If they come they can take me to the hospital. But what if I am already dead, what if they take me to the police station, what if they kill me . . . but I may, already be dead, he consoled himself. Tom toms rent the night skies. Drumming, humming. By now the people did not even look (at him) only passers-by went past single file, a little mournful, horrified. What was a man doing there, flat on his belly, hands raised? Was he drunk? Scums of the earth, kick him, let him be besotted unto death.
Human beings have their own fancies, whims and notions you know! When they are faced with certain realities, they want to escape into wilderness – and then laugh, or cry which ever mood overtakes them.
He thought of school and the lunatic wind entangled with trees called him. Come, they whispered play with us, ride piggy back, we promise you a dream. Yes he had his dreams right from childhood. He loved to day dream.
Someone was shaking him: who are you, what is your name . . . let me sleep, he tried to say, but he couldn’t speak. Was his throat slit? Where was his mobile, could he message.
I am dead, he concluded. The great reprieve has come to overhaul me from bestial condition of pretense. Yes pretense. Pretending to be human, and wearing those masks. Remember them, colourful masks, playing with them, peeling off layer after layer.
A fire engine rushed past, the ambulance created a din. Must be for me, he thought. But it wasn’t. It was. School days were fun. But college was greater fun. Freedom. Bunking classes. Suddenly he thought of his family. What, if I am dead? Death. But I can think, he tried to whisper. Something in his brain or head clogged. Hammering. He wanted to shout – look you fools you archetypes of a disordered universe – I am actually alive and you think I am dead? That is why you do not even look at me. Lights went out. Darkness came to him, coquettishly and muttered: Come, I will show you my other side – Light!
Tear the scaffolding, break it, he shouted, or tried to. These people don’t get enough to eat, that is why there is a bloody revolution, damn you . . .
He loved her. But she was much younger. Her sun kissed marigold hair would light up his eyes, his loins burn. She laughed: you old hag, you are too old to even be a friend. And then he prayed, he remembered at the altar of sacrifice. Lord, lord save me.
The head was pulsating. He would lick his wounds. Someone came and sneered. Dead drunk, check his identity card, take away his mobile. Inform his home, house or whatever. He smiled. Home? What was happening to them, he thought – wife and children? Were they crying or sleeping away peacefully?
In 1980, I wanted to join the Civil Service. I was ambitious. But later on I wanted to be a journalist to record history in a diary of truth. I was against bigotry. I wanted to be a great socialist and writer.
Then he slept, coitus like. He looked like a baby. He remembered how he and Khraw would discuss language and literature, words and meaning. They would stand in front of Kong’s shop and discuss. Watch passers-by and women. Pray he said, pray. Khraw and he were great friends. Now he was missing him, his cherubic smile, his incessant chatter about the English language.
Must be midnight, he thought or the whip of dawn. There was a crackling fire somewhere. Must be that garbage near my house. With that mad woman sitting with her peering eyes.
He remembered how she came to his house, one monsoon ravaged day seeking food and alms – and, Love. Of course Love he thought. Yes love that is the word I have been searching soul searching. Do they love me? No, not they otherwise why this gripping fear as they went by in silent procession? He was sweating – I must be alive. Even if I am dead I know it, so I have vanquished death. He dreamt peacefully – of barking dogs and snakes.
My mobile my identity card. Where are they? Fears surfaced once again. He thought of bomb blasts in New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. Blast them. Then he started writing poetry after post graduation. What is the use of writing poetry, they asked? He wanted to write. But there was no pen, no paper, no computer. Where is the mobile?
Two police men got down from a van. One of them pointed at him and said: “There he is. Scoundrel, he is absent from home, lying drunk. Call the Doctor”. He felt his hand, my pulse, pulse he thought. “He is dead” he pronounced gravely. “Has been dead for the last two days”. I sniggered.