The Wanderer’s Home
Noise! Slow! Girish Park. I have wondered many times as to why this place was called so. How am I supposed to figure out when I have never seen beyond the clean platform? What lies beyond? In all probability the polluted sky and noisy roads and chaos in between. This was another new city for me and they were all the same. Exiled by choice. Meant to be happy. Destined to be rich. Struggling with the loans. Many school kids get up here. The school kids did not bother to look at me as they continued their merry conversations. Algebra was waiting for them in the classroom and they were fearlessly venturing into it. Luxuries of having comrades equally ignorant of what the future holds. I remember how I wished that day for them to look at me and make me one of them. Child! Careless like the butterflies that once used to sway away with the wind from the flowers in my mother’s garden. Sweet like the olives shared with salt and friends on top of the tree that struggled to grow amongst the other trees. Carefree like the rains that used to shatter on the tin roof of the house where I was born. Ignorant like the bleeding boy who hid his wound for fear of being called off by his mother from hiding under the old culvert. But the children never even looked at me. I was a grown up now and they have denied me their companionship. Do they not read newspaper these days? Can they not see what was going on with me after reading the Headlines about Me and my Home.
Noise again and slowed down again. My hands grip the steel rail above. I could feel the sweat brewing reminding me of the Headlines about Me and my Home again as I reached M G Road. Every city in India has an M G Road. Kolkata has a metro station too there. Gandhi might have pitied me today. But did Gandhi like all heroes not choose his audience selectively. Was I not as faceless as the man who was reading the last page of the paper now? The faceless man seemed busy finding out the sports news encrypted amongst the countless advertisements. There was an AIDS awareness advertisement inside the metro train. The character Bula di urging people not to have multiple partners. Would she have been able to pity me? There I was surrounded by scores of people and I was struggling to figure out whether Gandhi or Bula di would take pity on me. Two non existing entities. Two mere thoughts. But then I could think of more. Shylock’s predicament in the court. He would have pitied me had he not been a Jew and a victim of Shakespeare. Mojart’s illness. He would have pitied me had he not realized that music was not for ears but the heart. The young poet who died would have pitied me. But then Yeats wrote him a beautiful Epitah. I was alone that day. The Headlines about Me and my Home danced as red as ever.
Central. There is another busy Central in Mumbai. I was there before I came to this city of joy. Mumbai was the city of rush. People do not read newspapers often on the trains there. But there the people would have pitied me that day. They are many like me there. But it seems that were none here. The father gripped the young hands of a small child rubbing off the dirt from her handkerchief pinned to her blue uniform. I wished those tender hands would rub my cheeks. Would it have not feet soft like the green blades of grass under my feet which screeched with alarm when I sneaked to catch the dragon flies to tie on pieces of strings? Would it not relieve me like the first gulp of cold water that slowly streamed through the rocks fighting away the moss? Would it not comfort me like the deep blue sky under which I used lie down figuring out the shapes of the silver clouds? But there was no comfort for me that day. The Headlines about Me and my Home screamed. Slowly a face emerged from behind the newspaper. His eyes were neither black nor brown but it seems as if they have faded just like his eyebrows and hair. The transitions from black to white is not grey it seemed but the color of dirty. The hair oil made it even worse and I could imagine how smelly it would have been. I hated him and everything about him. Was he not the messenger of the Headline about me and my Home? Wish I was in Mumbai. Mumbaikars would have pitied me. There are many like me in Mumbai who has had headlines about them and their home. And the headlines had much bigger fonts. They had pictures too. The whole world pitied them. Maybe they will see today’s headlines and remember their own wounds. Until you really have to wait outside the public toilet for your turn you don’t realize how your spouse at home feels every morning. But then when it is over do we still realize? Who would have pitied me? I was alone there. The Headlines about Me and my Home now being read by the person besides the man now with a face but equally nameless and unfamiliar.
The noise that was followed by slowing of the train almost went unnoticed as the train crept into Chandni Chownk. That was where the Twins got up every morning. The twins never talked to each other. They do not talk to anybody. They get up in Chandni Chownk. Before I came to Kolkata I never knew that there was a Chandni Chownk here. There is one full of food in Delhi. From parathas to chaat to samosas it was a maha kumbh mela of Hindus and Muslims trying to stuff their tummies. The first time I went through the serpentine lines of human hunger and greed, I realized what it means to be in the capital city of India. Red fort the red symbol of Indian freedom, from where the famous speech of Indian independence was delivered stands steady to scream “yes” we can be around people. I was denied that from the very day the bombs ripped the bazzar near my home. Crowded places were a strict no. Festivals ceased to mean shopping and new clothes. Cinemas came bundled with a free adventure trip to a scary house that might blow up any time. But then as I read the Headlines about Me and my Home and the Many Bombs that ripped apart the sanity of the tens of thousands of people I realize that event he capital city has had the share of such headlines. The inner circle of discount sales and cheap pirated DVDs in developed Delhi was treated the same way as the square of economic growth in upcoming Guwahati. The Headlines about Me and my Home and the Many Bombs that ripped the city continued to dance as my eyes became tired of watching it. My dirty pair of shoes was all I could stare at fearing the very sympathy I seek. The tear drop fell the six feet and looked like a black sun. Black sun with no hope of ever rising. Black sun with no hope. The Twins do not talk. Wished they had that day?
Esplanande. Never heard of any Esplanades in any other city in India. A colleague of mine stays somewhere in Esplanade but he takes the cab. Otherwise he would have asked as to why I was feeling like the way I was. But that day there was no one. I knew that there was no one. I was to hold on to the rails with the sweaty hands and stand tall with the weak legs till I reach my destination. Espalnade was not it. Esplanade was for the man with the newspaper. Come back I felt like screaming behind him. Don’t take the Headlines about Me and my Home and the Many Bombs that killed my brothers away. Come back please. Don’t take my pain away. Was it not my only companion? But it did get away as the steel doors closed with a ring. I tried closing my eyes trying to remember the black letters on the white paper. The letters were white then, the paper black. It was still screeching louder than the rickety metro. If I was doing a movie on how I felt I would have covered my ears like a drug addict trying to quit and shaking like an epileptic. I was not in a movie but I was amongst people and I held on. The school kids continued their merry conversations. The character Bula di continued urging people not to have multiple partners. The father continued gripping the young hands of a small child. The twins continued their silent journey. I closed my eyes. The Headlines about Me and my Home and the Many Bombs that ripped away the hope of so many was strangulating me.
The noise again as if the brakes are biting on the rails begging for the train to stop. The Park Street straight from the pages of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or so it seems. Half the people on the train gets down there. Was it not a busy place outside? I see people rushing for the Smart gates as if to save a second more would mean an extra penny of pay for the day. My destination too was not far from there and I was still early. Have I not prepared the pitch the previous week? What was I to worry about? Have I always not prepared what I need to do? And did I not enjoy my days through the colleges and through so many cities. The great things I did in my hostel were still shared and talked about by both old and new. It took me away from my home. But not far enough to return on holidays to feast on both food and old friends. Have I not traveled across the country after that and returned back to family and friends and gone away again. The butterflies have flown away. The tastes of the olives have left my tongue. The rains disturb the television signal. Gandhi is a movie. And two movies more. Was I not alone that day? Do I not know so many people all around that I need to make fake excuses to stay back on weekends? But there was none. The twins looked at me. I looked away. I looked back. They looked away. Silently I traveled with them and scores of people. Still remembering the Headlines about Me and my Home and the Many Bombs that ripped throught the souls of so many.
The next station was Maidan. The Eden Gardens. the place where God sent Adam and Eve. The place where the Original Sin was commited. The apple was eaten. Or perhaps The Lords of India. The mecca of Indian Cricket. The walls are full of paintings of people playing sports. Was it not the place where competition brews? The place where I would have come had I been born in this city. For I was not born here. Nor in the city where I was before. Nor the one before that and the one before that. Where am I from? I am from the place where the newspaper that day reported has been ripped apart. The place where perhaps the flesh was still burning along with the hopes of countless families affected. There was no God there on that day for fear of being shown the blunt reality of evolution of mammals with guns and bombs. There would be no sports on that day for there could have been no winners that day. Eden Gardens. It is another station. It is where the Twins got down silently. They never look. The steel gates closed behind them. I was alone there and remembering my home. But I was away. Here the grass is where I am not allowed to walk in the park near by. Stream water does not crawl its way through the rocks fighting the moss but finds itself trapped in PET bottles. Where they say the blue sky is to be found in New Zealand. The Headlines about Me and my Home and the Many Bombs that ripped the buildings and cars shouted at me again. Could it not have been like the Twins, silent and calm?
And then there I was getting down on the clear marble floor of the Ravindra SAdan. The ugly self portraits of Tagore, black and rough greets me. The train has left me behind. Tagore had ugly handwriting. But his thoughts still finds its place there on the walls of a station in a place named after him. The Headlines about Me and my Home and the Many Bombs that burnt my brothers back home will not find a place anywhere. It will soon be forgotten and become statistics as more such Headlines appear in dark red. Or perhaps in black someday when all the blood to be spilled will be spilled and none left to call us human. I did walk silently like the Twins that day. Except that I had no one besides me. I did make a good pitch that day and I did send the mails waiting for my reply. I did attend all the phone calls that day. I lived my day as I always did. Except that I did one thing more. I wept. Faceless as the man who was reading the Headlines about Me and my Home and the Many Bombs that screamed blood.
Labels: Short Story