[Continued from Cindered Dreams (II)]
I had a sister. She was five years younger than me and I doted on her hand and foot. She could twirl me round her little finger, and she knew it.
Her death was one of those senseless things you know. One moment she was happily skipping across the road like a gamboling lamb, all fun and frolic, the next moment she was lying like a broken doll on the road, her organs squelched into the tarmac. They weren’t home then of course. I remember standing by the roadside looking down at what remained of her. I guess it was a gruesome thought, but I remember thinking if they will have to scrape her off the tar. The thought boomed in my head with a maniacal obsession. I couldn’t think of anything else.
The Pishachas dug into their own flesh and blood and ‘harvested’ her eyes too. Perhaps you can’t imagine that, but to me it came as no surprise. Please don’t get me wrong. I know many people donate their eyes so that someone else’s life is brightened once they are no more. I don’t think there is anything wrong with them using her eyes- after all, they were useless for her. What revolted me was that they could even think of such a thing at that time. They didn’t ‘waste’ much time in mourning their dead child. He performed the procedure himself while she waited dry-eyed and composed for the ‘body’ to be brought home. I don’t know about you, but to me it was too cold-bloodedly inhuman. Of the two of them, I wondered sometimes who was the more flint-hearted. I think they gave each other stiff competition. The fact must have given them immense satisfaction.
After my sister passed away, I went deep into a shell. They thought I was in a shock from which I would emerge some day. They didn’t know it was my revulsion for them that kept me inside the shell. I couldn’t bear to have them touch me in any way. Some years later I read in the Bible: The sins of the father shall be visited upon the son. There IS justice in the world I thought. I stopped grieving for my sister that day. In fact, I was relieved she was out of it. At least she would be spared further retribution…
I don’t think you are aware of the way things work inside a shell. I bet you haven’t made it your home. Allow me to educate you on the secret inner mechanics. Who knows, it might teach you how to help another prisoner break out someday.
When you have poison running in your veins and you shut yourself into a shell, your poison gets purer. The shell becomes a crucible fed by the tormenting fires burning within you. The poison becomes potent- so potent that a mere whiff of your breath can kill someone. I lived in that crucible for years. I guess you can imagine what I became.
I don’t remember much of the intervening years. All I know is that I survived them… and others around me survived me. I think sometimes people got injured- badly. That’s when they began to leave me strictly alone, which suited me fine.
I remember the day I met Her. I don’t remember the rest of the day or how I happened to be in the park at that time. I only know it was dusk and she was there, sitting on a bench. She sat quietly, head bowed. She was a short thin girl dressed in a well-worn salwar-kameez. She sat there, her knees drawn together defensively, knitting in the dark. It was funny in a macabre sort of a way- but not really.
I had completed my graduation. Sounds pretty decent, doesn’t it..? You are probably thinking, ‘Oh this person is not such a total loss as I thought. Hmm… not bad..!’ Sorry to burst your bubble though. The brutal truth is, ‘donation’ packed a heavy clout. They almost licked my feet for deigning to accept their worthless degree. I felt almost bored for having to be so generous.
I had moved out of Pishacha-land and had my own swanky apartment. I had me a great time- at least so I was told by others. When other people oooh and aaah over stuff, you can’t very well tell them that you are bored to tears. So I played along with public opinion and agreed that I was born with several silver spoons in my mouth. And why not, after all I was the only child of the messiahs of the city..!
It was after ten when I got up to go back to my flat. I saw she was still sitting on her bench knitting away. She looked so lost and ‘indrawn’ that I felt a kind of kinship with her. Now, now don’t start imagining things. I felt the kind of kinship you’d feel for a flea-ridden dirty little dog with a broken paw. You feel sorry for it in a ‘damn- you- for- daring- to-claim- my- time’ kind of a way. In retrospect I wondered why I gave a damn who was sitting in the park or how dark it had become. I had never cared before..!
“It is very dark, why don’t you go home and continue your knitting..?” I know my tone was harsh. The poor thing was terribly startled.
“Oh, I didn’t know it was dark”, she said gathering up her things obediently.
“How couldn’t you see it was dark, are you blind…?!”
“Yes, I am”, she said casually and raised her head to look in my direction.
Well now, that threw me off balance and I felt bad. I had said worse things to people- deliberately- and never felt bad. On the contrary, I have felt pleased knowing I caused a wound; it made me feel alive. But here I was, feeling bad for saying something that was natural to say.
The empty eyes she turned to me were large, shapely and limpid. I couldn’t make out their color in the dark. But there was some light from one of the park’s lamps that illuminated the lower part of her face. Her face was wedge shaped ending sharply in a determined little chin. She lips were exquisitely shaped. There was a dimple in her left cheek, the skin dusky and velvety smooth. She had admitted to her blindness matter-of-factly, almost as if she was commiserating with me for having to feel bad for her. I was taken aback.
I don’t know what it was about her. She radiated a quiet calm that agitated me strangely. It was like a challenge thrown in my face. There was a slight smile on her lips. She looked at ease with herself. Unbidden, the phrase ‘happy in her skin’ popped up in my head. I felt as if someone had just thrust me under a sparkling mountain waterfall. I don’t know why, but I felt blissfully cool. The poison in me dulled its sting, slowing down its mad, angry rush in my veins. She seemed an anti-thesis to all that I was. I HAD to know more about her… I just had to..!
I surprised myself when I offered to give her a lift. Later she told me she was amazed at herself when she accepted. It seemed like a night of all round surprises. I don’t know why I began talking to her, or why she did. I only know that we sat talking in the car almost until morning. It is only later- in retrospect- that the whole thing looked fantastic to me. At that moment, it seemed the most natural and obvious thing to do.
I am sure you’ve guessed it by now. She was one of the Pishachas’s victims.
To be continued…
Pic from the internet