Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Conversations On a Cliff Top #2

Read the first part here...

"What brings you here Ma'am?", I asked, keen on diverting the subject of conversation from my marriage. She smiled and replied, "Why do tourists come here?"
"They have their reasons. A friend once told me how 'staring at the sea' helped him 'reclaim his life'.", I said.

She laughed and said, "I have something like that in my mind as well. Though I find the word 'reclaim' a little too polarizing."

The waiter informed us of the distinct possibility of a storm and asked us to head back to our hotel rooms as soon as possible.

I nodded while the lady kept staring at the sea. Strangely, I could sense 'joy' in her face. Anticipation coupled with freedom. The look of a prisoner who had been freed.

"I've been married for 28 years. Today, for the first time in my life, I walked out.", she said while twisting her cup of coffee. I remained silent but did not take my eyes off her. She needed a listener and I did not want to disappoint her.

"I should have done this a long time ago. But I was too scared.", she said. The sea was beginning to look more intimidating now, as waves thrashed against the human made barriers. Some of the tourists got up to leave while the more seasoned campaigners stayed on, knowing perfectly well that they had at least half an hour more before the storm started moving in.

"I was raped on my first night by the man my parents had found me. 'Lack of knowledge' the families had called it. But to be honest, my husband had problems that needed to be treated. Going to a psychologist was considered taboo in an upper class family but domestic violence wasn't
. The fact that my husband was regarded by many, as the finest gentleman in politics, did not help me either. To the public he was Mr. Charming. To us, including our kids, he was nothing but the devil."

She was not looking at the cup of coffee anymore. Instead her gaze was fixed on a deep, long scar on her left wrist. I had spent too many sleepless nights at the 'Emergency' ward to not realise what it was.

"Did you try calling the police?", I asked.

"I never had the courage. Police stay away from politicians for obvious reasons. It would've been..suicide.", she said, volume dropping a little.

"The family said things would get better with a baby. And it did for sometime. I delivered him a baby boy like everyone had wanted. After an year he wanted another. I did not think I was ready but my vote did not matter. We had another boy, only this time my baby was autistic."

She looked at the sea again. The sky had gone remarkably dark and there were flashes of lightning in the horizon accompanied by long rumbles. She was crying. Tears running through her cheeks until gravity pulled it to the napkin on her thigh.
The glass window of the coffee shop reflected her sad eyes. Her face, now highlighted by the dark grey clouds in the background, told a story of a woman who had lost her motive in life. It was highly likely that her son had passed away recently. She wiped her eyes with a tissue paper, pointed at the clouds and said, "Aren't they beautiful?"

The news channel had reported a storm. People were being moved to regions of the city with higher altitude. Schools had been set up as emergency camps for the under-privileged.
At the hospital, we had moved all the electronic instruments to safer heights and were busy shifting the patients when I spotted one sitting on a bench in the park, next to the rehab center.
She was bald, due to a recent chemo, and was looking at the clouds when I reached there. She smiled, pointed to the sky and said, "Aren't they beautiful?"

I looked at the sky, like I had then, and succumbed to the sheer magnificence of what lay above my head. What some of us never sees in our lifetime.

(To be contd..)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Conversations On a Cliff Top

"My husband I could understand...", she said while taking a sip of the new cup of coffee the waiter had brought. The wind played with her hair, which had been let lose. "He needed help. But it's his family, mine, including my parents who had loved me throughout their lives... It was them. I could never understand why they were so persistent."
She kept staring at the sea as she delivered the words in a low monotonous tone. I found myself lost for words. I didn't know to react. Did she want me to react? Or contribute to the argument perhaps? Was I better off as a silent spectator?
Fate or as non believers would say "lack of seats" had brought me to this seat facing the lady.

 I could not come to a conclusion on what was to be done so I gave a very timid "Hmmm" in response. I was partly lost in the complex world of memories, constantly jumping from one to another, like a convict who had escaped the prison, haunted by the guilt and a deep sense of fear. I did not wish to come back to reality. Yet this lady, who had been silent all this while, had aroused a sense of curiosity in me.
A week ago, while I was on my regular rounds at the oncology ward, I had listened to a relative of little Gina (a four year old Leukemia patient) tell her mother the story of a two year old cancer patient. I had wondered why people, usually close relatives or friends, always assumed that stories of sorrow acted as relaxants to the ones suffering themselves. 

Yet I found myself incredibly drawn to the lady in front of me, glued to the belief that her story was far worse than mine. The truth is, nobody likes to believe his/her life is going really bad, and would readily swallow whatever reassurances they can get.
"You are not reading. One doesn't blink that much" she said, staring at the sea. 

Old fishing vessels tied to wooden poles were dancing rhythmically to the waves which were gaining strength steadily. Dark clouds were filling up the horizon. A storm is imminent, I thought, as the cool breeze knocked an outdated table calendar off its upright position.
"I was thinking...", I replied.

Noticing her callous attitude, I looked around for free tables but the probability of a storm hadn't scared away the tourists from this hut, precariously positioned at the edge of a rocky cliff.
For the first time after starting the conversation the lady looked at me in the eye. I could sense the depth of sadness on that face devoid of any make up. Her eyes looked a little watery as it reflected the sea. I could easily imagine a younger version of hers, perhaps 30 years back, giving men a real pinch in their hearts.
"Are you married?" she asked.
I looked at the sea again. Sea gulls circling around the coast with real interest. Sometimes big storms and violent waves drove schools of fishes to shallow waters making them easy targets for their aerial predators. For a second I wanted to be a fish. To be that one in the million, riding the waves and just doing what everyone else does.

There was blood. It started out as a small drop. I was finding it hard to breath. My companions were all gone. The school had left me alone in this strange sea.

Suddenly my right fin stops working. I realize my time has come and that I am going to die. I was beginning to lose my balance. The currents were carrying me to different places.
I am astounded by what I see. There was light piercing through the water. I couldn't understand where the light was coming from or what its source was. I have not seen such a sight all my life. It has to be something super natural.
My body hits the sea floor and I realize that my right eye has gone completely blind. I am looking at the surface with the other eye. Images were getting dimmer.
All my life I had lived looking 'sidewards'. I had missed out on such a beautiful sight. And to think it was there, right over my head. If only..

She had been staring at me as I suffered another attack from dreams. She analyzed my face thoroughly once and then turned to watch the storm develop. The clouds were all assembling, like allies before a war, gaining the minimum strength required to wreak havoc. It was fascinating how the elements of Nature worked. Constantly striving for equilibrium, that fine balance... Where there was low pressure, the winds rushed in to nullify the difference. We mankind are a total contradiction to the laws of Nature. Even our systems like 'money' and 'love' are.
"Yes...", I replied.
How had it come to this? To that very question I had wanted to run away from? Why can't I avoid the 'present'?

(To be contd..)

Link to part two HERE

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