Guilt: A Tryst with the Conscience

There was fire in the wind that night when the time had brought upon us an abrupt closure. My heart paced upon the idea of falling apart with the one thing that seemed so dear to me. It was going to take time and thought I knew I hadn’t any I could do nothing but wait. It was the first in many years. Helpless and anxious. Selfish. Colored in the tones of blue and grey I stood. She was a fighter. Fierce. I had that in me too, but that day I wasn’t. Because her fight was with death, my was with my guilt. Strange thing it is, guilt. It lies there in our subconscious mind, patiently awaiting the right hour to strike when the iron is hot. Our crimes stay with us. And while it slowly withers our soul, testing our ground and vacating our energies, we stand forbidden from a life that we had envisaged. The nature of crime could be logically justified and I may have been capable of fooling my heart to believe the same. But then we can’t keep fooling oursleves, can we? Maybe yes. Can we live with it? Maybe yes. Can we forgive oursleves? Maybe yes. Can we ever forget what was forgiven and forgive our heart who was entrusted to forget? Definitely no. 

I hadn’t seen her so feeble. Her voice dying out like an crisp echo at the edge of the night. She could have dealt with it only she didn’t seem willing to. Maa had been the superwoman in disguise and this time I need her without the veil. I was always her favorite. Even as a kid. Despite all the trouble I had caused. I was. My little brother would try to compare  and while she always consoled him by saying that she loved him more, in that lie I could hear her truth. I didn’t know bad times lay ahead and I couldn’t have done anything about it, for time has never been a comforting friend and destiny never a promising possibility. For reasons unclear I was admitted to a boarding school. Slowly the definition of home started changing and distances that couldn’t be measured became impossible to cover. I did wait for the vacations. But I always returned school a week or two ahead. She hated it. And I hated that she didn’t ask me to stay. I didn’t ask her before I decided to move to Zürich for further studies. It was over lunch that I sneaked it in our conversation. She didn’t say anything. I thought she would, but she didn’t. Best of luck she said as she got up. She didn’t look back. I never did either. In all the 7 years, I yearned to see her. I did write to her a couple of time. I got the same half hearted reply. I stopped. My younger brother had grown a strong dislike for me for he thought I was to blame. But I was clear about that part until recently. I was not to blame for something I didn’t know. 

I decided to come back. To see her. My anger hadn’t died but neither had my love.  I was forced out of the family and I may never be a part of it again, but as I stand here, I know that somethings you can never let go of. I was never hers. I was a part of her heart, but I was a token of betrayal. She loved me more than she could ever allow herself, but she hated me more than she thought she would. And then it all came in front of me. The loose ends were tied and I shied away from acknowledging the knots. She called me in. With all those pipes in and out of her body, she could barely speak. She lifted her hands and reached out to me. Tears trickled down her wrinkles as they followed a path aged with sorrow. They may have taken that course a million times, but this was the last. Life had come to a full circle and it was time to rebegin. I kissed her forehead and smiled. She was reassured of my position. And though I had a long way before the guilt could be drowned, I saw her drown in her content. She had paid the price of something she never wanted in her life and still she had the courage to admit to me that in her half hearted love towards me, she didn’t compromise. Whatever little affection I was shown over the years was pure and untainted. 

I decided to take a walk back to my house.  Flashes. Memories. They kept coming back to me. And then I realized that I never was her favorite. That truth that I heard when she said to my younger brother that she loved him more was the belief I had carried with me for too long. I have no complains. It was time for me to bid goodbye to all. I wasn’t coming back. I don’t have anything to come back to. I am glad that she buried her guilt before she was lost to the universe. I hope my guilt will find liberation too. And maybe guilt, it isn’t such a strange thing after all!


The InkStained Soul

The living room was filled with dust and the fan screamed of its woe, while jiwe sat sipping our tea and occasionally talking. The breaks weren’t awkward. They weren’t happy either. My head did move back into time, reminiscing the past and remembering the wooden chair that had now grown dull and broken. She used to sit there. A pen in her hand and a notebook whose pages were filled with her soul. The Inkstained Soul. Each word romanced her thoughts and matched it tunes into a beautiful poetry. Somehow I could see through time and feel the amazing energy. Somehow I felt that things too share a part of our identity and even in her absence, the chair did keep reminding me of the wonderful person she was and what great time we had spent. 

We were ready to leave. “Bhaiya, can you stay for a day longer? She would come back by evening.”,said Siya. “I wish I could. Convey my regards to her”, I replied with an awkward smile. Siya knew that I wanted to stay, but she couldn’t stop me either. It was too late. Everything seemed to have changed but things that were too familiar were trying to resurface the hidden constant. I was the same, even after all these years. I wished it was the same for her. There wasn’t much left there and there may never had been anything for me in those paths. But still there always was my reckless hope and I kept myself hidden under it’s garb. I had removed the veil after long hard years and I couldn’t agree to go back to a place where every breath reminds you of the breathlessness of your soul. You wander. Keep wandering in the dark. You see light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel knows no end. 

I was to leave the very next day. I went to the local library. Books were my escape. The Lost Key by Varya Segal. I sat down and started to read it. I hadn’t read any of her books. My hope fed me her stories. Without hope, it were words that could quell my hunger. The second page read, ‘To the long lost Friend who hasn’t found his peace’. I knew what it meant. She did remember and maybe she did acknowledge the events that led us to set our paths apart. I kept reading. The words spoke of neither of us. It told the tale we wanted to live, but neither of us could. It found the answers, but the questions still remained unanswered in our ignorance. And of all things that she wrote, the end seemed to bring it all together. And then everything changed. It became ugly, just like our lives. I understood what she intended to. If not then, eventually things would have turn bitter. There is nothing wrong in relationships turning sour, it runs it course and with time and people constantly changing, we cannot expect their dimensions to stay put. What is wrong is to forget what those years meant for you. It is clever to stay away from deep waters if you don’t know how to swim, but it is wise to ace the art of swimming for it is in the unexpected that we find ourselves in the troubled waters. 

We may have failed. But she was right, like she always was. I had woven dreams that pulled me down. And without efforts, I drowned. She had reached the shores long ago. And it is only after hallucinating for so long that I have realized that all dreams don’t make sense, the ones that do are not under the garb of hope. They show what it is to be brave. They remove our insecurities, polish our skills and make us achieve what we always wanted to be- carefree. 

The train was about to leave. I stood in front of the travel desk, still trying to understand the goof up in my tickets. Tired of reasoning with the control officer, I left the room in much anger. And then I saw her. Siya must have told her that I was leaving, I thought. We hugged each other. Asked each other about how we were and what was up in our lives. There was nothing left to reconcile. There was nothing left to reconcile, because the reasons of our differences had faded. And time seemed to take a back seat, as I again moved back in time, this time with her and there was nothing to change because there was nothing to fear.

Breaking Free at Dusk 

​From behind the curtains, Ravi saw his fate being decided. It was declared that it was his responsibility to carry forward the burden of his ancestral doings. Born into the family of zamindars, he was an exception to their rule. He was born out of marriage, but since it was a boy child that they desired, so be it. Truth was meddled with and while upholding the so called social morality, he was put into the family tree without any fuss. 

His father was a noble man but with flaws. And sometimes it is only the flaws that count. In his youth, he was carefree. Fearless in love, high on adventure and religious in his works. Like cloth, it slowly tattered. The moon at its prime, had surrendered to the laws of universe. It faded and since the shine was never his, he had to let it go. Lustreless, his life became distasteful. And helplessly he stood to see his son get his share of bitter fate. 

Ravi had something else in his mind. The incidents leading to the death of his mother was still fresh in his memory. Even twenty year later it seemed yesterday. He decided to run away. He could start afresh. He couldn’t leave his father, but he wouldn’t agree to accompany him either. 

Ravi’s eldest uncle was the head of the family. A staunch man with very less morals, he was a victim to the workings of the society. A victim who wanted to perpetuate the pain of his wounds on others. He was not right, but the way it had come to be, he wasn’t wrong either. 

Ravi had realised this. He didn’t like him but he couldn’t hate him, for his flaws had a baggage from the past and it was too heavy to be shared. He knew he could somehow be the change. But how was the question. 

While his uncle succumbed to ill health and his father too weak to carry on, he decided to take reign of the empire. He gave away his lands for school, small village medical units. He funded irrigation and kept enough for himself so that he could continue with his vision. Others termed him a fool and for the poor he became their Messiah. His other uncles were increasingly seeing their wealth drain, but couldn’t help it because it was no longer theirs to keep. 

His father on his deathbed, called for him. Ravi was in the farms at that time. He rushed back home. His father smiled. Smiled at the 3 yr old boy he had brought home. Smiled at the man who had the courage to do what he couldn’t. He had lost it to his fate, Ravi accepted it and did the best out of it. And while he smiled he said, “The winds were a little different that morning, but the sun did not sway. The winds were dusty that morning, but compromised the vision refused to fail. I still stand where I was, you did make me stronger. The winds are here to take me home,  thank you for holding tight. I know it was easy to abandon, you chose the difficult way. I know it was never our choice, you made color out of the grey.”

Portrait of a Father

​He sat down on the couch, being the victim of his own offenses. He had begged to differ with the world at one point of his life, but now he was one of them. It disturbed him. How his silent but optimistic web of dreams had succumbed to the wars of his own creation. He had tears in his eyes and a blank smile on his face. 

He looked at the frame on the wall opposite to him. His father stood tall and sincere. He respected him all he could, but never did he love him. He stood up and gazed at his reflection on his father’s photograph. He had his father’s eyes, he knew. But he didn’t want to find himself there anymore, for he thought he had lost all reasons and dignity.

That night was going to be long. He heard a knock on the door. He knew it was her. He opened the door. She was cumbersomely dressed, her hair all wet and kajal smudged. He was surprised and stared at her for quite some time before he asked her what had happened. She rushed inside the apartment and he stood still in amazement and doubt.  He  was scared and the fog of mystery didn’t promise to disappear anytime soon. 

She sat on the couch. She tried to appear strong and unaffected from the ghost of her doings. My weakness must not be revealed, she told herself and that was the only thing that kept her going.  He offered her water. She took a gulp down her throat with a heavy breath. She tried hard but couldn’t succeed. She cried. Out loud, disturbed and perpetuated by what time had made of her. Her voice cracked, and he felt feeble. He didn’t gather the courage to ask her. He wasn’t a coward, he just cared far too much. 

He sat there. Waiting for her to vent out her feelings. He was helpless and his only source of strength was withering away. But still, he waited. He knew no good could come of consoling a troubled heart. Her anger, her anxiety all were accepted without question. At the end it was only her smile that mattered, and he awaited for that glimpse. His sister could not surrender herself. After all that had happened, she was the only person who could take them to where her father wanted them to be in life. A life of content and peace. A life adrift of agony and fear. The time had come to lose the hope of perfection. It was time to accept that flaws are not so bad after all. He wiped her tears, baked his emotions in the furnace of his will to win over his life.

Ego, fame and recklessness had cost them a fortune. Lost of their father’s hard earned respect and money, they held each other’s hand. The photograph was still there. It still stood tall. But the smile appeared a little more brighter this time.

From Life to Death and Back!

​A loss is a loss. When we lose people to death, the vacuum remains but with time our scars do get healed and we do knowingly or unknowingly move on. But when we lose a person to himself, there is no return. Zaara was standing at this point in her life. She had lost her mother and she no longer recognized her father. He was not the same man he used to be. She didn’t cry but tears tore her heart apart. She was chained into the heaviness of emotions around her. She knew her mother won’t come back, but what she truly feared was will she ever be able to get her Dadda back. See him as the vibrant man he once was. Two months had passed and with every passing day she realized that the chances of return were getting bleaker. Fading hope and isolation together caught up on her. 

She had friends. Few good ones. But she always saw sympathy in their eyes. It was like everyone was trying to console her for the loss she had overcomed so bravely. Her true loss was of which no one knew. 

She juggled between office and home. Trying her best to take care of her father. Things went from bad to worse. She seldom thought of how unforgiving love could be. What does it eventually bring us to? After all their fights, arguments and disagreements, they still loved each other. When it couldn’t find expression in life, it found itself more profound in death. 

She thought of consulting a doctor to counsel her as to what is that there needs to be done. She called up relevant people and took appointment with a practicing Psychotherapist. She didn’t think it wise to take her father to the clinic. She thought it would be best to get to know things before making up his mind to undergo treatment. 

There was a war going on between her mind and heart. The man who couldn’t see her daughter cry had not looked upon her to enquire if she was doing good. If he had lost her, she had too. And she was on the verge of losing him. And she didn’t think she had the strenght to face it.

She sat in the car and took a deep breath. She needed to focus and keep her head straight. If she failed, he would fail with her. And hope would be lost to destiny. She had just got the engine started when someone knocked on the window. It was her Dad. He gave a bright smile and signalled her to open up the door. She did. Her face knew no emotion. Nor did her heart. He told her to take him to the grocery store in the main market. She agreed. She drove. They didn’t talk. She had a lot of questions to ask but she stayed mum. 

He bought his favorite soda drink, picked up a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits.  He then went to the nearby bakery. She dropped him back home. She told him that she had some work and that she would be home soon. 

When she returned from the clinic, she saw the entrance lit up with colorful LED lights. She felt a bit uncomfortable as she entered the hallway. It was all dark inside. And then suddenly with a hue of laughter and shout, she heard the words-‘Happy Birthday.’ And there he stood, the man she  had waited to see for so long. She dropped to her knees. And first time in several months,she cried. She cried. And the  guests looked at her with sympathy. Her father came and sat down on his knee. He kissed her forehead. He said, “You have been brave my girl. More brave than I ever could be. I am sorry that you had to see me destroy myself. Somehow your Hero was no longer your savior. And you smiled for me. Even when you lost her. More when you lost me.’ 

Zaara just looked at his eyes. She could see herself in them. His baritone was melody to her ears. She wiped her tears with her wrist. She slowly got up and went to her room. As her father looked her go, he felt weak again. She returned after a while, draped in a cotton zari saree. Her father smiled. Meera, he whispered.