Sunday, August 07, 2005


The cold wind on a late november evening can be cruel indeed, forcing families to huddle up near a fire place and recount oft-quoted stories again to recreate themselves. Streets were deserted, even the pubs were empty, and so was the "Sailor's Tower" standing alone, perched on the coastline of Idago with only my presence for company. On a clear, summer day you can stand here and watch the coastline zig zag towards infinity like a ragged line, punctured along the way by docks, and a few steamers. Yet the million dollar sight is to watch the two mountains from the twin islands - Idago and Valago - reach out towards eachother over the seas, parted by a gap that god left man to fill.
Haven't you been there? Facing a problem with an obvious answer everyone else refuses to see. The two islands were as diverse as any two neighbours could be. Idago was an industrial haven - we had the best schools, built the best houses and had a quality of life that was rivalled by everyone around. Valago had the most beautiful waterfalls, lush green forests but children there had to travel miles to find a proper school to study in; Men were jobless and families couldn't afford the basic utilities required to lead a respectable life. It was at the mountains that the two islands came closest towards eachother and from there on, they parted until they were out of eachother's sight. To travel from one island to another, one had to brave the turbulent waters and the rude sailors who set up schedules to suit themselves. And those who agreed to go were more often so drunk that the whole boat sunk into the deep unknown - into a darkness no one could fathom.

Every single day since I was 10, I have spent hours at the sailor's tower listening to the two mountains. I would squint my eyes and watch men walk over my thumb, on my knuckles and finally reach the promised land at the end of my little finger. To build a bridge for me was the obvious thing to do. It was my secret pact with these mountains, my singular reason to live and the waves were my witnesses, the proof of my faith. It defined everything I did - my education, vocation, my choice of books, company and even my dreams.
A deafening silence lasted a second. And it trickled, in ones and twos, and then in dozens until the whole valley was echoing with an applause that refused to stop. The kids, youngsters and the old men, men from the council, the businessmen and the politicians from both the islands under the same roof in a quaint town that was chosen as the middle ground were looking straight into my eyes to see if I meant what I said. And for two hours, I was a voice for a greater truth, for passion that has fuelled my existence since the first day I remember. And when I finished, in that deafening moment of silence I would have collapsed dead for something that was holding me there left my soul and bared me naked before countless peering eyes. And then the claps started ringing - Not everyone believed it will work. Some wanted to give me a chance. Some wanted to see me fail. But the rest wanted to believe me, wanted to be part of something that touches a thousand lives and gives them purpose; hungry souls who would have created me out of ether if I didn't exist. The posters of the proposed bridge adorned the walls; There were captions and slogans; We planned ads in magazines, on TVs. The press was waiting and for a split second, just a split second, it all seemed possible.
"I didn't even know such formalities exist. I have read every single rule book there is and there's not even a mention of such a paper". It felt like I was talking to the walls, like I didn't even exist in that dingy, nauseating room talking to a stout, balding man who had an opened file cover for a face. He didn't bother to answer, but opened the drawers of his table and threw a book at me. The book was printed a week ago. "But the new rules must have come into effect a week ago. How could I have filed this document when our project was sanctioned 6 months before". He looked up from his file and smirked at me. Betel leaves juice from his mouth dripped onto the file he was reading as he slurped it back into his mouth. Callousness was plastered all over his face, on the stain on the file, painted on the walls, written on all the files that were falling out of every shelf in the room, it was slapping me so hard that I was bleeding all over. The buck stopped here, he knew it and he didn't give a damn. "I don't care for these papers, these damned formalities. I am going to build the bridge and let us see what you can do". It was a stupid thing to say. But futility gives you complete freedom to react because nothing you do is ever going to make a difference.
It had started drizzling. I wore the hood of my jacket and covered my numb ears. But his answer was still ringing loud and clear. "You talk like a crusader. But I know you don't give a damn about those islands. Listen to me son, I am not going to move my butt so that a no-namer bastard can get his initials in the annals of history". It hurt - to be able to do nothing to prove him wrong. People like him can always dissect anything - even sacrifice - into personal equations of profit and loss and dismiss them. It is as much an excuse for them to dismiss it as it is a reason for the crusaders to accomplish something.

I was walking through lanes that housed memories of my childhood but have long been forgotten because my daily work didn't lead me there. I didn't want to go to sleep because I had no reason to wake up the next day. I wanted to leave the city, didn't want to carry this loss like an albatross, didn't want my girl to be ridiculed at school as a loser's daughter. Felt like disappearing into the nothingness that was extending till infinity before me. I stopped under a lamp post to check the time. There next to it was an open window framing a part of a well-lit wall. On the wall was the poster of the bridge, my bridge, with a crayon-drawn family of four matchstick men - Parents holding hands of their son and daughter. On top of the family, the caption read, "Happy Family Forever".
I snuggled under the covers, buried my face into her hair and slowly traced my way to the center of the bulge and drew a heart on it, as a whisper to my sleeping daughter. Despite my whole world falling apart, that moment it all felt complete. My life merging with her life and the life within. She instinctively turned around, pecked me in the first spot she could find on my face and asked me sleepily, "Will you build the bridge darling?". I took her lips in mine, traced my way to her ear and whispered, "No baby. But I have left a dream behind" and sealed the truth with a kiss.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Parenthood == Sublimity??

8:29 PM  
Blogger Rathish said...

Two points,
1. Creating life is a huge responsibility and is also an amazing humbling experience.
2. Frankly, wasn't thought of that way. But making him a father was not a coincidence. It fit better that way.

Would love to know your opinions too.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Kumari said...

i like the style of narration and the prose...lost in a frame of mind where i can't relate to the story.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Rathish said...

first Q. is everything ok?
As for the content, it's again another question deep down that translates itself into something different in the blog with all secret metaphors :)

10:52 PM  
Blogger Kumari said...

To quote a famous person "I left a dream behind" :)

6:09 AM  
Blogger KoPoS said...

For some moments, i felt as if i was reading Ayn Rand. And then it changed! And ever so subtly!

Really good style.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Rathish said...

Thanks pooorna shashank! That was a huge compliment :) Gathered from your blog that you are an Ayn rand fan too. Fountainhead is probably one book that finds its place in everyone's favorites list (including mine !).

11:14 PM  
Blogger Praveen said...

I liked the way you described the islands, makes it really beautiful.

10:47 AM  
Blogger Samudraa said...

Believe the best thing u've ever written!(i like this better than that poetry thing u'd written)

Depth of emotions expressed in an amazingly manly fashion.

The way u've described the islands,elegance of parenthood,the devastating feeling he has towards the end........awesome!

Love these especially:
" would squint my eyes and watch men walk over my thumb, on my knuckles and finally reach the promised land at the end of my little finger"

"Betel leaves juice from his mouth dripped onto the file he was reading as he slurped it back into his mouth"...........creates that ugly feeling u've wanted to very beautifully.

"I didn't want to go to sleep because I had no reason to wake up the next day."

And ofcourse "left a dream behind"


2:46 PM  
Blogger Rathish said...

@Praveen - thanks :)

@Samudraa - thank you! most of what you picked are my favorite parts too!

12:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Creating life is extending your own personality... transferring what was you, into another life, so that you can go ahead with yours... trying to weave into your own "new" life, remnants of what you were... and seeing how those remnants transform into something so unlike you... and then realizing, maybe, things, though not wonderful, couldn't have turned out any better :))

2. Making a father of a man... brings him down to reality... the world no longer is a mirage that has to be conquered... it becomes a dream to be cherished... it makes him rooted... so firmly, that sometimes he may not even require a foothold... he creates his own... because what he has to protect is his own self!

1:05 PM  

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