I didn’t grow up among books. Though we had quite a few photographs on our walls, I didn’t have paintings to gaze at or tear apart. Postcards that my uncle brought from foreign trips were a collectible, and I spent many years gazing at maps and imagining places, and watching travel and living, that one day I realized I could smell countries at the different corners of my house, and conjure architecture at the colours that hit my eye every once in a while. My sense of deja vu developed later, that I stopped between morsels and found myself among foreigners I knew from last birth, eating cheesy pizza, sipping sherry or any drink that glistened, and discussing cruises on the Mediterranean, wiping my lips on the napkin every once in a while.
Since I didn’t grow up among books, I didn’t get to flip them, nor fling them, nor step on them in disgust, nor rip them apart in frustration. All I could do was to hold them in clean right angels, never to injure its spine, face west, pray, and turn one page to the next in humility, overwhelmed at the printed dots, mystified at the apparent errors which never could be. Dog ears hurt behind my ears; unknown words, my eyes, brain and optimism.
Hence, when I learnt of the country in which everyone was lazy, and of the treasure hidden by the King himself beneath the rock causing traffic jams, and of the diligent one who moved the rock away and thereby won the treasure, I started searching for the King, and I found him everywhere. I found him in the Village Officer who wanted me to stand in a corner of his office and wait there for full fifty three minutes before he could issue me a Nativity Certificate; I saw a king in our Headmaster who found memory loss a crime than a health issue; I also found a king in the bus conductor who wouldn’t let a student sit for he is paying concession rates. I also thought I saw a rock while they smirked, they giggled, they rounded their mouths in derision. It took me years and plenty of education (and I only found professional courses worthy enough to be called that name) to understand that beneath the rock was no treasure. But habits die slow, and each time I find myself in a government office, from hospital to electricity board to welfare board, I don’t know how, but my spine bends, my lips dry, my voice lowers, and Sir’s deluge docility.
And then I marry according to my Dad’s wishes, and then I procreate after I get tired of condoms and my wife of relatives’ questions, and then I age, and then I die. But before I die, I make a confession, of all revolutions that might have been possible.
PhD Cultural Studies scholar at the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad. Tries hand at essays, poetry, short stories and film reviews.