Those bona fide seeds in him could blossom any moment with just a soft touch of wind from any direction, yet he shriveled in his timid shell.
Unfamiliar times!! He never realized the beauty of the blooming flower that filled the world around with its fragrance.
The troubled situation had turned him into an old hankie: The inability of wearing crisp ironed clothes like his friends, a contemporary style statement with a pair of sneakers, a brand new pen to adorn his shirt pocket and the nonexistent luxury of spending money to buy the things he wanted. Charred he was, in the blazing fire of poverty and an empty pocket symbolized this condition. “Poverty: An eternal ghost that paves the way for insults”.
Like a revolution that takes its birth beyond all boundaries, there would be a time when it saves the burgeoning youth from withering away, from this disease which affects people of all race in all spheres.
Then all of a sudden you find yourself cornered. Now it’s a choice: You break that wall of obstacle or you accept defeat thinking it’s the end of the world.
These desires were small. He wanted to hold them in his hands: Owning a cycle, playing cricket or football, chitchatting with his friends while watching movies, joining the NCC or sketching movie posters like the Beau Monde boys who attended drawing classes. But these were impaired by an age old disease embedded in the society’s brain: Making fun of others.
Imagining the disappointment caused by the denial of a ride on the brand new cycle owned by the elite boy, his stomach burnt in agony. His pleadings were unheard by the deaf ears which surrounded him. “Can I play cricket or football” was answered by “You idiot, Have you seen your dirty clothes. Are these the same hands that can hold a new bat? Go learn how to wear a pair of shoes like all of us. Then you can think of playing”. These statements by the smart friends who wore crisp clothes brought tears and blurred their very faces in his sight.
“You Shorty, Do you think you are fit enough to join the NCC. Eat well and grow an inch or two. Better luck next time”. Hearing these words uttered by the PT master it seemed as though the earth shook due to the sound of the boots of the parade men and his body trembles in humiliation. “Do you think your dad is a reddy or a Marwari to get you color pencils, clips, paper and painting brushes”. Even before the drawing teacher ends his conversation, the words make him run out of the school compound. To avoid his rich friends who might invite him for an ice cream in the interval he runs to the water tank and cools his hot head under the tap.
“Hey do you want to join us for a movie on Sunday” ask his friends and he shuns them by bunking classes on Saturday.
The only way out of this self centered world is to break the very wall that binds him. The bits of papers which stick to the feet like the dirt in the rain, take this lonely boy to a whole new world, a world where he begins to read immensely.
His distress is soothed, when the words that lay in his hands inspires him to look for more. His interest deepens towards reading. The timidity and lonely nature of his disappear, allowing him to talk endlessly to the characters created by the words in the play. He develops the art of playing those characters, getting into their skin.
He finds a voracious reader in himself when he is drawn towards the unique odor of those dusty racks in the old building of the town’s library. The books give him his solace and an unexplainable happiness. They take him to a new planet and become his companions. He wonders why he longed for materialistic pleasures that never gave him an immense enjoyment, when the world of books gifted him his slice of life.
The characters of the books come alive. They chat, feel happy, cry and comfort each other. They take him to un-touched beauteous lands, unknown destinations; bring him the fragrance of new flowers, the softness of the morning dew, the color of mountains, clouds, birds and their unheard sound, the pleasant breeze , the sight of the falling leaves……….
He finds the new possibilities of life and discovers its true meaning when everything appears before him like the wishes out of an Aladdin’s Lamp. Without his knowledge they teach him patience, judgment and the maturity to weigh things. Gradually his urge for knowledge knows no bounds. Lost in the trance of this world there emerges a radiant face.
This brightness now reflects in his decisions, behavior and he develops a mature personality and turns out to be a strong character. But these gains were totally unintentional rather it was as natural as his blood, sleep or dreams.
The unnoticed guy now begins to grow beyond the sky. He surprises the boys who struggle to find answers to the exam questions while he eases through them. The guy, who stammered, now turns out to be a great orator winning accolades in debates and seminars at school in spite of his wrinkled attire.
The same people who made fun of him now change and decide to befriend him. It’s no use hating him anymore they think!!
His round, pearl lettered, hand writing adds more value when his friends borrow his class notes, the young Romeos of the college beg him to write love poems for their lovers and the illiterates bent on obtaining social letters from him. Now they offer him cookies, beverages and movie tickets as a mark of respect!
His poems begin to shine like the stars in the night sky when they get published in the school magazine and small time local newspapers. He takes pride when his friends ask “Is that your name in the newspaper”. He endures sleepless nights when his friends thank him for the cup of tea he bought for them out of his first remuneration. He doubts if the reddy girls’ voices are those of the heroines when they say “Hey, do you know. He writes the most romantic love poems”.
He is amazed at the happiness he finds in this world, he discovered accidentally. How ironical it is when the world appreciates what I read or write for my joy. When the rich boys who shined with egoistic attitudes in the yester years meet after a long time, they look frail and say: “Your life is better”. Look at us: We work very hard yet we still remain like the rocks on the hillocks of the city. You on the other hand never even knew how to play cricket or football, but your talent as a writer has brought you name and fame and some quick bucks.
The shy boy turned poet tells his friend: Hey man, I have not made a very big name. I face the same troubles as you, how can I make you understand? The pleasure of reading books and writing poems whenever I want to is not eternal. The excitement dies down after a while. Do you remember: We were listening to the same lesson even though we were in different class rooms? Weren’t the true colors displayed in the playground even though we thought we are all one? Were we not divided by greed, contempt, colors and riches? There exists the same dangerous world of discrimination here like the one in our schools. You feel great after reading a good book, but when it comes to writing, it’s a different story. There are the same conniving artists who display their brilliant performance in all walks of literature in newspapers, book release functions and literary promotional events. There are rich writers who buy all the people they meet. The majorities of the people don’t believe in giving chance to young and talented writers but have the uncivilized vision of using them as stepping stones for their success. The only difference I see between our childhood and now is that: The same acts were unintentional then, but now they know what they are doing and never ever feel guilty about it.
But I am neither disgusted nor sad. Let me tell you my friend that I will never run away from this world of books like I did from my school. I would like to keep all the good books of the world for myself. They have taught me how to bloom like a flower from a barren rock. They have helped me sketch paintings as beautiful as the moonlight, from the powder of the hammer pounded rock laden paths, tolerating the humiliations caused by the people in the society who thought discrimination was the key to all success. They have whispered to me how to find the nectar in the Neem! They have showed me how to be like soft petals in an unkind wind.
Seeing the tears filled in the poet’s eyes who laid out the feelings in his mind, his friend conceives them to be the tears of joy and congratulates him on his new found success.
(It’s about how a timid, unattractive, very ordinary boy emerged to be a true writer)