Thursday, November 25, 2010
Meeting The Mongoloid On The Moon
It was a full moon. In a clear sky. I wondered if he was looking at the moon too. Did he even remember his promise, made 10 years ago?
On the quiet road that leads to Chamundi hills, I would go for my evening walk. It was a narrow road flanked by tamarind trees on both sides. A lone road like a ‘Sphagetti dropped from heaven’. Beyond the trees were stretches of open fields and farms. On one side was Lalitha Mahal, white and majestic. On the other, was the Chamundi hill. And beyond all, in the west was the setting sun.
Retired men, young men and women and home makers, walked this road in the evening. But there weren’t too many of them.
Cyclists peddled to nearby villages. An occasional lorry passed, shearing the stillness of the atmosphere and sending the walkers to the mud trail off the gravel. For a while. After which they hopped back to the road which was all theirs, until the next lorry. City buses with people visiting Chamundi hills passed up and down, now and then, but not too often.
On the whole, it was serene and charming.
That was Mysore, ten years ago. It remains the same to this day. More or less.
A little after two kilometers of walking on this stretch, just before the uphill climb began, there was the Indus Valley Ayurvedic Centre on my right (IVAC). This was my stop. My only one. I would walk up to this, sit in front of its entrance for a while and start my march homewards.
By the way, this was part of my weight gaining program. It was meant to improve my appetite.
When I became conscious of the fact that I wasn’t drinking any water during this hour long walk, I made a slight change to my routine.
I would walk to the security boy guarding the entrance to IVAC and ask him for water.
He was a boy. Perhaps 18. Or 19. But no more than 20. He had Mongoloid features. I thought he was either from the North east or Tibet. I even asked him but I don’t remember now what he said. He was ebullient and talkative.
He would hand me a bottle. I would drink a little and return it with a ‘thanks’.
For the first few days, that was all; I would drink from the bottle, say thanks and return.
After this went on for a few days, we started talking. He asked me what I did, where I lived, and so on.
I asked him where he was from, how often he visited home and so on. We conversed in Hindi.
Once I became conscious of hygiene after some provocation from my father and asked the boy if the water was not 'jhootha' (had they drunk from the same bottle touching it to their mouth?) And I was assured it was not 'jhootha', with a smile. So I continued drinking his water.
Every day, I would find him at the entrance with the water bottle ready. He knew the usual time when I reached that spot and he was there to greet me.
If I did not go for my walk someday, he would ask me the next day where I had been and if all was well.
On certain days, when I did not find him at the gate, my eyes would search for him. Another guard would hand me the bottle and when I asked where this boy was, he would tell me that he had not come to work or something.
One fine day, I was invited for a tour of the campus by the security people. This was not the usual for them but since they saw me regularly, I became their chosen one.
I don’t remember if the boy was there at that time or not.
I went to the place in the next few days however, taking care to wear a proper dress and not my walking pyjamas. I had a tour of the campus, learnt that it was an exotic place with all kinds of Ayurvedic treatments. It was an expensive place. Someday, I thought, I would go back, when I could afford it all.
I shared a particular matter with the boy.
There had been this guy who had been following me on his bike everyday during my evening walk. He had never tried to talk to me, nor was he menacing. But he followed me nevertheless. He would slow down enough so I would take notice, so he could give me a knowing look and smile a half smile. And then he was gone.
On my return journey homeward, the same would happen.
Once in a way, I would find him sitting on a bench where the road turned, where I turned towards my stop. I knew he was looking at me and I would turn my head the other way.
I am not a person who shares my personal matters with people readily. And very seldom, I seek advice. But I know not why, I shared this incident with the boy and also asked him what I should do. To my surprise, the boy happened to be very thoughtful.
He said that the guy had shown definite interest in me but he had kept his distance and never come too close. He had not transgressed the limits of propriety and therefore I should not do anything yet.
Days passed. One day, when it was getting dark, the boy offered to walk with me some distance as it was not very safe. I agreed. As we walked, we chatted about this and that. And then when I said he should return to his post, he left reluctantly.
After that day, once in a way he would walk with me.
One fine day, he told me he was leaving. To his home town. Once for all.
On the last day, our last meeting, he gave me a letter, which he said I should open only after reaching home. Handing the letter to me, he said, "Whenever you want to meet me, look at the moon. I shall look at the moon too, and there, on the moon, our eyes will meet'. That’s how we will keep in touch.” And I agreed, smiling at his innocence.
I was touched to know such innocence still existed, unaffected by the 'practical ideas of communication and correspondence' of the modern day.
I walked home and put the letter on my wardrobe shelf. I did not open it for several days. It was there in front of me peering from the midst of papers, textbooks, clothes... I would think... tomorrow. I shall read it tomorrow. I don’t remember now whether I read it later at all or it remains unread to this day. I don’t know why I put it away... and if I have read it, I don’t remember the contents of it.
I never really looked at the moon after that day, intending to meet him.
He was just a security guard who gave me water to drink, whom I got used to, whom I liked as long as it lasted. And whom I forgot after a few days.
But today, as I look at the moon, I think of him and wonder if he remembers his promise, made in all sincerity and solemnity that evening. Is he still innocent like he was that day? Does he look at the moon, think of me and smile?