About the Author :

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Hey!! This is Philoanna a.k.a Arundhati Chaudhuri.. This is my blog spot, so i wouldn't really want to describe myself here, because I would like my work to speak for myself. I hope you enjoy reading my blog posts and don't forget to drop a comment after you finish reading my works, because I would love to have your criticism, and aim for your appreciation. Also, share your ideas and perspectives with me on the topics I've written on if you'd like to =) Happy Reading! " How fortunate are you and I whose home is timelessness: we who have wandered down fragrant mountains of eternal now; to frolic in such mysteries as birth and death a day ( or maybe even less )" - e.e cummings

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Feet on the ground

Childhood, the best days of someone's life. My childhood is simply no exception. It was a painting of beautiful vibrant colors with patches of grey; which had taught me important lessons of life in simplest ways, made me sensitive to the unfortunate circumstances that grip our life, and above all perceive life in a fairly different way from everyone else's.

Even though my father was a brilliant student who had passed out of the Indian Institute of Science with a M.Tech Degree in Computer Engineering and a scholarship, our financial conditions were difficult because of various reasons which I would rather not discuss here. So, basically, what I meant to convey through the previous sentence was that my childhood was not adorned with luxury and pampering, I was never given extra chocolates or objects which could bring me satisfaction when I did something wonderful to surprise or bring a smile on my family's lips.

We lived in damp yellow government buildings in Belgachhia, Kolkata. It looked old and ruined, and frankly, it was home to the middle class of the society. The middle class who spit on the roads while walking. The middle class who have no manners at all and yell in public areas like its their own living room. The middle class who have absolutely no sense of fashion at all. The middle class who don't dress up gaudily because their self image is not a concern for them at all. The middle class who never attend lavish parties, and bargain for the fish in the fish market to buy an extra pack of sweets for their toddlers while going back home. The middle class who understand and value life, and live it the way it should be !

Dad and I used to go for sunday shoppings early in the morning, when the machh-wala and sabzi-walas called out to us from their stalls. I knew all of them just not by faces but by names too, and we almost had a normal chit-chat in the morning.
" Pinki aaj ki nebe? " ( "What will Pinki buy today? ") The phool-mashi called out to me with the flower basket on her head. I still remember her orange soda glasses covering her greying eyes, and her yellow broken-toothed warm smile.
" Pink phool ta dao na mashi," I replied politely. ( Give me the pink flowers, auntie.)
She always stuck the flowers in my pigtails that hung by the side of my plump face in a loving manner. Maybe thats the reason, I still remember her.

Another one of my favorite shopkeepers was the man in the stationary store- Shubodh kaku. His store was a small wooden stall which I now wonder how he fitted in amidst all the books, papers and pencils. As I was too tiny to see the amusing things that were inside, I used to climb up and sit on the counter while he showed me whatever I pointed at. Ocassionally, he even gave me a few free candies on the way back home. The last time I met him four years back, he had turned grey and aged from the dusky tall man that he was. But he still remembered my name!

When I hopped back home, or rode back in my father's red hero honda bike, we always stopped for a balloon. The best days were when it rained- I still believe that Kolkata rains are much better than the Bangalore Monsoon Showers. The skies sometimes turned pale yellow right before it rained, and sometimes there would be a terrific hailstorm or a kal baisakhi while it rained buckets. I would fling my arms and turn round and round in my balcony, screaming, " Rain Rain go away! Come again another day! Lil Pinki wants to play, " while my mother tried her best to hush me up, and the stares of the neighbours from the windows only rushed my adrenaline more.

The balcony was my playroom. When I played " Teacher Teacher," my mother's numerous plants were my students whom I indifferently hit with a wooden stick, while my mother came up frantically running to the balcony trying to explain to me how plants have life. Then I would shed a few tears, and switch to playing " Kitchen Kitchen," where I would fill my lilliput sized utensils with the mud from the plant pots, and add substantial amounts if water to it to cook my curry meals. There was a blind singer accompanied by his small son who came near our houses and sang for money. I had heard him singing the same song for almost seven years, and we used to throw coins wrapped in paper and rubber band after he was done. He had a beautiful voice.. he probably would have earned a lot more if America had come out with American Idol much much earlier.

Near our house, was a small lake. Bengali's call it a jhil.. i dont really know how to translate it in the exact terms in English. There was a cute little bridge adjoining it to the railway quarters where the lower strata of the society who helped us with the menial works at home resided. I had often wandered off to the quarters while roaming in the park or playing hide and seek with my friends by the lake, but after a few mishaps, I started visiting that place on my own. I loved watching them, watching their lifestyle, those children who asked for a better life continuously.

I watched them live in their tinned homes, with plastic covers sheltering them from the rain and harsh conditions of the weather. I noticed how so many many family members share a ten feet room to live, to survive, to eat and spend each day.. some with a smile on their faces, and some who smile and hide their tears which overflow only at night. I played with the slum children, even though I was humiliated for the clothes that I was wearing, which obviously differentiated me from all of them. So when I did the least that I could- take off my slippers, they looked at me strangely for a few seconds, and asked me, " Ki khelbe?" ( " What will you play?") and we played till the sun set in the evening sky, and the birds flapped their wings to return to their nestlings perched in the big branched trees.

We had continued playing for many more years, and I had taught them the alphabets when I was learning the same. It was a give and take relationship, though I believe I took a lot more than what I could've possibly given back. Because of my close relationships with them, I started understanding their way of life, the universal secrets of life and love.

I heard stories of inter-communal marraiges being treated with disgust- so much so, that the bride was put on fire a week after her marraige. I heard stories of young love, where they had eloped away from home to be in each others arms forever only to find out that love can be never be forever, when the man left his wife and their children for younger attractive women with money. I heard aching stories of how the mothers taught their little children to choose the food thrown into the garbage for their meals, when there was no money at home. I heard disturbing stories of how their older tinned houses were demolished by the Government because they wanted the city to have a proper infrastucture, and they were left on the streets with each other and plastic sheets.

I heard stories of how a mother left her child after giving birth to her because she knew she couldn't take care of her anyway, and she didn't want to see her die in front of her own eyes. I heard stories of how unemployment had driven the men in the family to commit suicide. More and more stories- which made me mature at a very young age. Of course, I don't show the mature intellectual side of mine very openly to the public, but nevertheless, these images and discussions that I've been a witness to in my childhood days, have made me into the sensitive and sensible person that I am today.

We had a fiat, and a red hero honda bike which was mentioned earlier in this note. After a few years during our stay in Kolkata, we bought a white maruti 800. Even though we had the fiat, my dad used to go to office in his bike. He said it could make him fly through the traffic and park anywhere he wanted to. When my dad returned home, he honked thrice and I would run down the four storeys to greet him and be gifted with his precious daddy hug. He used to put me to sleep by telling me stories of " The Good Giant", a masterpiece of fiction created entirely by him. I loved listening to his stories which revolved around all the wonderfully magical things in life, and sadly I haven't grown up too much in this area, I still look out for the same things in life.

Mummy and me used to go for shoppings in the afternoon sometimes. Sometimes we went to Park Street, New Market and feel enchanted at the glimpse of the beauty of plenty of foreigners strewn on the roads. Sometimes, we went to Shyambazaar, where you can bargain and yell at the shopkeepers and get things for half price. We rode the bus everytime we went to Shyambazaar, and mummy would hold me tight as i sat on her lap during the ride. When I started getting heavier, it started getting even more advantageous for me. I got a whole seat and took pride in sitting in the lady's section. There were many passengers who pulled my cheek, sweet-talked me, asked me questions, told me stories- and my mom says I haven't changed. I was just as comfortable as talking or rather rambling to strangers just as I am now.

Today, we have a four bedroom apartment in one of the most posh localities of Kolkata. We live in our fairly decent two bedroom apartments in Bangalore. Of course, we aren't filthy rich as many of the people I've seen till now, we aren't even moderately rich with a bathtub and a huge living room; but things have changed. But I am not sure, if they really are for the good, because in a way, I feel like I'm growing a part of me which never existed, and I'm losing a part of me which had accompanied me for the past eighteen years.

I feel jealous at times, when I see the huge houses people live in, I crave for a pizza every now and then, I AM in fact, wasting my parent's money when I go to college, sit on the last bench with my friends and do everything other than listen to the teacher. I ask for more and more, and I'm unsatisfied to quite an extent with what I have. I demand an ipod, a bike, more clothes of my choice. I throw tantrums when I'm not allowed to go for parties, or stay out with my friends.. but then I remind myself, I'm losing myself. Its not their fault.. Its mine.

Why should I feel insecure about my biggie room when I've seen people living on the streets, their home marked by the mat they are resting on? Why should I crave for pizzas when there are millions of children who go to sleep without a single meal? Why should I go to college and not concentrate in my studies, when there are so many others whose dream is to get educated and live respectfully? Why should I demand an ipod, when the only source of their entertainment is the broken radio which the madam was throwing away? Why should I ask for a bike when they have serviced bikes all their life, but have never ever had the luck of riding on one? Why should I feel unsatisfied with my many many clothes, when their ceremonial dress is a stitched rag?

" He is the richest, who has fewest wants." A quote I first read in Little Women- Louisa May Alcott in the eighth grade. It is so easy for us to become a slave to money, so hard to not get influenced in this world of wordly pleasures. So hard to forget our roots, and get blinded and distracted by the crowd, that we start walking towards a different destination altogether. So hard to keep our heads held high when we are in financial crisis and so easy to forget it all when we are back with those wads of paper notes in our wallet.

And then I ask myself, " Why does money make us so inhuman?"
I had always hated money. Yes, I could not have been able to survive without it in the modern world, but its contribution to life is very disgusting and insignificant according to me. It snatches the joy, beauty, passion of life. It turns life into this grey lie which makes us believe that everything- including people, objects, schools, love, every single thing can be bought! It turns us into heartless people who are insensitive and indifferent to the extreme conditions of men and women, and who continue to live their high-class life with more pretensions.

As I pass by the slum right outside SunCity, the Ibbalur Village - I see a scene I had seen years ago, that of poverty. I smile at the little children, and they smile back at me. Some don't, because they are skeptic and suspicious, I find it very natural too. As I get onto the 342F for reaching Christ College, I see a little girl dressed in a beautiful red dress crying her eyes out, while her mother hushes and diverts her mind by showing her an empty dairy milk wrapper. She stops wailing for a few seconds, but then she starts again. She looks at me for a quick second, and her dark kohled eyes gets me mesmerized. Innocense, beauty, wonder! I smile to myself unknowingly, being reminded of how I travelled in similar busses when I was a baby.

The bus halts at the Christ College bus stop. I walk past the temple- a white haired grandmother wearing a greenish yellow saree with a basket of white jasmine in front of her is seated by the side of the road. I walk past her wondering if it were the South Indians who have turned me off my desire to ornament my hair with sweet smelling flowers.

I go to the Ivy Hall to buy a few essentials. The Uncle who always gives candies instead of coins for change, wrapped my bought items in a paper bag. Out of habit, I started reading the paper bag while I was going up the stairs. I stopped. It was an old news of how the servants quarters near National Games Village had been demolished by the Bangalore Municipal Corporation. I was reminded of the apartments, I remember it because we travelled the road several times during our first five years of stay in Bangalore, Koramangala. Also, because, it had a close resemblance to our earlier Kolkata residence, the one I had stayed in during my childhood; though- I have to admit that our complex was in a better condition.

Anyways, I was flooded with memories of how I had noticed the green walls, the tiny windows, the women talking on the staircase wearing nighties, the children running around the scorched buildings from my car window everytime we passed by the quarters. A deep pang of pain jolted down my veins, as I started feeling how terribly insecure and afraid they must have felt when their abode were demolished without any prior notice. Suddenly, a hand gripped my shoulder, shaking me off my reverie.
" Dreaming in the morning also?" she asked, giggling.
" I am a dreamer. Hey, isn't there a song like that? " I asked focusing my attention to scan through the imagined song list in my computer. She blowed on her hot coffee and took a careful sip.

I smiled to myself. " Thank God for keeping my feet on the ground. Afterall, I haven't changed much, and I don't even want to. I love myself just the way I am," I thought to myself, smiling a little more.

" So who is the guy?" she asked, poking me and raising her eyebrows.
" Huh?" I asked confused. " Dudeeeee !! "

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Disturbed Song of Melancholy

My hands are shivering,
I'm freezing,
The pain is making me numb,
I have to succumb.
Distorted reality,
My vision's turning blurry,
I am choking on my tears,
Living in constant fear.

The blade digs deeper,
My skin breathes slower,
Wine red blood crawling slow,
A black and white rainbow.
The music is dying,
I can only hear the screaming,
Dark memories are revisiting,
My head, no, my heart is aching.

My emotions have drained,
My clothes are blood-stained,
Suppressed memories resurface,
I guess they were never erased.
I reach for the bottle,
Is this dose lethal?
As long as I forget,
There's nothing to fret.

The colors are blinding me,
Or am I just dreamy?
I can hear you calling me,
But I know its only insanity.
The lights above me are melting,
I feel the heat, its burning,
Your hazy face in the distance,
God's another act of vengeance?

Tears stream down my face,
Why are you so hard to efface?
Every morning I say a prayer,
Every night it ends in a nightmare.
I'm delusional, I'm paranoid,
I'm broken, I'm destroyed.
I put on a mask and live a lie,
A life of denial and wry.

Ephesians 4:32- The Holy Bible,
The tickle of cold metal,
The cross on my sweaty palm,
My skin deep wound balm.
My suffering has battered me,
Enlightened me, bettered me,
But I still walk silently in darkness,
For a healing of blitheness.

I know that I will oneday,
Speak the words left unsaid,
Wipe the tears off glum faces,
Lend my comfort to those in bruises.
But, till then-
Will I have to bear this bane?
Will noone feel my pain?
Do I have to play this game?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Did we know we were in Love?

Kolkata summers. You and me . At least, that has never changed. How did it start?

When we were little and innocent we used to walk hand in hand, yet the nosy Bengali people wouldn't stare. They would smile and we would smile to each other, and start fighting when you pulled my pig tail or I pinched you unexpectedly. We used to play hide and seek,and I would always follow you, hide with you in the darkness, sit close to you- feel your warm breath. Did we know what love was?

Once there was this guy mocking me and you looked so angry. You asked me to walk away with you, but I stood there, trying to look strong and smart. He hurled at me, " Who's ever going to marry you?" and you answered within a flying second, " I will." I looked into your eyes and there were flames of anger leaping in your eyes, or was it an undefined passion? I didn't know.

We didn't meet for two years. I came to Bangalore because my dad was transferred and your parents sent you to Hyderabad to study. When I saw you after two years I couldn't keep my eyes off you! You had changed so much - physically! Your hair, your build, and the way you walked, you talked.. everything looked so different and charming! 7th std was when I had started crushing on you..

I dont know why, but I felt really shy to talk to you. I used to avoid you, quickly walk away when I spotted you and act silly around you, but I always prayed you never realize. Once I was sitting alone in the park and you came up and sat next to me. It was weird to feel like this when you were just sitting beside me- inches away from me, when we had slapped each other, physically fought rolling over each other and hugged each other tightly a few years back.

There was a power cut- its very common in Calcutta in the summer days, and there was pitch darkness all around with the delighted screams of the children. The stars were twinkling above, bright and blessed. You asked me if I would walk with you. I asked you sheepishly, " in the dark? " We walked and my thoughts grew with every step I took beside you. How did you change so much? Did everything change forever? Why did we have to grow? Do you like someone? Are we never gonna do the things we had before, again? I didn't know the answers to any of those.

You had taken my number. When I came back to Bangalore, I used to wait for your calls. I felt you would call me, how would I know that you're ex best friend wouldn't matter to you at all when you have so many girls who love your company, and you can derive much more than plain friendship with them? You never called. I wondered why you even took my number in that case. Was I just another girl to you now? i felt it was better to feel nothing than feel pain. I decided to not exchange a word with you the next time we meet.

And that's what I did. I used to feel your eyes following me when I ignored you out of everyone and spoke to everyone around you, except for you. I used to watch you flirting with two other girls, and I used to boil with jealousy. How could you abandon me like that? How can you forget how close we were, how inseparable and similar we were? How we understood each other even without words, how we shared solace and comfort in each others presence? But now, all you seemed to want was the attention and smiles of girls with slim waists, and a " hot" body!

I met you on the elevator while going downstairs one evening. We didn't speak. When I went home, I cried. I didn't come down to play or chit chat with the rest of my friends for three more days. The next time I come to Kolkata, he would want me, I told myself. But he wouldn't get me! Self consolation helped me a bit, and even though I seemed not to exist in his world, my day dreams used to offer me some unexplainable strength.

It was magic the next summer I saw you. I dont know how that had happened. You had starting taking drugs along with the packs of tobacco you consumed everyday. Your diluted eyes had the tenderness of being unloved and misunderstood, your confident gait was now marked by disappointment in life. The first time we spoke after almost two years, you were sitting on a bench inhaling solvents. Your speech was slurred, and you looked dreamily into my eyes.

My heart broke everytime I saw you like that. It hurt me to think I could do nothing but watch you drown in your sorrow. Your best friend, a Korean guy liked me. One evening, we were sitting together- you, me and your korean friend and talking just like we always did. I had returned from the swimming pool after a lousy swim, and my wet hair was flying in the Kal Baisakhi breeze. I sensed something wrong was going to happen. Your eyes were downcast filled with mounds of unspoken pain. I wondered what had broken you down in a year, who had hurt you so much, and I felt angry on the inside.Blood was angrily rushing through my veins.

Your Korean friend, lets call him "TE" was busy throwing numerous compliments to me which astonished me.We went to TE's place for the band practice. There was a lot of booze and drugs in his apartments. He lived alone with his darling drum set and " hawth" girls who frequently visited him in his apartments. Generally, you and me would always walk out of his apartment together, but this time you left me alone. You said you have tutions and you didn't wait for me despite all my requests. I had never realized till then how much I trusted you, how much I depended on you and how completely safe and secure I felt when you were around me!

Your friend asked me out that day. I trembled and shivered and did not know how to escape the situation. I came out of his apartment after an hour, still shivering and feeling used and guilty. I went home and called you. I couldn't tell you everything because my mom was around. You kept asking me repeatedly, with nervousness if he's hurt me. I told you that he didn't. I couldn't sleep the whole night because you were calling on the intercom to know if i was fine and my mom made a scene and broke the phone and horrid nightmares invaded my mind and sleep for the rest of the night.

When we met the next evening, you were so concerned about me. I could see it in your eyes. Eyes are very brutal in revealing the truth, and the way you looked at me gave me the feeling of being loved, the feeling I'd never felt just by simply staring into someone's eyes before. Your eyes twinkled when you looked at me, and I felt that it sparkled only for me and noone else. I felt like I had started loving you, did you ever feel like you were in love?

When the boys were talking to each other, dressed in their baggy shorts and sleeveless tees, I could feel your eyes looking at me. Of course, I pretended to not notice. When they hobbled along kicking the ball and cheering as the wind danced around us, you sat with me. Only you and me, and we didn't speak . But this silence did not make me cry. It made me feel that we'd bonded once again, the connection was still alive, and even in the numb silence I could feel your emotions gnawing through my skin and speaking to my heart. No, I didn't tell you that I loved you, because I thought you already knew..

I was somehow lucky to not wait for a whole year to meet you again. We had decided to spend the Christmas in Kolkata. I had confessed to my little nine year old brother about how I like you, and innocent that he is, he went and told you all about it, exaggerating even more to make me more uncomfortable. Then it all started. The phone calls, the messages, the flirting, and everything else that generally comes with the package. We even managed to make some terrific unforgettable memories!

One evening when my parents were away, you decided to pay me a visit. Nervously I chewed on my addicting polo and turned on the volume of the television high just to sound busy when you ring the bell. My hands were sweating, because I knew as a matter of fact, that you would finally express your feelings for me. I knew you were shy and scared of relationships, just as I was. But I also knew that you trusted me more than any other girl in this planet.

We sat on the bed, my heart pounding with excitement as your eyes bore into mine and I got lost in them. I still remember the blue jacket that you wore over the white tee.
" Your hands are so thin now," you said, looking serious like an examiner.
" When did you ever look at my hands before? " I giggled.
" Arre.. you were so fat na before," and you clicked your tongue guiltily. " Fat maane, plump. You used to look cute that time, with those two pig tails , " you giggled. I giggled along.
We seemed to absorb some silence again.
" I had a major crush on you, you know? " you said, looking up at me. I saw the honesty in your eyes.
" Really? But YoU were the one who hooked me up with your best friend !! " I screamed. He was used to my fits. Any other guy would have been shaken a bit out of their place, but you remained calm.

" You guys had the same tastes in music. You like all those metal bands, and you used to talk about all that. I thought you like him!, " he said casually, but disappointment strained his voice.
" I liked you all the time. " I said softly. He came closer, to take a closer look at me. " I like you from eighth standard, " I practically whispered.
Unfortunately, God has made my life extremely entertaining, that it stupifies myself! I wonder if He has scripted such a creative, and happening drama only for my life or everyone else's. Anyways, to break the ice, the bell rang. It was 11 PM. No, it was not my fault. My parents said they would come back after midnight!

To make this infinitely long story a little shorter, I suggested you to hide in the toilet, while I kept visiting it by giving the excuse of having loose motions to my parents. When fear was knocking on my rib cage, my heart loudly thumping, I asked you to climb down the pipes to your floor. We used to try that when we were young, but we always tried climbing up, never climbing down. I hugged you tight before I opened the window, and we felt each others warm comforting touch after five long years. The moment was so magical and uplifting that I wished it always remained still, but panic was gripping me .

You said you cant climb down from the 8th floor of my apartments to yours on the 5th because the view looked scary, but you did remain outside in the freezing cold for about 45 minutes- only your hind resting on the railings that were an extension to the toilet, a mere architectural design in basicality. When I opened the window to let you in, I was praying that you dont slip, because then .. I rather not say it. Your hands were numb and icy cold and I realized how much you loved me and to what extent you could go to protect me. That night I felt I finally found my soul mate- the love of my life.The night brought happy dreams of us after the frightful event.

We drank from goblets of precious everlasting love for the one week that I stayed there. But, yes, a but again! I was wrong, it probably wasn't everlasting. You broke up with me within three weeks and I found out you were in a relationship with someone for the past seven months. It must be hard to believe, but forgiving you was easier than even what I'd expected. Was it because I was loving you unconditionally? I dont know, but I knew with all my heart that you loved me, whoever you were with, and you would for the rest of your life, just as I would!

So even though I didn't speak to you for two months because I'd promised to stay out of your life in my insane anger, I cried myself to sleep thinking about you, and dreamt about you every single night. Inspite of all the faults in you, I felt were you were so perfect for me. You always understood me, protected me, made me feel secure and made me smile. Every moment spent with you would count as something I'd want to cherish forever.

Your love for children and animals, your respect for elders, your deep husky voice, your philosophical thoughts and views which very few are aware of, your firing wild imagination and creativity, your intellect and personality, your immaturity and adorable side of your character drew me more and more towards you. I basked in heaven just by thinking about you, how your eyes shone when you looked at me, how perfectly our hands clasped one anothers in the heavenly bond of love.

I knew I couldn't stay without you, but when you called me up one night past 1 AM, I realized that you were having a hard time without me too. Did you know you were in love? I didn't. I wanted to shove it aside thinking that I'm simply attracted to you, which was probably stronger because of the lovely unforgettable times we had in our childhood. Not once did it strike me that it really was love, even though we frequently expressed our love for each other.


Then when did I realize that I really love you?

About two months back.

December 7th, 2009 was the last time we spoke. You were high again, and I tried supporting you to the best of my ability, and it only resulted in tears being shed from my side. You have no idea how much it hurts when I hear you like that , your words incoherent and mixing with the others, along with the huffing noise I can hear of you inhaling the drug. I'd begged you so many times with tears draining from my eyes, as I frantically pleaded you to stop. You always promised me that you would, but by the next hour, you would forget it all.

This 7th of December was very similar to those episodes, but different enough to make me write this which I had never done for the past years. It was the first time I lost my temper with you, and the first time you hung up on me. With the sinful ego that I have, I waited for you to call me for weeks and I didn't want to give in and call you myself. After a few weeks, I receive a message from ex girlfriend, the one you had two timed me with ,(and dumped because you realized you love me? - at least that's what you told me) asking if I know anything about your whereabouts!

That's when I broke down. That's when I started counting days, and giving you endless missed calls, sending numerous messages each day, and emails trying to tell you how sorry I was for the fight, for mis understanding and giving up on you. On December 31st, I gave you the most number of missed calls. I thought you would be allowed to go home from the rehab for celebrating the new years eve, but I guess there are no holidays in rehabs, just like there are no cell phones, TV, telephones and computers there.

One month passed by. I started remembering how anxious I had grown the last time you had gone to the rehab. As usual you didn't tell me in advance because you thought it would hurt me, but you had returned within a week. I thought this time, it would probably take a month. But it took more. Another month passed by. I started growing impatient and frustrated. I knew you needed help, and I knew it was very fortunate of you to get treated, but I wanted you, I needed you so badly. I always thought I gave you hope and strength, I wonder how I failed to see how much of strength and courage you gave me.

My friend told me that rehab terms are generally for three months, six or one whole year. I waited for another month to pass by, expecting to hear your voice, to share my thoughts with you, to tell you those things I can never tell anyone else, to hear you crack your silly jokes, hear you strum your guitar and sing for me, and to hear you say that you love me, you need me, and you want to live your life with me... But no, March 7th, I called you without any success. I was hoping to talk to you before my Boards, but ..

You had told me once, " Remember how I was shit scared for Computer exams and I called you up? I'll call you up before every exam so that you dont get scared. "
" I'll fail in every subject then!" I had laughed.
" No," you said in that cute adamant tone, " Why will you? If you have doubts, I can help you also na! I wont let anything bad happen to you, I love you the most!"

Sometimes you asked me if I believed you when you say that you love me. I never replied to your question, but I did believe you. Now I wish I could answer you, hear you. I always find silence very uncomfortable when I'm present with others, but with you, silence was so precious and beautiful. We used to paint a picture of our hidden thoughts and secrets and transform it into silence, which only we could understand and translate, because it touched us so deep. Its you who has taught me that silence is a language of its own in love..

This might sound strange and I never told you this, but I believed that I'm connected to you telepathically. Everytime I thought about you, you called me or sent me a message at least. I used it to my advantage to start getting you to call me, and not waste my balance. Once I was lying down on my bed, my phone beside my pillow as always, as I imagined your face before mine and muttered your name repeatedly. Sleep overtook me for a few minutes, and my sleepy eyes awakened to the sound of ringing of my phone. The screen of my phone lighted up with your name, and you usually didn't call me two days in a row because of the STD costs. But that day, you did.

But now, even though I think of you day and night, even though I cant sleep at all at nights and lay awake staring at the ceilings with memories of us projected on the roof, you never call. I dream of our future, our love blooming into something the world has never known, and I imagine your voice in my head, your face before my eyes, the way you looked at me, smiled at me, held me.. but I dont hear, see, feel any of it for real. It turns me depressed. I feel like I'm distorting reality, and I'm scared if it starts producing negative side effects on me!

I dream of you so often now. I dreamed of holding your hands once, and that is a dream I'd remember throughout my life time. I dont remember touching objects or people in my dreams before, and that touch, your touch felt mystical. I nearly shook with ecastacy when I touched your hand and there was a chill down by spine because it felt so unrealistically startling. Maybe it was just an expression of the thoughts bolted up within my head, or maybe it was God's way of telling me that you're special to me. Dreams of you still provide me with some comfort, it seems real for the few minutes and I wake up in the morning feeling I'd been with you for a few minutes at least.

For these past two months, I reminiscent how our 4th grade friendship had turned to attraction, and then to love. I dont know when it turned to love. It didn't come knocking on my door, it merely slipped in like a tip toeing thief and now, I'm imprisoned in this world of love. I dont know how to get out of it, but frankly, I dont even want to. I know I had hated love at one point of time which had my scarred my being, but I was hasty to term those relationships as love! They were infatuations, attraction, lust, but definitely not.. love ! Love is eternal , love is mystical, love is God's miracle!

I want to be in your arms forever, listening to your voice telling me stories, your wonderful thoughts and ideas. I want to rest on your chest and hear you breathe, feel your moist breath on my neck. I want to hold your stubby brown hands and kiss your fingers. I want to cuddle you before I sleep and tell you how much you mean to me. I want to look at your eyes - the stars studded in the charcoal black night sky, I want to see you smile which mechanically makes me smile and my heart flutter. I want to be alive with you, because otherwise life seems so hollow and empty. I want to live with you, in your charming presence forever!

My clock shows 5:38 AM now. I'm residing in your thoughts with drops of tears on my eye lashes. I wonder if you're missing me too, if you can sleep tight every night without hearing my voice. If you miss me at all. Four months without any word from you to me. It's been driving me insane. I want you desperately, I need you !! But I also want you to get better, to get well, to live in a world of reality by facing it and not running away from it, to overcome and defend the challenges of life with bravery and courage, to seek truth and success instead of drowning in timeless pleasure.

But you had told me once , " You say the same things as my therapist."
I replied, satisfied, " that's because I'll be a psychologist in a few years. "
" You're better than my therapist actually. I listen to you more than her," he said cutely.
" Like? " I asked, smile escaping my lips.
" You told me not to do that thing no? I haven't done it in months!"
" Really? I love you now!, " I said, excitement bubbling in my voice.

" Accha, so only now you love me? If I do it, you wont?"
" Baby.. I'll always love you no matter what! But I dont want you to do stupid things okay? That's why I'll love you more if you stop doin all these shit!! "
" You really love me na? " It wasn't a question. It was a thoughtful statement.. is that what people call rhetorical?
We stayed silent again, communicating through silence, as I thought to myself how truly, madly, deeply I love him, and felt my inaudible voice being heard by you, as you breathed deeply with satisfaction.

I'd be going to Kolkata in another three days. Kolkata summers were always about just you and me!
Will that change now? Will I see you even for a single day?
Will they let me meet you in the rehab? Will you still look at me the same way?
Will you still hold my hand and tell me that you love me? Is anything gonna change?
I know you'd said that you'll love me forever.. but what if we're estranged?

Just three more days. And I'll be in Kolkata..
But this summer.. you, me.. I dont know- what if it changes?

The night sky is unwrapping its dark veil of mystery, dawn is breaking through. The colors of life , a deep passionate red and joyful yellow are blending with a light blue . The birds are chirping excitedly, you can hear them flapping their wings noisily and preparing for a new day . But to me, its all the same. Another day without you. Another day of living in your dreams and memories, being alive just with the hope of hearing your voice which will ultimately free me from this mad rush of depression.

As I look out of my window, I think to myself what you are wearing, where you are sleeping, and what you're dreaming of . Do you dream of me just as often as I do? Do you wish to see me, hear my voice which you said was the sweetest you have ever heard ?

And then i ask myself, sadly, when did you know we were in love ?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Magic Willow Tree

( Dedicated to Anjana Shekhar and my brother, Siddharth. Please do not copy or use this story anywhere for your convenience)

Ramaswamy was a little boy of four walking quietly along the road with a grim face. He had broken his mother's precious china crockery while playing football with his little friends in the garden, as his sister sat with her friends having a tea party. His sister had been warned not to touch amma's favourite expensive dishes, but she wanted the best plates and cups for the tea party with her friends in the garden, so she had laid them out beautifully on a blue and white mat on which she sat with her friends smiling proudly as she was the hostess. But suddenly, a ball came flying at them. " Look out, " cried one of her friends with pink flowers on her hair, but the ball had swept passed them, leaving the china broken into pieces.

" Oh what shall I do now? It was amma's favorite crockery. She will give me a beating, " she said with a worried face. Ramaswamy approached her with a guilty look, and stood as still as a pole when he saw the fire in her eyes.
" Oh Rama! See, what you have done! Amma will scold me for this. Could you not have played football today and ruin everything? "
" You could have had your party in the house. I can't play any place else, " he retorted smugly.
" You are a very naughty boy, and you have become disrespectful of late. Go find means of replacing this china or I swear never to speak to you again, " she said, collecting the tiny pieces of broken china in her hands along with her friends.

Now it had been hours Rama was walking through the coconut plantations. He didn't know how to reach the town from his small village, but he hoped he could reach there by the next day at least. He was a small boy, and he didn't know much about the world. The sky was getting darker, and the birds chirped noisily and flew away in flocks to their nests. Rama was missing his home too. He wondered if he would be pardoned if he went home with a few of the fallen coconuts on the ground, and begged for forgiveness. But he remembered his sister's promise and kept walking. The stars were shining in the night sky and the fireflies were glowing in the dark.

Suddenly, Rama spotted a glowing light in the distance. He hurried in the pitch darkness to the source of light, and found a willow tree, with radiating trunk and branches, and leaves made of gold that shone in the dark. As soon as he touched one of the leaves to pluck, a witch with crooked teeth appeared in front of him. Rama shivered in fright due to the strangeness of the situation, and since he only believed witches and fairies never really existed.

" A little boy do I see! Oh what fat cheeks and red lips bloomy, " she said in a nasal tone, as she pinched his cheeks.
" I see you have done mischief!
Now, listen to me little boy, and I will turn your leaf.
Climb the wise willow tree, and jump into the trunk.
Have no fear and you will see a talking chipmunk.
He will guide you through the willow city,
Search and devour the golden cherry.
The golden cherry is the key to the magic dust,
Yet to me, you cannot be unjust.
Bring it to me, and let me have my first three wishes,
Take it home, buy gold, pearls, dresses and china dishes! " and saying this, the witch started disappearing. But Rama had not understood her clearly being only a little boy, and he pleaded to repeat the poem before she disappeared into thin air. The witch repeated the poem for him once again, and Rama memorized it every bit, so that he doesn't fail to bring the magic dust at all. After all, it could have all his wishes come true!

Now, Rama looked at the giant willow tree with golden leaves, and so tall was it that he didn't know how to reach up to its branches. He stacked a few big rocks, and placed coconut leaves on them and made steps out of it. As he looked into the hollow truck, he couldn't see anything as it was very dark. He questioned himself if he should do such a thing at all, but he gained courage and jumped into the trunk of the hollow tree. His head started spinning and he called out for the chipmunk, but none was there. A tear dropped down his eye, and as it hit the ground, a tunnel was opened to him. It was filled with colourful lights and singing mosquitoes, and perfumed herbs which brushed against him as he walked.

" Hello,I wasn't expecting any visitors, " a squeaky voice said. Rama turned to see a brown chipmunk wearing a red shirt. His eyes were shiny, and his smile made him seem friendly to Rama.
" Hello. My name is Ramaswamy. I am on my way to find the magic dust. Can you help me? "
There was a look of hesitation combined with displeasure on the chipmunk's face. " Do not tell me that the old wretched witch sent you here! I will burn her alive in the stove, just as Gretel did. Did she give you any chocolates too?" Rama nodded in disagreement, and chipmunk calmed down by seeing how tiny and innocent little Rama was. He planned on guiding Rama through the willow city so that no danger comes upon him.

"So what and where is the willow city? " Rama asked curiously.
" You will see for your own when the tunnel ends, " the chipmunk said smiling. " My name is Munniswamy. You can call me Munni. I'm the Regional Security of the Giant Willow City of this area. I hope you like the visit in Willow City. Its the most beautiful place you can ever imagine! " he smiled proudly, his buck teeth exposed. Rama noticed a light at the rear corner of the tunnel. He started running excitedly, and the chipmunk sat on his shoulder, asking him to run a little slower so that he doesn't fly off! When Rama reached the end of the tunnel, he was bewildered with awe and amazement. He pinched himself to check if he was dreaming, but indeed he wasn't !
Here he was in the land of fairytales and cartoons! Noddy drove past him asking if he wants a ride as Mr. Plod waved, the tin soldier marched with his army, thumbelina was sleeping on a sunflower, and he stared out , his eyes wide with wonder a flying horse landed near his feet. Munni asked him to get on the chariot attached to the horse, and as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat, the horse flapped his huge wings and took off in the air. Rama clutched the reins of the horse as tightly as he could so that he didn't fall off his seat, as the flying horse soared in the air amidst the clouds, in a land which looked like heaven. The chipmunk was in Rama's pocket, his head popping out as he looked astonished at the wonderful beauty once again.

" This is beautiful, Munni. I've never seen anything more beautiful than this! , " he screamed his eyes shining with delight " Oh please, oh please tell me there is Aladdin, Harry Potter and Hogwarts, Malgudi in here too! Then I would stay here forever! " he exclaimed.
" Oh yes master, and we could go and pay a visit to all of them, but as you see, we have to go and inform the King of Willow City about your arrival and your length of stay. "
" Munni, will he allow me to stay here forever? " he asked innocently.
" Willow City constitution states that only dumans can live here, and humans can be attended to as guests only for a limited period of time, so I'm afraid that you would have to leave someday Rama." Munni's eyes had a kind sympathetic look when he looked up at him from his pocket

As the flying horse inclined at a sharp angle to take a turn, a stick darted towards Rama.
" Harry Potter, " he exclaimed loudly, excitement exploding in his voice! Harry haulted at lightening speed just inches away from his racing chariot in his Firebolt XP, and murmured a quick yet charming apology.
" Extremely sorry, Kiddo. Hope you have a nice time in Willow City. Gotta go, Quidditch! " and he winked at Rama with a grin before he dived in his broomstick again. Rama sat dazed with wonder as he saw his favorite surreal person in the world. " Was that really Harry Potter? Harry Potter who fought You-Know-Who, Harry Potter who studied in Hogwarts, Harry Potter who married Ginny? He looks like he's still in fourth year! "
Munni laughed, " We stop aging Willow City after a certain time. The age is uncertain and varying for every one, but we maintain our beauty without any hassles, " Munni grinned brightly.

When Rama was yet into his deep thoughts about how he met with Harry Potter on his broomstick, the flying horse started diving down at haste making Rama feel like he was on a roller coaster ride.
" We're going to dieee, " yelled Rama.
" Oh just hold tight, little boy, " and Rama closed his tightly, and bent over to hold onto the neck of the horse as it plunged down with great speed. When Rama opened his eyes after he couldn't feel the chilly wind swirling around him any longer, he found himself on the land. He uttered something about how relived he was that he was still breathing and looked for Munni in his pocket. But Munni was already walking towards the large rusted iron gates behind which was a stone castle with large golden domes on every tower. Aladdin Land? Rama thought and shook his head because it didn't look much like that in his story books.
" Hey, " he called out to Munni and trailed behind him, running fast to catch up with him as fast as he could.

When Rama was beside Munni, he opened his mouth to ask him the many many questions bubbling in his head, but Munni silenced him with a quick hush. Rama walked beside Munni in silence, as the gates opened and closed, and he passed by steel armoured nights, soldiers, lawyers with curly grey long braided hair, and arrived at an old fashioned wood chamber which was named as the reception.
" You have a human with you, " shrieked the receptionist, who looked pretty to Rama even with her twitched eye brows and flaring nostrils.
" I want to address my case to the Court of Aliens in Willow City, " Rama said politely, as Rama wondered how he could not be dazzled by the receptionist's beauty.
" 3rd Floor, second right, last chamber, 321 .Court is in session now, will be free after another hour, the judge for your case will be St. Nicholas, " she said eye the boy with a nasty look. Rama's fixed on her ocean blue eyes, and he blushed as a red tomato. The receptionist whiffed in complete disgust and got back to her work.

" Stop getting your face red because of that woman, Rama. Dumans don't like Humans. You might get permission to stay in here, but that doesn't make it easy as they can be very unpleasant to you. "
" Why? " Rama asked squealing.
" Hmm, " Munni thought. " Well, for one reason that the ugly witch is always upto something and sending human beings, transforming them, putting goblin spells on Dumans too only to end our world. "
" Why does she want to end your world? Isn't she a part of it? "
" No, No. She is the meanest creatures of the willow tales, fairy tales for you children. She has existed since the times of Cinderella, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel and many other legends you have listened to. Good Lord, she was there battling with our dear Harry a few years ago. Oh, how it flared up in our Willow City that Rowling, the Human Journalist came and wrote six- seven books on it. It's a pity she calls it her own imagination! "
" But why does she want to end your world, Munni? " Rama repeated curiously.
" Oh right, I forgot to tell you about that " he said as they walked by the alley and sat on the bench next to the room 321.

" Due to all the mischief she had been upto, the Law of Willow City had detained her of performing any magic. But when she had broken the rules again, she was taken into Slimy Land. It's a prison which has no bars, but spells to guard the person, distract them and confine them into lifelong imprisonment. It was stated in her judgement, that if she ever broke a rule again, she would be sent to the human world, " Munni glanced at Rama to check if he was still listening.
" She had broken a rule, because of which I saw her in the human world! " Rama said feeling intelligent.
" Yes, little boy. But she had broken many rules. She had come to know the essence of the magic world, the very substance that makes us survive. Pardon me, but I can't reveal what it is to you. Policies, you know, " he smiled as his nose wrinkled.
" Is it food? Or like water? " chipped in Rama.
" No, its nothing of that sort. She wanted to destroy our world in that manner, and reside with the humans and take over their world with all the horrible spells and tricks she knows. " Munni grew thoughtful and his face turned pale.

A loud bell ringed calling the end of the previous session and the beginning of the new. Rama saw a fat white man with red hair and huge spectacles coming out of the room, being assisted by another chipmunk who looked alike Munni. The white man snorted at Rama and he twitched backwards, feeling scared. Rama entered the huge room, and saw a huge man with long white beard, wearing a cane hat, and reed coat seated on the Judge's chair. After an hour long session in which Munni, Rama's explainer explained Rama's situation to St. Nicholas- how he arrived at the Willow City, how the witch had met him when he was thrown away from home after he broke his mother's dishes, how he's a small little boy who is completely innocent, the Judge granted him permission to stay in the Willow City for two more days, during which he would be shown the entire City, and all the characters that he adores.

" Thank you, " beamed Munni delightedly.
" You know my weakness, Munni. How unfair it is of you to bring a child of four in my courtroom and imagine of me giving him punishment. Here boy, come here, " he said with a sweet smile. Rama approached him with quiet steps, as the judge bent down from his seat and rummaged noisily through a few wrapped parcels.
" Here, this is for you. I know its not Christmas, but I'm not allowed to go out of this magic land and give presents to you dear lads and lasses anymore, " he said apologetically.
" Thank you, " muttered Rama, unsure of why he'd been gifted with a parcel covered in shiny blue paper, and he strode out of the chamber with the gift in his hands along with Munni in his pocket.
As he came out of the chamber, he whispered to Munni asking him who that was.
" Santa Claus, oh dear God! Why did you think he said all that about Christmas and gifts, and gave you one himself? Santa Claus , hello, Saint Nicholas! " Munni said with his hands swinging in the air as he actioned every word with exaggeration. Rama's eyes popped and fell down motionless on the floor.
" Are you okay? "
" I'd been a bad boy the whole year and he yet gave me the gift. I was so shocked by everything, that I didn't even thank Santa Claus. On the other hand, I didn't even know he was Santa Claus. I'm stupid! My sister is right, I'm a fool! " he said, as tears rolled down his eyes. Munni crawled out of his shirt's pocket, and perched himself on his collar to reach up to his face. He wiped his tears with a generous look in his eyes.

" Little Rama, you're not stupid. You're a very very nice lad. Don't be harsh on yourself by losing faith in you. You are what you are, but you will be what you believe to be, " he said kindly. Rama looked down on him and looked at his kind eyes. He kissed Munni on his cheek and thanked him, and off the set on their Willow City trip. As the exit the gates of the huge castle, they saw a beautiful fountain with sparkling water which was named as the magic fountain, and Rama came to know that whosoever drinks from it will be instantly caught while telling a lie. Most of the court procedures were begun only after the culprit and the others involved drank the water in front of the jury. Each single lie caused them an elongated nose, Munni explained to him in good humour. Rama now realized, why his mother kept telling him that his nose will grow bigger and bigger if he lied.

Rama met the Wise Willow Wizard who enraptured him with several magic tricks. He asked him to teach him a few, and Rama successfully managed to learn the Pea trick in which he could turn any green pea to golden ones, and the Affinity Trick in which he could move things of little weight just by the motion of his palm, and the Mind Reading trick in which he could read a person's mind while he chanted the spell. He wasn't very good at any of it, as the Wise Willow Wizard could turn the smallest peas into gigantic golden ones, and could move an entire mountain with his Affinity Spell, and could read people's mind at ease for hours even when they were far away from their sight, while Rama was confused with his own words of the Mind Reading Spell and the person's thoughts as he stood near him.
Suddenly, the ugly witch's face with crooked yellow teeth appeared to Rama who was still busy in repeating the spells he had learnt as he sat on a unicorn to pay a visit to Alice In Wonderland and then Neverland. The unicorn sparkled in the sunlight, and its horn looked like it was made of crystal.
" Old New tiding do I bring,
Oh, how curses you your little sibling,
Before fetching the magic dust, returning to your family,
Search and devour the golden cherry.
The golden cherry is the key to the magic dust,
Yet to me, you cannot be unjust.
Bring it to me, and let me have my first three wishes,
Take it home, buy gold, pearls, dresses and china dishes! "
Beads of sweat appeared on Rama's temple as he the ugly witch brought visions of his mother scolding his little sister, and his sister promising him never to speak again till he replaced the china. Munni wished he could find means of finding the magic dust and going back home to his darling amma, and hug her as tight as he could.

" Munni, " he said, his palms circling his stomach. " I'm so hungry, could I have some food to eat, please? " he asked with a plan in his mind.
" Oh yes, master! We could go to the Willow Diner where you can find the finest of foods you could have ever tasted! I'm so sorry, I completely forgot about how young you are and how hungry you must be by now." he smiled. Rama wondered how he could find the golden cherry. He didn't think it would be on a cherry tree, or even a golden cherry tree. It must be somewhere safe, like a museum or a vault where nobody could gain access to it.
" Can I have some cherries first? I love them! And yet, we get so little of them in Kerala, " he smiled sadly.
Munni spoke at once, " Then off we go to the Willow Orchard, to the majestic cherry tree, from which you can pluck your favourite cherries but one, and fill your stomach with glee.

Munni plucked a silver hair on the unicorn's neck which glimmered in the sunlight, and asked Rama to wish. As soon as Rama blew it from Munni's palm, a beautiful orchard fell before his eyes, as if it was lifted from the pre historic times of the Adam and Eve. Rama asked Munni if it was the Willow Orchard, hardly in a whisper, and they walked down the beautiful garden, as the spotted colourful fish in ponds, flowers of the most beautiful fragrance, fruits that had never looked any more delicious, singing birds and nightingale that sung and enthralled listeners with their magical voice. Rama plucked a few fruits hanging in the lowest branches of the trees, and ate the delicious fruits hungrily, sharing a few with his new friend.
" Here little boy, is your favourite fruit tree, the cherry tree! " said Munni with little skip as they reached a massive cherry tree which looked splendid in sight. Rama's eyes wandered on each and every branch in search of the golden cherry, but he could not find it!

After eating a few cherries with disappointment and passing more than the number he ate to Munni, Rama sat down under an apple tree. Feeling heavy breathing and noises of snores in his pocket, he realized that Munni was asleep. He gently took him out of his pocket and rested him against a pile of pebbles without awakening him. Then, Rama began walking in the huge Willow Orchard in search of the golden cherry. He walked for hours and hours inspecting each and every tree, the ground for fallen fruits, the fish or birdies carrying something golden in their lips till all that was left to be re inspected was the cherry tree, which Rama had excluded as Munni was present there. Weary and exhausted, but having not given up, Little Rama walked towards the cherry tree.

Rama was relieved to find that at least, Munni was yet asleep. He looked closely at the cherry tree boughs, leaves, and every fruit from all angles, and couldn't find the golden cherry. Shattered, his thoughts resumed how his mother would be furious and spiteful with him, and how his sister would disown him forever. He remembered their poverty, their torn rags in winter which kept them shivering and coughing at night, his sister's friends talking about how they attain every little thing they ask for from their parents but how his Akka has to work hard to get them, and how he wished that the golden cherry would only drop from the clouds near his feet! But, though a cherry didn't drop from the sky, a miraculous idea flashed in Rama's head!

Rama remembered how the Old Wise Willow Wizard had taught him the spells to turn a petty pea to a golden one, and surely, if he changed the words in the right manner, it could possibly turn red juicy cherries to golden magical ones, he thought excitedly. Anxious, he jumped on his feet and mumbled the spell under his breath.
" Red cherries on the bough,
Hear my words and turn golden now,
Red cherries on the bough,
Hear my words and turn golden now,
Red cherries on the bough,
Hear my words and turn golden now. "
The cherries in the bough started shaking rampantly for a few seconds, but none of them turned to gold. Rama chose another bough and repeated his spell, then another and again another. But none of them turned to gold.
" It can't be that easy to find the magic golden cherry, I guess. Maybe I should quit and go back home with my story of the Willow City. Amma will be pleasant, " but then when he marveled about it, he felt that nobody would believe him, not even Amma. It was her, who had assured him , that there's nothing called magical creatures and mystical beings.

He walked around carelessly, and suddenly something hit him hard on his foot.
" Ouch, " he whimpered in pain, and crouched down to massage his toe. And there it was, the cherry, the Golden Cherry lying on the bare ground, glinting in the rosy sunset rays. He took it on his palm and admired it for a few minutes, but as soon as he opened his mouth wide to devour it, Munni awoke and started hurrying towards him, yelling in full volume and forbidding him to eat the golden cherry. Rama dropped the cherry in his mouth before Munni could reach him, and he munched it as fast as he could. The sweet juice calmed him down and filled him with a sense of unexplainable happiness, and his vision blurred and he fell on the ground into a deep sleep. The last he saw was Munni only a few paces away from him, begging him to spit it out.


Rama woke up twitching, as he a tingling sensation on his cheek. A butterfly with yellow and blue wings was seated on his left cheek comfortable, and Rama shooed it away by the swish of his palm. he heard clanking noises of metals, and as he turned his head, he saw four knights in metal armours moving towards him with huge steps.
" Its a human! No wonder he ate the forbidden cherry, " the first knight said.
" Well, its good that Sir Nicholas likes him, otherwise he would've been sent to Slimy Iceland, where he would've frozen to death amidst all the happiness," he laughed devilishly.
" Where am I being sent to? " Rama asked as the knights reached him.
" You're in Slimy Land, the Willow City Prison. You will be sent to Slimy Flower Land till Munni, Sir Nicholas and a few others arrive and get you, " the first knight replied.
" But.. " Rama paused. He must not let the knights know about his intention of eating the golden cherry, otherwise he would be guarded at every second and his chances of obtaining the magic dust will be null.

The four knights surrounded Rama on all four sides and fenced him with their swords as they walked. He had to walk in line with the second and third knight, such that he doesn't miss a step and the sword doesn't land on him. But, as Rama walked, the idea of Slimy Land being a prison seemed more and more unbelievable to him. It was as beautiful as the Orchard and there were plenty of colorful and sweet smelling flowers, sparkling rivers on the land he was walking on.
" In Slimy Land you are now,
The land confined with the strongest spells,
Hear my voice and heed my words,
And all will be well,
Do not smell the exalting flowers in Flower Land,
They make you lose track of precious time,
And if you do not heed my magic words,
You will return home without dishes or dime! " the witches's voice echoed in Rama's ear as a buzzing bee. From then onwards, Rama walked breathing slowly through his mouth, such that it remains unnoticeable to the knights in silver armours.

" How is the boy not sneezing? All of them who come here can't stop sneezing! " the third knight eyed him suspiciously.
" I guess they're allergic to pollen grains, I'm not, " Rama smiled brightly. The third knight nodded.
When they reached Flower Land, the knights ordered Rama to walk inside, as they removed some mud from the head of the sword in which it was safely kept, and lined it along the gate of the flowered fence. Rama continued walking, hoping to hear the witch's voice again for more direction that will lead him to the magic dust. Minutes past by and then he resolved to act on his own. But he had no clue what the magic dust resembled, and where it could have been secretly hidden.

Feeling fatigued from the long and strenuous journey, he decided on taking a dip in the river with sparkling and sweet water. He removed his clothes and slowly walked into the river, and dipped his head in the water. As he dipped his head, he could see many sparkling and colourful fish, rainbow coloured corals, sea horses, aquatic plants, big fish striped black and white as zebras, orange fish with netted fins, and a pink octopus guarding a big shell. Astounded by the sight, and curious he plunged into the water and swam under water till he reached the octopus shell. Curiously, he drew it out of the water, as the octopus clung to his fingers forcefully. Rama somehow managed to get on the shore, and he pulled the octopus out from his fingers and threw him back in the water. His fingers were bleeding with the poison from the tentacles, but Rama didn't bother much. He was excited to see the pearl in the Octopus shell, and as he pulled it closer to himself and opened the upper shell. A message appeared to him in the air in a beautiful handwriting.

" The magic of dust, the dust of magic,
Turns magic to dust and dust to magic."
Rama stared down at it with disbelief as he saw the magic dust in the shell. How easily had he found it! Now, his mother and sister will be proud of him, his mother can buy many china dishes, and his sister can buy beautiful dresses that she would wear to parties. His sister would love him and adore him, his mother would call him the best son she can ever have in her lifetime, and everyone will envy them as they would have everything they want, and a few things they couldn't ever imagine of possessing. Rama stroked the magic sand in his hand with joy, but his eyes lifted to the words which was fading in the air.

" The magic of dust, the dust of magic, " he re read once gain slowly and coherently, so that he clearly understood its meaning, " Turns magic to dust and dust to magic." The magic of this dust will turn dust to magic, but it will turn magic to dust too, he ruminated. On understanding the message clearly, he said aloud,
" This is what Munni told me - the essence of the magic world, the very substance that makes them survive. If I bring the magic dust to the witch, all of these magical creatures would die, and there would be no magic existing in this world, other than the wicked spells of the Ugly Witch. She will kill all my friends, all the glorious and beautiful characters and stories that we only read about, and she would cast spells on the humans and create roguery all around. Every good thing will be put to an end. And worse still, there will no magic, simply no good magic at all in this world, " Rama pondered aloud, and threw the shell back into the sparkling waters of the rivers.

Rama smiled being pleased with himself, and a felt a hand on his shoulder. The Old Wise Willow Wizard, Nicholas, a few members of the jury, the four knights and Munni had been watching it all along from the time Munni went into the waters. Munni lowered his eyes with guilt as he faced the Willow Wizard, as he felt he had been too selfish and greedy the whole time.
" You left your gift from Santa, little boy, " Munni said, as he extended his tiny hands carrying the blue shiny parcel.
" Oh, I don't even deserve to have a present from Santa. I have been so greedy all along. " Rama said with a sour face.
" Rama, I saw what you did with the magic dust. Any other boy would have taken it, destroyed our world to gain happiness in his, but you put forth other's happiness than you're own. Indeed you have been a little selfish and greedy, but you have been thoughtful and sensitive too. We owe you for our survival right now, " Santa smiled calmly at him.

Rama shook his head in disagreement as his conscience hurt him, and he apologised time and again.
" I was just so sorry for all that I had done, breaking my mother's dishes, hearing my sister's promise of never speaking to me again, that all I wanted to do was just go home with new dishes and be hugged by my amma and akka. I didn't know that my illogical thinking and impracticality would lead me to more troubles. I didn't mean to do any of this Munni, " Rama said sadly.
" When I was reading your mind, little boy, I read all your troubles and concerns, and I read the witch's rhymes to you and the effect it had on your thoughts everytime you heard her voice. It's not all your fault. You're a little innocent boy, who is the most suitable as her victim, " the Wise Willow Wizard said thoughtfully. " And you do not need to worry anymore, for I have erased her memories of the past two days and she remembers nothing of you and her orders to you of bringing her the magic dust. " he smiled.
" Thank you, " Rama beamed and hugged the wizard.

Rama was falling homesick and he grew desperate to meet his family, so the wise old men decided that it was best for Rama to go home. The flying horse was waiting outside the gates of the Slimy Land and they climbed on the chariot together, and Rama was braver this time when the horse landed on the ground. He met Noddy once again, and this time, he went on a ride on his yellow and red taxi and gifted a few pink flowers to Tessy Bear to go with her dress. Harry was waiting for him with Peter Pan nearby, and they thanked Rama for saving their life from the ugly evil witch. Harry promised him that he would discuss with the Wise Willow Wizard on how they could punish her extremely for doing such terrible offences when Rama asked him with concern about her.
" It's good that Wise Willow Wizard erased her memory, otherwise she would have known where the magic dust is hidden. No one had ever found where it was placed. I was quite surprised to learn that you found it without any difficulty, " said Peter Pan as Tinkerbell giggled.

In a few moments, Rama was astonished to see hundreds of Dumans gathered together to see him. There was so much of rush, and cheerful noises, applause, congratulations , and dumans waiting to greet him that Rama began to feel like a hero. Many of his favourite characters personally came upto him and thanked, wished, congratulated him for what he had done. Finally, it was time for him to leave, and one of the Willow City Judges approached him with his grey braided hair with three passes of the willow city which could be valid for four more years. The crowd cheered as the Judge presented him with the passes, and the Receptionist whom Rama had admired before his court room procedure pecked him on his cheek. Rama felt like he would explode as he turned crimson.

Rama walked in the tunnel decorated with flowers and chandeliers as he walked back along the same path. He didn't speak a word till they almost reached the end of the tunnel. Rama looked dull and pale, and Munni attempts at cheering him failed disgracefully.
" Oh little boy, stop making that sad face. You can visit us for four more years, and if you remain just as good and lovely as this, they might even extend your time, " Munni smiled which couldn't hide the sadness in his eyes either.
" But I will miss you all so much. I wish I could stay with all of you, especially you, Munni. I had the best time of my life in Willow City."
" Stop talking like a grandfather. Best time of your life? Your life hasn't even begun yet! And everytime you plan to come here, I will be the first one to greet you! ," Munni said flashing a brilliant smile. Rama smiled too.

As they reached the other end of the tunnel, Munni asked Rama to extend his hand, and placed something heavy in his palm. it wasn't dark but very dimly light with the sunlight falling through the leaves of the trees into the hollow truck, Rama couldn't see what Munni handed him.
" What is it? " Rama asked curiously.
" You didn't get the magic dust and saved us all, so this is my gift to you, recognizing our friendship too. It's a wooden box with broken magic glass pieces. If you arrange it in the right order like a puzzle, you can see the Willow City through it in the animated version. We have the broken magic glass in all our houses, we use it as forms of communication at times, so if you need to see where we are or feel like talking to us, chatting with Mr. Potter, or learning a few more tricks from the Old Willow Wizard, you can concentrate on your thoughts and the images will appear on the glass!" Munni said excitedly.
" That's so stupefying, " Rama exclaimed, and his face fell when the branches shook, and the beam of sunlight shifted as they stood at the bottom of the trunk.

Munni created a magical ladder for Rama, and the leaves waved along with Rama's palm as he exit Willow City along with the wooden box, three passes and Santa's blue parcel. It had been two whole days for which Rama had been away from home. The sun was on top of his head, and he dragged his shadow along the dusty road bordered with coconut trees. He was tired and sweaty from the great magical adventure, and he was also a refined experienced little man. He knew now, how wrong it was to be selfish and greedy and how it takes over one's senses and mind, and makes one a victim of all the wrongs one can do or think of doing in this world. Rama was no longer the innocent little foolish boy who had left his home, he was now the wise little boy who was returning home with much more than precious presents from a mystical land.

A bullock cart was passing by the road, and Rama gestured it to stop. Rama climbed onto the cart and sat beside the driver, and they drank coconut water from the shells pilled behind the cart. He felt like telling his wonderful adventure to everyone, but he had promised to keep it a secret to everyone other than his family, and he kept quiet. Rama had dozed off in a light sleep, when the cart halted in front of Rama's doorstep. he climbed out of the cart, thanked the man for the journey and the refreshing coconut water and bid him goodbye as he watched him going away to the feilds. Rama took a deep breath, and walked on tip toe into the courtyard after he unlatched the door. No one was seated in the garden, where he had broken his mother's favourite dishes.

Rama quietly entered the kitchen, where he expected his mother to be present. She was standing near the gas stove, cutting vegetables monotonously. Her face was sick and gloomy.
" Amma, " Rama called out to her from outside the kitchen door. " Amma, " he called out once gain, when he had been unheard. His mother turned slowly, and her eyes filled with tears as she saw her little son standing at the door.
" I'm sorry I broke your dishes, " Rama said apologetically.
" You should be sorry that you left your little mother all alone! Where did you go, my son? " she asked worried.
" Its a long long story, Amma. I have so much to tell you and you would not even dare to believe me. But its all true, " Rama chirped.

His sister came out of her room after hearing the racket of noise, and apologized to Rama for being so cold and unjust to him. She explained to him how frenzied she was after thinking how she would be scolded, and she had uttered words which she hadn't meant at all. Rama hugged his sister lovingly, and his mother carried him in her arms. He was the happiest little boy in the world. After lunch, Amma asked Rama to narrate all of his stories to her and Rama told him and his sister of the witch, willow city, Munni the chipmunk, the cartoon and fictional characters he had only read about till now, the flying horse, unicorn, Santa Claus, the golden cherry, Slimy Land and about his whole great unbelievable adventure. He showed them the passes to Willow City which he received from the judge, the box containing the broken magic glass, and Santa's blue parcel.

When his sister begged him to open Santa's parcel, Rama found a cardboard box in it. As he opened the box, he found the exact expensive china crockery which he had broken when he was playing football! It had an extra pair of cup, saucers, dishes, side dishes too. His sister was stupified to find the same pattern and his mother laughed out gaily at all the trouble his little son had been into just to replace his mother's broken dishes.
" Rama, look, there's something else in the parcel for you!" his sister chirped happily.
" It's a mouth organ," Rama exclaimed. He blew into it, and a magical sound floated through the air bringing life long happiness in the family and the neighbourhood.

Rama visited the Willow City often with his amma and akka, and he introduced them to all of his friends who were enthralled to see him. Rama and Munni remained friends forever, and they spoke to each other everyday through the magic glass. Rama managed to learn a few more spells and tricks, and became popular for it in his village. Santa's mouth organ was the aid to many beautiful tunes Rama composed for which he received a lot of fame in the film industry. The Old Ugly Witch was fed with mushrooms, which was the strictest form of punishment in the Willow City, as dumans are allergic to mushrooms and develop severe rash and itching on consuming them, which puts them in a state of coma in a few hours time.

Rama a.k.a Ramaswamy Hari Prasad still remains as the only one in history to have found the Magic Dust. The Wise Willow Wizard cast a spell on Munni, Harry and even St. Nicholas for that matter so that nobody could track their thoughts on the Magic Dust to put an end to the Willow world. There's a public holiday in Willow City on the day Rama found the Magic Dust- every year, symbolizing the sacrifice of a human to the duman world for his belief in existance and continuity of pure and good magic.

Did Rama become a part of all the magic? We do not for sure, until someone writes about it, isn't it? ;)