Wednesday, April 11, 2012

You only see what your eyes want to see

Like any other day I was both mentally and physically exhausted as I reached the busy traffic area on my way back home in the evening. The slight breeze through the window swept through my sweaty wet hair cooling off the daily tautness. I was happy to catch the window seat in my office bus. The heavy traffic ahead of me promised fifteen to thirty minute delay.
I could have slept for some more time in the bus but the constant honks from all sides were disturbing. I do not understand why few people honk in traffic in urban areas. They seem to be so impatient. I guess this is what city life does to a human being. Somewhere deep within, I too was feeling frustrated and impatient looking at the ocean of traffic around me.
In this mayhem of thoughts, my eyes caught sight of three young boys selling earthen pots and masks. The bright and colorful masks resembling demons with tongue out are usually hung on top corner of the house. I had asked my granny why we do so when she had asked my father to get one for our house. She told me it keeps the evil spirits away. I was not convinced. The mask looks so evil and scary. The thought of spoiling the look of our newly built house by hanging the mask bothered me. My father understood my worry and explained the reason behind hanging the masks.
People have a tendency to see whatever is bright and colorful. We all love to see the flowers and love to see the rainbow mainly because they are colorful. Colour boosts brain performance and receptivity. So all major advertisements and banners are either in red or blue, and so are these masks. When we hang this on top of our home, people tend to look at the mask rather than the house and so it is believed to save the house from evil sights. I agreed to his explanation to some extent but I felt we always only see what our eyes want to see.
The three boys who were selling this mask were around 5 to 7 years of age. They were shabby and wore torn clothes. I guess their parents asked them to take care of the store for a while in the evening. There was hardly any customer since the time our bus stood there in the traffic. I could hear them talk about the number of matchbox covers they had. Probably they use them for some kind of a game.
All of a sudden, there came a pulsar bike with three high school boys. They were around 12-15 years of age. They parked the bike right in front of the colorful masks and got down. They were equally shabby with mud all over the body. The three young boys at the store gazed at the folks from the bike without a wink. The three boys from the bike moved a bit further and to my dismay, they lit the cigarette and started smoking. The three boys from the store continued to watch the boys smoke and I could see the admiration in their eyes. The boys from the bike finished smoking and drove the pulsar in a small muddy side road.
"When will we be like them?" one of the boys asked others. "Forget the bike, I doubt we even ever get to smoke" said the other. "If we could sell at least one mask today, we can try smoking with the money" he continued with glowing eyes.
I felt pity for their state of mind. There were so many cars in front of them and there was our bus full of techies’ right in front of their store. There were people in their Benz, there were people with iPhone and Blackberry and there were people in suits. None of them caught the kids’ attention, but the ragamuffins could catch their attention within no time. The young boys only saw what their eyes wanted to see.

River Mouth

On a warm summer morning, I woke up with a light giddiness in my head. The clock strike made me realize that it was already seven and time for my morning walk. My five year old granddaughter Diya came running and asked me if we can go for a walk. My eyes searched for her twin sister Divya. "Where is Divya?" I asked Diya. "She is sleeping grandpa" she said pulling my hands.
I walked to their room and woke up Divya. She got up reluctantly and changed her dress and then we went for a walk.
On the way Divya's dress got stuck in the thorn bush and started crying. I saw that her dress was badly stuck in the bunch of thorns. The thorns were stuck on both the sides making me difficult to remove them. I thought it is easier undress her and then take the thorns off from the dress. I managed to undress her with few scratches and started taking her dress back from the thorns carefully. After few minutes of struggle I could take the dress off the thorns. In the meanwhile, my Granddaughters were playing near the river side. They were in their own world, unaware of my struggle with the thorns.
I have lots of memories associated with this river. This place is a mouth of the river where river meets the sea. The river looked very different today. The dark blue water and swift breeze had a mystic power to soothe anyone on the shore. The shallow water with shining pebbles and soft mushrooms on the swamp made the place more pleasing. I was able to see a little island at a far distance, the sight of which is not a pleasant one for me.
It was around 45 or 50 years ago, when I was around 20 years. We were 7 siblings. My father had a coconut farm and we had a small house, mainly constructed in wood. The doors, ceilings, windows were all of teak wood, the most expensive one. All our neighbors and relatives envied but that made my parents proud. My mom spent most time cleaning and wiping the house. They loved it more when my elder sisterĂ¢€™s kids came home during their vacation.
They sent me to a local school bearing all the cost with the little money they earned. House and the coconut farm were the only property. The river was our home and the sea fish was our staple food. Things were fine until one day we heard the heart breaking announcement in the radio on a rainy day. The Arabian Sea level was raising and the forecast announced the coastal neighbours to evacuate the place in three months.
It rains cats and dogs in the rainy season in western coast of India. My parents were clueless. Tears started rolling from my mother's eyes. The fear of losing the only property earned in their life time ate them up. Only thing we could do was to get all the coconuts from the tree to a safe place which can earn us some bread for time being. My father planned to get all the costly wood in the house and other stuff shifted to my elder sister's place which was around 50 km from this place. The thought of losing the beloved house was very painful to all of us and especially my mother. But we had to act quickly. We had very less time. We did not sleep that night.
Transportation was a major problem. All people from this region were migrating. To shift all the stuff as planned we would need a minimum of 2 months. Cutting down the coconut was a major problem. There were no folks available to get this done. Everyone was busy re-locating. We sent a telegram to my sister and brother in law to come immediately and take our younger siblings with them. I and my father worked day and night to cut the coconut. My brother in law took few workers with him from his town, who helped us dismantle our house.
Two weeks passed and few houses close to the mouth of the river collapsed due to loose foundation. Nights were more horrible. The sea water would rise from below and pull the nearby coconut trees upside down. People mourned everywhere. Our farm and house was not very far from the sea. Within another week, trees from our farm started turning upside down. We were not even half done in shifting the coconuts and it seemed like we had hardly a week to relocate.
My parents were in a dilemma whether to transfer the coconuts first or the costly wood. We had only one truck and transferring coconuts were easier than the wood. Though the wood had all sentiments attached we had to concentrate shifting the coconuts. Water slowly surrounded our entire place. My father asked my mother to leave to my sister's place.
My father predicted to have 5 more days in hand to shift the rest of the stuff. He planned to cut as much coconut as possible on the first day and send it uphill on second and third day. And on fourth and fifth day, he thought of transferring the costly wood from the dismantled house. We worked day and night in the heavy rain. We were satisfied with the amount of work we could do on the second day. But the rescue squad which arrived there on the third day forced all of us to leave the place immediately. There were cries all over the place. We had to leave the place with whatever little wood we could carry. A day after or two, we heard that the entire area was submerged in the sea.
Coming years were even tougher. We had no place to live and very less money to survive. Though things changed after ten years, the horrendous experience had everlasting effect on my parents. Now after 50 years or so, the place is slowly rising amidst the water and has formed an island, pulling out all those old painful memories.
"Grandpa! See what we got for you" my two little angels came running to me. "It is an old coin Grandpa. It was buried in the sand." I took the one ana from their little hand and looked at the far island of painful reminiscence.