It is twilight. I stand there at the crossroads. The bridge to the right will take you to the city. The road to the left takes you to the labour lines and the railway colony. I live the street straight opposite. It has a mosque, church, temple, a copper pod lined garden and a childrens park. Its the heaven of the middle class.
I am all alone. Inhaling my daily dose of sanity, I try to figure out my life. I am truly at the crossroads. I am not sure what I have done all these years and I have no clue as to what I will be doing the rest of my life. I have no clue as to whos, whys and hows of me.
I am here. Thats all about it. Surprisingly, my job looks secured till my retirement for the first time in my life. Its quite unsettling you know! To do the same job all your life to retire and die. I have never had permanency of mind. Its always been fleeting. I must step beyond journalism.
The lonely attraction at the crossroads is the banyan tree. It looks like the tree is about to truly step into middle age in a day. Like me. The striking feature of this banyan is its branches. It looks like the tree has only branches as its trunk. I need to branch out.
I can clearly see the shades of green. The tender greens towards the road, parroty greens in its breast and the forest foliage on top. There were also yellowish green leaves lit by the sodium, the city's neo-light.
The roots are visible from a distant. Partly paved and partly peed. There are a dozen framed pictures of gods and goddess hanging on to the tree. The city is truly secular. Mary's portrait is easily visible. And as Alla is invisible, they had hung copper plated quotes from Quran. There are even bangles tied to the bottom. This tree is a healer. Am I? I'm a soother of souls.
A few days back, a tv show of a water falls near the soul town showed a `smoking saint'. The devotees to the temple by the falls present him all kinds of fags. The saint never speaks. He only smokes. And sometimes eats. What a life! When I told to my father sitting by my side that some day I would also be a saint like him, my father looked bewildered. Fathers will never know sons.
I walk around the banyan. There are two rain trees to its left and right. The youthful and the baby. Like my wife and daughter. The rains in my life. They wash all my impurities, cleanse me of my sins and breath my life pure.
Oddly, there stands a metal box looking like a post box from the time of world wars. There is this tri-wheel full of colourful pots. Then the puncture shop. The post box sure should have brought warmth and greetings to thousands and the pots must have quenched the thirst of thousands and the puncture shop (and its owner presently sprawling on the platform after a deepavali binge) must have helped the bikers to carry on a tiring journey. All useful to people.
I just wonder what about people like me? Have I ever been useful to others? I don't know. Definitely not to my wife. Or was to my mom. Compared to the service of those lifeless things, me (read we), the one with a superior knowledge and a clear conscience, have to admit my lesser being. What am i doing here then?
I went around. There was trash and muck behind. That nobody knows at first sight. The front is all show. Filth lies beneath in heaps. No one has to tell me this. I know it very well. What else is there?
At the back-corner where there are two mutton stalls half-a-dozen dead goatskins are hanging from hooks of crooked men and tens of hens hemmed in cages cry aloud, a young banyan tree is fresh and flowering. Despite the smell of the omni-present death (at the hands of the butchers who have different times), the tenderness from the banyan tree pervades the air.
I circle around as the smell of biriyani wafts through the air. Hyderabad Biriyani! A crowd is waiting to take home in parcels bones, legs, livers, hearts and brains. As I am not a meat lover, my thoughts munch `cheeni kum!'
Time has no meaning. Twenty years will roll by. Just like that. I may not open a restaurant. May be, I will own a small bookstore in soul town. Ilayaraja will be there. With his lasting melodies. And I will wait. For Nina. Not El.