[Continued from Cindered Dreams (VI)]
Momentum picked up on the school’s plans slowly. I was alone now and every time I sat down with our copious notes, I felt devastated afresh. Anu’s words rang in my ears, her advice and arguments wandered desolately in the empty corridors of my aching heart. Yet, I made head way.
When things began to pick up a little, I had to stop work. The big C knocked me out flat on my back. Pancreatic cancer I was told; the end of the road for me. I was given six weeks, maximum two months. It was almost funny when I found out. I guess Shiva decided I was not to do the work, but to be an enabler for someone else. I don’t mind at all, in fact feel relieved. As long as the school gets built, it doesn’t matter whose hand put in the final bricks, does it..? The foundation was laid by Nani and Anu blew breath into the dream and started it off on its flight.
I came to know of my prognosis a month ago. Since then I have been furiously busy. Writing this story was the last job I had on this side of life. Now that it is nearly written, I can say that I am ready to go ‘home’. I wonder if the stories of after-life are true. I wonder if I’ll meet Anu again. I’d certainly like to meet her and tell her I didn’t let her down and did my best to hand over the baton to someone else. I am also excited about meeting Nani.
I could give you a score of reasons why I am asking you to do what I am going to ask you. But I will not. I will give you just one reason- later. First, let me tell you what I have in mind.
The first thing is this: the ash in the two urns is of the manuscript of my novel. It was only half way through; there was no point in preserving it. Moreover I realized that writing a novel wasn’t my calling. My calling- if I can dare to refer to it so- was to be the conduit between Anu’s dream and the person who will make that dream a reality- perhaps you, dear reader. I’d like you to scatter these ashes in your garden and let them turn to dust. Who knows, the flowers that grow in your garden might smell a little sweeter, be a tad more vibrant in hue, dance a little more cheerfully when the wind caresses them. I certainly hope so.
Now for the second, more important, task..!
On the last page of this diary, you will find a solicitor firm’s name and address and the name of a contact person there. If you don’t find the man, there will be a successor. The plans for the school, the registry of the land we bought and my will is with him. You can go to him with this diary. He has pictures of the pages and of the diary itself. He will verify your authenticity and ask you to sign a pledge that you will build the school exactly as Anu and I planned. Don’t worry about funds; you will have enough to go with. You might have to cut down a bit on the publicity budget. Although I did cater for inflation, I don’t how long a time will have elapsed before this diary will be read. Once the school is completed and functioning, he will get the paper work done and you will become the legal owner of the school. In Nani’s honor, I want the school to be called ‘NANIHAAL’ (maternal grandmother’s home). The name will tell you everything you need to know about the kind of atmosphere the school should have.
There is no reason why you should want to do this. There is no reason why you should not bury the urns you have come across… or empty them in the river. There is no reason why you should not walk away from this whole hassle, you didn’t ask for it, I know.
Yet, there is something in me that dares to hope you will not walk away from this. Something that makes me tug at your hand in appeal and plead. I won’t ask you to do this for me, for Anu or even for Nani. I will not remind you of Anu’s suffering or her indomitable spirit. I will not remind you of all those who were condemned to darkness forever like Anu- for no fault of theirs. I will not push our suffering in your face and make you feel guilty. I might be a disembodied voice in a diary but I am still a human being who understands and appreciates the meaning of dignity and pride. I will ask you to do this for just one reason.
Do this, because this is the only way goodness can assert itself. To deny evil this final victory is the only protest left to us. I want us to throw down our stake in this morass and reclaim our homeland. I want us to slap the face of evil and show it its impotence. When you do this, people will hear the story behind the school; and this is a story that surely deserves to be heard. If you have had ONE moment of utter despair when you have ached to be shown some light; when you have passionately wished to see someone facing terrible odds and yet winning; if you have ever need the sight of another’s victory to give you the courage to stand up from your fall once again and continue walking- then reader, you must choose to do this. You simply MUST…! I have no means of persuading you. I have no way to beg. I have nothing but words written on the pages of this diary.
Reader, do this because doing this is the RIGHT thing to do…!
I have no more words to say to you. I will hope you will weigh my words carefully in the scales of your conscience and that your soul will speak its mind. When it does, my prayer is that you will heed its advice. That your soul will speak in my favor, I don’t doubt at all.
Gentle reader, will you build a ‘Nanihaal’ for all of us…?
*** *** ***
Suman sat slumped against the wall. She blinked her eyes and looked around with unseeing eyes. It had taken her much longer to read than she had expected. While she sat there reading, the still night pulsated around her, ebbing and flowing. She had paused many times, overwhelmed, unable to deal with the starkness of the narrative. She felt drained now, her tears spent. Her entire being felt keyed up, trembling deep within. It was as if she was preparing herself, making room for a fire to be ignited.
When she looked towards the east, she saw the sky proudly flaunting the smoky orange colors of pre-dawn. There were birds chirping cheerfully. A pair of mynahs sat on the guava tree. A bulbul sang nearby. She saw brilliantly hued humming birds flitting delicate over the flowers, drinking their fill of the nectar. The world was alive with a hope which lay trembling in possibilities, as yet unborn and intangible. Any moment, she knew, the sun would break through the horizon.
How very poignant these pre-dawn moments were, she thought. These moments were full of an exquisite anticipation, taut with tension and tinged with anxiety. Though the vibrant banner of pre-dawn heralded immense potential, it remained for the sun to fulfill that promise. Pre-dawn was a time of possibilities which might never be realized… it was a time of breaths held in hope… it was a time of prayers for fulfillment. The world waited with tense and breathless anticipation for that promise to be given the flesh of reality.
The sky took on a golden benign glow.
“We’re doing this”, Sim-sim said, the words simple and solemn, her voice trembling with a reverence too deep to name. Her words were the bugle call that announced the judgment of the soul.
In benediction and sanction, the sun broke through the horizon in a glorious burst of brilliant, golden orange. Suman nodded, exhaling a deep sigh of happiness.
There was nothing more to be said. The die was cast. The heart was thrown over the fence. The body had no option but to follow where the heart led.
The cinders of a lost dream burst forth in brilliant light, heralding the birth of a new sun.