This is a tale of an author, Indian.
R K Narayan, whose Malgudi tales are superlative fun.
One night he sat up late musing,
When he heard on the window pane,
some distinctive knocking.
Well past midnight, the clock on the wall displayed.
The sound to him at that moment didn’t make sense.
Morning came with the news
about death of an old aunt;
She had died past midnight,
around the time,
the knocking on the window had been heard.
The author, in his autobiography
talks of this experience and explains-
The sound was that of a spirit, his aunt’s,
trying to establish connection
Before moving on.
This is my attempt to convert into verse, what the famous Indian author R K Narayan has described in his autobiography-"My Days". I have been quite intrigued ever since I read this. Not sure if this is true but since he has mentioned it in his autobiography, I wonder if there isn't an element of truth in his words? Leave it to everyone's interpretation.
A tree in the parking lot
Of a commercial complex-
Lovely, flowering in spring,
Leaving a sprinkle of red petals occasionally,
When jostling playfully with the barmy winds,
On the driveway and
on the cars’ windscreens.
A beauty for sure
For nature lovers and
For the cuckoo which
Used its branches to perch and
sing persistent notes of melancholy
for the romantic hearts
at our workplace in the complex.
Then one day a storm raged and
A couple of large branches broke and fell
On a few cars parked in the driveway.
The poor tree had no way to prevent
The damage done to the cars.
Yet, it had to face the human wrath!
“The tree is a pest,an annoyance”, they cried!
“Occupying useless space, not worth at all!”
Forgotten was the beauty,
So much for human foresight!
The tree was cut down;
Chopped to the last inch
of the protruding trunk.
Now the cuckoo’s voice is never heard.
Nor do the sprinkle of sudden red
On the cars’ body
Enthrall the nature lovers.
Only some extra noise and fume
From some additional parked cars
And the ringing cash in the complex’s cash box.
Standing in the wilderness,
I am a tale
Of a struggle,
To hold on to existence.
This was meant to be a check post
On the border,
manned by a few sentries.
I was their workplace at day
And at night, their nesting shade.
Life then was peaceful, full of joy.
My dear friend, nearby flowed the river
In its cool waters, my reflection
Danced and wavered.
Not much activity happened here.
The nights used to come
Dressed to please and charm.
The sentries who stood guard
On the river embankment
Talked in hushed whispers
To drive away their sleep and boredom
And I revelled in many of their secrets.
Then the war broke
Men and machines fought
Against each other,
For pride and to possess,
To succeed in beating back death.
Nowhere was any human dignity left.
The day the war reached here,
It was a night just like any other.
The enemy came
from the opposite bank of the river,
Against a large platoon of men,
The guards, my inmates, were ill-prepared
And certainly, no match.
They tried to fight back bravely
But fell defending my territory;
Their blood was soon left splattered
On my walls and the river bank.
It was all over in few hours.
The enemy moved on and I
Was left standing for many days;
With splattered blood
And stench of rotting flesh
Filling the night air.
I still stand today, forgotten, desolate.
The boundaries have been re-drafted
and I am long forgotten.
Even the river has changed course, deserted me.
I stand alone
Carrying the tales of the past
Etched in my crumbling bricks and mortar.
There's warmth in the air.
A familiarity in the smells
That waft up to his senses.
Wrapped in a blanket of haze.
And his smile begins to break.
Is that a school
visible in the distance?
Wonder why it looks so familiar
When did I come here last?
And then, his smile begins to break.
How many years has it been now?
His mind tries to calculate
The years that he had been away
Where is the pond
with its brilliant white lilies?
Was there someone
who used to beckon me to its banks?
Then, his smile begins to break.
Why have I come here?
He bids his mind to recollect
A sense of connect I feel;
Established many years back, from present?
Did someone, long ago
Made me promise
To come back here one day?
Why do I perceive
the soul of the ancient
Under the garb of modern?
He stands and ponders.
The smile then,
Sometimes of recollection,
Sometimes of bewilderment,
Plays on his face.