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মইরা গেলেও বুঝুম নারে...
মধুর মধ্যেই প্রাণ |
মধুর মর্ম জানতে হলে...
গাইতে হবে গান |
ঘুইরা বেড়াই, মরিয়া হয়ে যাই
বুঝতে মধুর টান |
মধুর মর্ম জানতে হলে...
গাইতে হবে গান |
খুঁইজা মরি নিজেরে আমি...
করতে মধু পান |
A huge wrought iron gate with thickly filigreed patterns has rusted over a few eons waiting for rare visitors to arrive once in a blue moon. This day my mother, my wife and my sister has arrived. They stand outside the gate clutching onto the grill, waiting to see me after a few years of my voluntary confinement. As I walk on the pathway leading to the gate, I can see them.
As I approach closer, my gaze slowly shifts towards the garden on my right and I see a few golden little chicks which have just hatched from their eggs, gnawing at each other with exuberant bursts of new found life. I stop and go closer to have a look at them. They are bigger than normal chicks, more like ostrich chicks out from their big egg shells as big as a rugby ball. They look quite strong and seem to be gaining a bit more strength every passing minute. By the time I am within their reach, they have already managed to stand upright and turn their heads to look at me. They are gorgeous and look beautiful. Such beauty in a land bird I have never witnessed before. Their structure is like a baby ostrich with strong legs and dark black eyes. They have the mature colour of a wise goldfish with bright orange spots on their head stretched till the back of their neck with fiery golden feathers standing upright through their spine. Although their mesmeric and unearthly beauty has had me under a spell, I manage to turn back towards my mother and show her what I had found with gleaming starry eyes. As much as I can understand, she looks quite pleased with my fantastic discovery and starts calling me to come towards her with her curled beckoning fingers and arms far stretched out towards me. I raise one hand and tell them to wait for a minute as I wanted to bring one of those chicks in the lap my palms and present it to her. I thought this is the present I’d been waiting to give to her all these years and finally on this fortunate day I have found it.
I join my hands in a cusp and try to go nearer to the glimmering golden chicks in hope of coaxing one to come to me. To my surprise they become highly alerted by my approach and start to step backwards. I try to make some chick sounds with my tongue and narrow lips in hope of appeasing them, but the more I step closer the more they become cautious of me. I gain my focus and zero in on one of them as my target. Slowly moving forward I reveal my agile instincts and pounce on it like a swift cat. All the chicks manage to flee in different directions with this act of mine, but I was not to give up as I keep my eyes fixed on my target and started chasing that one golden chick with quick legs into the nearby forest.
Like a classic Jurassic adventure I keep chasing the golden chick with masterful agility and a cunning focus to be able to catch it in my hands. After all I had been waiting for so many years for this unearthly moment to happen to me, this delightful sight, and I just could not make this ecstatic moment pass by without capitalising on it with my utmost power and grip. I had to have the golden chick in my hands, no matter what. I keep chasing it through tall tunnels of towering tree trunks, brushing my limbs against big and bold heavy branches, crawling through slimy slithering creepers, sliding on the seeping wet earth and gorging through thick bushes of bustling leaves. But I did not leave sight of my golden chick for a blink of an eye. This chick was visibly getting smarter as we ran, she was getting bigger, stronger and faster every passing minute. I do not know what species she belonged to, but all I know is that she was rare, probably the rarest of them all. And I had to have her in my hands, no matter what. She crisscrossed in ways I could never imagine a young bird could ever think of, but she did her best in trying to trick me into losing her. But as much as I had trained my mind over the years never to lose focus, I did not lose sight or stamina and kept following her wherever she fled.
We were now almost at another end of the forest, and with one long sprint she shot out of the bushes through a long path like opening. I came out like her tail on fire and screech myself to an abrupt halt as I see another huge wrought iron gate similar to the one before, only this one more rusted, and probably never been opened with heavily entwined creepers almost making it a part of the earth by now. Holding me back by my neck I see with astounded eyes the chirping chick run to the gate and crash into it with full speed and blow up in a burst of golden dust and magical orange smoke and turn itself into a half man and half bird on the other side of the gate. This magnificent creature slowly taking shape in front of my eyes has glittering orange scales on his skin and fiery golden feathers starting from the back of his head and down its spine. I witness this man-bird completely manifest in its whole form and beauty, and get awestruck by the sheer grace which radiated out of the resonating powerful energy space it had just created. It looks at me with its piercing dark eyes which struck me like lightning as it vanished into thin air turning itself into a faint orange smoke. I lose my sense and faint over there, in front of the gate.
When I wake up from my dream, I realize that what I had been chasing after is not really the gold or the beauty or the whole dazzling charm of all that. What we are truly searching for is nowhere else but in us, humans. What I am truly searching for is nowhere else but in me. Like a musk deer goes on roaming in the forest not aware about the beautiful fragrance that it spreads all around itself, we humans go on roaming far and wide in this world not knowing that what we are really searching for is nowhere else, but only within us.
An old man in his mid 60s is sitting on a side berth in a moving train, reading an English newspaper “The Statesman”. He looks middle-class but well-read and quite respectable. He is decently dressed with a loose formal shirt, loose formal trousers and old leather shoes. Another man, much younger in his early thirties, casually dressed with a colorful Polo T-shirt and golf shorts is sitting opposite to him working on his laptop, talking to a friend about his upcoming engagement while sipping on a cup of chai.
[Close-ups of different political news articles in the newspaper]
[Close-up of first man’s index finger with a vote mark holding the newspaper]
[Close-up of second man’s fingers without a vote mark sipping on his cup of chai]
The young man is on a call with his friend, talking with a lot excitement, "Abey bakwaas mat kar yaar! Papa ko nahi pata yeh bachelor party warty ke baare mein! Yeh sirf apne laundo ke liye, mere taraf se... Aur bhool ke bhi bataaiyon mat kisiko haan? This is top secret man! (small pause) Haan bhai... Ya ya... ya ya ya... Thik hai chal... (small pause) Haan... tere bhabhi ka photo bhejta hoon main... Chal bye!"
The old man puts his newspaper down and asks the young man “Pachaas saal lag gaye yeh gore ko sampoorna bharatiya banne mein, huh! (heh heh heh) Par yeh kamal ka kya hi kamaal hain jo baar baar khil uthta hain... (small pause) Aapne kisko diya? Vote?”
The young man looks up at him surprised and says, “Vote? Usse kya hoga? Kuch farak padne wala hain kya?”
The old man puts the newspaper on the table with a slightly disappointed look on his face, smirks a bit and says after a while, “Jawaani ke josh mein hum bhi aise hi sochte the. Shaayad aapko farak nahi padega, par aapke bachhon ko zaroor padega! Shaadi hone wala hain na aapki?” He smiles looking at the young man, who looks at him with a confused face but not able to reply anything. Suddenly the train honks and brakes gradually slowing down nearing a station.
The old man wears a white namaaz topi and starts gathering his things. He takes out a used gamchaa from below the seat and puts it on one shoulder, gets up from the seat and picks up a steel box kept on the floor by his side with a long bucket-like handle on the same shoulder. Giving one last look and a salaam towards the young man he says, "Khuda haafiz beta!", and starts walking towards the exit door selling out loudly, “Eyy Soan Papdiii.... Taaza Mithai Soan Papdiii....” [fade out]
There was a slim and tall antique grandfather clock in my ancestral house. It was a priced possession of our family but I had never seen it work till now. One day I decided to call my friend to help me take it to the watch makers to get it repaired. Waiting for him for a long time, my friend did not turn up and finally I decided to take it there myself. It was not a very big deal for me to carry it on my shoulder alone especially because the watch shop was just 5 minutes away. The only challenge on the way was to cross a main road always busy with traffic.
I was on my way with the grandfather clock on my shoulder as the pendulum inside made weird dong sounds as it kept sliding from one side to another because of the slight jerks in my walk. There I was at the main road crossing, waiting for the traffic to stop and the green signal for walking to turn on. Opposite the road I notice this beautiful, young girl, wearing a short dress, bubbly in nature taking to her college mate, her face and hairstyle resembling as that of Cleopatra, queen of the Nile. She was also waiting for the signal to cross the road from the other side, I presumed. My gaze was stuck upon her as if nothing else existed around me anymore. The next moment all the waiting pedestrian started crossing the road with the onset of the green walking signal and I start following them, my eyes still transfixed on that girl. As she came closer, her eyes met mine for the first time, and a shiver of electricity rushed through my body and I kept moving forward even more enthusiastically towards her, and she towards me. In this dreamlike state of mine, where flying fairies played flute in my ears congratulating me for the fortunate vision of this angel in my reality, I had totally forgotten what I was carrying on my shoulder – the tall and slim grandfather clock. The next moment I heard a slight “THOK” sound , a sound of wood hitting someone’s head and it was my grandfather clock on my very shoulder that had gone and hit my beautiful angel’s fragile head knocking her down on the road.
My angel was surely no angel any more. Like a ferocious hissing serpent she jumped up on me with a completely different face than that in my dream, and started yelling at me at the top of her voice,
“Aap haath mein ghari nahi pehen sakte? Itna bada watch sarr mein leke ghoom rahe hain! Stupid kahika! Useless idiot!"
[Bengali] Arey moshai apni hath ghori porte paren na? Shudhu shudhu raasta ghaate eto boro ekta ghori mathaye kore niye ghurchen time dekhar jonno! Ajob lokjon mairi! Idiot! Ulluk kotha kar!”
Flabbergasted, I could not speak a single word to her, as I watched her walk away from me to the other side of the road cursing me left and right under her breath. The way I had felt that day is beyond any kind of moral description. On one hand I still remember that she was one of the most beautiful sights of my life in this city. On the other hand I also realized that beauty with brains may just be a myth, at least in this romantic first-hand experience of mine.
~ TITLES ~
Dark clouds are gathering in the sky and it is about to rain. The stormy winds have already caught the coconut trees in a restless swaying dance. Kamala, the maid servant in her teens, wearing a dark red tattered cotton saree flapping in the wind, stands in front of an open window and stares at the sky feeling the cold refreshing breeze on her face. This is the first time it’s raining this year and how could she miss this unearthly play of the Gods. Reminiscing her childhood often came easy to her as she closes her eyes thinking about the endless green meadows, the playful stream by their hut, the chirping sound of the free birds, the throbbing life in those tiny butterflies, the fantasy of those fireflies glowing in the dark, and the wild mango forests she had spent all her infant years in. [brief flashback shots]
Her day dream suddenly broke with the sound of a door crashing in a gust of wind growing stronger every passing minute. The lady of the house, Savitri snaps at her from her room, “Kire Kamala! Kokhon theke bolechi janla dorja gulo bondho korte! Kichu bhenge gele ki hobe?”
Kamala turns her head and says, “Haan maima... korchi...”as she starts closing the window with a slightly dull face.
Savitri says in a low voice, ”Meye ta ke bole bole ar parlam na. Kothaye je or mon thake sarakkhon?”
It’s raining heavily outside, and Savitri is sitting lonely on her bed with her back resting on the headstand, her head slightly leaning backwards watching the rain blankly through her window pane. Her room is adorned with Jamini Ray paintings, antique menageries, and wooden vintage furniture exhibiting a mark of inherited affluence in her household. Kamala comes from behind and asks her leaning at the door, “Ajke ki ranna korbo maima?”
Kamala keeps staring at her expecting a reply. After a long pause Savitri turns her head slightly and says calmly, “Kal shobji wala onek kota bhindi diye geche... Sheta kor ge ja...”
Kamala walks towards Savitri and sits on the bed besides her saying, “Tumi shob shomoye eto koshte thako maima... amar bhalo lage na...”
Savitri looks at her and says, “Amar koshto ki ar tui bujhtey parbi?” She stares back at the window pane and after a long pause she says, “Barota bochor amader biye holo, amar ektao shontan holo na... Shey koshto ki tui ar bujhbi?” After a pause, she looks down on the ground with wet eyes and says, “Jaa... tor mama eto din por bari phirche... ranna ta shere ne ja...” Kamala nods her head, gets down from the bed and walks outside the room.
The rain has reduced to a mild drizzle by now. Kamala is cooking inside the kitchen, the pressure cooker whistle goes off and the next moment some metal utensils fall on the ground making a loud crashing sound. Savitri comes running to the kitchen and snaps at Kamala again, “Koto bar bolechi tokey thik kore bashon gulo rakhte...? Useless kotha kar...! Ekta kaj o thik kore korte parish na... Ki korte je tor mama toke amar ghaarer upor rekhe chole jaye?” Before she could finish what she wanted to say, the door bell rings and both of them look towards the door. Savitri silently utters, “Shekhar!”
Savitri opens the door and her husband, Shekhar steps inside with a smiling face. [Camera POV from each other] Savitri hugs Shekhar as if she won’t let him go this time. The wet dripping umbrella in Shekhar’s hand falls on the ground with the jerk of Savitri’s almost forceful hug. Shekhar is visibly happy returning home after a long time as he hugs Savitri back, and over her shoulder looks towards Kamala standing at the kitchen door, smiling shyly and looking straight towards him. Shekhar and Kamala exchange their sweet innocent smiles at each other, as Savitri clasps her hands tightly around Shekhar and says, “Amake erokom eka rekhe ar kokhono jabe na bolo...”
The rain has stopped for a while. Shekhar is sitting and reading a newspaper on the sofa. Kamala comes towards him with a cup of tea and keeps the cup on the centre table in front of him. “Mama tomar cha... Maima tomake ghore dakche...” She turns around to go back, when Shekhar holds her hand, looks up at her and asks her to sit. Kamala hesitates at first feeling a bit shy, but sits on the sofa eventually.
Shekhar looks at her face and asks, “Kire Komo... Amar katha mone porto? Ami ashar por amar sathe kono katha bollina je?” Kamala nods her head and then tilts it sideways. With a small pause, Shekhar smiles and picks up the cup of tea. “Maima ke beshi jalash ni toh?”
Kamala says “Nah”, keeping it short.
Sipping his tea, Shekhar asks, “Toke jei boi ta kine diye gechilam... porechish?”
Kamala replies, “Haan porechi mama...”
Shekhar smiles and keeps the cup on the table, leans closer towards Kamala and puts his hand on her hand. Kamala’s hand cringes slightly, with a strange emotion mixed with pleasure and anxiety, “Kamala... ami chai tui onek lekha pora kore boro hosh”
[Camera closes in on their hands holding each other][fade out]
Savitri is sitting in the same position on her bed; her back resting on the headstand and her head leaning on one of the bed poles, her eyes looking at Shekhar, who is also sitting on the bed beside her, holding her hand and intently looking towards her. It has started raining again and distant thunders are heard faintly from outside.
Shekhar says, “Sara ta jibon ki ey bhabei katabe Savitri? Dukkhe koshte, eto raag abhimaan ey? Amar katha bhebe dekecho ek baaro?”
Savitri smiles at him sarcastically, “Tumi thakle toh bhabbo tomar katha... Ei toh kota din acho... tarporei toh abar chole jabe... Oi poramukhi ke rekhe amar sathe...”, denotes towards Kamala with her expression.
Shekhar slowly looks down at the bed and waits for some time before saying anything. After a long pause he speaks, “Tomake ekta katha bolbo kichu din dhore bhabchi...”
Savitri interrupts and says, “Ishwarer kache ar kichui chaini kono din... ek amar nijer shontan chhara... amar koshto hoy Shekhar... tumi bojho na... amar koshto hoy... ami ar parchhina... ar parchhina...”, she breaks down weeping.
Shekhar takes Savitri in his arms and consoles her with her head resting close to his heart. After a short while Shekhar says, “Savitri... tomake ami onek din agei shontan diye rekhechi... kintu tumi bojhoni... bujhtey chaoni”
Savitri lifts her head looking at him and says, “Ki bolcho?”
Shekhar turns his head away and says calmly, “Amar jokhon olpo boyesh tokhon gramer barite amar mashir meyer sathe amar somporko ghotechilo... Amar boyesh tokhon ekush...”
Savitri looks confused and speechless.
Shekhar turns towards her and says, “Kamala amar meye... Kintu o sheta janena... Or maa or jonmer shomoye mara jaye... Tai o amake mama bole daake...”
[Close-up on Savitri’s face] Shekhar continues, “Katha ta ar keu janena”. Savitri’s lips start shivering, her eyes start trembling, and silent tears start rolling down her face. [Camera fixed on her face and speechless expression] Shekhar’s voice says, “Savitri... Kamala amader meye!”
[Slow transition to black screen fading out][Emotional flute plays in the background and distant thunders are heard louder than before]
~ TITLES ~
There are good times and there are bad times. At least the way we humans like to perceive it. But when you think about it a little deeper, time is just time, there is nothing good or bad about it. Time is like a flowing river and it keeps flowing, ticking by irrespective of what happens in those passing moments. Maybe time itself does not know the value of all those incidents, historic and mundane, that keep happening on the shores of this ever flowing river that it brushes along and indifferently keeps flowing.
How does it matter to time itself what has happened in its past and what will happen in its future? Words, just words are of no significance to time as much as it is important to us, mere mortals. Time refuses to have a memory of its own, but still we the mere mortals force, compel, dispel this idea, this burden of history, words, memories, thrusting it upon something as fragile, invisible, and unimportant as this invented fantasy, the inhuman concept of time. Does it really work, or change or affect time itself? I presume not. Time has been flowing, as it flows now, as it will keep flowing in time to come, without accepting any kind of burden on its head. In time it forgets everything, and forgives everyone – I presume, does it not?
Yes, time is unimportant, probably the most unimportant dimensions of them all. Time for itself is not so important as much as it has become for us. It is like the song of a nightingale which is so mellifluous to our ears, but perhaps the nightingale itself does not know about the sweetness of its own voice. Time has become the means to shackle our minds. Time has become those chains, those boxes and trunks, and dungeons in which our thoughts are supposed to be stored, processed, analysed and eventually used to kill our own existence, finish off life itself, as clearly as we have been seeing it for age old centuries.
Thoughts are more to be felt than to be processed. Time has taught us. As I feel so too. While in a sleeping state, it does not matter what dream we see, and what does it mean, and how close we can get to it when we are awake. But it does matter how we felt during that dream, what was the emotion flowing through our mind, how did my heart beat at that time, and my soul flew when those fleeting moments of the dream passed by?
Humans have invented this inhuman fantasy of time. Yes, it may have made life easier for some, but has brought death closer to each one of us. Now we keep waiting for the end looking at our watch, rather than looking up at the sky feeling the breeze on our face completely oblivious of the end – of any kind. Now the tick of a second on the watch sounds louder than the sigh of my all natural breath. Now the electronic sound of the alarm has become more natural than the rooster’s call at dawn. It was not necessary but it has been done – this inhuman invention of time. If it had not been done, we as a race would perhaps have a longer span to live, to love this life, and to enjoy this gift that we have received from this universe. But alas, it is too late now, and maybe we have to wait for the next cycle to come, which again time itself has no clue about. It will just naturally keep flowing, as it is flowing now, as it has always flown.
Time itself does not know that it exists, does it? I think trees also don’t know. Rocks, stones, hills and meadows – they also don’t. The bird kingdom – does it matter to them? The animal kingdom – maybe they are aware of it, but never bothered by it. Only we humans have sculpted time in a way that it is able to put us into cages – small cages, big cages, physical cages and mind cages, all kinds of cages. And then we try to beautify these cages, by buying things and objects, trying to adorn its walls with expensive clocks and antique hour glasses, just to make ourselves believe that it’s all well. Although that vintage cuckoo clock on our wall that cuckoos every passing hour should remind us of our disgusting slavery to it, we remain ever uncertain about its utter insignificance.
This moment, is all we have. And this moment is not a part of time as we know it. This moment is beyond the understanding of our past and our future. This moment lies at the very intersection of what’s real and what’s not. That’s why we skip it, overlook it, and some of us even ignore it. A hundred debates, and a thousand words, and a million sighs can never prove anything beyond what’s more important to us than life itself. Life is the only reality which we have, and this life exists only in this very moment, does it not? The moment this moment disappears, the next moment comes and the past moment suddenly becomes meaningless, unimportant, and irrelevant, does it not? What has happened before, and what is about to happen next, is but a figment of our imagination, a fantasy, unreal and intangible. What is real is here and now at this very moment, as it has always been, and thus will always be.
EXT. City streets (Slow transition with every scene from morning to afternoon to dusk to night.)
[Camera from POV of someone walking at a slow pace leisurely in the busy streets of a city passing by a bus station, fresh flower market, vegetable market, fish market with lots of people, cycles, and vehicles buzzing in the background, and finally walking alone through the middle of a two-lane flyover, cars speeding past from both sides]
A middle-aged female voice with a Parsi English accent speaks,
“I wonder what it would be like to walk on a lush green meadow, filled with lush green grass, with free birds chirping all around me, and the sweet sound of the fluttering breeze in my longing ears. I have only heard about them, but never seen it myself. All I have seen in my worthless life in this city is this hustle and bustle, these ever screaming voices, these ever screeching noises, and everyone always pushing each other trying to make a place for themselves. I wish I had a chance to run away from all this and return to where I really belong, where people would respect me for who I am, take care of me, nurture me, feed me and my small little children. Here, in this God forsaken land how will my kids grow up? Here, in this wretched place, they don’t even stand a chance to survive! Here, I can’t even be a good mother to my nanhe munhe small little calves [camera showing a few small calves on the roadside], how will I ever become a good mother to all these people? One chance they will get, and they'll slaughter me off to feed these hungry young bulls.” [camera showing a market where Muslims are selling all kinds of sheekh kababs]
[Camera turns face to face towards a fully grown COW, with tears in her eyes, munching on something as always] The same voice says, “Yes I am your Gau mata, horribly stuck in your dirty city.” [Background call of a Moo]
~ TITLES ~
In a tucked away corner of this ever-growing city, there used to live a modest man with his modest family inside a modest tent house. This house was made by his own nimble hands a few years ago to give abode to his newly migrated family in this small crooked lane, under the green shade of a frizzy tamarind tree, which had gone unnoticed for decades by anyone living in that forgotten locality of this big fuming city. The man was fondly called Dilip’da or Dilip Darzi by everyone passing by every day. This man, now in his late 50s, out of his sheer hard work, has by now in all these years acquired a good name for his exceptional tailoring skills, especially among the fairer sex in the locality. Even recently, his fame had not remained within the boundaries of this small lane but also had reached far and wide by the grace of his loyal customers’ word of mouth. A few days ago some pretty and young Bharat Natyam dancers from South City with big kohl-lined eyes had come to his shop to sew their blouses from him. To this, modest Dilip’da was quite surprised and asked these young girls as to why they had to travel so far to visit him, as if there were no good tailors to sew their blouses in South City.
As a matter of fact, it was quite rare for Dilip’da to get a fresh order to sew a new blouse or a new dress. Dilip Darzi was actually world famous in their locality for his super human alteration skills. He would only repair and alter all kinds of defective clothes for all kinds of women. He could get into the skin of his customers in such depth and take their precise body measurements in such detail, no lady had ever known that it was really possible before Dilip Darzi existed. And to say the least, every woman who crossed his front counter-table and entered inside his hut, invariably came out with a big, happy and satisfied smile. And in their first visit itself, they would magically become a little extra comfortable with him, freely letting him take their most intimate measurements, never complaining an inch about any unconstitutional behaviour by this respected middle-aged man towards them. There was no iota of doubt about the mastery that Dilip’da had acquired in his skillful craft to satisfy the ever-growing list of his numerous lady clients, big and small, young and old, rich and poor, always leaving them more than satiated in their peculiar alteration needs.
One day a thickly built housewife, a bit shorter than short in height to be fair, had come with a special need to shrink her defective blouse in such a way that it would reveal only an inch of her cleavage through the transparent saree she loved to wear. One day a slim teenage girl had come to him with a special demand to alter her defective skirt in such a way that it should be tight-fitted on her hips so that the taut curve of her behind is pronounced enough, and at the same time the fall should end in a flair, being careful by the inch not to cover her knees in any which way. Another day, a maid servant had come to him with a defective sleepwear in her hand, a modest free size petticoat. Dilip’da was quite surprised to see that even maids wear petticoats under their garments these days. He asked her, “Kya hua Maya ki maa? Kya karwaana hai?” She replied, “Dekhona Dilip'da... ekdum nayi hai, lekin pura defective, thoda bhi fit nahi ho raha hai, humaare size mein banake do na!” Dilip’da said, “Accha accha, ho jaayega.... par tumne kab se petticoat pehnna shuru kiya?” After a small pause, with a shy smile she says, “Nahi nahi, yeh toh memsaab ki hai, woh khud aana nahi chahti thi, iss liye mujhe bheja. Par unka size ekdum mere maafik hai. Lo na... naap lo jaldi se.”
Needless to say, how our down-to-earth Dilip Darzi had reacted to that comment, is not as interesting as the nature of the demand itself. However, this much can be said that Dilip Darzi had managed to satisfy all these customers to the T with their strange and defective demands for more than a few years of his new found life. Meanwhile, Dilip’da’s wife had been pestering him for the last few days to install a sign board for his shop, which had never existed since the time he had started his trade. Everyone just knew this place by his glorious name and the frizzy Tamarind tree. Dilip Darzi, as modest and humble as he was, also never felt the need for any signboard, considering that he was already pretty famous in the locality and all the ladies swore by his name when it came to altering a defective piece of clothing. His wife was a devout Kali bhakt and used to practise Kali Vandana in candle light inside their hut every day after dusk without fail. So her natural first choice for an apt name was “Maa Kali Tailors”. Despite her non-stop insistence, Dilip’da seemed to be quite nonchalant about her proposal and never showed any interest to do anything about it.
A few people in the neighbourhood, like the local newspaper boy, the local iron man, and one or two security guards from the nearby high-rise apartments used to come and visit them for a cup of chai and some harmless gossip every day, just to spend some leisurely time in the afternoon. His wife had already started propagating this indigenous idea of hers to all the others. And needless to say, everyone seemed to be quite excited about this proposal. One by one they started to pour in their ideas about how the colour of the signboard should be; one of them suggested some guy near the bus stand who could do outstanding artwork when it came to hand written sign boards. But Dilip’da himself never gave in to their unending enthusiasm. When they understood that Dilip’da was particularly not so much in favour of the name that his wife had suggested, they started suggesting other names to him as well, like “Karunamayee Tailors” or “Rajmaata Tailors” or “Kamala Tailors” by his daughter’s name, or simply by his own ever-shining name “Dilip Darzi Tailors” along with several others. Like they say, peer pressure is something which becomes increasingly difficult to deal with, especially as a teenager and as an ageing man like himself. Dilip’da slowly started to think deeply about their demands and started processing the real reason as to why they were after him with this queer idea of installing the signboard at any cost.
After a few months of forceful persuasion by everyone surrounding him and after giving a lot of deep thought behind naming his shop, he finally gave in to their demand and agreed to put up the signboard within a week or so. All his well-wishers along with his wife as their undisputed leader were very pleased with his decision, but yet none of them knew what name he had chosen for his shop. They kept asking him about the name whenever they got a chance but never got any answer from him. Finally the night before the sign was about to arrive from the painters, his wife asked him while having dinner, “Kya hua? Abhi bhi bola nahi aapne? Dukaan ka naam kya diya?” As usual his wife still did not get an answer from him, as he quietly kept eating his food without saying a word, looking a bit defeated. His wife said, “Kya ji? Kal humaare dukaan ka board lagne wala hai, aur aap hai ki itna chup baithe hai? Kuch hua hai kya? Kya naam diya hai, boliye na!” Just before getting up, after finishing his dinner plate he uttered, “Kal jab board aayega, tabhi dekh lena. Uske baad bolna humein... Dukaan ka naam saarthak hua hai ki nahi? Jao abhi, bohut raat ho gaya hai, ab so jao.” With a repressed smile on her face, his wife cleaned up and went to sleep, although sleeping tonight for her seemed like a distant dream that would not come to her in this highly excited and curious state of mind. Switching off the lights, she lay down on her bed on the floor, fantasising about the shining new signboard in front of their tent house about to come the very next morning.
At the end of the night, almost into dawn, Dilip Darzi’s wife had just dozed off for a while. And very early in the morning around 6 o’clock the brand new signboard arrived. Dilip’da was the first to wake up to receive his new prized possession. And he quickly started installing it all by himself before anyone else would wake up. The board was almost ready with a few gentle strikes of his hammer on the wooden frame holding the aluminium sheet, the sound of which now woke up his daughter Kamala, and then his wife. Both of them got up hurriedly and quickly ran outside to see the new signboard. There they saw Dilip’da standing with gleaming eyes and a big smile showing almost all of his yellow stained teeth holding the board by his side which read in big red Hindi letters “DEFECTIVE TAILORS”, with a small face of Goddess Kali painted on top. Notwithstanding his evident enthusiasm and not understanding what was written there, his wife’s eyebrows reduced to a confused frown, as she looked perplexed towards her daughter. Kamala had already started smiling with one hand covering her mouth trying to hide her smile from her mother. She totally consorted with her father’s exuberant energy, clearly understanding his direct and to-the-point intention. Looking at her smile, Dilip’da exclaims, “Kya re Kamala? Kaisa laga mera naam?”
How his wife actually reacted after that, and who actually translated the name to her, and how Dilip Darzi would try to console her for days, or weeks, or maybe years to come is only lore. But one thing was for sure, with or without the board, Dilip’da’s flourishing business and fame remained just the same, just as it was before.
A girl child lives in a forest under a big tree. The tree is huge and probably hundreds of years old. Its bark is thick and its leaves are lush green. Big juicy fruits blossom in the branches of this tree which feeds so many birds, animals and also this small little girl every day. The girl calls the tree her “maa” and is convinced that she needs no one else to live her life well. She takes care of the tree with all her means, and the tree takes care of the girl. She eats the fruits from the tree and nourishes the tree by watering it every day, talking to it about her adventures in the forest, reading stories to it, and hugging it for hours.
Every day at dawn and dusk, the girl hears a distant voice from far away calling her by her name “Maya”. The voice calling her is familiar but she can’t tell who it is. She is tempted to go and find out. This goes on for several days, and her mind slowly starts to drift, it wanders away from her everyday life with her ever beloved “maa” – the huge tree she lives with. One day almost in a trance, at dawn when she wakes up, she leaves the tree and goes away following the distant voice calling her name. And she does not return.
The tree lives on without the little girl. It lives on feeding the birds and the animals that have not yet broken their trust with her. Years pass by and slowly but surely the tree starts dying of old age. Its leaves start drying off and its fruits slowly cease to blossom. The birds and animals stop coming, and its branches start decaying one by one. In this state, one day the little girl now grown up into a woman comes back. She looks at the tree in its decaying state and is consumed with guilt and sorrow. She does not know what she could to revive the tree back to how she had left it years ago. She weeps in despair, goes near the tree and sits under it hugging its bark the way she used to when she was a small girl. Time passes by, days pass by, and the girl does not leave the bark for one moment and she keeps hugging it for days to come. Slowly the girl’s body metamorphoses into the tree, becoming a part of the tree, and in time she becomes the tree.
In the next few days, this tree is again seen to sprout new and fresh green leaves in some of its branches. And in the next few months, the tree gets fully revived into its original form, just the way it was before. The birds and animals start coming back and flocking in its branches again. Maya’s sacrifice has brought back life to Mother Nature with or without her even knowing about it.
As all is well now, a little boy comes running to the tree, stands in front and looks up at it with a big smile and eyes full of wonder.
~ TITLES ~
Thick grey clouds have gathered in the sky and it’s about to rain any moment. A boy in his pre-teens comes out of his hut with a bucket full of water and a mug in another hand prepared to take a bath. He stands on a flat rock where he and his father normally bathe every day, and he looks up to the sky expecting the rain to fall on him and his bare body. But it’s too soon before the rain would start pouring. Unable to wait any longer, he starts his play with a fun bath he instantly creates in his own mind. He dips one mug full of water from the bucket and splashes it into the sky and jumps around to catch the water on his head just like the rain would fall on him. He enjoys this game and starts having a lot of fun by finding this novel way of imitating the rain. Although most of this invented rain falls on the ground and not on him, with every splash he hops around, smiling and laughing aloud in utter joy. This continues for a little while and there’s no end to his new found happiness inventing this fun-bath for himself.
Suddenly his father appears from nowhere and stands beside him. Looking at him, the boy freezes in fear like a cold statue completely wet, water droplets dripping from his hair, chin and gamcha. Invariably he gets a good scolding from his father shouting at the top of his voice ordering him to hurry up as he himself had not yet taken his bath for the day and it was about to rain any moment. The boy following his father’s strict orders hurries up finishing his bath properly, then dries himself and runs inside.
His father takes the next turn prepared for his bath. He comes and stands on the same rock with another bucket full of water. He starts by pouring two mugs on his head in a normal fashion like every day and stops for a moment to look up at the sky. God knows what struck his mind as the corner of his lips catch a glimpse of a brief smile. With half his head and half his body wet, he picks up a mug full of water and splashes it into the sky. Just like his little boy he hops around to catch the water on his head just like the rain would fall on him, smiling and laughing aloud in utter joy. He picks up another mug and splashes it up in the same way. And surprisingly this new found game knew no end to his juvenile happiness. This continues for a few times till suddenly he sees his wife standing beside him with crooked eyes and hands on her waist, figuring out what to tell this father of her son behaving like a child again. Both of them exchange cold yet childlike glances at each other as a mild thunder strikes and the clouds burst, starting to rain heavily.
Their son watching his father and mother’s drama in hiding from inside the hut smiles and looks up in the sky listening to the sound of rain like music to his ears.
~ TITLES ~
[Desaturated Old Film look - comic fast forward motion]
[Wide shot] Outside a temple, hundreds of people are seen going in and coming out. Devotees who are coming to visit the temple are leaving their slippers, shoes, footwear outside the temple gate before going inside. Devotees, who are coming out of the temple, are searching for their footwear, and unable to find their own footwear, are wearing some other footwear and eventually leaving the premises.
[Fast motion close-up shots of people’s feet opening their footwear before entering, and someone else coming out, wearing the same footwear and leaving – no one gets to leave with their own footwear, everyone exchanges their footwear with someone else’s]
One such devotee, comes walking towards the temple wearing a fancy dress and a designer chappal, leaves it at the door and goes inside just in the last minute before the temple doors were closing for the day. A few moments later, another man comes out of the temple, notices this fancy chappal, wears it and leaves completely unbothered about his own footwear.
[Mid-shot of all the remaining chappals disappearing one by one by someone or the other coming out of the temple]
The fancy man was the last to get out of the temple. When he gets out, there were no chappals left outside the temple and it was completely empty. Scratching his head in disbelieve, not able to find his own designer chappal or any other footwear, he goes around asking the nearby shopkeepers whether they have seen it lying anywhere. No one could give him any direction as to where his much-prized chappal had gone. In sheer disappointment he goes to a nearby tree and sits under its shade with hands on his head. Just beside there was a beggar (bare foot, torn clothes, haggard looking with grey beard) looking at him a bit surprised, he asks him what he was so worried about. The man in turn asks him in an agitated sign language whether he had seen any fancy chappal lying around. The beggar with no clue what this man was talking about just nods his head sideways.
Completely lost and dejected, this man gets up after a while and leaves the premises barefoot.
[Camera slowly zooms in to the beggar in the background] He takes out a pair of new chappals from behind his back, looking at it with big happy eyes as he starts wrapping up his belongings in a torn piece of cloth into a modest jhola. He gets up wearing his new found possession, the new pair of slippers and starts walking in the other direction with the jhola on his shoulder]
~ TITLES ~
A young wife, beautiful and well dressed in a neatly ironed saree, wearing terracotta jewellery is fiddling through the aisles of a gift shop searching for the perfect gift to present to her husband on their wedding anniversary. The shopkeeper watching her for quite some time approaches her to help her out.
He says, “Confused? Ki present deben bujhtey parchen na?
She says, “Haan... asholey notun biye hoyeche toh tai thik sure na...”
He says, “Let me help you. Edike ashun... Look at this fine hand-crafted flower vase. Imported from China. High quality ceramic item!”, holding the vase in his hand with a large smile on his face.
She says, “Na... asholey barite onek kota flower vase ache... Onno kichu dekhan...”
He puts down the vase and continues, “Accha tahole edike ashun. Ei French Perfume ta dekhte paren. Notun dampotto jiboney this is a very essential item. And the perfect anniversary gift!”
She hesitates a bit and says, “Hmm... kintu o na perfume makha ta ekdom pocchondo kore na. Boley ey shob naki meyeder jonno.”
The shopkeeper slightly disappointed keeps down the perfume from his hand and says, “Oh accha... tahole ekta bhalo Italian leather er designer wallet dekhai?”
She smiles and says, “Amader biye te amra etogulo wallet peyechi je onnoder ekhon biliye dite hobe!”
Like this the shopkeeper keeping his calm, walks her around almost every aisle of the shop trying to sell her every item available which would be a suitable anniversary gift for her husband. But she finds an excuse every time saying that they already have all those items at their home and that she is looking for something different and unique. Finally the shopkeeper takes her to the book section and tells her,
“Shob cheye unique gift ki janen? A good book by a good author. Pochhondo moto ekta bhalo golper boi kine nin. Er cheye bhalo gift idea ar hoyto apna ke keu debe na. He he he...”
With a slight disappointed look on her face, she says, “Naah! Asholey amader kache na ekta golper boi o ache. Ei biye tei or ek bondhu okey gift korechilo!”
The reaction of the shopkeeper need not be described but evidently she was not really the person he was expecting to interact with when he had first approached her.
About a year later from that day, the same lady visits the same shop once more, and the shopkeeper recognizes her at the first glance. She smiles at him and he reciprocates in the same manner asking her, “Bhalo achen? Ebarer anniversary te ki deben thik korechen? Naki ekhono thik koren ni?”
She smiles shyly and says, “Anniversary kalke chilo. Asholey ebarey o amake ekta lamp shade gift koreche. Tai bhablam nijer jonno ekta golper boi kinei ni. Tahole lamp shade ta khub bhalo use hobe. Ki bolen?”
Just like the previous time, the shopkeeper was again left speechless, not sure how he should react to the words of this attractive, young and beautiful lady standing right in front, waiting for a response from him.
~ TITLES ~
NAVARASA - Nine human emotions in Indian tradition of Performing Arts, each being depicted with a single colour being poured on a black stone human idol with a blue sky in the background. These shots are alternated with contemporary dance by one or more bare bodied dancers with their full body painted with the colours as described below pertaining to each human emotion.
[Background Music will progressively change in rhythm & beats, harmony & tempo pertaining to each changing emotion]
[Background voices pertaining to each human emotion overlapped with the music]
SHRINGARA (Pleasure/Romance) - Blue
ADBHUTA (Surprise/Wonder) - Orange
VEERA (Ego/Pride) - Green
RAUDRA (Anger/Rage) - Red
BHAYA (Fear/Shock) - Black
KARUNA (Sadness/Remorse) - Indigo
HASYA (Happiness/Laughter) - Yellow
VIBHATSA (Disgust/Repulsive) - Violet
SHANTA (Peace/Calmness) – White
[Background music ends in a calm & peaceful note with a bell and shankha]
~ TITLES ~
A naked ape-man on four limbs eats raw fish like an animal beside a river.
A bi-pedal Neanderthal man wearing tree bark eats fruits inside a cave.
A pre-historic tribal family wearing hide-skin clothes eats meat and vegetables inside a camp.
An old historic civilization with people in armours devouring food like mad men in front of their huts.
A modest family (last century) is eating food with a spoon in an old classical home.
A modern sophisticated man is fine-dining in a high class restaurant with a fork and knife.
The same man dives for a swim in the sea from his yacht and gets eaten by a shark in the sea.
~ TITLES ~
[Black Screen][Sound of a woman breathing heavily during childbirth]
[First cry of a new born baby] A baby is born with a loud wailing sound.
[Quick close-up face shots of kids playing][Faint sounds of their chatter & loud sounds of their BREATHING]
[Quick close-up face shots of teenagers running][Faint sounds of their banter & loud sounds of their BREATHING]
[Quick close-up face shots of young adults kissing and making love][Faint sounds of their romantic words & loud sounds of them BREATHING]
[Quick close-up face shots of grown adults in orgasm][Faint sounds of their love-making & loud sounds of them BREATHING]
[Quick close-up face shots of an old adult in his death bed][Faint sound of his BREATHING]
[Black screen][No sound for 2 seconds]
[Black Screen][Sound of a woman breathing heavily during childbirth]
[First cry of a new born baby] A baby is born with a loud wailing sound.
~ AND SO IT GOES ON ~
“I am sitting at an outdoor cafe smoking a cigarette, drinking some coffee and writing a journal. A big statue is staring at me with big expressive eyes at the junction of roads just in front of the cafe. One South Indian man is standing underneath and admiring the statue, as he lights up a cigarette. The next minute, a Punjabi Sardar approaches him asking for a lighter in sign language. Both of them start smoking appreciating the statue.”
Punjabi: Looking upwards towards the statue says, “Bahut sudar akkha!” (Very beautiful eyes!)
Tamil: Looks at the Punjabi and exclaims nodding his head forward, “Am... Idu nalladu!” (Yeah... it’s good!)
Punjabi: Looks at the Tamil man with a small pause and says “Ki tussi kise di itazaar kar rahe ho?” (Are you waiting for someone?)
Tamil: Nodding his head sideways, “Yarum illai...” (No one...)
Punjabi: Says with a disarming smile showing the cigarette, “Lighter lai dhanavada... Thanks”
“The Tamil man smiles at him and tells him something in Tamil. And surprisingly the Punjabi replies in his own language Punjabi. Like this they go on speaking with each other for the next five minutes not understanding a single word of the other person but still somehow carrying on the conversation until they both finish their cigarettes and eventually part their ways. With the coffee gone cold in my hand, I am left quite flabbergasted by the whole drama in front of my eyes. And I realize that language after all is not merely made up of words. We humans could communicate even without it, only if we try.”
~ TITLES ~
A middle aged woman is talking to her car washman [Camera POV from woman to man]. Car washman is staring at her with big eyes and a gullible smile almost like a loyal pet dog.
Woman: “300 rupiya har mahina. Roz gaari aur bike dono ka dhulai chahiye." [Bengali translation] "300 taka proti mashe. Roj gaari ar bike dutoi dhute hobe.” She looks at him up and down with slightly crooked eyebrows and continues after a pause, "Naam kya hai?" [Bengali translation]“Tomar naam ki?”
Excited by the question, the man’s eyes grow bigger and with an increased enthusiasm he says,
Man: “Mera naam MAN.” [Bengali translation] "Amar naam MAN."
Woman: "Haan? Kya? [Bengali translation]“Hyaan? Ki?”
Woman: “Man???” Totally surprised, she asks him after a pause, "Baap maa ne naam rakha hai?" [Bengali translation]“Baba maa naam diyeche?”
The smile on the man’s face disappears as he looks down and says,
Man: "Baap maa ko dekha nahi kabhi bhi" [Bengali translation]“Baba maa ke dekhi ni kokhono...”
Woman: "Oh... phir?" [Bengali translation]“Oh... tahole?”
The man slowly lifts up his face slightly staring into a void and says, "Mera koi naam nahi tha. Bachpan se jisko jo marzi kuch bhi naam bulate the" [Bengali translation]“Amar kono naam chilo na. Choto belaye je jar khushi ultopalta naam diye dakto...”
[Quick flashback shots of him as a kid at different ages]
Different people in different situations calling a street boy with different slang names like,
[0 to 5 years age] “Ei baccha!”
[5 to 10 years age] “Chhotu” “Chhotka” “Puchke” “Phochka”(joking tones)
[10 to 15 years age] “Kelaney” “Bolda” “Gadha” “Paatha” (taunting tones)
[15 to 20 years age] “Bokachoda” “Gandu” ”Shuorer baccha” (violent tones)
Man: "Par main toh yeh sab kuch bhi nahi hoon... mein toh insaan hoon... Iss liye bada hoke maine hi apna naam diya MAN" [Bengali translation] "Kintu ami toh shey shob konotai noi... ami toh manush... Tai boro hoye ami e amar naam dilam MAN”, the enthusiastic smile comes back on his face as he stares straight into the eyes of the woman. [Camera POV from woman to man][fade out]
~ TITLES ~
[Background music – Uplifting rhythm and musical beats made with mostly cycle sounds like cycle bell, cycle chain sound, cycle stand sound, metal sounds etc. slowly increasing pace][Inspiration from AR Rahman’s track from MF Hussain movie Meenaxi]
Quick shots of different people (newspaper wala, milkman, dhobi, clerk, postman, mistry, security guard, cycle rickshaw wala etc.) riding cycle from rider’s POV/OTS, alternated with quick shots of a cycle mechanic fixing a kid’s cycle (chains and tyres) with more cycles, cycle vans, cycle rickshaws visible in the background. [Short cuts get quicker and increase in frequency with the cycle beats increasing tension in screenplay]
[Last scene] The same kid is riding the repaired cycle in full speed on a busy road with a huge smile on his face as if he is flying like a free bird. [Music has reached the crescendo in full high pace][3 shots of the kid riding the cycle at full speed][Wide-shot][Mid-shot][POV-shot] Suddenly he stumbles on a pothole and falls on the road precariously. [Music stops abruptly with a screeching of bus tyres applying sudden brakes]
[cut to Black Screen][pin-drop silence]
Cobalt blue eyes. I knew they were black but somehow I felt blue – dark cobalt blue. He was sitting inside a bright yellow taxi, next to the driver’s seat – his eyes staring at me, piercing through me – daring me to dance – in that cold cloudy night.
“Kahaan jaana hai?” he asked.
I could hear him but almost could not. I was somewhere else – lost in the bustle of man-made machinery, interrupted by strange honks, punctuated with desperate curses of a child’s distant cry, captivated by moving laser lights. The lights; they were sometimes white, sometimes red and most often an unidentifiable blue that looked like the arctic cold. But if you go too close to it, you will feel wounded by its unnatural heat. They’re all moving. Faster and more ferocious than any creature God has put on earth.
I could see insects, all kinds of insects, crawling in lines – straight lines, crooked lines, broken lines – all kinds of lines. I do not know what they feed on but they are so big they might defeat you in a wrestle. Some of them are refugees running in a loop from one shelter to another in a no-man’s-land, pushed and shoved with hollow begging bowls up their starving mouths. Yet some wander alone without caring about any of these lines. They walk alone – a very few of them, and you can hardly notice them in the struggle of all these lines. Maybe they are the bugs, bugged down by the histrionics of this Machiavellian machine that they find themselves stuck in. Maybe, I too am just one of them – another immigrant bug hopelessly searching for refuge in the conundrums of this alien civilization.
In the confusion of this loud and flashing bright circus of man-made marvels, I looked up at the Prussian blue sky. It had a faint crescent shape and was dotted with a few spare stars, dazzling like diamond studs on a beautiful black face. The faintness of the moon was not because of the few strands of hovering rain clouds, but the clouds formed by exhaust pipes of the circus. I could see them again – the insects – only this time they were wearing Louis Vuitton shades, carrying Armani bags as they walked in lines in their Gucci shoes, soaking up the chimney clouds. The neon board across the road displayed ‘Elixir of Achievement’. And I was lost again.
A sudden gush of cool breeze woke me up from my amnesia and made me realise that I was on my way to where I came from. It was getting late. I looked back at the yellow taxi and those hypnotic cobalt blue eyes which had caught a grey hue by now. Like a spider web getting dense and denser.
“Haldiram’s”, I said and stared back trying to clamber my way through the web, to the core of its nest, to find out what the spider was thinking. I tried scratching on the hard surface of his emotional veneer but I couldn’t read a thing. Maybe the spider did not understand my language. Maybe, I had not yet mastered spider-tongue to perfection. He kept staring at me as I opened the back door and sat right behind, without waiting for him to say anything.
He turned his head back, like an owl, with a small earthen cup in his left hand that exhumed fumes of hot tea and kept staring at me. Not into my eyes, but into me – as if he wanted to know what I was – man or maggot, where I came from – mars or moon, what I really ate – meat or mite. For a split second, I felt stupid by this stupefying scene. And I decided to interrupt the silence.
“Haldiram’s pata hai naa? Airport ke paas?”
He said nothing and kept staring blank at me. There was this emptiness and the crawling spider in it. The void continued.
This question to my relief cut the numbness. And he finally spoke.
“Nahi sir, main chala nahi sakta. Woh aa raha hain”.
The man’s voice sounded gross. Like the grunt of a pig. The kind of grunt you don’t hear but feel in your spine. Or maybe, like the rotten engine roar of a vintage car, just to sound better. I was reminded of Mr. Jigsaw from a movie series where he killed people in the most psychotic ways, using machines he designed just for the purpose. He kept his victims in chambers, and tied them, and clamped them, and stitched them to those machines and yet gave them an option to live, only through an ordeal of excruciating pain and plunder.
Somehow, I felt relief in the pig’s grunt. As he turned in front, still holding the cup in his left hand, I noticed something. His right hand was not there. It was cut off from the blade of his shoulder. And the right sleeve of his shirt was folded till the elbow. A few answers to my questions started gathering and immediately I was transported to one of Jigsaw’s chambers, with rotting rats spilled like the vomit of an addict, stinking like the foul burp of a cannibal, sweating like mating snakes. And there was this pig, chained down in the centre, clamped to an iron chair. This time Jigsaw had his victim’s right hand stitched to a part of the chair. And the pig yelled and shrieked and cried grunting for help. But his only option was to cut his right hand so that he could live – and be free. He could, but he could not. He could not, but he had to. At this moment Jigsaw enters, and the other door crunches open.
The driver stepped inside with one of his legs jostling for some space underneath the steering wheel when the man grunted again. “Haldiram", looking at the driver with one of his eyebrows arched in a curious question.
The driver, with half his body still outside, turned his head to look at me. A look to decide which family of maggots I belonged to. Or, which city of moon I came from. Or which part of the mite I liked the best. This time, I said nothing and waited. He sat behind the wheel, revved up the engine and the car slowly started to roll. I saw a picture of goddess Kali, half the size of my palm, stuck in the middle of the dashboard. It had fluorescent light bulbs twinkling all around. This driver must be in his mid-thirties. With a rough beard glued all over his face. I couldn’t decipher his partner’s age though. Maybe he was in his late thirties or perhaps, easily more than forty-five. I couldn’t care anymore.
The car was moving now and as the world outside the window started to blur, I thought I should ask him how he had cut his hand. Maybe he would say by an accident or from birth or by the Jigsaw. But the truth was I didn’t want to hear that grunt any more.
As the cab started gaining speed, three of us were the only souls who were still. And everything else passed by like lightning. As I looked outside the window, the laser lights streaked past - sometimes white, sometimes red and most often an unidentifiable blue. Insects, lines, bugs, everything came back. I shuddered at the sight and almost compulsively brought myself to the dark blue sky, which was calm and quiet. The cool breeze of this darkness was feathering my face. There weren’t many stars left by now, and the moon looked like a dusty relic kept inside a forgotten museum. This relic, you can’t hold, nor can you keep. You can only see it and feel good about it, or at the most feel ancient with it. The few strands of rain clouds had by now collected in a bunch, and it looked like it would rain. My lips followed the crescent shape and I smiled.
I remembered a shortcut underneath a flyover, which would save me some notes. An insignificant amount may be, but I preferred that route. It was through a dingy slum. There were no glittering lights there to advertise the poverty – only the reds, blues and greens of some uncultured, unscripted, vulgar emotions. There were no lines of insects, only some leftover carcasses of their dilapidated dreams. There were no loud honks, but an eerie silence of sanity. It’s dingy and it’s a slum – with no addresses, no names written on any of the unsettled walls. I liked taking this route. I liked seeing what most people won’t see. I liked being what most people would never want to be.
“Yaha se right le lijiye. Shortcut padega”, I called out to the driver as I saw the flyover approaching.
“Right nahi le sakta saab, road kharaab hai aur light bhi nahi hain”, the driver shot back.
The driver sounded quite normal, much unlike his partner. So I decided to persist. And I did. But he insisted back.
“Election time hai saab. Mohammedan area – total basti - bohut lafda chal raha hai. Safe rehna hi accha hai. Mussalmaan refugee log aapko pata hai na saheb? Bhagwaan jaane keedo ke jaise kaha kaha se aa jate hain? Aap samajh rahe hai na?”
I did not understand. Strangely perplexed, I did not want to understand. I felt a sting. I do not know where. And I thought I should say something, but the sting made me reluctant and I forgot what to say. The sting hopped, skipped and jumped somewhere deep inside.
“I hope someday you will understand”, I mumbled to myself.
The car kept moving. I just stared at the back of his head. I could see a pair of invisible eyes. I know they are not there. But I want them. I want the spider. I want to snatch it. I want to crush it between my teeth. I want to gulp it down with a bottle of poison. So that it’s dead for sure, and it never comes back.
I looked outside the window to feel the breeze. But I couldn’t feel it. All I could see or feel was something very different, something very difficult – the sting. It hopped, skipped and jumped still inside. The outside seemed like movie reels, moving faster than before – they come and they go. Before I could realise they were gone. Something else came again. I couldn’t make out. I couldn’t see. I couldn’t think. My mind was clogged. I couldn’t breathe and I searched for the calm. I searched for the Prussian blue, and the diamond studs, and the crescent shape. But everything was hazy, unclear, faded and lost - except for the sting. It hopped, skipped and jumped. Incessant still, it stung. And free from this sting is what I want to be. I had learned, rather taught myself a truth – freedom is only another word for control over the self.
The car turned right on the main-road crossing and things started slowing down. The sting was in control, for now. The window frame and everything outside it started making sense again and I relaxed a bit. I knew that it was the final leg of my journey and I wanted to feel the cool breeze for one last time.
I could see two coconut trees, standing tall like two siblings – dark and handsome. It must have been decades for them standing by the high-road, watching laser lights and smelling man made clouds. I saw two kids – a boy and a girl. They were playing badminton under a halogen lamp-post with two broken rackets and a crushed paper ball. It was about to rain but they didn’t care. I saw an old, old woman. She was walking at a right angle, with a stick to balance the extra weight and a head full of snow white hair. One of the bugs may be, I thought to myself. I saw a banyan tree standing like a dead man trying to cross a busy road to the other side. There were no leaves, only the crooked branches waiting to catch the moon in an embrace. It had stopped watching laser lights, and stopped smelling man made clouds, and stopped feeling sick about it. I could see another person hugging the trunk of that naked tree. I do not know what state he was in, but I could see him find solace in love.
The car pulled over just opposite Haldiram’s as instructed and the moving pictures stopped to a pause. Suddenly everything became still. Did I feel the breeze? Yes. I did. I smiled and took out a note written 50 rupees from my wallet. I handed it over to the driver and opened my door. Before stepping out, I turned to him and said,
“Main aapko kuch kehna chahta hoon...”
I got out and shut the door. Both partners were by now bending over in their own ways to listen to what I had to say. I leaned a little forward so that my eyes were in line with that of my pig and the dead spider.
“Main bhi Mussalmaan hoon”, I said. “Keeda nahi, insaan hoon.” – Like the clouds and the birds, the rivers and the breeze, the moon that floats with us as we sleep in the coffers of a new day. I am like the raindrops that will soon drizzle upon us.
The cobalt blue eyes looked blank for a moment, perhaps in shame.
As I walked away searching for the Prussian blue, it rained. I took a deep whiff of my wet earth, smiled to my sting and kept walking in the pouring rain.