Endless bars

  • fiction park
Kathmandu
Endless bars

Aug 1, 2015-

Seven months in jail has made me numb. I forget things that have happened and I remember what never took place. I’ve been beaten. The scars on my body say so. I don’t know the reason, though. I must have done something wrong

Preety Dhungana

Lying on my back on the soft green grass, I was looking up at the endless sky—so deep, so clear and so blue, with milky white clouds, like the waves in the ocean in motion. Rehaan was beside me doing the same; although I was not sure what he saw up there, he seemed to be enjoying himself. Nisha was preparing something for us to eat. The sun was shining bright, but it wasn’t scorching. Its warmth was complemented by the coolness of the mild breeze. As an icing on the cake, a magnificent eagle came hovering into view. I turned to see Rehaan. His eyes twinkled. I looked back at the eagle, which was now encircling the perimeter I could behold, and in no time, I wasn’t on the ground anymore. I had become the bird up there, taking part in the most carefree flight. I was so high... I felt so free…things were perfect.

But suddenly, I found my eyes blurring with tears. They flowed down my cheeks, past the ears to my hair, and I could see again. I was on the ground again, but I could see me still up there, flying. Not freely though. Between me and my eyes were bars. There were bars surrounding me. So my flight was not carefree this time. I banged against them every time I hurled myself—in every direction I headed. I looked around. The clear blue sky had turned grey. The unlimited

horizon had shrunk into a rectangular frame. Inside which was me—trapped…jailed.

Where was Nisha? Where was Rehaan? I could guess where Nisha could be at this time. But Rehaan? When was the last time I saw him? When we were gazing at the sky...but that was just a moment ago...maybe that hadn’t been real?

Nisha used to talk about him a lot. She had given him the name. The name that was bookended by our initials—R and N. Never did I take that name seriously. But today I saw him. He was there beside me. So distinct. I knew it was him. It was Rehaan. Who says birth is always concrete? I realised Rehaan was born when she had imagined him. I experienced the power of a woman’s imagination, which could make me see someone who wasn’t real in this world, and recognise and love and feel so responsible for. I understood why the Almighty chose a female to be ‘the mother’.

The door was opened when dawn broke. My family enclosed themselves in one of the chambers of my heart. I walked

outside—outside which is actually inside. There are still bars that I cannot cross. In fact, I’ll be charged if I’m even seen close to them.

Seven months in jail has made me numb. I forget things that have happened and I remember what never took place. I’ve been beaten. The scars on my body say so. I don’t know the reason, though. I must have done something wrong. How could I? How could a father of such a beautiful child do something so wrong? I would never want Rehaan to see me like this.

“Your father has come.”

He must have brought the warm clothes I had asked for last month. It is extremely cold here. Thank God this month won’t be as difficult as the past one.

I took a jacket out from the bag and wore it. There were some more clothes. I did not check to make sure. I somehow knew that there were just clothes because I had asked for clothes. Things have changed. There was a time when I could expect much more.

Once, when I had my scouts camping in grade eight...it was my first night stay away from home, that too for 21 days. My father had packed my luggage. I wasn’t curious then as well. But every time I opened my bag for something, I found chips or chocolates or cheese or gum; layer after layer. Maybe I took them for granted then. I wasn’t that delighted then. I’m not now.

 Now I know it’s just clothes. Not because I’m a grown up now. It’s because he’s somebody else’s father too.

The power of a woman. I always believed that my father loved me more than my mother. But when she left us, I lost my father too…I am a man myself, but I could never understand why my mother’s absence affected his love for me. My father and mother replaced their spouses with people who are complete strangers to me. My father was my father; my mother was my mother. I never had to see them as each other’s spouses. But now, when I think of my parents, I have to think about those strangers too, who inhabit the intimate spaces in their lives, more than I can ever now. I cannot expect much from them. When I desperately want to get out of this jail, this thought crosses my mind, leaving me clueless...‘Where will I go if they free me?’ Then I get scared of freedom. I feel like begging for imprisonment a little longer. I feel wanted here. Yes, this must be the reason why they publish ‘Wanted’ notices for criminals. Criminals—the rejected isolates.

The identity of a criminal gives more of a sense of belongingness and safety to me than the identity of a son. My fellow criminals, even the jailors, seem like family, in the same way my

parents are part of some other families. I feel at home here. I feel accepted.

As I think about this, I suddenly have my doubts about Nisha.

Will she wait for me? What if she leaves me like my mother left my father and me? Suddenly my beautiful dream looks so futile. I discard the dream—which Nisha had shown me. Suddenly I find so much meaning inside these bars. I find trust here. Trust that I will never be unwanted here. I find stability. I’ll always remain a criminal here. Their behaviour will never change. I’ll always be charged with going close to the bars but I’ll never be barred. Things will never change.

I abort the dream. The dream won’t recur. What about Rehaan? He existed. He won’t now. Isn’t that murder? Erasing someone’s existence. Who says murder is always concrete?

When I think about that, I understand my father. I have no complaints—no complaints with anyone on earth. My eyes blur again. When the liquid flows, I see no sky, no wings, no blue, no white. I see me, bars, grey, rectangle and nothing else.

Published: 02-08-2015 08:50

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