As I bustle through my daily life, quiet conversations with you play themselves out in the stillness of my mind. Whether kneading dough, taking clothes out of the dryer, grinding spices, or doing dishes, we talk of this and that, and everything else. They are dialogues we could have had for real, but which now take place only in the shrouded corners of my mind where imagination reigns supreme. Eerie silence, cold as frost, has filled the gaps left by words that once flowed freely between us. These imaginary exchanges are what shield me from the ice, keep me warm.
Writing prompt from Free Write Friday:
You have just woken up in the backseat of a car and you look up to see palm tree’s through the back glass. The sun is setting and you realize you are far from home…
(Remember, free writing only and try not to over-think or edit. Just go with it and pen whatever comes to mind)
So here goes:
I was awake and lay with my eyes closed. I could hear a gentle hum, the bed was shaking too. Was it an earthquake? There had been talk of imminent earthquakes and the collapse of the old dam at Mullaperiyar which was on a fault line. Alarmed, I opened my eyes.
My first thought was that the quake had collapsed the roof and walls of my house and left me staring at the sky. Had I been hurt? I did feel a bit groggy…. and totally confused.
Palm trees? Palm trees? There were no palm trees for miles around my house. Why was I seeing palm trees? Had the dam burst and the water carried (still carrying) me along with it to…. But wait, there are no palm trees anywhere near here. Where the hell was I?
That was when I heard the honk of a horn. I literally jumped out of my skin. I sat up with a jerk. Oh my poor head, it hurt so much. I pressed my throbbing temples and …
Oh my God… I was in a car? And who is that driving? What am I doing in the back seat? I looked to my left, bare land as far as eye could see, but for those palm trees. I turned to the right and it was ditto. The road seemed to go on forever.
“Hey!” I said, or rather tried to. But to my ears it sounded like a bleat of a sheep with a bad throat infection. I cleared my throat and tried again.
There, it came out better. There was no reaction from the front seat. Why wasn’t he/she answering? I had this uneasy feeling, creepy rather. My hair was standing on end.
“Hey! Who are you? Where are you taking me?”
No answer. I could only see sleek dark brown hair falling smoothly to the shoulders. The orange highlights the setting sun gave it made it look so eerily pretty. The big hat sort of spoiled the effect and also cast a shadow over what little of the face was revealed. Actually it was zilch. I could see nothing but the glossy hair and a stupid hat.
Dare I? I extended my hand and shook the shoulder of the person driving. No reaction still. Annoyed, I shook the person real hard.
“Hey! Who the hell are you?!” I shouted annoyed. “Stop the car now!”
All I heard was a swish and a grrrrrrrrrrowl. I was staring into the most hideous face I had ever seen. The fangs glinted in the last rays of the sun and I swear there were two lion-type ears beneath the hat.
I screamed and screamed and screamed and…. fell off my bed. Mullaperiyar, and dams and earthquakes and horror movies and aliens and…. Jeez! I swore then and there that from now on I’d read only about Thomas the Engine or Bambi before bed-time. Sigh…! As if!
I wrote this for the FWF: Take good look at yourself. ”This weekend your challenge is to take a long look in the mirror. Literally and….free write.” So here goes:
To look at your face in the mirror and write something, whatever comes to mind, is definitely not as easy as I thought. But I will make a fair try. I look at my reflection. My crowning glory, the envy of many, just beginning to go gray at the temples, but now copper-colored with the henna I apply, frames my face and falls in natural wavy curls on to my shoulders. I am lucky when it comes to my hair. I don’t have to spend hours on it. My ancestors have passed down genes to me that makes my hair the easiest to manage. But… but that’s just a tiny part of the whole I see in the mirror.
Suddenly I am reminded of Kamikaze Cat’s words. “Your profile picture makes you look so exhausted by Luci’s pranks,” she had told me yesterday. Yup, the face in the mirror looks exhausted. But is it Luci’s doing? Hell, no. I spend way too much time in front of the laptop, reading, reading and reading some more. And when I am done with that I read ‘real’ books. My eyes look so damn tired. I wish we had replaceable parts. I would have bought another set of eyes so that I could give rest to these two. That is how much I use them.
That’s when I notice the dangling gold ear-bobs peeping through my hair. It is amazing really. I bought the pair in 1982, the year I got married. Twenty-nine years down the line, I still have the same thingummy-bobs adorning my ears. Oh yes, I have taken them off to wear something different for parties or weddings. But I can’t be bothered to do that any longer. Just the thought makes me feel lazy. Yeah, I have had people tell me that dangling ear-bobs don’t suit those on the wrong side of fifty. Oh really?! Who cares anyways?! Not me.
A closer look reveals the tiny scar just above my upper lip. You need to be really observant (not to mention have pretty good eyes too) to notice it, it is that small. It was “gifted” to me ages back by my dog Simi who was preggers and high on hormones. Well I myself was pregnant at the time. But I did not bite her back, and was only on the verge of tears at the betrayal of trust.
What else? Apart from the tired eyes. I have a nose on my face, the “lovely” nose that once got battered unintentionally by the L & M’s elbow but escaped narrowly from getting squished to a pulp. A fair amount of tiny moles dot my face. The lines on my forehead are more prominent now. Crows-feet is something I have always had… the easy-on-smiles person that I am. Below my face is my thick neck, now getting thicker, and that I have always hated.
Though these are what I see when I stare at my reflection in the mirror, what I actually “see” is something different. Beyond the obvious reflection is the “real” me. How many are able to “see” that invisible person, I wonder?!
How many of us actually see the person beyond and behind the face and the features there in? Do we really know one another in the truest sense? How many of us bother to make the effort to give thought to the real person beyond the pretty or not-so pretty face? (For me there is never a not-so-pretty face. All faces are beautiful as beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, truly so)
From experience I know for a fact not many (most aren’t) are interested in knowing another in the truest sense. They make snap decisions on what they see, slot the person in one among the limited number of categories they have come up with to divide all of humanity into… and that’s it. If she looks and acts like this, she must belong to Category B. If he says that he must be from Category F. Oh he talks weird, dresses even more eccentrically, so he definitely falls in Category D. You get the drift? It is all superficial, this division and totally off the mark, born of a narrow and subjective (now that’s the operative word) outlook, the assumption that the categories they come up with are the only existing ones. How pathetic.
So today when I look in the mirror I wonder how many see beyond the tired eyes, the lined forehead, the ever-present smile, the collection of tiny black moles, the scar, the almost bashed nose, the wavy hair et al. How many see beyond and into the words spoken and unspoken? How many want to? Perhaps I will never ever know. And just may be, I prefer it that way.
- a story
The Tiny Weed stood clinging precariously to the barren rocks. Its leaves were carefully painted a beautiful green with the little moisture its tiny roots could gather from the surroundings. There was something about the Tiny Weed standing proudly against the grey barrenness of the rocks that caught the eye of the passing Dark Gray Cloud. It sent down a gentle shower. The Tiny Weed looked up in surprise.
“Hello…” said the Dark Gray Cloud
“Hello…” replied the Tiny Weed shyly.
No one had taken much notice of the Tiny Weed till then. She was happy and content in her solitude. The Tiny Weed did watch the plants carefully tended by the gardeners, the water and nourishment they got. Yet the Tiny Weed did not long for anything more than to stand proud and green against the barren rocks. Once in a while it dreamed of the Dark Gray Cloud and wished it would shower on her. Not for the Tiny Weed, the tame water from the garden hose in the gardener’s hand. She wanted the spontaneous joy-filled showers to fall on her from the Dark Gray Cloud itself. She was doubtful if she would ever make it as long as the Dark Gray Cloud’s arrival. She would probably dry up before that and fall off the rocky cliff as flimsy as her roots were. She smiled ruefully at such times and sent a request, ‘Dear God, give me better roots the next time and let me be born in a land where the Dark Gray Cloud resides.’
“Hello!!!” repeated the Dark Gray Cloud again, amused at the confusion on the Tiny Weed’s face.
“Hello…” replied the Tiny Weed in an even smaller voice.
Gently, for the Dark Gray Cloud knew how precarious the Tiny Weed’s position on the cliff-side was, he showered on her.
When the gentle shower fell, the Tiny Weed was transported magically to the land of her dreams. Her leaves now looked even greener and the Dark Gray Cloud seemed enamored of this magical creature she had transformed into.
The following days, the Dark Gray Cloud spent more and more time with her, gently showering her with drops of rain, taking care not to push her off the cliff side. He talked to her of the places he had visited. The Tiny Weed listened spell bound as much by the stories he told her as the magic she heard in the Dark Gray Cloud’s voice.
The happiest sight the Tiny Weed had ever seen in her life was the Dark Gray Cloud on the horizon gently moving towards her. Her happiest moments were when he showered rain drops on her. Looking down from high above the cliff-side, in her newfound joy, she felt she owned the Earth, that she was immortal. The Tiny Weed now grew stronger roots and greener, more luxurious leaves, in her contentment.
As days went by her joy took a downward swing. She found the appearance of the Dark Gray Cloud was getting rarer. And when he did appear, he spent less and less time with her. He had no more stories to tell her. The showers the Dark Gray Cloud sent her way became scarcer too. The Tiny Weed felt sadness fill her whole being. She quietly gathered whatever dampness of the showers she had left and kept her leaves as green as she could. One day soon, the Tiny Weed saw the Dark Gray Cloud in the distance, sailing off on his way, leaving her alone behind. The Tiny Weed knew, she would never see the Dark Gray Cloud again.
The Monsoons were over.
Once Mr.Black and his brothers Mr.Blacker and Mr.Blackest are sitting with their cronies, Mr.Darkest Gray, Mr.Darker Gray and Mr.Gray. Night is falling and they are relaxing with a drink. Just then they see some sort of light and then suddenly there is someone standing without.
“Who are you?’ asks Mr.Black for he had never seen such a one before.
“I am Mr.Light Gray” he replies, with a friendly smile
“Mr.Light Gray?? There are no Light Grays in this world! What nonsense!” scowls Mr.Blacker, his brother.
“There are only we the Blacks, Darkest Grays, Darker Grays and at the most Grays!” he adds, giving Mr.Gray a slightly contemptuous look.
The look is not lost on Mr.Gray and he squirms in his seat.
Mr.Light Gray smiles and is about to reply when Mr.Gray speaks up, hesitantly.
“If I may say so…I think there are Light Grays!”
“I have seen them on my other side you know!” he tentatively adds. He can feel the contemptuous eyes Mr.Blacker boring into him.
Mr.Blackest glares at him menacingly and Mr.Blacker scowls even more in annoyance. He hates it when Mr.Gray comes up with objections like this. Mr.Darker Gray and Mr.Darkest Gray look skeptical and side with Mr.Black. Even the older Black brothers listen to Mr.Black. He was their leader and what he said went. And anyway they hadn’t seen any Light Grays either. They believe in the color black and were even loathe believing in Mr. Gray who was sitting with them.
Meanwhile, Mr.Light Gray listening attentively to the conversation and the murmurs, beckons to someone standing a little off. They step forward. The group is again stunned.
“Who are these??” asked Mr.Black. There is alarm in his voice.
Some of the new comers are positively shining, that the eyes of the group start watering. They screw up their eyes at this brightness that seems to surround them, blinding them.
“Meet Mr.Lighter Gray, Mr.Lightest Gray, Mr.White, Mr.Pearly White, Mr.Snow White…”
The crowd stares at the newcomers. This is unbelievable!
The world had only Blacks, Darkest Grays, Darker Grays and when you came down to it Grays if you counted the nincompoop who was part of their exalted company.
But..but…who are these people??
And why were their eyes hurting so much looking at these people?? Why was this irrational fear taking hold of them when introduced to them?? A strange fear that wants them to deny the very existence of what they were seeing, right in front of their eyes??
No there could not be Whites, Snow Whites and Pearly Whites, Not Lightest Grays or Lighter Grays! They look at Light Gray and admit reluctantly that there is a possibility that he could exist. The rest were all a figment of the imagination.
Suddenly Mr.Black and his crowd get it. Why hadn’t they seen it before? Mr.Light Gray is only trying to hypnotize them for his own gains. Ha! He is trying to cheat them, maybe ultimately rob and kill them. That is his motive! He wants to turn their world as they knew it, topsy turvy!!
Mr.Black stands up with his cronies, in a sinister way. They walk forward threateningly and start beating up Mr.Light Gray. Mr.Gray puts up a token protest against this unwarranted action but with the black looks from the Black brothers, he shuts up and joins them in bashing up Mr.Light Gray.
Mr.Lighter Gray wants to help Mr.Light Gray, but is alarmed that he himself would be hurt.
“Oh dear!Oh dear!” he cries. “Please someone help him!”
“These people are so cruel!” He stands wringing his hands calling out for help and cursing the rulers for failing to make life safer and easier for them. Mr.Lightest Gray stands silently crying and praying for the deliverance of Mr.Light Gray. Mr.White steps forward with determination, trying to help Mr.Light Gray along with Mr.Pearly White and Mr.Snow White.
In the melee that follows Mr.Light Gray loses his life. Mr.White sustains some serious injuries and is in the hospital. …his chances of survival are remote. Mr.Pearly White dies on the way to the hospital. Mr.Snow White is maimed for life having lost his limbs, which were chopped off by the Black brothers, whose diabolical laughter sends chills down the spines of the Lighter Grays and the Lightest Grays as also the Light Grays.
The Whites fewer in number as they are, are preparing again, for they know the future holds more skirmishes and more of them will have to sacrifice their lives. A day would come when the Blacks and his cronies had to agree that they the Whites and their friends existed too!
The Blacks and their followers, the Darkest Grays and the Darker Grays have now convinced themselves that the world is indeed filled with only the darkest of shades and that they rule that world.
Mr.Gray broods alone in his room….he longs to reach out to the lighter Grays and be a part of them. He cannot hope to be one of the Whites ever! …..but, if only…if only, he could have been a Lighter Gray….!! He cries softly to himself.
Life goes on….