Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Something I wrote when I was 15

On reading it, a person who works for a French newspaper said- "Very moralistic...."! And all I could think of was... at least my stories are...

“Chameli”, I screamed. A beautiful, weather beaten face looked up and broke into a smile on seeing me. I skipped happily up to her and questioned, “What are you doing?” She was plastering her house with cow dung. She replied humorously, “I am protecting my house from little devils like you!” then “when did you come little one? How are sahib and the mistress?” I dutifully answered. She went into her house and returned with a glass of cool ‘sherbet’, which I sipped on happily, while she continued her work. Occasionally she would turn, look at me and smile…while I sat contentedly- just watching her…

Chameli was a mourner. Her mother was one and so was her grandmother. They never expected her to become anything else, anyway….

She was my only companion in my grandmother’s place. We were popular figures out there and were much respected by everybody. Rajasthan held a fascination for me- Rajasthan with its vast desert, scorching sun and of course, Chameli. My mother never understood my attachment to Chameli and the pleasure I found in her company. In the busy grown up’s world, it was Chameli who took time to teach me how to climb onto a camel, where the peacock’s danced when it first rained, how to play marbles and so many other things quite unknown to a city bred like me. Chameli and my, our world was not filled things like budgets, automobiles, pollution, terrorism, bills…

She had the most expressive eyes I had ever seen. I still remember the day we were playing marbles and she was uproariously laughing at something I had told her, when someone came in. It was a villager- I had not set my eyes on him before and I prided on my knowledge of every local. He said something to Chameli, which was too rapid for me to follow. She hastily packed up a few things and was about to leave when I asked her “Can I come too?” and before she could refuse said imploringly “Please…”. She could never resist my ‘please’- I always looked like an angel when I said that!

The man looked irritated and said gruffly “hurry up!!” She held out her hand I confidently placed mine into hers. I prattled all along the way and she too joined in the fun. Way ahead I saw a huge building looming in front of us. She bent down and told me, “Stay where I put you little one. Don’t wander and don’t be scared.” I answered” I’m never scared when I with you Chameli”. And then as an afterthought “Will the lights go off?” She smiled and muttered, “I shouldn’t have brought you, but now it is too late”. She made me stand near a pillar, which I was one, not even one-fourth the size of, and asked me not to budge. She looked worried and I did not like to see her so, she looked too much like all the grown ups I had seen, so I smiled reassuringly at her and said, “I wont get lost. Take care that you don’t!” she patted my head and went inside.

I looked around. All I could see were a lot of sandals. People were moving in and out continuously. It then struck me- there was been a death in that house. I did not like deaths; the few I had seen were not anything nice. The people who died looked so queer-so rigid and cold. I began feeling a little- only a wee bit; mind you I was 8- uneasy. “If only Chameli were near…” I thought wistfully.

Suddenly without warning bells began to clang and a loud wail ranted the air. I was petrified! It was then that I decided to find Chameli. Throwing all caution to the winds, I ventured inside. The wailing continued, if not louder. If there was anything more than petrified- I was that!!!!

Nobody paid any attention to me- to them I was just another little girl wandering out there. By then I had mastered the art of being present without getting into anybody’s way. I searched frantically for Chameli, my Chameli. There she was, but wait a minute- what was it that she was doing. She, Chameli, My Chameli, was wailing, tearing her hair and beating at her chest. It was eerie. I panicked and ran to the comfort of the pillar that had sheltered me some time back.

Time later, Chameli emerged to see me clinging on to the pillar with all my might as if it were my last straw. She noticed how troubled I was. Taking my cold palms in hers, she led me away. We walked quietly on for sometime with me looking up every two minutes and conforming that I was my old Chameli who was walking with me.

Slightly comforted I said, “I saw you”. She started. Was it my confession or the sudden voice that made her do so, I don’t know.

“How could you?” I continued. She looked at me her eyes full of pain. I persisted “how could you cry like that when only moments ago you were laughing with me?”

We stopped; bending down she said, “Look at me”. I looked into those eyes I had seen a thousand times and loved more each time I looked at them. “It’s my job.” she said, “I get paid for it”.

I did not understand. “Did you know the dead person? Once again I questioned. “No, his people paid me to mourn, to cry…”

A sentence, which my father had said, a few days back flashed through my mind. He had said “Ultimately it’s all money”. I had asked what it meant, but looking at me as if only then he realized I was present and was listening, shrugged it off- like the innumerable questions I had asked before and not got the answers…

I looked at Chameli and said wisely” Ultimately it is all money, isn’t it?”

She did not reply. Then a little later she said, “Let’s see who reaches downhill first…” We raced down, me screaming all the while “me, me, me…”

When my mother came to know of my little adventure she was angry. She pursed up her mouth and forbid me to visit Chameli for the rest of our stay. Imagine that. I was indignant. I tried reasoning “Ma, the snake’s eggs would have hatched by the next time we return and the baby snakes will be out by then!” This was supposed to convince her to let me go but I wondered why her mouth thinned all the more and she said decidedly “Yes, you will stay home henceforth!” I went to sleep that night dreaming of wails, screams and baby snakes that cried…

Then one evening I sneaked out. My parents and grandma had gone to the near by town to attend a wedding. I skipped all the way to Chameli’s house…happy with the thought that I was going to see her. “Maybe I can still see the snakes eggs hatch out…” I thought to myself… to my surprise I found quite a lot of people in front of her house. I looked on curiously. Then I knew- it was a death. “Who died?” I demanded to nobody in particular. An on looker replied “Chameli’s husband”. Oh! Anyway, I did not like him- he rarely washed himself and always smelled of tobacco. I pushed my way forward and looked on interestedly to see if Chameli was morning and wailing…. No she was not.

She was seated in the corner of her hut, palms on her head, head bent down, and eyes full of tears. “Not a sob, not a wail”, I thought sadly, remembering the frightening yet mind blowing experience of the other day.
Chameli looked up to see me staring at her. Tears flowed afresh as she beckoned me in. I went to her and sat on her lap. She kissed me on the head, held me close and rocked me…Me, a part of her sorrow.

After sometime she said” You’d better run home little one, else your mother would be angry”. I nodded. I got up and went a little way only to return. She looked up. “This time it was not for money, was it?”, I asked. Tears flowed on as she replied “No, little one, he did not pay me to cry for him. I cry because I love him.” Satisfied I left the hut.

The sun was setting and gave an orange glow to the sky. I had to be home before any one missed me… “Chameli was strange…” I thought. “Sometimes she cries for money, sometimes for love”.” Any way poor Chameli “, I thought to myself. “She is so poor. Her husband should have paid her!” I angrily exclaimed to myself as I hurried home. Then the revelation struck me.

Me, all of my eight years understood something. I waited for my father to return- to correct him “no father, ultimately it’s not money. Ultimately it’s all love…”


Blogger glimmer said...

it wsa beautiful...u wrote this when u were 15 that is why i said u were blessed...U DARE NOT STOP WRITING YOUNG LADY!

5:27 AM  

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