Monday, February 16, 2009

Flight of a crocodile

I sat up on my bed and looked out of the window. From the extreme right of the window I see a bunch of crows flying around a dead body trying to snatch it out of the jaws of a crocodile ( or the Indian Ghadiyal). Limited by my 3 feet of height I stand up on the bed. As they go closer to the window, I scream and suddenly the visuals go dark. Dead dark. I find myself standing on the bed and screaming when I wake up. It was a bad dream. Was a dream? How did I stand up then? That wasn’t part of the dream.
A lot of my childhood was spent in fear. And I was a petrified child. I wouldn’t sit on a chair with my feet hanging. What if something/ someone attacked me from underneath the chair? I wouldn’t walk upstairs at night. And during day I’ll climb it from the safer side. I wouldn’t allow my parents to switch all the lights off. .I would kick open the door to the bathroom in case there was some’thing’ inside. Well…. It was there…I saw him…..her… There was no sink near the earthen water pot. So whenever I had to drain water from the glass at night, I had to walk to the sink right next to the bathroom. And IT was always there. Standing in the corner of the bathroom which was hardly 4X4 feet. It wasn’t wearing white cloths…..nor black. It was a lean superthin human figure. Sunken eyes.
I’d take my time having a look at it. Then suddenly will get really scared. I’d scream and throw the glass at it and run back to parents’ room. My father would later come back carrying me in his strong arms and show me with a torch the naked wall of the bathroom “see! Where is it……nothing is there….u coward!!”. It did not stop. Something pulled me to it.
Day after day I’d get up to have water (wouldn’t ask parents), walk up to the bathroom, see it, scream and run back. It was getting bad. I was very sure that I saw those things. My parents would laugh it off. In summer vacations I was taken to our hometown. There I was taken to a ‘pandit’ who tied a black thread around my arm and asked me to break it after a week and throw it into a well. With that thread the ghosts were consigned to the well. I’d make fun of my(former)self and will show off how brave I had become.
When I got back to the haunted house, the news was that a dead body was found by the police in one of the houses behind ours. The very thin wife of a Sikh taxi-driver. Not-natural-death.
Never did i see it again. Until… I heard it..........

Years later………many…… I returned from Delhi having attended the funeral of a person who, had he lived longer, wud’ve been a good friend of mine. And could even have changed my life. I came back to a house, keys of which had been given to a ‘dear’ friend in case he needed something. The previous night I had cried in front of him at the death of the said person. There was a party at my house. The keys had been appropriately used. Having scolded my dear friends out of my house on that sad night, I tried to sleep. My very old fear was back. I did not switch the lights off. The paper lamp shook vigorously and when I slowed down the fan it shook gently, almost whispering. It said ‘Ssssannjaaay…..sssannjayyyyyy”. I got up. Startled. I tried to sleep all night. It whispered till I had to switch the fan off.

Next day my younger brother visited me. And upon request, he decided to live with me for a few days. Knowing my brother was snoring in the adjacent room I slept well that night. Now the room I slept in, and the room he slept in, both opened out to the veranda outside and both did open to area where bathroom /washbasin were located. As I brush my teeth at the washbasin the next morning, my brother still in bed in the other room, from the corner of my eye I could see someone walking into his room from the door that opened out to the veranda. I do not pay attention. That woman/ girl stands next to my bother’s bed and talks animatedly. I wonder what the matter is but do not interfere. When I finish brushing etc I walk to my brother’s room (hardly 8 feet distance) and find him snoring (again?). I wake him up and ask him what the matter was and who that woman was. He says ‘what woman? No one talked to me. You just woke me up’. A cold shiver travels through my back and legs…………

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dad calls

I was happy to see Dad put on some weight. With a cool short shirt that my mom got from Mumbai, and the Ray Bans I had gifted, he looked cool and closer to his former self.

Dad told me that as a kid they lived some where close to Sukkhar in Pakistan. When a canal was created to divert the Sindhu river, their village was immersed thus they had to move away. There was a daily loaf of mutton ‘thrown’ into their house as we get newspapers now. Most of their ‘collection’ went to the government treasure in return of which they got monthly ration of wheat, rice and Dal. Rest they had to grow themselves. He said that he was sure that if he explained to me I‘d be able to draw the house they lived in. I regret that we never got on to do that. But what he tells me that the house had a very thick wall surrounding it. will write more when i meet him on this visit to India.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Early Days - two heads and a leg

When do people write their autobiographies? When they think they have had enough? When they think they are wise enough? When they think they will hardly have enough time before they ‘pop it’? When they think they are a celebrity? When one becomes a celebrity? Or when they think its time they became a celebrity? How many people you have to have as fans or followers to become a celebrity? Or how many people have to read your autobiography for you to be called a celebrity (and start writing an autobiography)? Confusing. Autobiographies make celebrities or celebrities make autobiographies? Egg first or the Hen?

I have had enough. Seen enough. Been enough. And now keen enough. Enough to fill an ergonomically handleable book. Enough to write a thin enough book so that one doesn’t have to shift shoulders while reading in bed. I by no means intend to disregard the unending ability of life to show more. To spring up new people, accidents, incidents, equations, love, sorrow, hatred, births and deaths. They will come. But when you have such a bad memory, you better start writing before your father dies and you forget your grand father’s name, or the name of the provider of the first kiss.

But then you need balls to write an autobiography. I have my intact. Even one competing with the other in size. Thanks to the man who carried about six of us sitting across the bar of the cycle through a kuccha road then down to the river bed and then up again to the school. One of the reasons I hated school. Surprisingly the man in me at the age of four was man enough not to tell Mom about it. So I went through the brain-numbing-ball splitting agonizing pain day after day. Years later it was found that Mom dint know about us sitting across. No permanent damage had been done as I will find out a good twenty years later.

Talking of damage, God had a special attention to those areas of my body. Or ignorance as you may want to put it. About two years later, at the age of six, in absence of even knowledge of something called underwear, while sitting we used to dangle out. I was walked over IT. You may want to call it my first experience of a women’s attention to it. She was a Punjabi neighbor a few years older then me wearing cheap plastic slippers that had sharp edge. I bled profoundly. Holding the now more dangling part in my hands I was rushed to the hospital. Horror on my Mom’s face was confusing. Why did she look so worried? Is there more to the story? I was more worried about the stitches or injections that I may be penetrated with or IT may be penetrated with. Anyway, the doctor just put it back together, wrapped it with a bandage and it was back in its little embarrassing shape in a day. The little innocent girl became a villain for me and Mom.

Other then this, God also paid attention to my (other) head and my father to my leg. I was about to be six when my mom was pregnant with my youngest brother. That was the transition period in Indian society. Nuclear families were breaking but people hadn’t stopped lining up kids. My parents were one such example. This was their fourth. Mom, taking care of three (two of them nasty) kids, was too week for the forth one. She fell very ill soon after the youngest one arrived and wasn’t able to leave the bed for months. Somehow, the burden of household work came upon me. I used to drag the single burner kerosene stove from kitchen to next to her bed and upon her instructions, cook. I would later carry the soiled utensils out of the house and wash them. This had brought Mom and me very close and I was now considered a useful child. I did drive a sense of accomplishment and pride out of it. When mother’s ailment seemed to prolong, one of my cousins was brought to do the household. One morning as I bent down to brush my teeth and having finished doing so stood up and knocked a huge vessel full of boiling caustic soda over my head. Which incidentally was held by my cousin right behind me. I was burnt a whole lot. My skull became soft and as I remember I had a hole in my skull that I could put a finger into. My back was burnt too. I couldn’t sleep on my back for months. My cousin was sent back and my father, who almost always was on official tours, was back. It was time to bond with father. I remember he laid next to me night after night to prevent me from turning over on my back. I still sleep on my chest.

Having injured both my heads, it was turn of my leg a few years later. When I was about ten and the school was further, we were provided with bicycles. I remember it was evening when a blue ‘SpeedKing’ and a red Hero bicycle arrived. My father too scared to let us be with the new toys sat behind me and went ‘woooooooooooohhhh’ when I already was able to pull him and balance the bicycle. With the rushing blood and thus acquired speed, turning the bicycle was something I couldn’t do. After a few days my father was irritated and saying “you never learn to cycle until you injure yourself” pushed me off the bicycle. I had a deep wound in my leg and I remember being angry with my father for many days.