The Park

Do not judge her based on her aloofness or hostile temperament. If she asks you to stay away, try not to be offended. She doesn’t hate you, it’s just that she is not used to your unexpected presence. And if, despite her meaningless hostility, you still decide to stay with her, you would slowly and surprisingly discover how feigned her hatred is! The fact is she had been waiting for too long for someone like you to keep her company but just like everyone else she fears that you too would leave her eventually. And it is the inevitable truth, isn’t it?

She likes to believe that her life has been built over her choices rather than some bunch of uncontrollable circumstances. Is it really true? How does it matter even if it isn’t? In labyrinth of her thoughts, she has the liberty to believe in anything she wants to. In labyrinth of her thoughts, she doesn’t have to differentiate dreams from reality. Her dreams can be misleading but she has seen too much of life to care about this trivial thing called truth. Had she always been like this? In her days of youth, she recalls that that things had been different. In her decaying memories, there still exist the echoes of those noises that had once both annoyed and excited her. What was it like back in those days? When she was young and beautiful – when the swings weren’t broken, when the slides hadn’t been rusted, when the see-saws were capable of being used? What was it like when the children loved visiting her, annoying her, infuriating her, tickling her and making her laugh from the core of her heart? Faint projections of the past trickles down her hazy memory. “It was beautiful!” She exclaims. It was beautiful! Those were the days when each setting sun brought different stories, when imaginations of young minds would disperse incoherently in the air she breathed, when she was the canvas where each day creativity was splashed over in unpredictable ways; when she had the ability to be the island surrounded by river filled with crocodiles, when she could transgress from being a mere children’s park to the peak of the mountains or the sea of molten lava. Where have her shape shifting abilities disappeared? She is just a deserted and forgotten park now. What happened?

She aged.

How come, though? Wasn’t she supposed to live a long youthful life? Or was it just her immature assumption? After all, the things that glorified her, were paradoxically also the things that destroyed her. With the imaginations that excited her and made her feel invincible, came also the veiled curse of several diseases and senescence. She recalls how those very children who loved her also broke the chains in the swings, stomped too hard on the top of the slides, dismantled the seats on the see-saws and no one! No one ever bothered to take care of her or even think of rescuing her from her deteriorating condition. But they adored her, didn’t they? Then where did their cruelty and indifference stem from?

She immediately rebukes herself for blaming those kids. They had never been cruel! None of the bruises they inflicted on her was intentional! They were too innocent, that’s all. She should know that! Yes, they had been the harbingers of her downfall. Yes, the things she once flaunted off with pride, also brought her own doom. But isn’t life always like this for everyone – An irony? Things wouldn’t have changed even if the circumstances had been entirely different! It would have still been a tragic paradox.

Isn’t god overusing a trivial literary device? When would he retire from being this arrogant poet? But nothing matters now. Nothing matters. She remembers how she had also hoped for peace. She remembers how she had longed for calm sunsets. And now she has all of these in acute abundance. She gives away her toothless smile. Happiness peeks through her wrinkled face. The solicitous tears of sorrow accompany immediately as if too scared to leave happiness alone. The deserted park embraces them both and then suddenly, scorns at the funny looking thing, who stood scribbling in its notebook at her broken gate, shamelessly interrupting her private moment. “Go away you insolent thing!” she shouts through the rustle of leaves and a sudden gush of wind. The insolent thing doesn’t budge. Instead it stands and stares at her as the yellow light illuminates her face and the musical notes of melancholy floats beautifully under the unusually silent night. When the song finally ends, the funny insolent thing whispers “You are beautiful.”

“Oh! You liar!” The old lady whispers back through her disagreeing blush and laughs herself to sleep.

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An unnecessarily guilty glance

I  am waiting outside the juice shop, thirsty and tired, putting an enormous amount of expectation on a tiny glass of sugarcane juice that is yet to be served. My face is smeared  in pink and yellow and some other weird combinations. My arms are still tingling from what could have been a regretful sunburn after a long celebratory drive back to our city, to this shop.Despite the brutal tanning and dehydration, I can’t help but feel elated. And why not? I am drenched in festivity! How I adore this festival of hues! This craziness!

I am at my usual lost-in-thought state when I feel a light tug on my elbow – ‘Behen O Behen! Le Lona’

Annoyed, I turn around. A little girl is trying to sell Gulal to me.

I look at the packets of colours in her hands and I know I shouldn’t buy them. Those are the kinds of colours that should be kept away from your skin at all cost unless you happen to like rashes.I am tempted anyway. It’s Holi after all! Everyone needs to celebrate today! But before I could know it, I have dropped the idea again – Nahi, bacche, nahi chahiye. No child, I don’t want it.

Lelona. Please? – She requests again.

You can call her a beautiful child if you look at her carefully; Her brown eyes, that goes with her brown complexion, her perfectly aligned teeth, her straight thin nose and the innocence in her voice.I have come down to my knees. My fingers are now fondling with colours inside the packet I have. No, I can’t buy the so-called Gulal from her and I won’t. It is against my easily adaptable principles. But I paint both her cheeks green and greet her a happy Holi.

She is surprised. A smile brightens up her face. Suddenly, she forgets why she is even here! I offer her my cheek. She dips her small fingers in my packet and slather the colour over my face. Now, I am heavily dusted in green as well. Her smile has broadened. No one has ever seemed so happy just with these small gestures before.

I am smiling too. I try to feed in the details of her happy face in my head.You,little girl,are such a delightful lovely poem that I can’t even pen you down. Maybe someday when I am worth and capable of putting your beauty in words, I will. But for now, I still can’t buy these packets of pity from you that you still hold in your hands, that you are still going to try to sell to other prospective buyers a few minutes from now. And though you are still smiling at me and you don’t even want my money anymore, I just find myself letting out an inaudible and invisible murmur  – ‘I am sorry’.I know that you are not asking for my apology. You don’t want it. Actually, it’s I who really needs it – as a futile attempt to pacify my own confused conscience. I am sorry because I don’t think you deserve this. I am sorry because I can’t help you escape the circumstances you have been born in. I can’t save you from your parents making you sell these packets. I can’t send you to school and I can’t teach you either. And neither can I ever take responsibility for your better childhood or better future. Not that there is no way for achieving any of this, it’s just that I am lazy and I am running short of efforts to uplift my own life. Looking at you, I raise those never-to-be-answered questions to my fate again. Why you? Why me? They aren’t answered of course. As usual, they turn their backs on me. And then I turn my back on you after one last cheerful, apologetic and perhaps an unnecessarily guilty glance.