THE DYING EMBERS

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
How many times you find your friends and family around you when you need them the most? Or is it only you who run around them all the time?
This short story is about one such man, who ran all his life..and when turned back one fine day; found himself ALONE!!

Submitted: July 10, 2012

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Submitted: July 10, 2012

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“Where’s the pharmacy?”I asked a nurse passing by. “Round the corner to the far right”, she said and whizzed past me. The pharmacy was a small counter at the corner, with piles of medicines stocked randomly at the back and the crowd screaming their turn to collect their prescriptions. It took me almost 15 minutes to get hold of my medicines and another 10 to make my way back towards the elevator which would take me to the maternity ward on the seventh floor. All this while, I felt someone seated behind the counter, some 20 yards or so, a looming presence with his eyes anchored towards my direction. I turned back without much hesitation and my eyes met his. I was already moving towards his direction, numb and expressionless. He didn’t move an inch from the wooden chair that he was perched on, his eyes never winked, he didn’t acknowledge my greetings, and his lips made some arduous effort to move apart in the gesture of a smile. A lady seated next to him managed to utter those two words which rang a bell so loud on my ears that for a second I felt my eardrums would tear apart. “He’s paralyzed, he can’t speak nor hear.” My eyes went away from his and through the window up to the mountains. I tried to say something, but I was so nervous that my voice started shaking. A small tear ran down my cheeks, I had never cried before.

Few Years Ago…

His name was Raj, short for Rajendra. No one knew his last name, but everyone surely knew that he belonged to the so called lower caste. He was in his mid thirties. He was already balding and made strenuous effort to pull the hair towards his forehead, an unsuccessful attempt to hide the blank patches. He had a dark complexion contrary to native Sikkimese, and big round eyes. He was 5 feet 5 inches tall and very easygoing. He was serving the state government for quite some years and stayed in a one room apartment which he had partitioned from half. He had a fetish for antiques, loved music to the core and was an avid dancer. He ate noodles for lunch every day and drank black tea. He was never married.

Raj was a catholic converted. Not a regular church goer, but feared God. Since he was a bachelor living alone, his room used to be a regular party joint. There might be a very few who never made it to his room on one occasion or the other, that I can say for sure. He loved kids and invited them for lunch at regular intervals. And that was exactly how I came to know him. His room was a must watch, he was such a perfectionist that I sometimes used to wonder if any women could match his house keeping skills. He had a vast collection of songs which he regularly played on his old Phillips cassette player, and at times he used to dance to kill his time. He had lots of canvas paintings adorning his walls, perfectly arranged greeting cards on top of the almira which had his finest collections of La O’ Pala crockery’s, enough to sustain a hundred un-invited guests. His floor used to be mopped to the tiniest particle and had a fresh smell of Aerosol freshener every time one entered. His curtains were never odd to the light blue tan of the walls and even his bed used to be synchronized to the same. He always had a stock of the latest magazines from the market and his tiny reading table at the centre of the room was neatly arranged with them. His kitchen always had the stock for the month, name it and you have them, noodles, biscuits, snacks, groceries, everything. And his utensils shined as if new. His hands were everywhere in the room, everywhere.

I was a frequenter to his room; he was always a warm host. He was an outsider to our village but took active participation on everything that happened in and around. People used to flock his room on Christmas or New Year, just to have a drink or two, and after the job was done, no one ever looked back. He used to party along, dance for the crowd, but later the same crowd called him names. I used to see him cleaning the overnight stuff alone in the morning on numerous occasions. He never complained and the same used to happen over and again. He even gave shelter to the poor kids from the remote villages, just to help them make their journey to school a less strenuous job. The same kids, after staying for years, completing their studies, went back their way calling him names. Yes, he had some feminine characteristics, like the way he kept his rooms clean, the perfection in the classical dance and mostly, a bachelor at 36. And he always paid the price for it, but silently. The price he paid for being an outsider, for being lonely all his life, for being a normal human being.

As I grew up, I always wanted to get down deeper into the root cause of his loneliness. Why didn’t he ever talk about his family? Why he never left home for vacations, and above all, with all that he had, why didn’t he consider marriage, not as an option, but necessarily to keep him in good company all his life? One day I met him at his place, a little drunk this time. I went and sat close to him and looked away while he brushed the offending cheek with his hand. I had all the answers today, answers to all the questions that were inside me, related to a man who was not just any human being, but also a perfectionist in many ways. This is how an obedient son, a protective brother and a bread winner of a family ended up alone in this entire world with no one to call his own.

“I was 14 when my Dad expired” he bubbled. I never had a childhood. I got a job as a replacement for my Dad, and I had mouths to feed. That is all I can recall about my teenage. I have two sisters who are doing well now, they got married and still live with my mother at our ancestral house. All that I ever earned went towards my sisters studies, paying the debts that my Dad left behind as his last will. I never wore good clothes but made sure my family didn’t shiver in the cold winters. I was never looked up in the society, but I made enough efforts that they look up to my family. When my sisters grew up, it was my duty to get them married off and I managed it well, the price of which I am still paying off as debts. I never consulted a doctor in my life, but made sure my mom’s sugar level never bounced above normal. Their demands came to me in the form of orders, and I worked towards it as my obligations. I never enjoyed a piece of candy on Christmas, but made sure my family had Chocolate cakes to cut in front of a crowd of hundreds. My mom never saw me on the dining table more than once. I was an employee, staying away from home, yet strings attached to it. People talk about my marriage, they ask. Even I gave it a thought, but when I realized that I needed someone to be with me, it was already too late. Who wants’ to get married to a loner, who has debts to pay and is already 36? I don’t blame the girls who dejected me. I was so engrossed my entire life that for once I failed to look at me as an individual. I sacrificed my life for my family, my happiness, my desires, my aims and ambitions and ended up here. I never wanted anything from them, I knew they had nothing to give, but they have everything now and I have none. One day I was with my sisters when we bumped into few of their friends, they got me introduced as their neighbor. That was just the beginning of the slaps that my cheeks have been silently bearing for years now, but never turning red. I kept them in the shade and the sun was on my face. Today my color appears so dark to them that I don’t fit into their fair world.

It’s been three years now I haven’t seen them. Last year I received a legal notice from the court saying that all the ancestral property in my name will be legally attached to my mother, which in simple term means, they disowned me. I signed the papers. I never had my eyes on the property; it’s now my last gift to my family, to my sisters.

I have nowhere to go on vacations. So I always try to find my happiness in this tiny room. I cook, I clean, I read and I drink and drink. But I never cry, I’ll never cry….never.”

I couldn’t hold back for a minute after that. I rushed for the door, I wanted to get out, just get out and get lost somewhere. His voice still ringing on my ears, I made my way outside. I could never face him again. The answers to my questions were heavy enough that my tiny heart could no longer hold them in. I never wanted to see him again, never wanted to see the pain inside Raj, so nicely camouflaged inside his large smiles.

Eleven years had passed by since I last saw him. And today he’s right in front of me, immovable and so silent. How I wished I could hear him speak, say something to me, anything, tell me what had happened in these eleven years, what made him a mere piece of wood. But he was here today and I saw that silence spoke volumes. He was paralyzed, but I could read his eyes, read his lips. I remembered the last word that he spoke to me eleven years back then:

But I never cry, I’ll never cry….never.”

 

 


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