Friday, October 17, 2008

Pain of Growing Up

The town looked more aged and gloomy.

Every thing looked right except my growing restlessness. Anger and sorrow filled the lungs. I expected a rope appear before me any time to climb up to disappear in to the thin silence above.
I slept sparsely, filled with dreams. Reading, characters question me of their existence. Places hound me. Later, the boy who ran away from the home, spider killed by a girl, pirate after a failed attack, a race horse shot when he is aged, a discarded car after an accident, a stabbed man, everyone will appear to pay homage to my sleep.
Morning, I will rent a bicycle from the near by Seth’s shop and browse the Town for hours - Beach road, Ground, Light house, the silent narrow roads between aged coir factories - and when loneliness tire my bones, I stop at Rajan’s Tea shop near Beach Hospital. A small hut made of coconut leaves, his shop was always alive with politics-surly leftist- or cinema gossips. Whenever he feels up to it, Rajan will tell me amid endless coughs and beedi, of the town’s past communist leaders and their visit to this small shop.
His father was a communist, and participated in the Punnappra- Vayalar Communist uprising of 1946. From him I understood, in terms of its role in the course of the political destiny of Kerala, Punnappra-Vayalar is the biggest struggle of its kind. Estimates put the number of casualties on both sides in the armed confrontation between the army of Sir C.P Ramaswami Iyer, the then Diwan of the erstwhile Travancore State, and Communist revolutionaries in Punnappra and Vayalar at around a thousand. Rajan’s father was one of them.
My politics was different. I was trying to interpret the politics of my body, my adolescence. It was like reading a book without understanding the meaning of it. I just felt it, unable to understand.
I just heard him, of the injustice of sweeping the issue away from the independence struggle, telling that the activists, throughout their struggle, had not raised slogans against British imperialism. Then some times the discussions will take an another tack, about instigating the cadres to face the bullets alone, an act of cruelty since all the leaders escaped from the scene after hatching the conspiracy to attack the police camp.
I was not aware of the politics behind it. But I was aware of the pain in Rajan’s eyes as an orphan he had suffered. Now only a yellowish black and white photo of Rajan’s father hung on the tea shop’s wall: eyes staring ahead, ears listening from the martyrdom.
For them nothing changed socially even after the bloodshed. Everyone lived in the same huts as before, same hunger ruled the lives, same fear attacked them, and same social injustices prevailed.
Rajan’s family also belonged here. Living in a small uncompleted brick house, with mud encased courtyard, goat’s cage and the smell of fresh coir, his wife and two kids helped him in the shop.

Anjana was Rajan’s sister in law. It was strange, the feeling, seeing Anjana first time. Her eyes locked into mine for a moment and a frost wrapped my heart. A chill touched my spine, breathless and frozen; I fell in to a dark pool of solitude. Fragrance of old coconut oil spread as a thin mist from her hair entered my nostrils connecting me with a new sense of body. Slowly the chill turned into a pain, unbearable and infinite. My loin seemed to be in fire; a smile so feeble escaped her lips and touched me. Her dark body with round face and protruding breasts through a long blouse and skirt transformed the emperor with papaya leaf sword into a man.
That night, in my dream, I have seen an antique port town with a pier. The sand was gold, everything glittering. From the gaslights a shy light fell on everything casting a shadow and glitter. Above, the lantern beam from the lighthouse circled as a white tail of a jinni. The sea shore was empty. Only the sound of waves repeated rhythmically. Slowly overpowering the lingering silence a foghorn sounded. A ship with two vast wings appeared on the horizon.
Waiting on the old pier, I have seen her disembark and walk on the water to me with faceless black men and women like a panther. Fragrance of old coconut oil, Smokey smell of Copra, pepper and rotten sea weed filled my nostrils. She was wearing a mist so thin, which melted and evaporated a mile away by my breath. I extended a hand to touch her, and everything diluted and spread on the sea as an iridescent carpet.
A fire so hot melted my abdomen. Loneliness so cold froze my heart. Night, sweating and numb I lay staring at the spiraling fan above like a screw tightened in to the air.
It was the first pain I wasn’t disclosed to my grandma.

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