30. In Search Of Solitude
On that day, I came out from my office,drove out of Hyderabad in-order run away from myself or to find myself. I noticed that I was watching the rear view mirror as If some one was following me. I finally stopped, looking for a petrol station, when the car cried for petrol.I already drove 100kms out of Hyderabad.
It was a small village, typical of that particular area of the state -- house made of rocks, huge ones, instead of bricks; a small fire camp somewhere; a goat herder; old people sitting under trees wearing shawls made of some animal's skin -- a sleepy village. It already became dark and the yellow fluorescent street light replaced the sun.
I was told that the nearest petrol station was 20kms away from the village. I noticed that I was exhausted, and decided to drink Tea, walked into an old hut which looked like the only hotel in the whole of the village. It was a small hut, two rooms; with a table, 2 chairs and a TV. A kid, 8yr old, probably, who was watching the TV announced by arrival. An old woman took my order for Tea and disappeared into the kitchen.
As I waited for the Tea, every second produced hundreds of thoughts and images, and they attacked my operating system I installed in my mind, the operating system which was based on the concept of power for power sake. It was like a stop-motion video of Caracas getting eaten by the scavengers and I became a mute spectator of myself. I realized that the operating system is as good as the hardware -- my memories.Then something happened -- I entered deep in to my mind and the image of the carcasses and operating systems disappeared. Was it the kid, the hut, the TV or the solitude with the thought that I was a away from the civilization? I didn't know. But I entered my own mind, and imaged it like a room. It was a room full of people having a party, forming into small groups; drinking,chatting, arguing; ignoring me -- the host.
I noticed something peculiar in that scene -- everyone resembled me, no they were me, even the women and the kids. I approached a group of three; a women and 2 men; one guy was telling a story. They didn't notice my arrival almost as if I was invisible, but it appeared to me that did notice me but were just ignoring. The guy who was telling the story was also holding a foot ball in his hands.
"2 year old. I am crawling..and I am going under the bed", he said and threw the football to another group. The guy who caught the football continued " 24 year old. I am fucking a girl on the bed", and threw the ball to some other group. The story continued, "15 yr old. I am looking at a nude magazine", and the ball throwing and the story continued.
I realized that they were telling my story, albeit in a non-chronological way. Who am I? I am just a story. A boring story. Then some one threw the ball to another group, a group of people wearing black from head to toe, just like a burkha. One of them grabbed the ball, and then they ran as if to escape from me. I ran towards them shouting ..who is it..who are you? , They escaped in to small room.
I entered the room, it was empty except for a mirror. I walked towards the mirror, expecting to find myself..to find....myself. I was not in the mirror. I was nothing. I was a...nothing. Everything else disapeared from the view, just me standing before the mirror with no image of myself in it. Loneliness...terrible loneliness. I tried to shout but no sound came out of me. I tried to move..but couldn't.Anxiety built up..and then..I heard..
The scene changed. Now, I was in a small room in a hut, with TV on, and a kid watching it, and a hot chai before me. Back to reality.
I starting sipping the Chai trying to make sense of my mind. Who am I?
looked like the kid changed the channel. It was National Geographic;A kids program about animals.
I took one more sip of the delicious Chai. Who am I?
The anchor on TV: Hey kids, today I am going to introduce you to a very peculiar animal...you will find it mighty interesting..you wanna know about it?
Yesssss...the kids shouted.
anchor : First, lets take a break.
Ad about a shampoo followed by a car commercial.
Who am I? I am nothing. I am just a story written by someone..and it is not in my control. If I am just a story, why are those people running away from me? What are they hiding?
The kid changed the channel again. A Telugu movie.Familiar song.He changed it again.
Anchor: Kids, I know some of you are shy. But, don't you worry, I am going to show you the shiest animal on the planet...
Yes. I am just a story. A love story, a tragic story, an adventure...a mystery.
Anchor : It is so shy that it always live alone. It is a solitary animal.
Those people who ran away from me are the puzzles in my story.They are the mysteries in my story which need to be solved.
Anchor: You may ask why it is solitary and why it is shy/ Nobody knows.But, I think it hides away from us, because it thinks of itself as ugly, and don't want to show its face to us.
A man is a story. But, who writes the story?
Anchor: Hey kids, tell me this, If you go to a forest and if you find a football, what will you do?
kick it..some kids shouted. take it home..some others shouted.
Anchor: Never do that. Never ever do that. You know why?
Anchor : Because it is not a football.
What is it?
Anchor: It is our shy and solitary animal.It has the capability of rounding itself as a football just like snail..to protect itself..as it has very thick skin.
Anchor: Never go near it.Okay?
Why? It is going to bite us?
Anchor: No. Dont go near it. It carries a horrible disease called leprosy.
Anchor : Yes. Leprosy, a horrible disease..which makes people ugly.
Anchor: You want to see the animal?
Anchor : Before that, lets take a break.
The kid changed the channel again..this time to a news channel, which kind of surprised me.
I left some money on the table and walked out of the hut..towards my car.
A shy and solitary animal...a football..an animal which can round itself into a football...ugly..disease..ugly....it hates itself...don't touch it..why? why? it carries a disease...horrible disease...a horrible disease....leprosy...
Some of them were familiar terms, and I made a connection, and my heart began to pound. I ran back into the hut, grabbed the remote from the kid...and started shouting,"Where is it? Where is the channel?
The kid grabbed the remote and changed the channel.
Anchor : Hey kids, you wanna know about this mysterious animal?
Anchor : First, look at this video.
An animal the size of 10 times that of rat, slowly rounded itself by its own skin...into a football. It just looked like a football.
Anchor : Kids, Meet Mr.Armadillo.The most strangest animal on the planet. They are notoriously shy and they hunt only during night. We left our cameras in the jungle...and see..what they captured...
An armadillo was walking straight towards the camera..with its eyes reflecting the light. I was able to notice the resemblance between the armadillo and the creature I saw on ataka...except the one on the camera looked like a beauty queen when compared.
THE CREATURE ON THAT ATAKA IS AN UGLY ARMADILLO.
Anchor: Now, tell me why you shouldn't go near armadillo.
Leprossssyyyyyy ..the kids shouted.
LEPROSY. My heart skipped a bit and I looked at my wrist.
I ran out of the hut.
As I drove back to the city, I experienced a potpourri of thoughts,emotions and feelings..as I tried to connect all the lose threads in the story..and once I got the clear picture of the whole mystery...I stopped the car. I walked into the darkness, looked at the moon and the stars which knew everything; and as if to wash away their image and my sins, tears formed in my eyes blurring their image; and I cried..and I cried..and I cried.
Cried like a baby...cried crazy.....and I whispered to myself, " Mom, I am sorry".