Fiction Park

Dreams of an Evanescing Dew

  • In the immeasurable expanse of possibility, everything was beautiful because it was yet to be
- Sandesh Ghimire
In the rough overlap of the white paint he saw the countries he hoped to explore when he became old enough, but they seemed as distant and unreal as death, which he had learned about only yesterday

Nov 19, 2017-Who are you, little i?” —  e e cummings Nothing was more beautiful than what was yet to be.

There was a big black board and he would write something, but an intelligent hand would immediately erase it. He would write again, but the intelligent hand erased the words before he could realise what he had written…

Nooni, who on other days came close to challenging Kumbhakarna to a duel, had woken up with the crowing of the first rooster. When his eyes unglued from his dream, he noticed the room with the greed of a blind man who had just received the power of the vision. The tightly drawn curtain, the rack with kitchen supplies, the small kerosene stove, a few tattered books, and his parents on the floor bed—illuminated by a small five watt bulb that always remained lit at night. Nooni, from his bed, looked up to the ceiling, where in the rough overlap of the white paint he saw the countries he hoped to explore when he became old enough, but they seemed as distant and unreal as death, which he had learned about only yesterday.

The dinner preparation had only begun; Nooni was outside, perhaps playing in the street with his neighbourhood gang. In the small room, the churning of oil in the pan had not effaced the smell of kerosine, when Sunita received a call from her Maita.

At sunset when Nooni returned back, he found his mother wriggling and gasping on the floor, almost like a fish on land. Crippled by fear, Sunita bellowed the word ‘Aama’ with the shrill of a war cry. 

Stunned, Nooni could not move an inch and moved only his eyes to witness the havoc on his mother. Questions erupted in his mind, but they were not a strip of well strung sentences. They were, instead, the pointing gaze of a child that said ‘This…’ and was a plea for explanation.

When Rudra, Nooni’s father, finally arrived, Nooni looked at his father with questions pouring out from his face.

“Your grandmother died, Nooni. We are going away for 15 days.  You will have to be good Nooni!”

“What is died, baba?”

“You know what death is, don’t you?”

The whole night Nooni kept wondering what death was. He was certain that it was among the thousand things his father had told him about, but Nooni was quick to forget such things. He fell asleep trying to remember the forgotten knowledge. That night he dreamt about death.

There was a big black board and he would write something, but an intelligent hand would immediately erase it. He would write again, but the intelligent hand erased the words before he could realise what he had written…

When he woke up, earlier than everybody else, a certain meandering curiosity existed in him. He remembered that they were going away, and he was, at first, not thrilled about it, but when it occurred to him that he would have no homework, he reveled in his excitement. He imagined the rivers he would cross, the road he would trot on and the homework he would not do. In the immeasurable expanse of possibility, everything was beautiful because it was yet to be.

He had not, however, anticipated such silence before his joyous departure. The rooster was incessant in his crowing, and his father even more adamant in his snoring, but there was not the movement he was expecting. His mother was quietly sleeping, as if nothing had happened last night. Or had it not? Was the shrieking of his mother that was now so deeply logged into his memory only a dream? 

As he struggled to discover what was real and what was only a dream, Nooni fell asleep. The intelligent hand appeared again.

The bustle in the neighbourhood started, Sunita and Rudra argued over something,  and had it not been for the circumstances, their fight would  have continued—but Nooni slept through the commotion at his house.

 Nooni’s head was gently wobbling against the window of a bus, when he opened his eyes. Outside, he saw tea vendors hustling tea, and mothers juggling between their luggage and children.  In the constant movement of people, he noticed a man in the corner, near the ticket counter, who seemed to have drowned the chaos of his surrounding through his singing. Nooni opened the window to hear the song.

“?because everything goes to where everything was…? ”

His mind, however, already wanted to be on the road. He wondered what the turns and curves of the highway will bring him this time. 

“Mamu, when was the last time we were on the road?…and where’s baba?

“Do you see him here? Be quiet Nooni!”

Sunita felt the remorse of attacking her son, but weakened like the last summer leaf in winter, she could not engage with Nooni.

The bus started humming, and a priest entered the bus to exchange blessings for a few coins. When the priest approached a bald headed man, who frowned at the priest, and the priest responded with the curse.

“I cannot be cursed by some feigner,” the man exclaimed loudly, drawing the attention of everybody, but Nooni quickly clearly noticed the fear of being cursed rattling in his face.  Then he went to make loud remarks about how God was the greatest fiction ever written. The confused and agitated priest left the bus without blessing the remaining passengers.

The bus started moving (crawling) forward. But the sluggish traffic and the 80s Bollywood songs did not relieve Sunita’s hurriedness. Perhaps she secretly wished that the bus would leave the present and arrive in the past, when her mother was alive.

The bus forked towards the highway and gained speed. Nooni, who was perhaps angry at his mother, had forgotten his wrath and was now lost in the adventure that came with every halt and turn. With each turn, he was surprised to learn that he faced either the hill or the gorge.

At one steep turn, the bus halted suddenly, Nooni knew that the bus had to stop, but the bald headed man who was already a source of commotion and discomfort among the other passengers, raised his voice again.   He was spewing nonsense, the bus jolted even more vigorously and the man started spewing out his breakfast. The curse has started working, Nooni thought to himself.  For rest of the journey the man was reduced to a stinking smell and he never raised his voice again.

When the bus slowed, Nooni would try to locate the peak of the mountain and when he spotted the river that was playing hide and seek with, he laughed because it was all so incredible. 

To amuse himself, Nooni invented a game. Whenever his bus would speed to overtake another vehicle, he would hold his breath. If his bus was successful, that meant a point for Nooni and his team.  The bus kept speeding, and his team kept winning, expect for this one bus, which had kept the challenge alive. Nooni was determined to go up to the driver and inspire him to speed even more.  He would have really gone, but he did not want to wake his sleeping mother.

The bus, however, did not disappoint him, it kept speeding, and as his bus was overtaking his rival, he noticed another boy in the other bus, just like him, vested in the game as sincerely as he was. In this fierce battle, what Nooni said and how he behaved must have been an amusing scene for those who paid attention.

‘Andey Andey,’ he would say, pretending to be a horse rider, when his bus overtook the other bus, and he would curl up like a beaten dog if he was losing. The two kids made gestures to make fun of each other, and one expectantly waited to see the other.

The two boys, in two different buses but going to the same destination, had formed a fellowship that would last their lifetime. They never learned each other’s name, but they were driven by the same purpose: to win the race.

The buses had crossed Dhading, Malekhu, Krishna Bhir, and the magnificent cable car that connected hills that ascended like waves were approaching but there was no clear victor.

We have to win this, Nooni thought, and pressed the floorboard of the bus hard to accelerate the bus even faster.

The two cheetahs of the highway were racing neck to neck, the boys had their hands clutched, their hearts suspended in free fall. Nooni’s team was about to be the winner when something went wrong. Even the next day’s newspaper report weren’t clear as to the factual details of the accident. Perhaps the tires skidded, the bus collided with each other, windows and neck shattered—then the bus flung off the highway, and the river swallowed the bus.

In his final moment, Nooni saw the intelligent hand again. This time it was Nooni being erased: his body was never discovered.

Published: 19-11-2017 11:04

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