Am a day or two late
What difference does it make?
I belong to an undemonstrative family. I don’t remember my mother ever telling me in quivering tones and moist eyes how ecstatic she was to hear my lung-tearing howl announcing arrival on this planet Earth. But she did tell me that it was a smooth delivery (or deliverance?). My father had taken my elder sister to a Laurel & Hardy film. On taking a detour of the Hospital, (where my mother was admitted), later in the evening, they were taken by surprise to learn of my entry into this world before time. Well! Gynaes never swear by time when it comes to predicting deliveries or is it God’s prerogative!!! One would like to believe in the latter.
Back home, with me walked in to the nursery my quadruped sibling, a Golden Dachshund, Julie, a few days older than me. My mother had to raise both of us together, which was, I suppose, a bit trying for her at times.
Childhood memories come in fitful flashbacks. Mom and Dad appearing from behind the bedroom door curtain like genies to give me a sudden playful surprise. Julie sympathetically digging my cheeks with her wet nose when I lay spread-eagled on the cold red and black tiled floor trying to walk with both feet tied with an elastic rope. The delicious waft of bread crumb pudding and many such delicacies from the kitchen titillating my nose. My mother teaching me the first seven notes of music on the Harmonium, with the German reeds, mind you, proudly flaunted as a sort of family heirloom. Di sowing the maiden seeds of doubt into the wildly imaginative mind of a six year old that she was not her mother’s own child having gotten replaced by the matron in the maternity ward (un)intentionally!!!
The unconditional cuddle of furry friends, musty smell of books, books and books, wax crayons, pastel colours and drawing sheets and the deep, mellifluous resonance of soul stirring music shall always dominate my memoire. My mother singing bhajans to the tune of the auspicious conch every evening! My father meditating before the family deity! The smoky scent of karpoor (Camphor), coconut fibres and guggul (Commiphora Wightii), lit together in a blackened earthen penseive, to ward off evil and mosquitoes as well. The forced wakefulness late into wintry nights to get a glimpse of Santa and dozing off by dawn despite laborious efforts – the next morning, a harbinger of pleasant amazement, finding the favourite book under the pillow!!! The curiosities of adolescence – caught red-handed reading Di’s love letters and getting my ears boxed hard for being impertinent. Height of audacity – secretly reading Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s ‘Charitraheen’, a forbidden book, by the then standards of decorum, without my mother’s knowledge or permission, apparently an achievement par excellence, which while on one hand thrilled to no end, on the other invoked a kind of awe of my own self furnishing the first instance of quiet rebellion that I was capable of.
My mother was (still is) a martinet whom I defied and disappointed a number of times. My father was a liberal who entrusted a lot of faith in his youngest daughter, which sometimes make me wonder, whether the investment was not as inutile and vain as mistaking an optical illusion for reality. I was an intimidated child who gave in to her older sibling’s stupidest of commands. I grew up to be defiant in an unobtrusive kind of way.
And then the drastic swerve in the boulevard. My neighbours murmured sympathetic praises as I smeared the sandalwood paste on my father’s frozen forehead before bidding him the final goodbye. “You still belong to the same Gotra“, decreed the ‘saffron bandits’. I complied. One last reward of being single. Did my hands shake lighting the pyre? No, that ‘luxury’ was unaffordable. It was an electric crematorium – my father’s expressed last wish!! Someone held me by my waist as I folded my hands skyward. RIP – floated the exordium in air to a fateful beginning!!!
Childish revolts were no more lavish statements of self-assertion. It was now the serious question of sustenance of life and legacy – what was left behind had to be preserved from peril and perish – a stricture by none other than an unexplained Divine ordain.
Ensued those dark days of privation – a reluctant wriggle out of the comfort cocoon and fending miles away from a hitherto sheltered existence – my warm hearth of normalcy. I was a shy child, awkward and clumsy in many ways. The tortuous alleys of an unknown city – hovels of demons and abode of angels alike. Those who came to hold hands wanted much more in return. My convictions – lone soulmate in the dead of dreamless nights and bowels of nightmare infested days – were my only capital. I bartered peace for a foothold – a little space which I could call my own. Subsistence was an everyday battle in the truest sense of the term – an incessant fight tooth and nail as alternates were none. A wellwisher advised ,” Relax! Find a caring pair of shoulders and dump all your problems thereon” and then stopped short. The stubborn turn of my chin wrote me off. I strode alone.
Without having anything to particularly boast of, I rewrote my life, carried away by a poet’s entreaty, “ik dafaa to apna jeevan mujhko khud hi bone do…” Let me sow the sapling of my own life for once. I am sure the deep brown etches on the inside of my palm spoke a different story. A story that would have followed an oft trodden trail of myriad mundane had I not diverted the route to a yet more lackluster and severely cramped course – life was never the same again. Did I play God? No! I just did the most difficult task of being myself.
It wasn’t all child’s play. It wasn’t the rebel born with the golden spoon tapping her feet gently to soft soothing symphonies reclining in a plush armchair while the AC maintained just the right degree of temperature to evoke bemused contemplations on World reforms. It was a personal warfare – a war waged against my own self – my timidity, my inhibitions, my insecurities, my indelible scars of the primitive past, my unsteady feet of the precarious present and my invincible fears of the unseen future. I have not chronicled history differently. It is the history of all those kindred souls that I represent – those who labour on the road, jostle in the crowd, push past you every second or trudge behind. I am one of them – one of the ordinary millions.
Why do I celebrate one particular day of the calendar? I celebrate each day as I progress on an uneven gait. As autumn’s ominous knock thuds the heart my reminiscent gaze finds solace in my blunders, my indecisions, my failed and victorious attempts to be brave, my sleepless nights and my drudging days. I have survived. I have surpassed my own self. I have striven even if I have not conquered. My zeal has not yet been snuffed out. My zest for the unknown is yet alive. As I wipe off the grey mist, the mirror reminds me that winter is not far behind – the thin crow’s feet under the eyes or the grey streaks lining the forehead. I collect the untold tales on my lashes with a wispy smile. I shall not grudge the twilight sky. The breeze still chants the fragrance of the spring. A blooming summer yet another I shall witness. It’s a promise to my own self.
The dreams that are yet to be born
And those which have died before time
I shall sing of what I am
And also of what I have never been
I may not have had an illustrious soar
Neither strident been my lore; yet moved on
Faltered, dropped down vigourless
Mustered still my puny strength
My moments weak, plenty of them
My courageous flights, rare defense
My cowardliness, my trepidation
I am not defined by them
I am not derived from them
Let me err as lie therein
Life’s greatest, precious lessons
Let me celebrate my ordinariness
Diffident choices, truths unveiled
Greater than the mingling dust
I stand tall as part of all
Enormity, Eternity, Omnipresent
As shackles melt and bondage frees
Joyful chords rise up unto Thee
Let me create, let me rejoice
Let me untangle, let me unite
Imprison me not ye mortal men
My horizon expands with brazen wings
Can’t you see, I am me
And shall remain so for ages to come
Let me dance, let me twirl,
Let me swirl, let me whirl,
Let me fly, let me unfurl
Let me take the final plunge
Before the light is expunged
Today, tomorrow, every day
Myself do let me celebrate!!!
This post is written in view of International Women’s Day for Celebrating Girls Celibraing Women Contest under the aegis of Women’s Web