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Glaring Shadow - A stream of consciousness novel
“If not ingrained in concern, love is a flippant emotion, which is of no avail to the loved ones,” he began proroguing as a prelude to his recall of his life and times. “More than the outer manifestations of love, it is one’s inner feelings that further the cause of the loved ones. But we tend to take the spendthrift spouse as a personification of love and the prudence of a caring parent as an indication of its absence. Don’t we also see families better off for the premature death of their profligate heads? Yet, wonder how man comes to perceive that without him, his family would be vulnerable in the rough and tough of life! It’s nothing but man’s vanity, which won’t allow him to either live or die in peace.”
“How unfair it is for the fair sex that man associates vanity with women.”
“But then isn’t it a man’s world?” he said. “Well, my grandfather for all his love for us lacked the wisdom of care to match it. Maybe impelled by his love to make us richer or goaded by his greed to accumulate wealth, he took to the perilous course of usury, unsuited though for the calling he being a weakling. Lo, he sold all the landholding to raise capital for his high interest lending. While he lived chasing the mirages of usurious returns, after he died, my father was left staring at the principal amount as bad debt. Well, it was like he had pulled the rug that carried the weight of his unsettled family from under my father’s feet. Perhaps my father would have better reconciled with his ruin had the old man gambled away the money or womanized with it; maybe that would have been a source of perverted pride for us in our diminished position.”
“Deprivation for a cause is a gain by itself while purposeless loss is a double jeopardy of life.”
“Anyway, my dad didn’t give a damn but tried to be on his own as Lipton’s salesman,” he continued. “How he lifted our family from the ruins makes a saga of its own; well he was a capable man by any measure. When he was all set to start a loose tea business after his retirement from the service, he was undone by the cancer in his food pipe. What with death staring at him in the face and the terminal pains making life unbearable for him, he wailed not over his fate but that his father spoiled it for his progeny. That the future well-being of his family bothered him more than his impending death moved me no end, and I told him it made no sense worrying over something that he did not bother about all along. Oh, how he suffered those terminal pains?”
His eyes turned moist to start with only to turn into a deluge in due course, which prompted me to offer him my handkerchief.
“These days,” he continued regaining control over his emotions, “as I see myself in the mirror, I feel I am very much like him, and so he on his deathbed looked like a replica of his father. Why, there was no seeming resemblance between them until then. Maybe, towards the end, man goes back to his roots in other ways too. Well if only Satish was born by then, maybe my father’s love for his grandson would have enabled him to keep death at bay for that much longer. Why it was his love for me that let my grandfather recover from a paralytic stroke to stand erect all again. When he suffered the stroke, I was away studying engineering in B.I.T, Mesra, and by the time I reached home and rushed to him, he had been in the hospital for a week. As I approached the entrance of that general ward, I met his stare from within, and how his eyes glowed as they espied me! Maybe, the glint in my eyes catalyzed the spark in his eyes, ensuring the miracle, whereby he walked out of the hospital in a week! If the miracles of the Christ were to be true, I think that they owed more to his empathy for man than to his being the Son of God. But then his grandson’s perceived depravation might’ve pained my father no end adding to his misery, and besides of what avail enduring those cancerous pains. Well whenever I think of my grandfather, I recall the nurse who never took off her eyes from me.”
“What has life come to as kids grow up without grandma’s tales and grandpas live without grandchildren’s love?”
“The saving grace of our life was that Satish and his family stayed with us,” he said. “Maybe it’s the birth that shapes life for fate to guide us into the grave, or is it fate that governs the birth for life to follow the set course, we would never know. Whatever the package of life is such that one has fulfillments to cherish and disappointments to live with that is from the childhood itself. But it’s the balance of mind that makes it even for man at every stage of life that is hard to achieve any way. Why as a poor man’s child, you have nothing, and as a rich man’s brat, you have more than plenty, and either way it’s no cradle of balance. Maybe middle-class birth is more conducive for equivalence as it enables one to learn the lessons of life early on for one to have a better perspective of it later on. When I was fourteen, ‘Liberty’ introduced ready-made apparels in India and my father wanted to buy a pair or two for me, though he himself wore that ill-tailored stuff; why, those days, unlike in the North, the tailoring standards were ever so appalling in the South. But my mother thought it was unwise to habituate me to such costly things not knowing what the future held for me. What a pragmatic approach it was! But as I climbed up the ladder of wealth, I lost sight of all the values of life that she imbibed in us all. By the way, as man has come to barter his liberty for servitude for mundane gains, the hallowed brand, like many old values, had lost its appeal to the crassness of the masses, especially the political class. It’s high time that we pay heed to the prophetic words of the American Judge Leonard Hand, who said that “Liberty lives in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.”
“Maybe but sadly nowadays parents expose their kids to riches even before they barely open their eyes.”
“I say out of misplaced love?” he said, and continued with his recap. “It was seldom that any visited us, as reaching our village involved crossing the Godavari by boat, the prospect of which scared our relatives from the uplands. As if to let me develop some foresight in our remote village, my father bought me binoculars that summer, oh how thrilling it was seeing the far off things so close-by. It was my wont to go to sleep keeping it by my side, but as I woke up that afternoon, I found a stranger of my age fiddling with it, and like a champion long jumper, I leaped up to the trespasser to lap up my treasure. Caught unawares by the assault, he floored the thing in confusion, and aghast at seeing it broken, I went into frenzy even as he fumbled apologies. Catching him by the hair, I made a punch bag out of his lean frame; and having gathered his wits, he returned the compliment with suitable indignation. Our fight for nothing brought the elders to intervene to affect a cease-fire and to begin the introductions (he was Raju my third cousin). Seeing me unremitting in my lament, his father promised me a replacement, and gave him a befitting thrashing. As I ceased crying at that prospect, he bemoaned in humiliation. But when my father admonished his father and took him into his fold, feeling soothed, he extended his hand to me. Like my father and his cousin before us, we too became great chums, well that was before my false sense of outgrowing made me snub him later on in life. Oh, how callous I became even towards his death.”
With his eyed welled up, he paused as though he was observing silence in the memory of the lost one.
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