Date: August 07th, 2012Time: 10:32 pm ISTPlace: Akurdi, Pune
These days, my childhood seems to be the focus of my thoughts for no apparent reason. I don't know why. A few minutes ago, I was in the bathroom - about to brush my teeth. I had the toothbrush in one hand and I was squeezing out the toothpaste with the other. And all of a sudden, I remembered an incident that took place years ago - when I was in the second - sorry, fourth standard.
Back then, I was in Umerkhadi - Amir Building to be precise. This building sat at the edge of Umerkhadi and associated itself with an area known as Noorbaugh. Noorbaugh itself sat on the outskirts of Umerkhadi, but for all practical purposes, we - the residents of Amir Building and those staying in and around Noorbaugh identified Umerkhadi as the place we belonged to.
So, as I was saying, I was in Amir Building. We stayed on the second floor. The room we inhabited was small but enough for the four of us. Sister Dearest and I were teeny tiny kids then and so, we never understood nor knew what privacy meant. Whatever we had to say or do we did it all in the hall. And we liked it that way as well. At least, I liked it. I don't know about my sister: She was a class apart then and is a class apart even now.
Anyway, the incident I remembered two paragraphs ago took place in the hall. It was in the evening I think. I remember the tubelight was on. And the front door was open. We had two front doors: one was the net door - the door we had to lock were we to go out on a holiday, to church, to the market, etc., etc. And the other door was the main door - the door after the net door. The front door I am talking about is the main door. The main door we had kept open. So a cool breeze was blowing in through the net door and the curtain that kept prying eyes in the passage outside at bay fluttered to make known that the evening breeze wanted to make its presence felt.
I remember I was sitting on the floor in the hall. And for some reason, I was playing - writing rather - with an ink pen on the floor. It was a Flair pen - a very cheap yet popular ink pen at that time. The body of the pen decided to be of the colour gold and I can actually see the Shahbad stone flooring reflecting its image as I tried vigorously to write a few lines on the tiles. I was writing - nay stabbing, actually - as if I wanted to break the nib of the pen. Truth be told, I wanted to break the nib of the pen.
You see at that time, China had just begun to make its presence felt. And its Hero Fountain pens were a super-duper hit. Everyone in school wanted one and since I was only in the fourth standard, I too wanted one. Yes, I pretended to not care about such things even back then. But I so wanted one after I emptied my patience with my craving that I decided to mangle the pen I had and coax the parents to let me have one of those Heroes. And the fact that Mother showed me one that she had in her own drawer only added fuel to an already raging fire.
So, I hit the floor with it, literally - with the pen I mean. I banged the nib into one of the corners of the tiles and forced it to bend its back. And bend it did - after a few trys that is. I must say it bent very well: It split into two and the splinters moved away from each other as if that was what they were waiting for.
I then took those splinters of metallic 'art' to Mother.
"It's broken." I explained as I turned the pen around to show her how brutally it was violated.
"But how?" persisted Mother, "It was working well, no? Till yesterday?"
"Yes, but it broke."
"Yes, it fell in the hall," I lied, wrapping my face with all the innocence I could muster.
"Okay show me."
So I showed it to her.
"Tch! Tch! Tch! Tch! Tch! Tch! Tch! Tch! Tch!" she began all set to pass her judgement, "nice pen it was and you had to drop it."
"It fell. I did not drop it Mother."
"Yes right - I did not drop it it seems!" She had walked from the kitchen into the bedroom to open the drawer in which she had kept the Hero Fountain pen. "So now what?"
I put a question mark on my face and looked back at her by way of an answer.
"You want that pen then?"
"Such a nice pen that was. T'ha!'
'That one - the one you broke."
"Oh! But this one is better no?'
"Which is why you broke that one, no?'
"Yes!" I blurted out. and then corrected that to, "No no! I did not."
But the damage was already done. Mother had the truth from the mouth of her son who somehow - back then - did not know how to lie well enough.
"You broke it! I know! Ha ha!"
Of course, instead of admitting to it, like all children in the fourth standard, I half-giggled and half-tried not to as I said, "No! No! No! I did not Mother. It fell."
"I know - I know," Mother said dismissively, letting a smile slip from her lips, "I know who broke what and what fell and all that. Now, go do your homework!"
I took the pen all right, but the initial joy of having the pen after all died away into a rather unusual feeling of being controlled and chained by something. It was as if I had my actions bound by a set of moral handcuffs - handcuffs that instill thoughts about being right or wrong. Probably they did. I did feel terrible about lying to Mother and yet, simultaneously, I forced myself to be ecstatic about the pen that I finally was in possession of.
But you know how it is with these feelings. The more you force them upon yourself the more they elude you. And the more you scourge yourself with how miserable they make you, the more convinced you are to go back in time and undo the damage. But therein lies the hopelessness of the situation: You cannot go back in time. You just have to walk on. And as you walk on, or move on as some people say, you have to forgive yourself and not wait for anyone else to do so.
I doubt I ever did that - forgave myself, that is. I wonder whether I ever forgave myself for the lies I have told here and there - lies that do not matter as much as the guilt that they left in me.
Perhaps I have begun to not bother about such guilt these days. I just do what comes to me as the best possible thing to be done and I get it done. But then again, I haven't thrown reasoning and my sense of right or wrong entirely to the winds you know. All that is still there. What I get done, therefore, is not exactly hedonistic by nature and so, I should be happy enough to move on.
Which makes me wonder why, of late, do I let my thoughts fly back to my childhood days. Why. What was there in them for me? What remains of them with me? Why have they to miss me so much to fly back into my head?
Perhaps what I miss about them is what I should be asking myself. And probably, the answers to that question are something I dread...