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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.


A Cuban In London said...

What a beautiful, evocative post. Winter is my least favourite season (autumn and spring are my top ones, especially the former). I do like, though, the way winter arrives so slowly and smoothly in my adopted city. Thanks.

Greetings from London.

Minu said...

Thank you very much for the words of appreciation. Thank you for taking the trouble to read my post. I feel happy and confident enough to attempt writing further.London is a place I wish to see and be in. Your comment arrived as a great surprise.