moment of joy

Maria had waited for this moment all her life. This was it; all she had ever wanted, all she had ever wished for, all she had worked for years. They say opportunity knocks at every door it is only a matter of recognizing it when it’s your turn. She had seized her chance and now it was time to relish the fruit. She heard her name being announced and waited for a brief moment. Heads of over a thousand esteemed guests turned in her direction; all eyes set on her. She straightened her dress and rose ever so gracefully. The modest smile on her face and the calm expression of satisfaction defied the outburst of her pounding heart. The entire auditorium rose to its feet, their applause roaring louder than the music being played by the orchestra. She walked towards the stage, smiling at her audience as she crossed each tier of the hall; her gait patient and her gestures composed.

As Maria reached the first step of the stage she turned abruptly and stared at her audience in utter disbelief, her expression blank and her eyes furious. How could they do this to her? How could they stop already? This was her day, her moment; she had every right to rejoice it all the way. She parted her lips and uttered words fiercely. The crowd froze, no one could hear her. She repeated herself again and again; louder and louder, everyone staring at her in disbelief.

Maria raised her hands in midair clapping them together. The audience started clapping with her. Maria stared at her hands as if they were alien objects and clapped harder. The organizers standing at the footsteps of the stage reached towards Maria asking her if she was ok. She refused to look at them and kept on clapping her hands. The guests raised their hands above their heads and clapped faster as she clapped more and more aggressively. A man reached towards her with a glass of water. She took the glass tapping her nails against it. He stared at her confused as she smashed the glass on the ground. It broke into pieces but Maria did not care. She could not hear it break, she could not hear herself shouting, she could not hear them clapping. She looked around herself, shocked and pale. She was screaming out her lungs now, crying away like a little girl. She could not hear herself; she could not hear a thing, not the murmurs of the crowd or the inquiries of the men gathered around her.


Self discovery

I always found class reunions boring and pointless; the same old people, the same meaningless small talk and the same gossip about different people. Why I went to the homecoming dinner that year, I cannot recall. Though, I do remember feeling utterly aloof and uninterested. I almost slept through the opening speech and the redundant list of what all had been achieved by the college alumnus in the past year. I sat amongst strangers pretending to applaud strangers.

The call for dinner was a relief only for a moment that was abruptly shattered by acquaintances who just could not wait to scream my name, shriek in faked excitement and hug me for a few mechanical seconds. I excused myself after a brief exchange of words and smiles that meant nothing to both parties. Everyone had started walking towards the dinner tables now. The seating arrangement was crowded so I just stepped aside to wait for the frantic greetings to subside.

I remained close to the window, even when most were done with filling their plates and settled in positions suitable to savor the loot. I was not feeling particularly hungry. In fact I was not feeling anything at all; not hot in the vanilla cashmere shawl I was wearing in an overheated hall, not uncomfortable in the stiletto heels my sister had forced me to put on and not tired of carrying the embroidered velvet shalwar kameez that weighed more than me. I stood alone staring at faces of people who knew how to make others laugh and never ran out of things to say. If anyone asked me whom was I looking at I am sure I would not have been able to answer. I was not searching a familiar face or envying a happy one. I was just staring…staring into nothingness, and the being of alien faces was never reason enough to fill the nothingness I always witnessed.

The realization of going there being a mistake and remaining there so long an even bigger mistake came late as ever. However, as soon as it did I did not waste another moment and stormed out of the hall. I had no one to say good bye to or leave my contact information with. I ran out of the hall and kept running till I was out of breath. I had passed the parking lot minutes ago and now I was on the road. The headlights of the cars seemed blinding so for once I changed my direction and headed in the same direction as everyone else. I kept running till my legs were tired and my toes bleeding. I had to run away…far away. I did not like these cars, these roads, this city and so much more. I had to go away. Right then I only knew I had to go away.

Looking back today I wonder if I was running away from the people, the cars, the streets, and the city or was I just running away from something more proximate. It only took years to realize what that something was and since that day laughter never seems too loud or the lights too bright.


Developing a character

We saw him every morning on our way to school. He was always there as far back as any of us can recall. May be he had always been there. He always looked the same, yet interesting. He was never interested in us or anyone else around him. Day after day we saw him sitting alone in the corner of the street. His eyes were always closed and he said things to himself as he played with his string of stone beads. But even with his eyes closed he could sense the presence of others around him; every time we tried moving close to him, his fingers moved over the stone beads faster and his chanting became louder. The closer we reached the faster and louder he became; much that we became scared of him and ran away.

We never understood was how his white shalwar kurta was always so white and why he never wore any shoes. We initially thought he did not have shoes so we arranged a pair of daddy’s old shoes for him. He never wore them, never even looked at them. We had put them next to him one morning and they stayed right where we put them for days. Some say he sold them away for money others say that someone stole the shoes from him. We prefer to believe the later.

On Sundays, we watched him for hours, hoping he will open his eyes or move from where he sat. Our hopes were never fulfilled. We often wondered about where he slept and what he ate. We secretly observed him at meal times and stayed up for as long as our school routine allowed but it never happened. He seemed glued to the ground he sat on. He never left and apparently never slept or ate.