The spring in his step proclaimed his elation as loudly as a an announcement shouted from roof-tops.
Yes… he shouted mutely to himself, hugging a precious thought close. YES… he exulted, his heart brimming over. Yes was the only word he permitted himself. Yet it was not only a word. It was vindication, his future freed from its terrible shackles. It was an unobstructed road ahead, it was the fizz in his blood rushing madly to his head.
He walked taller, his eyes focused in the distance, sweeping unseeing over the heads of those ahead of him on the road. Although he was walking along a crowded footpath in a congested market area, he could see no one. He walked alone in his mind, proud as the Emperor of the universe.
Slowly his eyes glassed over, filmed by an opaque memory. A frown drove vertical ridges between his brows. His grin lost its mirth. The mouth remained stretched making him look as if he was baring his teeth malevolently at an invisible adversary.
Homeless..! he jeered, ridiculing himself, egging his flared temper to a white heat. He wanted to get mad, crazy angry. Angry enough to kill- or to cause to be killed. As long as the end is achieved. He grinned at the pun- pleased.
He left home that day carrying nothing but the clothes on his back and his wallet. In the last two months, he had gone from living in cheap hotels to sleeping in abandoned doorways and park benches. From eating the worst of the thali meals to barely being able to afford 2 cups of tea a day and a packet of biscuits. His clothes were grimy. When he couldn’t bear his own stench he bribed the waiting room attendant at the railway station to let him bathe.
With his mother passing away and sister immigrating to Australia immediately afterwards, there was just HE- the father- and him left in their big flat. His sister had told HIM she will never return. But she gave him her email ID, just incase. She wiped them both from her mind before she boarded the plane.
He didn’t blame her. He too wished to be far from HIM. Neither of them had understood the relationship between their parents. It was never love, but nor was it hate. They fought with a homicidal bitterness. Yet if either he or his sister dared to interfere, they would both turn on the kids. No matter how they fought with each other, for everyone else they were one. They cursed each other and hurled filthy abuses, yet couldn’t stay away from each other even for a night.
HE interacted with them on a compulsion-to-interact basis. HE had an impregnable wall around him which only his wife could breach. When they fought, she was the dominant partner. It was as if she was compensating and balancing out the docility she displayed at other times.
After his sister left, he focused on gaining expertise as a landscape designer specializing in Japanese styles. The biggest resource he had found to help him hone his skills was the internet. His specialization had led him to an online forum. Inevitably, he acquired a net life- and net friends.
HE never understood his obsession with the net. HE assumed his son’s friendships were a sham to cover up hormone-driven urges. Of all the things that HE hated, if was his single-minded absorption when he was online that irked HIM the most. HE felt as if HE had turned invisible to his son. Never having spoken to him much, HE was unable to speak even now. It is in undisturbed corners of a silent mind that resentment breeds fastest. HE remained silent, while the acid within grew more potent everyday.
Then the big bang happened. A lifetime of hearing bitter arguments between his parents had not prepared him for the onslaught of HIS attack. To hear things being said to someone else and to hear them said to you are two entirely different things. He became numb with shock and left without a word. Only, all of HIS acid was now sloshing about inside him. The heat of his temper had concentrated that acid in two months.
Day before yesterday he had grudgingly spent ten bucks to check his mail at a cyber-cafe. The break-through he was waiting for had come at last. The Japanese-American wife of the owner of a chain of hotels posted a request on the forum asking a designer to meet them immediately. The owner was very keen to have extensive and beautifully landscaped gardens. He was to meet the hotelier a week later.
After he finished at the cyber-cafe, he left. He had barely gone down the stairs when the boy managing the cyber-cafe came running and handed him a back-pack saying he had forgotten it on the floor beside his chair. Before he could protest, the boy turned and sped back- leaving him holding the bag.
He found the bag belonged to a student. When he found a Self cheque made out to an amount of 45 thousand rupees, he couldn’t believe his eyes…! He dumped the bag on a park bench and early next morning got the cheque cashed. He now had forty thousand cash and a printout in a sealed brown paper envelope. He ducked into the grubby mutton shop. A few simple sentences, the handing over of the envelope and he was out.
He clinched the deal with the hotelier and began work a week later. He paid another visit to the mutton shop giving them the site address. He lay hidden in the cab of the JCB machine when he saw two men bring a big gunny-sack and bury it deep into the soil where the trees were to be planted.
He sent his last email to his sister that night.
Plants grow well when Vitamin M has been added to the soil- was all he wrote.
**Pictures from the internet