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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Twists and Turns

Winter is very mild in my place. We are in the temperate zone. I am not really good in Geography but I have studied it as a subject in school classes. Papa was really well versed in it but I never utilized his knowledge to enrich myself, to equip myself in fact. That is one of the regrets I have in life. I know I can master it if I put my mind to it but it would have been much easier and surely more enjoyable if I tapped the resources available at home. It still brings streams of tears when the words of my brother reverberate in my ears telling me how in the last moments of consciousness in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital Papa was asking for me and expressing his apprehensions regarding how I would find out easy and quick answers to any question on Geography once Papa is no more. Papa was my ready reference for English grammar, geography, history, and stories.
He was a wonderful story teller. He read a lot in his youth and kept it up till his retina got detached following a cataract surgery. A tragic incident which took away not only his sight but also his rights and opportunities to find his joys of life. He was never again the Papa I knew. All his confidence dwindled and he was pathetic at many levels but he survived the loss with the brightness which was inherent in him. He led a different life but he did not get wrecked. He listened to the BBC on his transistor radio and recounted the stories and all that he read earlier. He revelled in holding conversations with us, passionately telling stories or listening to our narrations.
He always brightened up at the prospect of talking about what he knew. Any time I needed to know anything I first asked him and mostly his answer would save me the trouble of searching further. All the stories I heard from him while I was a child I read in my mature days. I always wonder how he never forgot anything and never messed up the stories. Tolstoy and Shakespeare came in to my world at a very young age through the stories Papa told me. He suggested that I buy as many books as could read and stock them. He instilled the desire in me to have a personal library. Books still remain a major item on my list for buying. The book shelf full up with my books give me a sense of elation. For a village bred boy who chanced to get educated in a college in the capital city Papa was obviously diligent and persevering.
Our village is beautiful. The winter is particularly charming because in that hilly terrain it is colder than it is in the level lands. The mornings are especially appealing to me. My mother would get up early in order to be able to catch the one and only bus passing by our place in the morning. She was a teacher working in a far away village. She belonged to that village but relocated to Papa’s place when I was fourteen. Tedious journey for the next fourteen years; that is one of the evils she incurred by deciding to settle in the highland village where Papa was born and settled down for life. Mummy did not mind getting up early if her life demanded it but for the three others of the family: Papa, my brother, and I, it was very difficult. We were able to sit up late, even forego sleep but we slept well in the wee hours and it was too difficult for us to wake up and start the day early. Sure we did when there was no other go. But our conditioning is for getting up late. Mummy had to bear with this situation. She knew it was not lack of concern or anything against her that made us sleep on while she was toiling alone in the kitchen but when she could not manage the stress and strain of it anymore she occasionally yelled at all of us.
My brother used to walk her to the bus stop uphill. He would wear a sweater and a cap and go with her. She would teach him the language she taught in school. He would carry his text book and once they reached the bus stop they would sit and read the lessons together. Our faithful dog would stay nearby relishing the sweetness of the moment. Once the bus comes she would board it and my brother would return escorted by the German shepherd who was an essential part of our family. As long as the dog was there everyone was safe and the dog was invariably there all the time. He was alert and available all the time.
Our house was situated in a large compound. The land belonged to my grandfather and my father inherited part of it. It was not customary to have a compound wall and it was next to impossible for us to build a wall around the land. We were not very rich. The first priority was always education. So we had a house in the middle of a rather square piece of land which was marked off from the neighbours’ property merely by low mud walls. Papa improvised it with small pieces of rocks he found here and there during his morning walks. He picked the small stones and brought them and piled them neatly making a wall that gradually rose. A pity the road expansion work shattered his handiwork and he was too old and past concern to rebuild. The wall lives in my mind, in my memory, immortalised. So our land was rather open on all sides permitting animals and human beings free entry.
The dirt road that ran along the western side of the land had the looks of an avenue with trees on both sides casting their shade on the road, giving it the enamouring look that is its major attribute. The road went uphill to the main road but from the verge of our compound as far as eyes could reach it was just the road losing itself in green foliage up where the bend comes. I loved the sight of it. I awaited the return of my mother in the evenings standing on the edge of the land casting my eyes towards the bend far ahead. The setting sun lends the horizon a glow which imparts the atmosphere an additional grace. Then, through the fading light the silhouette of her comes into my vision and my mind fills with joy. It leaps before my legs move forward. Each evening a new experience! The face of my mother tells me she has been looking forward to this moment when it lights up at the sight of us waiting for her at the threshold with our stories of accomplishments and happy experiences.
The road that leads from our place to the main road has a special significance to us thus. The last of my memories being the sight I had from the ambulance on our way to the cemetery for Papa’s burial. Mummy had passed away. We were up the road and i looked back and saw a road full of people and vehicles all on way to the funeral. Memories of happy re joinings flash across my mind and I wail in despair. My brother puts a comforting hand around my shoulder. I wonder what goes on in his mind, what helps him remain tranquil. I also covet his control and acceptance of life. The morning fog and the form of mummy fading off from my sight on her walk up the hill to catch the bus, the silhouette of her coming in to view in the fading day light on her returns, the form of Papa suddenly appearing near the far away bend coming home before the light fades off, umpteen other bits of memory clog my mind. I feel choked. The place suffocates despite all its charms now that life has taken all too sudden changes that are unalterable.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Once Again

Snow renders a dismal look to the world
with Its typical way of covering up the ground.
The demarcations man has created:
roads, flowerbeds, all engulfed,
snow spreads and everywhere looks alike.

The season lasts and necessitates
innovative solutions to the
indiscriminatory levelling of the landscape.
Snow keeps falling, man loses his tracks.

The white blanket charms.
Snow is a coveted experience
to one who has never been there
where winter is a season in full glory.
I yearn to see the flakes which I have seen
only on the television or in movies
in still or moving pictures.

I have read about snowstorms.
I know it can be a bother,
but I yearn to see the fluffy snow flakes
flying and falling down,
settling down and hardening ,
transforming landscapes into an icescapes.

How would it feel to touch,
how would it feel to stand out there
and receive it like one receives the rain?

The appearance of the snow- covered earth ,
the winter picture, enchants.
The cold and the hassles are unknown;
they are not part of my fanciful realm.
I yearn for a proper winter and snow
as Christmas is round the corner once again.

Photo courtesy:Creative writing ink http://creativewriting.ie/2011/12/05/creative-writing-prompt-december-5th/

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Wait

I have been waiting here
for quite a while now.
Why are you being so late?
I am not complaining but it is tedious you know.

Once you arrive we will resume the game.
Your dress is dry.
You can change into them once we finish the playing
and you have had your refreshing bath.

But how long will you take to arrive?
I am a bit impatient you see.
The dusk has come and still no sign of you
What is keeping you so late?

Don’t you know that I will be waiting for you
all day on this window sill,
never taking my eyes off the road?
Come home fast my dear.

Photo courtesy: creativewritingink writing prompt 28 Novemberkhttp://creativewriting.ie/writing-exercises/

The Cement Bench

We called it the cement bench
may be because it was not of wood
like the usual ones people have at home.
Park benches were not part of our world.
We had vast grass lands stretched out
before us in vibrant green and huge trees, shrubs, bushes,
and all kinds of plants with proper names
and those we didn’t know what to call
just like the bench in front of our house.

Papa made the mason erect the bench
when a few of the concrete slabs
moulded for shelves in the house
turned out to be extra.
We had a stone quarry in the compound.
Stone bricks were around and the workers built
the bench according to papa’s directions.

Three broad stone pillars in a row,
high enough for a convenient chair,
four slabs mounted on them so that they joined
in the middle on the central pillar.
Cement plastering
and a coat of paint completed the bench.
Mom’s garden behind the bench shaded it off from the dust road
We sat on and around the bench and had the best moments.
Papa would sit close to the bench in his arm chair
Mama would lie on her side on it
we would sit at her foot or head as space let us
with our feet raised on the long arms of papa’s chair.
In those days it was unthinkable, children putting their feet up
on their father’s chair, that too when it was occupied
but we were special and didn’t care.
Papa always kept his feet up on one of the long arms
leaving the other arm free for our feet
we talked nonstop till we were sleepy
watched over by our faithful dog.

The bench was moved off to the north side
when papa’s brother came back to settle down
in the village with his family.
They built their house in our neighbourhood too close
Papa moved the bench for protecting our privacy
he did not want any eves dropping
but little did we know then that it
marked the end of a family tradition.

The new location did not work well
the dog died tragically, bitten by a snake,
in his attempts to save a man tilling the yard.
My parents grew older and we children were never home.
It was not quite safe to be outdoors after sunset,
as the dog too was not there.
Potted plants were kept on the bench for a while
until I demolished it
after the death of my parents.
The new location did not work well.
We hardly had a good time there.