Return – Chapter 2

I knocked on the door. I knew what was impending, and even as I knocked again, I felt it would have been a relief if I could just run down the road beside, and keep running until I was tired. But then, I wanted to face what reality had in store for me. It wouldn’t be easy, I knew. In fact, the next few minutes could be the most tough moments of my life, something that I could pass on to my grandchildren in anonymous stories. I waited. A lady shouted from inside, which roughly translated to “I swear this is the thousandth time since morning someone knocked on my door. I will break this door someday.” She opened the door, and for a while she kept looking at me. I realized she wouldn’t know me; when I had last left her, I did not have a stubble. My hair was neatly combed that morning as I left for school. That was four years back. I smiled at her, hoping that would remind her of the past. She did not look a day older. She was the same old woman that I had left a few years ago. Same white sari, same white hair, plump but weak, fat rimmed spectacles, nothing had changed; except time. “Namaste Taaya,” I said, which meant, “Hello, Taaya”. Taaya was what I called her when I was small. I did not know how I came to learnt that name, and why no one asserted a problem to me calling her by that name when she was in fact not my taaya. In relations, taaya refers to an elder aunt. But she was not an aunt of mine, neither did she have any nephews. I was the only person she had, and only had she been the only person I had, nothing would have ever gone wrong. She was my mother.

She looked at me melancholically, kept looking at my eyes for about a minute, and then shut the door on my face. I couldn’t expect anything less or more than that. When I was young, sometimes we used to fight over small trivial matters. Then I used to pretend I was angry and would shut the door of my room and lock myself inside for hours. My mother would cry, thinking I was really angry. I felt sad about that, but I didn’t want to break it to her. If I did, she would never again think I was angry, and things wouldn’t work out. So many incidents flashed into my mind. But then, things changed. Today we played a role reversal. I was crying, and she had shut the door. Only, she literally did it. There was only one person I could now go to. I didn’t know if she would remember me at all, or whether she would give it any thought if I stepped up in front of her, but I owed it to myself, and I owed it to her, to meet her once more, to try to set things right, and to live my life as I should have done before. It was late, but they say it’s better to be late than never. I was praying they said it right. As I walked down the road, an old friend met me. He looked at me strangely, as I stood, stagnated, not moving an inch. He hugged me for a while, and as we walked, he narrated all what had happened in the interim that I was gone. I was gone. I had never thought anyone would put it that way. I was not gone, I was right here. All the while, I was right here. But I couldn’t explain that to him, nor could I talk about it to anyone else around. So I just nodded. He left me after a while, when he saw the way I was headed. “Don’t do it,” he said. “For your sake.”

I strolled on. I had to see if there were a life that I wished for, if there were a destiny that defined me. So I reached her house. And I knocked, hoping she would open and recognize me. I hadn’t been away that long that she’d not recognize me. Unless she did it purposefully… The door opened. She looked at me with her shining eyes. So much of her had changed. Except her eyes. They were still the same. They still said the same story that they said four years ago. And her tears still pained me as it did in my dreams. She had grown thinner, and she looked prettier than I could have ever imagined her to be. “I still love you,” I said. She put a finger on her lips, indicating me to stop talking. And she hugged me. “I’ve missed you,” she said. “I’ve missed you too, Shaena,” I said.

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Does It?

Do you still wake up the same way like you did,
When you were in India?
Does the sun still share its light the same way,
Like it does in India?
Do the trees still shed leaves in autumn like they did,
When they were in India?
Do people still talk about love and hope,
Like they did in India?
Do you still exchange gifts in Id, like you did,
When you were in India?
Do they still look the same, like they did,
When they were in India?
How does it feel different then?
Pray tell me, what is different?
Does not the moon shine bright at night,
Do not the fields grow crops anymore?
Does not the rooster still crow in the morning,
And does not the smoke come out of chimneys?
What has changed then, how are you different?
Does it not pain when your loved ones leave,
Does it not hurt to give birth to a child,
Are you not loved by your neighbors anymore?
What has changed, how is it different?
Do you still get the smell of wet mud,
When it rains in India?
Do you still hear the shouts of Holi,
Do you still see the lights at Diwali,
Do you?
How is it different then, than what it was,
Pray tell me, I don’t understand.
Why do you fight now, when you didn’t fight then,
Why do you, what has changed?

*inspired from the song ‘Husna’ by Piyush Mishra*

Sunshine on Her Forehead

Through the tiny slit between the curtains,
That blocks her from the outside for most of the day,
Two tiny rays of sunshine slither through,
And fall on her forehead, making a tiny yellow moon.
She knows when the rains come pouring,
A pitter-patter on the windows,
She cannot smell the wet mud outside,
Nor see the birds fly back to their nests.

Sunshine on her forehead, she smiles,
A face of glee forever overshadowing,
Her life of plight that she has carefully masked,
Against day, against night, and against herself.
She dreams of a day when she’d go outside,
She sees her father, his hands wide apart,
She runs to him, and embraces him dearly,
But alas! Then she wakes up.

She doesn’t know how her story will end,
Whether her hero would rescue her,
She dreams of people who are blind like her,
And tells them to be patient, in her thoughts.
She walks up to the door sometimes,
But there are no latches on the inside,
She wonders who locked her up here,
But alas! Then she wakes up.

Sometimes when she sees the slit,
Between the curtains turn to a shade of black,
She knows it is night, and that she must sleep,
Yet never her eyes close, endlessly she stares.
She doesn’t remember the last time she cried,
She wants to wail, tears betray her,
She covers her face with the pillow she has,
It smells of her, she hasn’t known any other.

Yet next morning, when the sunshine,
Draws a tiny moon on her forehead again,
She feels a wetness in her eyes,
And tries hard to cover it with her smile.
She knows this could go on forever,
And wishes she had been dead long ago,
But she promises to herself she’d live through it,
And show to the day another black night.

Quick – Chapter 7

She was there, turned into a fairy, flying about in the room. I could sniff blood around, and taste it on my lips as well, a salty taste; and then I woke up.

“Too much whisky, eh?”

“No, not much. That was only a quarter.”

“Yeah, and you’ve slept for four hours, on my bed, alone.”

“What?”

“Yeah. I’ve got a message from the headquarters. You are to be killed.”

“What?”

“Can’t you hear me, boy?”

“I can.”

“Good then. But I am not gonna kill you, so soon at least. Tell me what you know of this business.”

“What?”

“Tell me what you know.”

“Nothing. I thought you were to break it to me.”

“Yeah. Too late though.”

“You know I can’t understand a penny of what you speak right now.”

“You’ve got a new life boy. A new name, a new identity.”

“What?”

“Stay here, and you will know soon. Bye.”

“Bye.”