[Continued from Cindered Dreams (III)]
I realize that my narrative would become hopelessly jumbled if I did not give Her some name. Let me call her Anu.
Anu’s father was a drug-addict. Her mother had died of tuberculosis when Anu was fourteen. She was an only child. Her father had sold her eyes to the Pishachas. He received a hefty amount from them. Hefty by his standards of course, for me the money would have been small change.
I guess it is poetic justice that the day he collected the money, he was murdered and was found dumped unceremoniously in a pile of refuse. They never found any money- neither on his stinking person nor in that tiny room where he lived with her. With him gone, she was left blind and alone in the world. She was fifteen then. I remember I calculated swiftly, I would have been nineteen then. It had happened seven years ago.
The point was not how she had survived the intervening years; the point was that she did. The point was here she was sitting in the car with me, talking to me as if she couldn’t stop herself. Her words did not come easily; they sounded wet, like the muted plop of tiny pebbles dropping in a still pool. The ripples her words created within me that night set my hand atremble even today- two years later-as I sit writing in this diary.
I dropped her to her place just as dawn was breaking. I never told her of my relationship with the Pishachas. Blame me if you like reader, I don’t give a damn. It was not fear of her hatred, not entirely. It was a sense of fanatical fastidiousness that makes you want to keep your prayer room spotlessly clean. Hasn’t there been something immensely precious for you, so precious it fills you with reverence…? Isn’t there something you could not bear to be touched by anything base, let alone evil..? Well, she was that way to me. I decided she’d never know of the poison that ran in my veins.
After dropping her off, I went home. I couldn’t get her out of my mind. Every word she had spoken, her voice quiet, unhurried soothing, her face calm, had etched themselves deeply into my consciousness. I didn’t realize it that day, but today I know meeting her was no coincidence. All I knew that day was that she exercised a pull on me that was as inexplicable as it was powerful. Today I can say that it was the pull of inexorably intertwined destinies. The words in my mind that day were: ‘THIS… this is it. This is the most important event in my life.’
I gave myself up to contemplation. I reviewed the things she had said and the manner in which she had said them. More importantly, I recalled to mind the things she could have said- and thought- but had not. It amazed me more and more as I thought about it.
Life hadn’t treated her fairly yet I saw no trace of bitterness in her. There was no anger or sense of a victim demanding payment, no sense of entitlement. At the same time, she was not beaten or defeated. Her equanimity came from deep within her. When I questioned her about it, she had said she was at peace because she saw the futility of being at war with the world. She seemed to have done a mental reckoning to evaluate what her position was- a kind of SWOT Analysis. She had weighed her options and gone forward with what she had instead of lamenting over the unfairness of life. She had not let her energy bleed away from her in pointless recriminations. What a sharp contrast from me…! I made a pedestal of the wrongs inflicted on my by the Pishachas and stood on top of it arms akimbo, bristling with a self-righteous sense of injury…! I felt justified in not taking responsibility for my life and in blaming my parents for the barren desert my life was.
I was desperate to know how she had done that. I wanted to know if she had cleansed her soul of poison by herself or if someone had helped her. For the first time in my life, I became aware of an alternative world-view. I was amazed. I saw a being with an immense inner poise and balance. Suddenly, I realized how tired I had become of what my life had been. I wanted a break from the rack I had built for myself. I wanted to look upon the world with the serenity with which she looked upon it. I wanted to let the poison bleed out of my being. I wanted it so badly that it made me drown in unshed tears. And so, I asked… I questioned… I listened for all I was worth.
I felt compelled to evaluate myself. I saw what a wastrel I was. I was a dissolute youth, with no rudder, purpose or direction. All I seemed to have done was to drain away my life, drop by irredeemable drop. What really made me cringe with terrible shame was to open my eyes to the fact that I was allowing the despised Pishachas to support me financially. Despite my ability to be brutally honest and objective with myself, I was not able to confess to myself that I had become a parasite; a maggot that fed on their blood money. I was filled with a lively sense of self-loathing.
My parents were evil people it is true, but that gave me no excuse become what I had permitted myself to become. After hearing Anu’s story, the horror I had felt when I first found out the truth about their ‘eye bank’ became a reality I could not get away from. They were monsters and now they seemed more diabolic to me than ever.
Their crimes, no matter how heinous, still did not give me the right to throw away my own life. On the contrary, their sins behooved me to make an extra effort to redeem my own soul and to wash away the taint of their actions from my name and life. Instead of lifting myself up and stepping away, I had let that foul gutter to drown me in its filth. I couldn’t help thinking that my belligerence towards them had the impotence of a cornered rat.
Gentle reader, you cannot heap on me the revulsion that flooded my being that day. I had complacently closed my eyes to the horror of my situation. For the first time in my life, I asked myself what right I had to my righteousness. I saw myself as others would have seen me. The result was, I couldn’t bear myself anymore, I simply couldn’t..!
I seemed to have woken up from a deep sleep. Suddenly you wake up in a world which is familiar, yet all changed. You spend years building up a facade of self-perceptions and in one fell sweep, the whole edifice is demolished and you see the shoddy truth about yourself in all its revolting misery. I desperately wanted to put a gun to my head..!
But I couldn’t. For as long as SHE lived on earth, I couldn’t die either.
Yes, it was that way. Make of it what you will…
To be continued…