Ranadip woke up...no he had woken up much before or even before that.He could never remember a moment when he was unconscious.It was a long long consciousnesses as far as he could remember it.There were no surprises here. Everything was pre-decided. Or so it seemed to him.
The sounds of the city gradually came floating in.His ears picked up a careless laughter, some shrill car horns, a guy screaming" benchod"..the etc and the etc...The sunlight pouring in through the window glass seemed stale -as it always did before he had brushed his teeth and taken his bath.He left his bed and went to his father's room.His father had again wet his bed and was babbling about something.(the constant babbling- while awake while asleep while on an outing) Ranadip helped him into his chair and then changed the bed cover. There was feces too in there.He put on his handkerchief like a surgeon and put polythene bags on his hands and proceeded to rub the mattress with a piece of cloth -removing the yellow stains as far as he could.
There was no other option.He could not wash the huge mattress and the housemaid would not put up with this shit.
His father just sat on the chair -panting and babbling.
The housemaid came at 9:30 am.He was already late for his office.He showed her the blankets-all she had to do was to put them in the washing machine, told her about his fathers afternoon medication-he had separated them and put them in a sachet.Then he went to his father
-Bye papa...going to office-don't go outside. and please take your medication.
and then to the housemaid-Don't forget the medicines masi
His father said-Where are you going?
-to the office papa...to the office...to the office ....masi lock the door.He went out.
Outside the heat was scorching.The commotion had grown into a din- a pool of auto rickshaw horns, the exhaling lorry engines,the blinding glitter of the sun from the edge of a car,the zeal of life in the swamp of faces busy in their clever bargaining.So many businesses, so many transactions so many levels of clever talks...so much to learn from all of these.So many details escaping our tired nerve ends already overloaded and bored.
Inside the bus he took a look at the girls around and then almost automatically his eye roved one or two of them.He imagined her naked on a bed, his hand resting on the smooth skin of her belly and slowly going downwards.She is smiling with an almost condescending smile.Once he used to imagine that getting a girl naked on a bed would peel off her last layers.And then they would be like children free of the burden of maturity and reason.There would be an end to that titillation inside of him.But his brief tenure of married life had shown him that there were other layers too..more deeper more impenetrable more slowly revealing.He was 38 years old and divorced since 5 years.They had produced no offspring.One more clever twist of fate to leave him out of the story.
Every time his marriage came to his mind, he would envy his father.His father was everything that he was not.He was shy, impotent(hence the no children), emaciated, barely five foot tall, with an overtly large forehead and a shaky demeanor.While his father was the very ideal of manhood.He loathed his father's bawdy jokes, his rowdy manners, his coolness in the company of ladies, his unwavering beliefs in his powers and to top it all off his sense of righteousness which he hated the most.He hated his mother's devotion to him while she was alive.Her constant pampering , her frequent remembrance of how handsome his father was when they had married.How they went to see Sholay for the upteenth time.She treated him like a baby even in his 30s....couldn't she see it?'That he was past the time of all of those heroic deeds and nothing like that had happened in his life . Couldn't she feel that all of this only reminded him of his deficiencies.?Of all the human beings on earth he loved his mother the most.But his father always came between them.It went as far back as his memory went.When he was a child, late at night his mother would leave his bed and go to his father's room.To have sex of-course.When on waking up he would not find his mother by his side, he would be inconsolable.He wanted her by his side constantly.He never could understand why his mother sometimes slept with his father ..that ugly man with a beard and a smell of guthka. While his mother was pure gentle and and his own property as all children feel.He would then feel rebellious and would not talk with her for a whole day..He felt he never understood the adult world of suave moves and indecipherable jokes.He never could get an entry to it. He felt the same rebelliousness even now in his 38th year. Still an outsider.Random images of his fathers's dick(now that he saw it everyday while changing his father's clothes), his wife's rump, his own little weenie kept coming to his mind.The threads that connect the holy family.
He left his office at 2 pm.When he reached his home he found the front door open.A hot wind from outside was swaying the balcony curtains.Patches of sun were sparkling on the beige walls along with shadows of foliage gently moving with the wind.All seemed so silent.The constant noise from the street was there but he was drowsy and the sound barely entered his ears.The coolness of spaces where the sun could not reach mixed with a dampness oozing a smell that assured him ..yes he was home.
He called - papa-papa.No answer.He searched the kitchen, the bedrooms the balcony. He searched everywhere. Then he heard some noise from the bathroom. He rushed there.
His father was scrubbing the feet of an ugly 5 year old boy-a street urchin. The boy had a box of Haldiram's Kaju barfi in his hand.
His father saw him and said-Look Ranadip who I found? ....Dadubhai(grandchild)..I found dadubhai....but he was so dirty and hungry from playing outside ..so I brought him home..and gave him some barfis.
Ranadip just stood there in amazement.The afternoon heat had lulled his responses.
His father was saying to the child- do you know that you are the prince.and how come being a prince you are so dirty?.a noble prince should not be so dirty ....this whole land is yours...come have some more sweets....I am just an old man but one day you will be king ..don't play on the outside anymore ..from now on you will play with me, your humble servant.
The child was terrified by Ranadip's presence and shook himself free of the old man and ran away.Then from the front door the child shouted -"Tera baap pagal hai"(your father is mad).
His father tried to run after the child but Ranadip held him back.Then he sat on the floor and kept saying-why have you sent him back? ..he has not bathed properly ..oh the little prince ...Why have you sent him back, Ranadip? call him back...he will get sick playing in that afternoon sun...please call him back.
His father started weeping.
His father whom he hated, his father who even in his old age seemed more well built than him, his father under whose shadow he had passed his unending infancy, his father to whom he compared his life(to the point of comparing their dicks) and always felt inferior ,his father whose shit he had to clean everyday.. in-spite of all these , there is something in us that does not want change.That still wants to serve the king.It broke his heart to see his father so helpless-senile and frail.
Ranadip took his father to the bed.When he calmed down Ranadip said
-I am sorry Papa..I am so sorry...Not sorry for this incident not sorry for my life. My pettiness, my doubts and confusions that grow like fungus at the damp corners of the flat.Do you know I wake up at night and wash the basin , the commode and then take a bath again?.But the fungus grows back instantly.So much ugliness so much needs to be cleaned.
But no papa that is not what I am sorry for.You don't know what happened on my way back from the office.
A truck hit a motorcycle killing a woman and her daughter on the spot while the husband and their son were luckily unhurt. They kept screaming for help but nobody came to help them.It went on for an hour.I was passing by that road on foot.But Papa, I could not gather the courage to help them papa.,I am sorry ,I was gripped by a fear so strong, that I just stood there immobile watching the last shreds of civilization disappear.It was a hole, Papa, I am sorry- , a hole in the fabric of our civilization- a single man fighting against the colossal sun that lighting up all the corners of the nakedness of our existence.I was weak papa, I was weak ..too weak to cover the hole.And I laughed like a madman at the idea that we may forget all speech from then on...because we have no name for the the hole ..the open cavity showing us the stars and the planets ...the cosmic dust -all lifeless and indifferent to us , the open cavity sucking all our speech, our society , our humanity, I am sorry papa, I am sorry papa, I used to think that only a sense of beauty could overcome all but it was not enough papa, it was not enough
While returning on the bus I had the recurring image of you slapping me.I could barely meet the eyes of people less so of any woman. And all my social life seemed sly like snakes mating in deep black pits of guilt, in search of easy love among the less intelligent-We are not kings and princes Papa...we are knaves and no heaven has been described for us...the doubtful"
His father had fallen asleep..He looked around the room-the curtain was still swaying but the breeze was cool now.Soon it will be evening.He was kind of feeling better.He felt that his body was betraying the grave thoughts inside of him. He tried to think of something else -yes after all these years he had the feeling that yes life indeed has surprises sometimes.