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The summer showers that often graced his father’s fields was Appu’s favorite time of the year. The rains were a promise of the monstrous monsoon set to ravage the land and quench their thirst but that wasn’t what he loved. More often than not, the summer rains would recede paving a way for the scorching heat strong enough to burn the skin off his skinny body but that never mattered either. In due time, the wrath of the sun would calm down and the clouds would clear away and when they did he’d run up to the rooftop of his thatched house and stared up at the sky to witness his magic canvas.
The stars had always fascinated Appu. His young eager eyes breathed in the plethora of magic every time he set his eyes upon them. Something so simple yet so beautiful gave him a dream without constraints where all he knew was that one day, he had to touch the stars.
No matter how many stars he counted every night, the embark to find the end of infinity would always be futile. Wherever he fell asleep , at the break of dawn, he would wake up back in bed to his father’s smiling face as radiant as the sun.
Appu loved his father more than he loved his stars. In a common way, both of them were something to look up to. The end of the week was best of them all. Appa would take him all across the town and they’d spend the entire day together. After an eventful round of grocery shopping for his mother’s magical kitchen, they would end their routine with two ice creams and one conversation.
Despite a hectic week after toiling in a field all day, his father would still entertain his five year old son ignoring the pain in his crooked back and broken lips that could still manage to smile.
Appu looked up at the sky. It was almost dusk and as the first star slowly twinkled brighter away from its shadow, he summoned up his courage and asked.
“Appa, how can I touch the stars?”
His father looked up the sky and smiled at the heights of his son’s dreams that he could never climb.
“You want to reach the stars? Build your own flying machine! Become an engineer!!”
“It’s a person who creates things! Do you have wings to fly to the moon instead?”
Appu traced his fingers through his bony spine seeking a hint of magic he needed in his life.
“No Appa.” he shook his head in dissapoinment.
His father laughed and took his hand. They didn’t speak much after that. Together, they held hands and looked up at the lilac sky as it changed colours and merged into the darkness.
Appu started at it in awe oblivious of the silent tears at the corner of Appa’s eyes.
A few days passed and Appu knew something was wrong. There were different people working in their fields now. The land was cleared, the green was gone. Men in smart uniforms sipped cool lemonade under a shade and commanded the shirtless labourers working under the sun.
One day, they came to their house. Appu’s ears shot up the second when the smart men introduced themselves as “engineers”. He didn’t understand the grown up conversation. Neither did he didn’t understand his disappointment on his father’s face when he looked inside the plain envelope the smart men handed over to him with a sense of condescending diplomacy.
It was only when the men left the house he looked beyond the tears in his father’s eyes. That wasn’t the face of a disappointed man anymore. He looked like a man betrayed by his own mother.
Two months passed. The fields were wiped clean; in their place stood a splendid architectural masterpiece. A masterpiece that came at the cost of a livelihood. NH-47 stood in all its glory. The lights illuminating even the darkest of nights. The compensation for 27 years of Appu’s father’s life in the fields was a supposedly a meager seventy thousand rupees. The blank envelope had ten thousand instead. The smart men said the rest had to be taken in the name of taxes. But the new shiny watch on his hand and gold on his neck told a different story that Appa didn’t want to hear. Appu’s father conceded defeat as his 27 years worth of hard work turned a farmer’s patriotism into helpless disgust.
The highway turned busy soon after and life moved on. Appu could never figure out why Amma was always tired and his father never left home anymore . He’d run up to the rooftop every night to catch a glimpse of his favourite starts but they had abandoned him too. The lights from the highway had illuminated the darkness destroying his magical canvas in the process as well. As Appu’s stars faded away into oblivion he thought of those smart men responsible for the loss of a life and the death of a dream only to realise, he didn’t want to be an “engineer” any more.
~I carve the curve on my face with the same knife that stabs me.~
“It’s only when that single pawn crosses an ocean of 64 squares does it have the power to rise as the most powerful of them all- a queen.” The tired voice advised his little princess sitting eager eyed to learn the game of a strategic battle of chess.
The professor taught her everything there is to know of the royal battle. Everyday since the age of 8, she would come along with a wooden chessboard to learn the game from the master himself.
64 squares. 32 pieces. 2 players. 1 battle.
The girl sat with her grandfather as the clock struck 5 right after his favourite television show. And then they played, day after day until it was time for ‘Ramayan’ .Despite an overdramatic cast and a cringe worthy dubbing from Hindi to Malayalam, a fulfilling game of chess, ammamma’s crunchy snacks and ‘Ramayan’ at 6:30 somehow went together to make it her favourite time of the day.
She sits writing this now, trying to relive every small memory that made that 8 year old so unforgivingly happy. But thunderstorms outlived the light and by 2014, the master was no more. The same man who taught her to win the battle of strategy lost the battle of life.
We often think trying to forget people eventually makes it easier to move on. It doesn’t. But refusing to acknowledge pain provides an illusion that it never existed in the first place. So she did exactly that. And it did work, until…
21st November 2014. It was 12:00 in the afternoon, the last match of the day. She stood at the Interbhavans summit of an entire district with gold around her neck. She beamed with pride at the thought of her winning move – a pawn promotion.
As she stood atop the podium grinning from ear to ear, the smile fell short. A few feet away, in an ocean full of people, there they stood ; wildly clapping, with tears of joy at their granddaughter….who came in third. She looked down to see the rival she had ruthlessly conquered, laughing at the joy of her overenthusiastic grandparents. And at that moment, the gold felt heavy around her neck. She didn’t want it anymore. For she knew, that despite the battle, she would’ve done anything to be wearing bronze that day.
I am drowning in the same air I’m breathing.
It was his father’s favourite time of the day,
A sky set on fire, kissed the waves.
Besides the view, the old man found no motives here,
But the rush of the waves never resonated with his hidden fears.
Father and son, stood face to face.
The wrinkled skin, held in a hollow embrace.
“I’ll be back, Appa.”
The words echoed in a deafening silence.
Foresaking the pain of a guilty conscience.
Following a toothless grin, a tired old man smiled,
As his ‘honourable son’ walked away from his eyes.
But as time passed by, he began to feel a sunset’s burn,
As he waited for his ‘honourable son’ , who would never return.
Once in a blue moon,
I take out my silver spoon
Polish it and scrub it, so it never stops to shine.
In a plain wooden cabinet,
with their old wooden companions,
My shiny little silver spoon
Was the jewel of my eyes.
Once in a blue moon,
I take out my silver spoon
Polish it so hard, my fingers start to bleed.
Its shine and sparkle bedazzled my eyes.
Hypnotised by infatuation, I readily concede,
To every hardship and pain, this beauty puts me through
The blood and the tears, must be worth it too?
Until the day I realise, my silver spoon was a star no more.
Superficiality wasn’t worth the pain any more.
Cause beneath that shiny coating, was a toxic breach of trust.
But that’s the paradox of betrayal,
Pure silver never rusts.
The lights maybe broken, but I guess I still work.
Being a vending machine never has its perks.
The dents and the scars won’t make me last long.
But how come if you kick me hard enough,
I give you exactly what you want?