forced himself to think back about the chair under the tree, the birds, and the whiff of the perfume…from three years ago. He began to calm down. What if his timing all along had been wrong? Would he go at the changed time tomorrow to see if she passed by, shrouded in her black dress, black veil, and black gloves? He briefly wondered about why he had never followed her to find out whose funeral she was going to? Somehow he felt confident that she was going to a funeral, not coming from one. But would that make a difference? His finding out…

*

Next day he was at the café since morning. It was slightly clouded, the sun cool and shaded behind the clouds, but not particularly grey or gloomy. He hoped beyond hope that it would get oppressive and overbearing. That would be a sign that she would come! He knew it was senseless and illogical to believe so, but he continued looking up once in a while, hoping the clouds would turn black. The usual hour came and he felt himself stiffening up. However, nothing happened. It would be another few hours before the new time. He sighed and waited. The hour came and almost passed, but nothing seemed to happen. He was disappointed. He was restless, anxious, sad, and filled with a different kind of melancholy. The melancholy of missing someone you never knew…of losing something you never had. The pain of separation upon being united…he looked up in the sky one last time before he got up to leave. In the distance he saw a flock of birds passing by. He did not hear their song but he knew what it was. It was the arrival of the birds.


- Parekh, Pravesh
September 29, 2016
05:52 PM
MBIAL, NIMHANS

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Curiosity?

I look in the mirror. Who do I see? Hair unkempt, overgrown round the ear. Eyes, bloodshot. Tired. Anxious. Lips, slightly chapped. Beard, untrimmed. Stubble. A face. Don’t I see anything unusual about the ear and nose? No, I don’t think so. Do I?

I look in the mirror. Where am I? Is it my home? I am inclined to believe so. Must you believe what you think? Someone would know. That is, again, something I believe.

I look in the mirror. I think there are two of us here. You and me. Do you have a name? Not that I care to know…only curious. Mildly so. I don’t let me curiosity show, in case you are wondering. Are you? No, no. Barely curious. It doesn’t really matter.

Have you ever had too much caffeine? Perhaps on an empty stomach? Hypoglycaemia setting in, hands begin to shake, you are jittery, on the edge, tunnel vision, perhaps? Yes, you have? Good…good. Have I too, you ask? Of course, more than enough number of times. Recently? All the time…all the time these past days. Are you curious to hear about it? I don’t think so. Am I curious to know if you are curious? Is it a mice in the corner of the bathroom? I believe no…there is nothing to eat. Soul? Do I have it?

How do you deal with the loss of someone you never knew? How do you deal with the loss of something you never owned? I own you, I say. Do I detect a smile? Are you mocking me? But you can’t, I tell myself. Are all my questions the result of curiosity? The answer to it is curiosity? I wonder if it is the coffee rather than my head talking. Ah, damn it! It’s a loop. All roads lead down the same end…wait. Are there different roads? Yes, you tell me. How do you know? You have only walked down one, I say. You are silent.

When was the last time I slept? Must have been a long time ago. I am sleepy. I am in that phase where sleep is just behind the eye, tingling it, coaxing it to droop a little. But of course, it can’t close yet. There is too much caffeine in the blood. It’s the only thing that I have been having. Coffee is a diuretic. Even my urine smells of caffeine. But how do I know, you ask me. Have you ever smelt caffeine? No. That’s all I say. That’s all I can say.

I step out of the bathroom, but you are still there. Come out. I am tired. I need to sit. No? Very well. I will go out and sit. You can stay wherever you are. Be specific, you mock me. I can’t. I don’t know where you are. Don’t you want to know, you ask. Please don’t toy with my anxiety, I plead silently. I know you are in the mirror. I know you are my reflection. No, I am not, you sing along cackling away silently. Damn you, I curse as I stumble towards my room. I am going to sit down. Should I make another cup of coffee? Do you want one, I ask. You do not reply. Well…maybe a little later.

There is no furniture in the house. It’s an empty house. Yet, I see someone sitting. I blink and rub my tired eyes. Fine by me. Sit wherever you want. Do what you want. It’s not like I have a say in the matter, do I? I should ask my reflection if it is tired of all the standing around. Perhaps it wants to lie down? Is it a he or is it a she? It is an it, I tell myself firmly. I am not interested in knowing. My curiosity is limitless…or is it? I am curious to know. Am I? Loop inside a loop.

I walk around the house, slowly. My tired feet want to rest. I walk into the kitchen. There is a kettle. There are a large number of cups lying around, some with stale coffee in it, others with coffee dregs or with a few droplets of coffee in them. Whoever has been drinking so much coffee? Perhaps my reflection? No, no. It is not my reflection. But it ought to be someone’s, I ask myself. Does it have to be? How would I know? Am I the reflection of someone? Is someone the reflection of me?

How does it feel to be inside the mirror? Where is my reflection when I am not looking at it? It does not belong to me anymore. Did it ever belong to me? Who is sitting in the drawing room? Is it the reflection? But it wanted to stay wherever it was, right? How do I know if it was lying? Who am I? Where am I? Do I care? Or is it me telling myself that I don’t care? Perhaps the reflection is making me think that way…is it really? Can one do such things? Perhaps a reflection can make you think of yourself in ways you have not had previously? Isn’t that what reflection means? But that’s a different reflection…is it a reflection of the reflection? Do I see what I think or do I think about what I see? Do these questions matter? Why are so many cups here? Did I buy them? But is it my house? I think I have lost something…what is it? Oh yes, my reflection. Does a reflection have a reflection? Ad infinitum? How would I know? Do I need to know? When do the questions end? Is there an end? Death is an end…is it the end? Does someone know? Somebody should know…someone is screaming…perhaps my reflection inside my head? How did it get there? I close my eyes for a second…or is it a minute? 

Where am I? Oh, the kitchen. I must have come here to want something? Not sure. Perhaps a cup of coffee will clear my head…I should make some…

-Parekh, Pravesh
August 06, 2015; 11:35 PM
T-70, Chandigarh

Friday, February 20, 2015

Chinese Takeaway

It was one of the most miserable days ever. He woke up that morning to find the other side of the bed empty. Expecting a sumptuous breakfast, he got out of bed and strolled towards the kitchen, stumbling a little as his eyes refused to open completely. He was expecting some delicious pan cakes and a cup of hot coffee to open his eyes. Any minute now he would be greeted by the aroma of melting butter in the pan. Mmm…lovely morning. He reached the kitchen to find it empty, the sink having dirty dishes from last night. The Chinese takeaway from last night smelt.

He called out to her, “Honey?” Then he called out again. “Where are you?” singing it out as if playing a game of hide-and-seek with his wife. She did not reply. He went around looking for her but found no trace of her. He made a face, the desire for pan-cake disappearing to the smell of last night’s leftover. Maybe she has gone for a quick run, he thought to himself. He decided to take a shower.

He spent a long time in the shower; hoping breakfast would be ready by the time he stepped out. He stood in front of the mirror for a while, staring at his bulging tummy. Hmph! He flared his nostrils and lifted his head to see inside them. Then he stuck his finger inside and began nose picking. It was a habit she despised but then she was not inside the bathroom with him.

After finally stepping out of the bathroom, he called out to her again. No reply. He bumbled about the house wearing nothing but a towel around his waist, his belly protruding obnoxiously. She hated it. He found it cute. Surely she loved it as well but only pretended to be angry. Now he began to worry a little. Where was she? He went back to the bedroom to fetch his mobile phone when he saw a paper next to it. He lifted it up to read. It only had two words on it:

“You. Asshole.”

He read it a few times. It was his wife’s handwriting for sure. If only there was an “i” in there, she would have drawn a heart over it. But then what did the message mean?

He gave her a call.

“Hey! Where are you?”

Silence.

“Hello? Hell-oooo”

Silence.

Call disconnected.


He called again.

“Hullo?”

“What do you want?”

“Where are you? I have been looking for you”

“Oh yeah? For me or for breakfast?”

He blushed.

“You know. A bit of both”, he mumbled.

“Screw you.”

Call disconnected.


He called again.

“What the hell do you want, you pig? Are you such an oaf that you can’t figure out what’s happening? You will get the divorce paper today. Now don’t you dare call me again. Get lost and go to hell.”

Call disconnected.

He didn’t know what had happened or why his wife would be so angry. Maybe the food last night had really upset her? He knew he couldn’t call her again because she was furious. Maybe I will wait for her to call. He waited for a long time hoping she might call and secretly hoping she would come back with some great breakfast as a compensation for getting mad at him even though it was her suggestion to order Chinese food. He had to change from his comfortable pyjamas to a pair of jeans and then go and collect the food. While waiting for her call, he munched a couple of packets of biscuits. Surely, she would not get angry for eating up whatever was lying around. He hadn’t even had breakfast!

He woke up a couple of hours later to his phone ringing . He was slumped on the couch with biscuit crumbs over his bare body. It was his manager calling. He winced even before he answered the call.

“Where the hell are you?”

He opened his mouth to reply but instead came a very unexpected and thoroughly unpleasant burp.

“You lazy ass! I want you in my office within half an hour”.

“But…”

Call disconnected.


He muttered to himself and began to get dressed. He tried to comb his hair but realized that a part of his hair towards the back of his head was standing up, refusing to get combed. He opened his closet to take out a tie but realized that his wife was not around to tie the knot. Mumbling, muttering, and thinking about lunch he reached his office, four hours late.

As he was going to his cubicle, he ran into his only friend-James-the janitor. James never really said much and he rarely had any opinions, thereby making him a good companion. And he ate less so he could pick food off his lunch plate. James listened patiently as he told him all about the incident with his wife. When he finally explained his Chinese food theory, James stared at him for a few seconds before saying, “you are an asshole” and then he went away. He stared at James in disbelief. His wife, his boss, and now James too! Everyone on Chinese food or what?

He finally walked into his manager’s office. One look at his uncombed hair, open collar, and bored eyes, and the manager burst out in profanities. “You are fired. Get lost” he added towards the end. He walked out of his manager’s office and decided to have lunch before leaving the office. The only good thing about Mondays was the addition of some French fries in the canteen lunch menu.

He walked out of his office carrying whatever little personal possession he had in his cubicle. He went to a nearby orphanage where he used to go every Sunday afternoon to read to the children. Often he would play with them or do other activities with them. They were very surprised to see him on a Monday but the children cheered him when they learnt that he would come to them every afternoon. He never really had any talent but every time when he made a fool of himself, the children loved it. The time he spent with the children…it was the only time he never thought of food.

Later in the evening that day, he went to a nearby park and settled down on a bench. He wondered if in his brief married life he should have told his wife where he went every Sunday afternoon. She would assume that he went to some idle friend of his. He played a little while with a neighbour’s baby, making funny faces for the baby to giggle at. When he finally got up to leave, it was dark. Would she be back by now, he wondered? Then his thoughts drifted away to dinner. Chinese takeaway?


-Parekh, Pravesh
January 13, 2015
01:52 AM
NIMHANS (SH-15)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Content?

They were lying peacefully, side by side, under a warm and cosy blanket. The bed was comfortable and the air had the faint smell of her perfume. It was dark and silent. The fan moved slowly, the curtains drifted a little from their position and returned back. Almost as if playing a game. Presently, she changed her position. Earlier she was lying down on her back, looking at the fan through half closed eyes but now she turned to her side, facing away from him. The room was filled with her smell again as he inhaled deeply. For a moment, he thought how strange it was that they were under a blanket with the fan on but then he shrugged the thought away. It was not important. He looked at the circling motion of the fan and thought about the circle of life. She did not need to see his face to know what he was thinking. After a while he turned to his side as well, face towards the other side, away from her.

There was a window on his side through which a faint haze of light could be made out, now that his eyes were adapted to the darkness. He felt a glowing warmness in him but it was not because of the light. He thought of her and the faint lines on her face, but he did not need to turn to her to see them. She counted his breath mentally to know that he was at peace and she smiled faintly. There was so much to tell him and so much to tell her that it would take the entire night but they would still not be done. But it was alright. They did not need to talk to tell it to each other.

*

And she slept peacefully in the heat, not a trickle of sweat down her forehead while others tossed and turned in the heat, finding no respite. The floor was hard, the room stuffy with so many workers trying to sleep but a faint smile lingered on her face, content and happy.

And he slept peacefully in the cold, with nothing but a crude blanket over him while the animals in the stable and other workers shivered and remained awake. The straw bed was uncomfortable; the room smelly with the smell of animal waste but a warm glow lingered on his face, content and happy.

They did not need to be with each other to be together.


-Parekh, Pravesh
February 19, 2015
10:30 PM
NIMHANS (SH-15)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Autumn Leaves

“Kindness out of pity. Would that hurt someone more than simple pity? But is there a difference? To give money as charity to someone needy on the road. That would be one case. Seeing an old lady struggling to sell her wares to make ends meet; going and specifically buying something from her instead of, say, the shop nearby. Who would be hurt more? Perhaps the old lady because she still has dignity and she knows that the kindness of people is out of pity. But that would be assuming that the other person receiving the charity had no dignity to begin with. Which is wrong. Perhaps he has become used to it? Immune to feeling hurt? Maybe. But may not be true. Maybe she has become immune? May be not. Dignity. Everyone is entitled to it.”

Such were my thoughts as I stood on the road waiting for someone. It was Autumn. An Autumn evening with its charm but my thoughts were about a different kind of Fall. I was inside the Institute campus and the road was empty, lined by old trees shedding their leaves.

I was strolling slowly making it a point to step on leaves and crushing them with my shoes. I am not sure if I really like it or not. It brings up questions and images which confuse me at times. What if a child comes along shortly afterwards, steps on the fallen yellowed leaves and fails to hear the crunch because I had already stepped on it? Wouldn’t the child be heartbroken? Would it not be an early, rather too early, a lesson to real life? I guess I am being ridiculous.

I am transported back to my childhood days. We had a house-help in those days. She would have hardly been 18 or so. Frankly, I do not know. My memory from those days is mostly gone. Her name is not really important. Let me call her Boe. I remember my mother making her sit down and go over my books with her so that she would learn to read and write. She did not resent it but did not like it as well. Maybe she was indifferent. Or maybe I never saw the truth. Sometimes I wonder…do children ever see the truth? I don’t think so.

One day I was walking with her. There were fallen leaves on the road and I was stepping on them, perhaps relishing the crunching sound. At some point, I asked her why she was deliberately avoiding the fallen leaves. I think I saw her face become grave. Then Boe began to tell me something that I did not really understand back then.

Boe told me that the leaves had souls in them. Even the fallen ones. When a leaf fell from the tree, like it did in Autumn, it was similar to one of our dear ones who was inching closer to moving on to a different world. The yellowed leaves are the old ones that are dying. But they are not completely dead. They are silently talking to the alive ones as they surround the dying. They are telling the young ones the story of their leaves. Leaving behind their legacy. When they are done, they die. If you step on them, they won’t crunch. Their souls would have left. But if you crunched their souls, their young ones would never have said a proper goodbye. They would remain heartbroken.

A leaf fell down in front of me and I stepped on it. It did not make a sound. I smiled silently to myself wondering whatever happened to Boe. She got married at some point and I never heard anything about her ever again. I didn’t even know where to look for her if I wanted to. I am sure neither one of us would recognize each other even if we met. Her face is blurred in my memory and I have changed too much.

As I walked a little further ahead, I saw a small pile of yellowed fallen leaves. Someone would have swept them to one side. I stepped on it and heard the collective crunch of souls, dreams, and humanity. I let out a sigh. Dignity. Everyone is entitled to it.


- Parekh, Pravesh
November 23, 2014
03:15 AM – 04:08 AM
NIMHANS

Monday, October 6, 2014

Chance Encounters

I turned to look at her face in the light filtering in through the window. The shutters ought to remain open during take-off. And I prefer it that way. Unless the sun is too bright and I am blue. The sun shone off her face. She was young and I could see the youth reflected in her eyes. I thought back of the time when I was young and admittedly cocky and arrogant. She was beautiful, no doubt. Everyone is in their own way. The right side of my face was beginning to warm in the patch of sunshine. I liked it. She saw me looking at her and I could see her cringe a little, her spine, relaxed earlier, became tense. She readjusted her seat belt and glanced around, letting me see that she was uncomfortable. I did not want to make her feel so, yet I did not relent.

I was reminded of the days of my youth, the numerous journeys I undertook and the places that I had been to. At a point I had started collecting the various boarding passes from my travels. The collection must be lying in one of the boxes where I had packed the rest of my life in. Perhaps gathering dust that seeps in even in closed boxes. Like melancholy that seeps into your heart even when you are not alone. Time heals many wounds but wrecks more on the soul. If one has a soul, that is.

I turned around and stared outside the window. The aircraft was picking up speed and was ready to take-off. I wondered about the life my travel companion would lead. She would, no doubt, have plenty of friends and would be in college. Or perhaps she had recently finished college. She seemed to be of that age. She would perhaps be working. Or maybe she is a writer who travels a lot and writes about the places that she sees or the people that she meets. Romance, I silently rebuked myself. All that I see is romance in people’s life. Not everyone has the liberty of following their heart. Not everyone is successful. Not everyone sees the world as I do.

I glanced at her face again. Her blonde hair curved and blended into her jacket. She was wearing light makeup. We were up in the sky. I am usually not a person who bothers other passengers during my solitary travels but today was an exception. “You look quite familiar”, I told her. She turned to look at me. “You know…you are old enough to be my father. Can you just not nod off to sleep or something?” she said, clearly very irritated. She must have thought of me as a pervert. I was furious. Grey hair is not immunity to humiliation. I turned my face to the other side and stared into the clouds.

I thought of the life that I had led, the sting of recent humiliation like a throbbing vein in the head. So many times there had been babies with my co-passengers. I recollected the forgotten face of one of them as she had looked at me with her bright big eyes. I have not been one of those people who play or befriend a strangers’ baby. Yet that baby had looked at me, soft blonde hair on her head. For all I knew, she could have been my co-passenger now. She certainly was just old enough. Who cared?

For the remainder of the trip, I wondered silently about the various brief encounters we had all the time. At the airport. At the coffee shop. At a book store. We come, we see each other, never meet, and go on with our lives. For all we know, they come back to us in ways we would never know. What about that baby who kept staring at me? Perhaps she wanted me to pat her head? And I did not. Of course, she would never remember…but what if I actually had done it? Maybe nothing would have changed. Brief chance encounters…I doubt people even register.


- Parekh, Pravesh
October 06, 2014; 03:20 PM
New Delhi International Airport
En-route to Bangalore

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Day After...

He sat at the edge of the large rock projecting out of the mountain, staring at the endless open sky in front of him. For him, he was at the end of the world and from his perspective, it did not really matter. He dangled his feet into the endless infinity and felt the wind buzz at his face. He was tired. Really, really tired. He turned his head around to see the broken stony pathway that led him to where he had come from. He turned his head back in distaste and resignation. He imagined his dangling feet hit a small clump of loose soil and felt it break itself loose and fall down into the valley. He tried to analyse the beauty of the place where he was. The sky was blue and black and grey. There was greenery all around – not the cultivated, trimmed and maintained one but raw, untamed lushness of the spread of greenery. It was silent and peaceful. Only once in a while did some bird somewhere break the silence. He tried to listen to his inner voice. Tried to find tranquillity and solace. But all he could hear was his own dissatisfaction and turmoil.

Five days ago, he had started on this journey. He used to be a newspaper delivery boy before. In the evenings, he would make some more money by running some odd jobs for the people. His life was stagnant and mundane. That was till one day he ran into a drunken sailor who told him the story of a certain shrine up in the mountains that was very secluded yet very powerful. People who had gone there had had their lives transformed. He had not given it a lot of thought back then but over the next few days his mind kept wandering back to the story. What did he have to lose? A job no one cared about? His parents had stopped speaking to him ever since he dropped out of college. His girlfriend had told him that she didn't care one bit whether he lived or died. That was right before she threw him out of her apartment. With nothing else to take care of, he might as well try and commune with God or Holy Spirit or whatever changed people’s life when they reached the shrine. He had saved up, purchased maps and some survival food and left, carrying a small rucksack and a small bundle of money sewed into his undershirt.

Presently, he drew out a pack of cigarettes from his rucksack and lit one. The wind grazed his hair and the orange embers came to life as he sucked the smoke in, let it stay in for a bit and then blew out of his mouth and nostrils, heaving a long sigh. He remembered reading a few inspirational books back in school days. A few of them had been about similar sojourns into the wild where boys (or men like him) found the meaning of their lives. Back then he had believed, He had even thought that someday he would go out into the world and find a meaning to his life. He closed his eyes and exhaled deeply. They all talked about the journey. They all talked about reaching there. They all talked about the great discovery. But what after that? No one talked about that. At least no one he remembered. Everyone talked about the tiring and dangerous journey. But what about the journey back?

He looked at the long path that he had struggled to climb to reach the summit where the shrine was. At first he had been cheerful and relaxed. He was on an adventure that would change his life. He almost felt happy. But then slowly the harshness of it all had come to light. It had started raining, and there was no shelter. Through the rain he had continued his journey and then during the day the sun had been too strong. On the second day, he ran out of his provision of food. He had thought he had enough but then he realized he had forgotten to pack keep the other package of food in his bag. From then, the only thing that kept him going was water and the cigarettes. Thankfully, he had kept them in a waterproof zip-lock bag. On the third day (or was it the fourth?) he ran out of water too. Somehow he had struggled on and just when he had felt that he could go on no more, he realized that he had reached. It was a disappointment.

When the sailor had told him about the place, he had assumed that it would be a tedious journey but at the end he would reach some sort of a monastery or something where some old sage or wise monk would give him some advice. On the contrary, when he did reach the shrine, there was no one there. It was not even a proper shrine. Just a small stone on which someone had chiselled “Lay your troubles here”. He looked around but couldn't see anyone. There were a few rotting fruits at the shrine which he had eaten before he lay down on the ground and had fallen asleep out of exhaustion. And that brought him here – now.

He took out the money bag and counted the money. Barely enough to buy food for a couple of days. But then what could he do? He was exhausted and feverish. And a five day journey before which he wouldn’t even see a face. That too without food or water. He couldn't do it. This is why they don’t talk about it. For them, the journey is more important. They don’t ever think of going back. For them life is a journey. The path back is repetitive and boring. No one needs to think about that. For them tomorrow will be another challenge. But what about me? I had no dreams and I have none now. For me the only path that lies ahead is to go back. And I can’t do it.

He took out another cigarette. It was the last one. He sat there smoking his last cigarette at the edge of his world, thinking about the day after. Philosophy, perhaps only for the rich?


Afterword:


“The Day After…” was inspired by the questions that came to me when I stumbled upon a news source speaking of a rickshaw wallah who has started on an epic journey from Kolkata (Calcutta) to Leh on his rickshaw. Immediately upon seeing it, I questioned what it would feel like to finish that trip, reach your destination and then to look back at the road and realize you would have to take it again to return to wherever you have come from. It was in turn, also partially inspired from the way I feel when I am traveling. To finally reach the destination and then realize a few days later that I have to do it all over again – step by step. Why can’t the return journey just happen in a snapshot? Perhaps I have felt it quite a lot when playing video games as well. The objective of the thought was not to slight or question the dream but just to muse on what happens the day after. Sometimes it’s easy but often it’s not.


- Parekh, Pravesh
September 29, 2014
02:30 – 03:24 – 03:40 AM
NIMHANS