For a Day

It was an unusual day. He, with a torn towel on his shoulder,  zealously swept the floor and wiped the glass windows. It was a big day for the small roadside eatery. A film scene was to be shot at the place. The hero and Miss Priya would be shown drinking coffee. So he also polished the cups till they shone. Actually, he was more excited about the actress than anything else. He never missed her movies. She was beautiful. She danced well. Her voice was that of a nightingale. She was his secret fantasy.

He was cleaning tables when the crew arrived. Within moments the eatery was crowded with people, with cameras, large lights, microphones. Some people were carrying clothes. The actors were surrounded by security. He earnestly tried to look for Miss Priya. But there were too many people. His master welcomed a few important looking people inside and tried shooing him away, who was eagerly waiting for a glimpse of his favourite actress. As he turned to retreat into the kitchen, looking crestfallen, a man with a beard called out to him. The man wanted him to casually clean the tables in the background when the actors would drink coffee. For a second he couldn’t believe his ears. He would be shot too. He would be sharing a screen with his favourite actress. He couldn’t contain his happiness. Vigorously shaking his head, he responded in agreement. Later, during the shoot, he was lost in his effort in cleaning tables. Never in these five years had he cleaned that surface with such determination. His trance was broken by a fellow, who approached him and handed out two hundred rupee notes. When he looked up, he saw the crew packing up. The actors were nowhere in sight. None of the other important looking people were around. The boy handed him the money and left without a word. 

Quickly shaking off the vague feeling of sadness, his imagination took flight. Probably it was his start, he would slowly become famous, directors would notice his hard work and his fearless presence before the camera. And they’d call him. And someday, he too, would sing and dance with the lady of his dreams. He would hold her hands on mountain tops and near waterfalls, walk on white sand beaches, in ornate gardens, or on American streets. Twisting and turning in his small bed at one end of the eatery, he didn’t realise when he had drifted off to sleep, smiling to himself.

But on all the following mornings, he woke up to the yells of an angry master and carried on with work, the torn towel on his shoulder.

Scribble Series #3

The old man was there as usual. They looked at each other briefly as John made his way to the rickety bench at the remotest end of the park, where the old man was seated.

John walked to the park everyday at dusk, to spend a few hours alone before clamming himself up in his one-roomed flat, on his way back from his bakery. His favourite bench in the entire park was the oldest and the dirtiest. Nobody ever used it, save for the other aged man. John was more than happy. He wasn’t socially awkward, but liked to spend most of his time alone, especially this time of the day.

The old man, his neighbour, a retired clerk, looked much older for his years. Life hadn’t been kind to him. He had lost his beloved wife shortly after marriage and was left with an infant daughter. After several years, his daughter grew up to have an admirable intellect and a heart of gold. Betty, apple of her father’s eye, grew up to be a social worker, nursing diseased tribes in the deep forests of Africa. She had left home shortly after earning a diploma and flew away to pursue her dreams. She wrote to her father regularly, who wasn’t well equipped with the complicated Internet. Betty was away for almost five years, and the old man’s heart ached to see his only kin. She had promised to return soon, in her letters she had delightfully announced to have found a charming man for herself, and wanted to marry him in her father’s presence.

John sat quietly with his head down as he recalled his beautiful days with Betty, in Africa. She was the most magnificent person he had ever come across. They were happy together…she had wanted to marry him at her family church…they had made all arrangements…But Fate smirked at their attempts at planning their future- after all it was she who pulled the strings according to her whim. A week before their departure, Betty was diagnosed with a fungal infection that steadily spread in her blood. Vivid images flashed across his mind as John recalled how the doctors were removing the life support after confirming her death. He was completely shattered and couldn’t stay there anymore. He decided to move to Durham, Betty’s birthplace and start afresh. He lived alone, and ran a bakery. Every evening, he visited the park at dusk and spent a few hours in quiet solitude to think about his beloved. He loved the rickety bench because it gave him a perfect view of the sunset. Betty loved sunsets.

The old man had only received a telegram from the organisation she worked for. Carefully counted words told him of her death. The telegram was followed by a monetary compensation. The heartbroken father, helpless, routinely spent a few hours on the bench alone, thinking about his daughter, watching the sun, set. Betty loved sunsets.

Eventually, John got up and turned to face the old man who was preparing to leave. The old man looked at the handsome stranger who looked oddly familiar, for a few seconds. They held their glances once again, a quiet goodbye. They were headed home, and walked away in opposite directions.

Pain Pastiche

Snow skin, soft voice,

A frame so petite,

Light steps and shy smiles,

I’m branded beautiful.

But a tug at my reverie, it snaps!

Shards of illusion scattered around,

I am just a black woman,

A thick, heavy, dark, Negro Woman.

So you hate me and beat me,

Starve and enslave me,

But take my loathed body,

Watch me numb my soul, and give in completely.

Purple bruises blend perfectly,

I am blasé to all pain,

My dreams smother in despair,

And wash away in tears which dry…

But I write about waterfalls,

Paint bright pink flamingos,

All in my mind’s canvas,

‘Cause black women with ink and paint,

Are only witches to be shamed and cursed.

And finally I die,

My body laid next to the spirit long buried,

From which I rise another time,

Ready to be tortured, ready to be told.

So here I am again, prettier this time,

With small feet and rosy cheeks,

I thank God-

Now I shall not be despised.

Well-

I am now a Japanese Wife,

Victim of a forced marriage,

A potential actress too-

But you don’t need to know that.

But you should remind me of my femininity every time,

Snatch away the sake and the smoke,

And yes, the life too-

Berate my apparition,

Every time you see her singing to trees,

Crushing dried leaves under her feet,

Plucking flowers on a solitary night.

[This poetry is an original creation, inspired from two masterpieces- “And The Soul Shall Dance” by Wakako Yamauchi and “In Search of My Mother’s Gardens” by Alice Walker. The theme of universality of women’s oppression has been recognised and is the essence of this poetry.]