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The Rocking Chair

Not big, neither costly. But it took him twelve years to get one. He had watched heroes and villains alike easing themselves and since then he had wanted one. He had projected himself, locked doors – no disturbances, slow music-probably John Mayer singing ‘your body is a wonderland’ or James Blunt singing ‘Goodbye my lover’, no lights-complete darkness and eyes shut and the slow rhythmic movement of the chair. And now he was living it. The Rocking Chair.   …………………………………………………………………………………………   Shut doors, eyes shut, complete darkness, Sur Sudha playing, he was easy on his couch, with his massy skull resting back on the head of the chair- his long neck slightly stretched, his lanky hands on the arms of the chair- a feeble gripping, like those of lovers. He was rocking in the chair, back -traversing into his past and a forth into the future and a back again, exactly with the rhythm of the chair.   He could see the darkness through his closed eye lids-the pitch-dark black, not frightening though, but rather intriguing. He had made a long and arduous journey to this place. Eldest of the two brothers, he now had an added responsibility. In a few years time, his brother too would go to a college, probably an engineering college like he. His father wanted both his sons to be engineers. His father had spent every single nickels of his earning to make him an engineer. He too had been responsible and worked hard enough to live up to their dreams. He was skeptical; will his brother too do it-a bit notorious, pampered lot?
…………………………………………………………………………..   Yeah, they had come a long way up. His father would be retiring next month. He will be the breadwinner of the family. “Things will be better when we both will be engineers”, he had always said, unable to believe his own words. His father would add, “Look man, your brother is your responsibility.”   He is an engineer now. His brother was to be! Lucky enough! He had landed in a good job immediately after his engineering, or was it just good paying? He was not satisfied with his job. Working in a family business, he had felt himself of an intruder. He didn’t want to give it a second thought though!
………………………………………………………   Oh gosh! Five of his friends are married, not counting the girls. Samridh, Ayush, Anjoy, Biplab and Prabal. Mani is getting married next week. Girls, all of them!
“Its time that you too get married”, his friends and relatives shouted time and again, “You are twenty seven and it’s the right time to begin a family.”
” Nope Yaar, I am yet to be settled” he would chide. With a façade, he tried to sound as reasonable as he could “Emotional maturity is also needed and I am not prepared as yet.” “You have a high paying job. You are the highest paid among all your friends, aren’t you”, they wouldn’t listen to what he got to say. Samridh picked up from where Anjoy had left, “and as far as YOUR emotional maturity is concerned, it will all come along with marriage in lump sum!”
They had a habit of talking typical engineering way.   Even his ma was complaining lately, “I feel lonely back home. I need someone to talk to. Probably its time you get married.” He would be left with no choice other than to abandon the room. He would throw his left hand into the air impulsively and his head other way round. “Nah ma, I will not marry unless I get settled. A good permanent job and yes, a car of course!”
“You will be forty then.” Her tone more serious than joking!   He must admit, he too was desperate to get married. At times he felt that he should. He too wanted someone to share himself with. Not that he didn’t have any, but he wanted someone much closer. He was sick of curling alongside a rug in the nights. A little fun to spice up life. But no, he can’t. He won’t marry unless his brother completes engineering. He is his responsibility after all.
……………………………………………………………………………….   Now there he is, rocking in a Rocking chair.
1980 to 2000 makes 20. 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 now. He was counting on his fingers. Yes, he is 26 now. At 26, he was a man. He will be getting married to Ashmita next month.   Ashmita, she is such a nice girl. A round face, though fair complexioned, glistening with the big black eyes. Her bright eyes spoke of volumes of optimism she was filled with. With almost no make up, except for the kajal around her big black eyes, she looked beautiful. A husky voice to match her stout persona, she had an aura of confidence. Standing tall at 5’6”, hardly could anybody stop noticing her. Unlike most girls he had known, she would laugh loud at every small thing he said. Her adoring face flashed on his eyes while her thought roused him. It was only last Saturday they had met for the first time. An MA in English, she was so placid and subtle, not a trace of vanity.   There was nothing intriguing in her photograph like the rest of the girls his mother had proposed. He didn’t want the least to meet her. “Bunu aunty says she is such a nice girl.” His mother had placed the photograph back on his palm, for him to have a closer look at it. He observed in silence, still unable to find any. But he couldn’t deny his mother either.   The two families arranged for a meeting at his to-be-in-laws place. This was his third prospective bride he was meeting in less than two months time. They hardly talked in presence of their parents but as soon as they were left alone, they agreed coyly to meet the other day in a suburb restaurant. He had agreed to it, no, not because he liked her but because he didn’t find any reason in particular to dislike her either. She was beautiful, well read, good mannered (all prospective brides are good mannered during their first meet). She was bold enough to ask a to-be husband to meet in a restaurant without the consent of families. So he thought to give it a try.   They met, they talked, and they ate. Actually, they talked less and ate more. At the end, impromptu, he asked “Can I give you a call in the evening?” She hesitated. Was she really hesitating or just pretending he couldn’t figure out.
“You girls are hard to understand, mysterious lot!” He gave a sarcastic smile, left corner of his lips rose to meet his cheeks, “I won’t call if you don’t want me to.”
She nodded, her rosy cheeks turned raspberry red, “Do as you wish.”
He gave her a call in the evening. They talked. Talked about things at random, nothing in particular, about hobbies, about music, and what not. Her interest in literature impressed him. He too was a literature shabby. So they met on Saturday and went to a movie. A hindi love story. They chatted and chatted, ate less and talked more this time. Their talk centered on life, friends and social customs.   He had this habit of discussing ‘life’ with his friends every time he was drinking. He used to passionately talk and listened people’s opinion on life. “A man’s philosophy of life describes what the man is exactly like, would put him inside out”, he would say to his friends. That was why he loved to talk about life in particular. He would generally sum up with a Salman Rushdie say,”I pack my bags before every journey as if it were the last journey of my life.” That summed up his life, “Live everyday, who knows tomorrow. Despite all hardships, life is beautiful and worth living. Every difficulty makes you into a better and stronger human being.” His epilogue wouldn’t stop, “If you ask me, I say that everybody should go through hard times in their early life that would teach him the real value of life, make them strong.”   She too shared the same views like his. Trying to be independent, she had worked in a primary school after her high schools. Despite all troubles, she graduated in Science, still working in the school. She didn’t want to go hunting her parents’ pocket for money. “Financial independence borne self respect. It boosts up your self-esteem.” He could clearly see that in her personality. Just a week and he could find number of reasons to like her. ‘She is different, exactly of my type.’ He had started loving her. ‘Is it real love? Is it long enough to fall in love!’ he doubted. Must be, he was impatient to hear from her. Every time he was near a phone, he had an impulse to make a call. It was real hard to not to make one. Whenever he was alone, he thought about their life together. It must be love.
…………………………………………………   Knock, knock, knock. Someone is there at his door, got to be his mother. “Are you sleeping?” he heard her concerned voice behind the closed door. “Are you not feeling goooood?” “Nah ma, I am alright. Just a little tired.” He lied, without rising from the chair. Heavy footsteps slowly disappeared in the silence around him. Slowly the silence resumed and in came the darkness. He closed his eyes, the same darkness above his shut-eyes. He could touch it with his lids. He moved his hand and felt the silence. The chair rocked in its rhythm.
17 more days to begin a new life. A new dimension added. Like a 2-D object changing into 3-D with the addition of a plane. Yes, Ashmita would add up to his life. Amid the chanting of verses and the joys of families, he and his wife-to-be would tie a knot and make promises to Agni Devta, the god of fire that they would bind into a single life, he will protect her, be faithful to her, his other half and she would make similar promises. He projected the fire before his closed eyes, burning yellow, standing testimony to their promises and oneness, their families and friends rejoicing while he completes the final act-placing red vermilion in her forehead and the mangalsutra round her neck. What does the blood-red vermilion suggest? Does it suggest till the last drop of blood in my veins? He wasn’t sure. He shall ask her the next time they talk.   He rehearsed the complete scene, complete with the bride crying at her departure. He looking helplessly at his sweet half while her parents and friends bid her farewell amid tears. She, first sobbing and then crying aloud as the time to depart from her near and dear ones arrive, tears running down the big black eyes, through her rosy cheeks spoiling the hard done makeup. She unwilling to part, her mother would push her into his car, where he would be waiting. What should he say???????????? How could he console????????? What should he say? His lips curved but were unable to find the right formation. He imagined him as the bride. What would he want to hear then? Nothing. Simply nothing. Probably no words would be enough to console the grieving soul. The years of love and care that parents gave could never be undermined with words. He should sit meek.
………………………………………………………..   He will no longer be left alone in darkness like today. Early from office, he would hurry home. His better half would be waiting. Tea served, he would join her in kitchen. He loved coking. He had always felt the closest way to a woman’s heart is through the kitchen. Cooking will be fun!
Teaching is the best profession for a wife. He will make her join a secondary school nearby. It will be a ten-to-four job with not much pressure but a lot of holidays- summer, winter, dashain, tihar, bandhs and no overtime too, almost half the year in holidays. Most importantly, she will take the kids to school and can guide them well. They will be more disciplined and aware of the watchful eyes of their mother. Their? How many? How many kids will they have? Two. He wanted two of them. It’s too costly to raise three. They wont be able to raise three. The kid will be very lonely and obstinate if it were alone. So two is the best option. If by worst luck, one meets with an accident or something, there will be the other. She too had agreed to it. Will they both be boys of both gals? Nope, he didn’t want a boy and a girl. Better if they were both girls! They didn’t have any sisters. Festivals weren’t charming enough without girls.   Raising kids will be very difficult. Education is very costly. His father had worn a pair of trousers to his work for three years because he couldn’t afford to get another. He is better off than his father, earning more than what he used to and his wife too will be earning. But the cost of living has also risen! And his family too will be bigger than his father’s. Not just his kids, he will have to look after his parents too.   ‘Oh my god! What am I thinking?’, he thought, one thought overran the other. Eh, compartment of thoughts like that of a train, each linked with the other but the tail too far from the engine.   Life is like the water cycle. Water, vapour, clouds, rain and back. Shakespeare truly said seven stages of life! His kids will also be thinking of marriage and having kids one day like he is today and he will be where his father is today. There will be another he. Yes, he was stepping into his father’s boots now and they too will be some one else’s someday! No, he cant let another he to inherit him. No, he wont let.   His life wouldn’t be his alone now on. So, it was almost late he let go of things he had held so dear. He reached for the bottle in the chair, still closing his eyes. Gulped the pills, he had lost the count. Numbers didn’t matter to him anymore, the more the better. He had a prick in his chest. He kept his eyes closed and waited patiently for another. It didn’t take long. The darkness around his eyes penetrated into him. The music was fainter and more serene. Silence pervaded. It had stopped playing. He wont let another he inherit him, no, never! No one more to endure pains like he!!! Another prick. He dreaded to be among the darks. The darkness was sweet and tangible; the darkness grew blacker and sweeter. His head rested on the rocking chair. All things came to a halt, even the motions of the rocking chair.

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