“He was a man of many interests.”
My grandmother would talk very softly about her father. As though he could listen to her whispers right from his grave. Like he had these magical ears that could transcribe her narrations and he would scream, “No Sethu, not that embarrassing side of me, please.” With each of her narration I painted a piece of him and then put these pieces together that unravelled him a bit more and also made him a bit more enigmatic.
He was tall, fair and handsome, so striking that the women of the village craved for him beneath their covers of societal shame and conventional norms. He was a man of many interests. She emphasised this though I never cared much. Theatre and Gamaka Vachana defined his proficiency. Gamaka Vachana included spinning the stories of Mahabharatha into fanciful tunes and making them more appealing than they already were. Belonging to the family of the esteemed poet Kumarvyasa these stories were household and never felt like an outsider. These stories maybe, just maybe instilled the idea of love in him. Grandmother said with a glint in her eyes that the Vachanas he handpicked were rich in literature and was a miracle herb to the listeners. Playing Krishna was something that he always looked forward to. He fancied the idea of being adored and loved by so many women in a single lifetime. Obviously, only gods have such supernatural power to deal with the expectations of so many women, isn’t it?
He spoke in several languages such as Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. But he was a man of less words. He never poured his heart out. He remained caged much in the walls of his silence. Layer after layer his world was surrounded by wordlessness. I wondered why he chose it over the amount of expressions he could choose from. His mind being a shelter to the trees of endless words and sweet fruits of poems and songs, why did he choose a barren parched strip of silence? It was as though the night sky preferred the dark clouds to the full moon.
“He loved fragrances”, she said. Every time he travelled to the cities he would go wandering in the bazaars looking for strong ittars. He would come back with tiny potions that came in small bottles. He would dab a drop or two on a small cotton ball and would place it in the tiny free space in his ears.
He was a man of many interests.
He had two women in his life. One whom he loved, spent most of the nights in her arms, gave her everything that she needed except for his name. She hated the light. The day was her curse. It stole her identity, ripped her stark naked and as she took every step outside, she battled every stare to every comment. Could she ever explain the spring of love that her heart blossomed into every time he was around? Or could she tell the world how even his silence spoke of his love for her? Every evening he walked past the Devi temple buying some jasmine for her long stream of hair. Wasn’t that enough to last a lifetime? All through her life she lived with the purpose of being loved, nothing else, literally. And then when she died there wasn’t a single person ready to lift her corpse. Her last rituals and related fate were decided by the village panchayat, where the great grandfather was a key member. When he was deliberately asked for his opinion all he offered back to them was his silence — long preserved and well-maintained silence.
The spring still arrived and the jasmine still spread the fragrance. Love alone has never been man enough to fight the cruelty of the world. Love has been a flower blossoming when watered and withered when not cared. Then what was the chance that their fragile love could ever find a place to settle down. It was meant to haunt. It was meant to hurt. Period.
The other woman was his wife who waited in the veranda until the night would eat the sun out completely, would rarely sleep with an anticipation that he would arrive to her love. His wife who spent all her life looking after his ailing mother, taking care of their children and being blamed for not being good enough to hold his passion. Her life was summarised in waiting. Every hour, every day, the wait would leave a void that only grew bigger. She knew there wasn’t a choice but for acceptance. So she submitted her desires to the ticking hands of time and hoped because she has nothing else to depend on.
My great grandfather was a man of many interests.
About the Author: Poornima Laxmeshwar resides in the garden city Bangalore and works as a content writer for a living. Her poems have appeared in ColdNoon, Vayavya, MuseIndia, Writers Asylum, The Aerogram, Stockholm Literary Review, Northeast Review, Brown Critique amongst many others. Her haiku have found space in several magazines.