You had not thought about what you will do next or where you will go after this. The only thing that you did know, was it would be as far away from that god forsaken town as one could possibly get. After all, what good had it come to? Your arrival in the sleepy little town had, in a way, awoken zombies out of their cadavers. You had not known how it would eventually turn out to be, just after it had begun its assault. But the slew of incidents had led to an unassailable belief in the tantrik. Yes, he of the moth infested knotty bush of hairs, and of tiny beedis that could put cancer on a bullet train. He of the scar on his head that spoke of violence and of penance. His understanding had come to roost, his statements had borne out to be true. Too true to word actually. You wonder how it had been such. But, in these lands, anything was possible, Anything. You began to walk slowly around the curvaceous bend that the river offered, deep in thought about the day that had passed. Only now had the loss hit you and its impact had been beyond your wildest dreams. As trickles of memories came about your swarming thoughts, dampness engulfed your eyes and a shiver ran down your whole body. How could you have let this happen in your presence? How could you just leave like that knowing what he had gone through? In anger, you had cared not for someone you cared deeply about, thinking it would be forgiven and forgotten this one time. Your anger would be excused this one time. But these monsters have a weird way of coming back at you. Much as what the Rameshwar something dilettante of a baba had said. Everything is pre-determined and you can only do to let the natural coarse prevail. Knowing this, and having spent the last 10 years of your life in the presence of the mystic who refused to believe in the past and dwell in the present and whose mind was solely occupied with the pipe he held in his hands and the thought about the belief he held sacred. His thoughts about an idea that was dreamt millions of centuries ago by some individual, himself going through an existential crisis many a person later on had been put through and devised a solution which went on to become as ubiquitous as air was to his world.
He had started on this travails, travels whatever, with nothing but his clothes, the same he had on today and some change jingling in his pockets. With Kerouac on his mind, he had wanted to live the life so talked about in the books he had read. Dangerous plans those. But little do you know, there is little you can take from the books other than what gets into your head through your own understanding. Books don’t preach. It is not their vocation to do so. One which attempts to do it, does so with a frivolity and an inherent fallacy in its assumption. A book is as much an author’s work as it is the reader’s will. Good or bad, hence, it is fraught with dangers of oversimplification by way of generalization. Hitchhiking his way across the south had been easy. It was only after he turned toward east that things started to go awry. And how. He had not originally intended to go that way but then he had not meant for a lot of things to happen. Which they had eventually turned out to outdo himself. Lying facedown in the mangled grassy slopes of karakora, he was to sleep the night, or whatever was left of it anyways, before embarking on a long trek to the nearby town of karakopur, or if he was lucky he would hoist himself atop the empty trucks that plied between the two cities on either side of the highway. Either ways, a long day ahead lay in wait for him and he was determined to get as much rest as possible. The present had not been an easy ride itself but he had put it behind him. As he had learnt to put the roads behind him. There were turns he had thought he would never see, and after each new ones, he had believed he had seen it all. But since the roads had continued to surprise him, he had learnt to leave those trails in the wild behind him, those turns around the corner that changed the landscape in a matter of moments were also safely tucked behind in his immediate chains of thoughts. They had been kept however and he had given himself the ability to recall each detail for posterity, if not on whim and fancy, then by ways of similarity and chance remembrance. Prodded by the fellow travelers, whom he met by the dozen, he could not recall many moments of revelation, but when he went back to it himself he could relive each of those moments as if in a dream. Morning came as swift as a time. The first rays hit him with a blinding daze. He scrambled to cover his delicate eyes but the effort was enough to leave sleep behind and he was wide awake beneath the large dry twig he had put over his face. Behind the green façade, he pondered over his plan of action for the day. He had to get to karakopur as he had run out of money and he had to meet his cousin there with whom was parked the sum wired from good old home. He had been lucky till then. Those dark-faced and yellow-eyed truck drivers had been kind enough. Vicious but kind. Helpless but helpful. One in ten or maybe fifteen invariably ended up putting on the brakes and from thereon, the travel took its own course. He never supplied the destination, they did. He never asked questions, they did. And answered them as well. Such was the bliss that had started the ride. Little did he know, the romantic passage to the east would end up thus. Now, after days of reckless harking and meandering he had persuaded a kindly matron to let him call up his folks for immediate relief.
The first night, that stormy night when the bodies that were heavenly were nowhere to be seen, When the sound of the screeching tires was nowhere to be heard and where one could only see what the mother earth instructed us to see. I had not seen the heavy handedness of the earth before. Never had I been subjected to the raggedy jaberwocky of the wild wild west. Ensconced in the warmth of my eighteenth-century mansion on Pedar Road, my innocence had not been tampered with save those times when I had found out that the tooth-fairy did not exist or the Santa Claus was but a myth perpetrated to humiliate the child. My parents, the ever-practical stethoscope wielders had taken me as their apprentice, and wanted me to imbibe the scientific temperament when the little innocence of childhood demanded magic. A realism that was at once magical (in the safety of one’s mind) and phantasmagoric. The night, hence, was one of disbelief. I had expected it to be adventurous. It was anything but to start with. Later, as I had laid across the charpoy resting my tired feet, I understood the advent of ture. But, then, right at the beginning of it all, I had not known it would be thus.
You wondered about the little girl- dead on the porch, about the old plumber- flushed in his sleep, about the large woman- now unconscious and probably dead on the turret of the station wagon. How was it that they had known what was to become of them. Right there, before they were slain, they had known, He could tell by looking directly in their eyes. It had been taught to him, looking straight at the eye, pointing straight at the eye, aiming straight for the bull and its eye. He had understood their resigned acceptance not as a way of accepting death, but more of accepting uncertainty. After all, it was their curiosity that had landed them in trouble. Riding six hours from the state of Windaloo, the family that comprised this strange assortment had been riding their destiny and look at where that had landed them in. A cesspool of blood and gore, one that could be enough for a lifetime of nights of mares.
How he had landed on this particular town was anybody’s guess. Endless rides on the back of the leylanders had brought him to his last stop, the picketed town of Mindapan. There, with what little he had left he had managed to bunk in a shared room with three others. Laying out the sleeping bag had been easy save for the scare the one with the cane had given him. Irritable fellows, all of them. Except the one with the wise-ass moustache. Whilst the other two had endlessly barraged him with questions and un-asked for wisdom, this one jerk had been wise enough to STFU. But not for long, Oh how he wished now he could have slept when it was time to and avoided the urge of the late night cigarette and the conversation that ensued, And which ultimately resulted in his hitching back on this one’s truck-cum-trailer to the town of Windaloo. He had, after a torrent of words from the blabbermouths, tried to sleep by putting both his hands over his face in a sort of foldable chair, and pretending to be asleep within seconds when he was actually listening to the sounds of the night. He cherished those moments of silence amidst the chatter when one could clearly hear the whispery belongings of the night. Felt them closer just after a period of intense sound byte. Those with the nightly duties thrown on them- the owls and the insects. The ones with the whistling enunciations. Anyways, after them having slept, and the call of nicotine too big to resist, he had sat up only to find the old fellow with the wizened gaze and the zipped mouth smoking flakes in his jute charpoy. They say cigarettes kill, I now knew how. Not the indirect assault on the lungs though, but through the direct and brutal assimilation of events. Well, so technically its not the cigarettes, but anything and everything that leads one to his day of reckoning. People say, it was bound to happen, this way or that. If not the cigarettes, it could have been the whisky or the steak. Hell, it could have been the placid mother of all-nectar to the thirsty water. Mediums, all of them, to steer us towards where we are really headed.
The trip, in hindsight was supposed to end badly. I had known thus, for the little injury to my elbow had come of the ragged edges of the tin box and not the stairs, but was afraid of speaking it out for fear of being labeled with charges of sedition. It was always thus at home. Having learnt to walk on my aai’s lap I had been privy to the beliefs of the old and the forgotten. Each of her measured steps had in them the wisdom (or was it the ignorance) of the ages. Only, the ages themselves had vanished deep beneath the tumults of this one age. The age of nano-sized dimensions and of nano-sized spans at tention. I, alas, was born to live in the past. That much had been evident the first instant I opened my eyes to this world. The family doctor who had delivered me, and my dad and my grandpa had recounted the eyes of the infant that had refused to budge from the tiny idol of Ganesha placed strategically at the edge of the table to the right of the bed. Beyond the table lay the expanse of the window, that which opened itself up to the back of the bay. No amount of prodding had borne any result. The transfixed eyes had not seen nor wished to see anything other than the tusked man in white cotton and tons of jewelry. I deviate though, but only to steer towards the story. That night, the fateful night of the three moons, I was pushed out the great wooden doors of One Udeshi House. Never to return, never to his cradle.
Your tryst with the road had been always a planned affair. That much was certain. What you did not know was what you will accomplishing in those. Little by little as the dust of the road had settled permanently in your eyes, you had begun to hallucinate. It must have been those arid plains of chambal and those ganja doses you had managed to secure off the truckers. Whatever it was, you had been caught right in the middle. Not literally. Except for once when on the border of Maharashtra you had been made to blow into a palm sized machine which gauged the alcohol in your system. But you had already travelled above alcohol by the point of time. You had, with amusement, watched the dials lugubriously trying to turn but ultimately failing to do so. Inevitably, disappointment crept up in the eyes of the hawaldar, who could have done with a few Gandhi notes in his pockets. Reluctantly, he had to let you go despite his skeptical sense of the forbidden in the neighborhood. How breathless you had been when the thulla was rummaging through your stuff. His hands, as they glided over the zipped pouches that lined the inner lining of your backpack, could feel to you as drones above your head-taking stock, relaying information for the bombers that would eventually arrive. After many unsuccessful discoveries in the various little compartments, and man they were quite a few, he had given up on me. That poor poor man. Oh how you wished now of having been caught with that dus-tola possession of yours. It would have spared a whole lot of monstrosity that was to come in later.
He with his temerity to question the warlord. The one with the zipped mouth and the wizened gaze. Or the wizened gaze and the zipped mouth. They had been travelling without rest since dawn and had managed to scale down the distance to Windaloo by just about half. The vista that had opened up in front of him had led him to let his guard down, something he had resolved to maintain, what with the mysterious leanings of his chauffeur.
To be continued..(hopefully)