I was put in charge of hospitality committee and while preparing, since filtered water was available only in the teacher’s common room, had to drink untreated water many a times. This had distorted the texture and pitch of my voice temporarily. I love my voice, both literally and idiomatically. So it was a major setback. The croaky voice was intelligible only to me. Two days after the event was over, I was going to my classroom via the library corridor. She was walking towards the library and I was walking towards her. She waved her hand and helloed. I mumbled something that I don’t remember now. She asked me if I had drunk raw water from the supply taps. I had a silly smile on my face while nodding affirmatively. She smiled. That was magic, a surreal encounter of charm and power of beauty.
It was one of those sultry afternoons in school and my English teacher nonchalantly went on about a poem. I do not have the faintest memory of the poem that was being taught or my teacher who was teaching it. I do not even remember who the poet was or anything else about the day except that I was introduced to Topsy. The poet mentioned in his poem that ‘the grasses grew like Topsy’ and I learned that Topsy was an orphaned slave girl who thought she just grow’d and nobody ever made her. And hence the phrase – “grow like Topsy”. I was probably a year or two older than her then and she intrigued me. In my quest to learn more about her, I found myself in the company of the Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Collins Classics), borrowed from the school library that evening. I had only wanted to know what happened of Topsy, but then Ms. Stowe had more than just one story to tell me that evening.
“Yaathum oorae yaavarum kelir”
This very famous quote from the Tamil poet Kaniyan Poongundranar depicted in the United Nations means “All town is home, all men our kin’. Today, with the world having reduced to one global village, the idea of all towns being home seems quite a possibility. Yet for a lot of us what prevails more than often is -“Home is where heart is”. No matter how far and wide we travel, how old and wise we grow, our heart continues to tick specially for that one place we call ‘Home’.
Episode – 1
The air-conditioned buses that ply from Bengaluru city railway station are comfortable enough to get indulged in a bit of book reading. I had a book to finish – Eminent Historians by Arun Shourie about which I have written in past. While I was immersed in my study, a soul who sat beside me called me out and inquired about the book. He must have been younger to me by 3 to 4 years. Once I explained what the book was all about, he mentioned his whereabouts and his interest in history.
He asked me a few questions about the book and I happily obliged. When I had to get down at my stop, he wished me a good night and hoped to meet again to discuss such subjects as that day. I am a person who would be willing to speak to a stranger more often than not. I was happy that I made a new acquaintance. He asked me for my contact number to keep in touch, invoking the commonality of statehood and interests. I obliged. After about a couple of weeks when he called me, I could not place him right as the number wasn’t saved on me. He had to remind me of our interaction in the bus. He spoke for about 3-5 minutes after that. I kept looking for some shred of historical or philosophical content in his monologue. Disappointingly, it was not to be found. What he did speak of was a business idea that he and some of his friends were working on and asked me if I would have liked to work with them. When I tried to extract a rough idea of his so called business, he dodged and extended an invitation to some meeting that they were going to have that weekend. I smiled on this side of the phone and tried to explain to him how we can save each other’s time by keeping things straight. On that came the question I dread the most today – ‘Are you an ambitious person?’
“I come from a place very close to Kanyakumari. The beach is only about 10 kilometers away from my home” – Every time I tell someone about this, especially someone who isn’t from the southern part of the country, there is always a smile on their face accompanied by a glee in their eyes. I am very aware that the smile usually means “how amazing it must be to live near Kanyakumari”. Almost always this smile is followed with “Can you see Sri Lanka from Kanyakumari? “. Then it becomes my turn to smile. I had been an unsuspecting audience to a lot of conversations where newly-wed husbands on their honeymoon trip to the Cape Comorin explain to their new wives how the part of the sea behind the rock beside the shore where the water looks green is indeed the Arabian sea, the blue part the Indian ocean and the grey part, the Bay of Bengal. My smile turns into a grin when the Arabian Sea moves to east and Bay of Bengal shifts to the west.
If dogs were to control this world, this world would be controlled by dogs. – Charles Dogwin
In his zeal to pack breakfast defying all odds, he had left his debit card at home. By the time he realized, it was too late to return and fetch it and since he didn’t know me then, I couldn’t come to help either. Not that I can help him now but don’t words of solidarity help? Though he had a sumptuous breakfast, he found himself cashless at lunch. He had made up his mind to go without eating and document the results of his experiment. He tried his luck one last time and checked his bag for some cash and what did he find – a 50 rupees note! Quietly he quashed the experimenter inside him and wisely had his lunch. He seemed ready to appear on a TV debate against the mighty-righty Donald Trump to proclaim the real valuation of a 50 rupees note.
“Time heals everything”, say the wise. Does it? Well, I know not for sure. But what I do know is that there are a few others apart from time that can heal at least something if not everything. For instance, a long walk in the rain, a soulful conversation with a complete stranger, a journey to nowhere and finally my all-time favorite, the night in all its glory. Night, like death is an equivalent to the universal truth, because darkness brings out the true colors of everyone. The world wears a pretense through the day, waits for the sun go down and the lights to go on for that is when the real spectacle begins. It is in the silence of the night that most of us find the strength to take off our masks, listen to our own voice and see who we really are.