Sunday, October 15, 2006

Unlike The Kite…

The kites soaring in the sky made a pretty sight. The thought that he had never flown a kite embittered him, but seeing the city where he never saw birds, now looking like a bird sanctuary, brought a hesitant smile to his puckered lips. A solitary boy sprinted from one end of the park to the other, his kite following closely, threatening to fly. It came crashing down the moment the little boy, slowed down while he looked back to see its progress. Crestfallen, yet hopeful, he tried again and again, finally stopping to rest at the bench, where the man was seated at one side watching the boy’s valiant efforts in fascination. The boy longingly looked up to the skies. He could never hope to reach the heights that rich people flew their kites to, from their terraces. He noticed the man eyeing him intently and started to walk away, his eyes pinned up still, towards the heavens.
"I can take you to my terrace", called out the man who was surprised by his spontaneous act of graciousness. The boy spun around instinctively, but turned away, wondering whether the man was mocking him.
"Come on, I am not joking, I want to see you flying your kite like all the other people".
He rose up and moved towards the boy and placed a hand on his slight shoulders.
"And you could teach me how to fly it too."

The kite flew farther and farther. The light breeze on the terrace was taking it away. The boy's nimble fingers danced around the thread, expertly letting it go a lot and tugging it back a little. He looked up occasionally at the man, whose eyes betrayed his yearning to take control of the string. The man felt a youthful freshness that had eluded his staid life for a long time now. The terrace would be his favorite haunt now on.
"Do you want to try?" asked the boy.
"Yes, but you will have to help me".
Within a few seconds of the man taking charge, the kite swooned, and dipped in a free fall, with the man frantically trying to arrest its descent.
"Oh, I have lost my kite, Ma will kill me now", the boys mourns as he sees his kite entangled on a telephone post. The man yanks at it and with resignation writ large on his face; he realized the thread had snapped.
"I will give you money to buy a new one. Don’t worry", the man says trying to soothe the disappointed look on the boys face.
The kite, which flew proudly like its namesake, a few seconds back, cavorting at each flourish of the boy's wrists, now lay on the wires like a star fallen from the skies.

"Come to my room. Let me get you the money." The man's words seemed to be of scant relief to the aggrieved boy.
"Here. Have some biscuits or better take it with you home." He could see the child's eyes widening at the sight of the food.
"What class are you studying in?”
"I don’t go to school anymore. They stopped giving mid-day meals", the boy replied.
"Where do you live? I need to talk to your mother."
"We live close by. My mother will be very angry. She will shout at you too if you come".
He locked his room and came down with the boy praying the landlady wouldn’t be hovering around to make small talk. They walked past the park, the houses were becoming smaller, the streets narrower, with shanties encroaching the road that shrunk almost to a bylane. The man hadn’t been to this part of the neighborhood before. He never felt the need and much lesser, the curiosity. That is, until today. They arrived at an ancient tenement. The door to enter was shorter than the man. The boy went inside while the man decided to stand outside, uncertain of his place there. Immediately a loud high-pitched voice rang inside, "Where have you been? I come back home tired, slaving at other people's homes, and find you gone, just like your wonderful father. I know you too are waiting for the chance to leave me". A brief silence interrupted by hurried whispers, and a head appeared from behind the door.
"Please come in sir. Has this boy been giving you trouble? I have to beat him more or he won’t straighten".
"No please don’t. He was only playing with his kite. And he lost it because of me," the man timidly responded.

All their living quarters had, was a single room. On one side was what looked like the kitchen with a few bowls stacked nearby. A few clothes and a metal trunk chest lay carelessly on one corner, with a few more clothes, left on a string tied across the room, presumably to dry. The man’s eyes lit up, seeing an old 14" TV. He had remembered this was now a common sight across many slums in the old city and many even had cable tv, wired illegally.
Seeing the man staring intently at the TV, the woman fearfully offers, "Please sir. That is all we have. His father took it from somewhere two years back. He has left us since then".
That was when he got a proper look at the woman. She must be no older than 25. A little dark in complexion, she had a beauty and elegance that he couldn’t quite place, for her surroundings. She was slightly on the plump side; her salwar-kameez clung tightly to her body. He bit back the odd arousing of lust that had involuntarily kindled. Despite bottling his feeling, a telepathic wave seemed to have told the woman, of his need, and she self-consciously pulled on a dupatta lying on the wardrobe.
Slightly embarrassed, he remarks, "I came to talk about the boy's education. You should send him to school again.” And after a brief silence where his eyes mediated casually on the woman, added, “I can help you".
"Thank you, sir. But he is old enough to start working now."
At this the man gets angry and responds, "Do you have to live with his money? I am sure you are capable of earning enough for both. I will bring him books and clothes. I need someone to clean my room and toilet. Can you come?"
"Yes sir. Thank you, sir. Child, say thanks to the good man".

With gentle sweeps of her broom, the woman fanned out around the room, her gaze fixed stiffly on the mosaic floor. The man appeared to be reading a magazine, lying back on his bed, occasionally looking up to watch the woman, hard at her work. She seemed to be uncomfortable with his presence in the room, How would I make the first move? he thought. The hands moved towards the woman, and came to rest on her shoulders. Her back had been turned away, and in shock, she spun around.
“Please sir, Please sir…”.
“It is okay, it is okay,” the man assured as he buried his face in hers. A tear fell from her eye which came to rest on his upper lip. A pang of guilt shot through his body. So transient was everything else before his lust, he thought to himself, as his tongue came out to wipe his lip clean. The broom fell from her hands. Her fingers wandered to his back where they brushed against his wallet. Maybe, he will save me, she hoped.

The boy bounded his way back home. It was nice to be back in school, amongst people his age, to be playing with them, he didn’t understand anything the teachers said and neither had he the courage to ask nor had they bothered to help, a courtesy he expected as a new student, but he would learn all that soon, the good man had promised to help. His mother was not at home. He wanted to tell her a lot of things. “I should go thank the nice man”, the boy thought aloud. As he neared the man’s room, he heard his voice, “Now your boy is like my son.”
“Hmmm,” he heard his mother’s feeble reply, and after a brief pause she added, “I will come back after 3 days.”
”No, I need you to come to me every day, and send your son to me; I may have to help him with his classes”. The door was closed, the boy couldn’t understand, his mother never went to the same house to work every day, he decided it would be better to go back to his house.

She came home, he watched her carefully, only a blank expression enveloped her face. She hadn’t even bothered to ask him about school. She was so talkative, but today she seemed so subdued. He knew from experience, never to ask her questions, because she had only scoldings to give for answers. He walked out of their house, and he thought it odd that she hadn’t even noticed. In contrast, the man, seemed exceedingly happy to see him. He patiently taught the boy, gave him sweets, and sent him away happily. The boy walked back home unable to contain the smile on his face. His mother’s behavior was forgotten, he had found himself a guardian better than his father, and he had a better future to look forward to. In a few days, he was relieved to find his mother back to her cheerful self, and he went to the temple, and prayed hard to god, to make all this bliss last forever.

The Notice of demolition was a rude shock that sent into a tumble, the new life that was budding, for mother and son. Until then, she had consoled herself that her relationship would save her son. She had forgotten all her physical needs in the face of the struggle to survive, and now she had begun to love the way, the man aroused in her the feelings, that had been stoked first by her husband and then left cold to wither away. Her hands trembled, as she struggled to muffle her tears. They had nowhere to go, no relatives who would take her in, no employers sympathetic enough to let them in, except for the man. Taking the boy by one hand, and clutching to the notice by the other, she walked towards the man and knocks at his door.

He looked up from the notice, a look of displeasure, mixed with sadness.
“There is no way you can fight this notice. Where will you go?”
The woman who had looked up until then, lowered her face, her shame had washed away all the dignity he saw there, the first time his roving eyes had fell on her. A brief silence followed, it was obvious to the man that she needed his help.
“You tell us….”
“I am sorry. The landlady won’t allow. My friends and family can’t see you both here. Can I give you some money?” How pathetic he looked, he wondered, to the desperate souls in front of him. His eyes darted to the boy’s to escape the woman’s fierce look. He cringed at the pitiful look of betrayal that wore on the child’s face.
“Come, my son, the gentleman has had his good deed and his hearty meal and he’s satisfied. Remember what he’s taught you now.” He couldn’t bear to face them any longer and shut the door. He turned around. Like a curse, it had to be the mirror he encountered. In it he knew he was seeing the worst coward of his life.

A few days later: yet another evening, a steady breeze was blowing, a time for kites, a time for people to escape the confines of their homes. The man trudges up the steps to the terrace. He sees the boy's kite still there, caught on the wires, how long would it survive as a token of his noble gesture of humanity, he wondered. The kite had been played with and forgotten by its owner. The man remembered how he toyed with and discarded the boy and mother. At least, the kite had found a resting place, too high for any man to stomp it down. What about its owners. Have they found an abode, safe from the cruelties of fellow beings?
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For those of you who wondered what this is about, this is my first attempt at fiction and writing a short story, on this blog. The characters are drawn from people I have observed in real life, during my stay in Delhi, like the lonely boy in the park who ran with his kite, reminding me of my young days when we used to fly kites with my neighbours, the washerwoman who my landlady contracted to launder my clothes, and who I thought was the most beautiful lady I had ever beheld, and the man…well isn’t he like most of us men!

Criticism is most welcome, this time around!

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hmm , Nice . Think u shud put in ur hand more frequently in this :) (writing stories). Especially can connect with the Delhi settings in teh post.

ToOothlEss WOndeR! said...

nice setting, nice theme.
looked like you hurried it, though. :)
i think you should write more of this stuff. practice makes perfect, i guess. :)

Immigrant in Canada said...

Jiby.. there are few parts, you didn't write, perhaps you were hoping that I could read between the lines..

Plot is beautiful.. can relate to all three.. Have been the child, have seen the mother and have known the man!

Jiby said...

li, thanks. i will try my hand here further. the part of delhi i last lived in was like a village.

balamurali, nice to see you here. hope the work on your movie is going well. i really appreciate your frank comment. i will read it again to find the problematic parts. dont know if i want to try this sort of writing again...its a real painful process.

sarah, thank you for the feedback...this is valuable considering you are the best storyteller here. in my mind i thought i was moving logically ahead, but readers will know best. i guess living in the era of fast-moving films, life, etc caused me to hurry ahead. moreover i didnt think anyone would have the patience to read a long narrative.

mathew said...

excellent craft Jiby..People we say everyday and that we just walk by as if they are inconsequental part of us..

Got confused between the graciousness of the old man and his desires!!!..

neways loved the descriptions..

Anonymous said...

Jiby, loved it man..literally !! as you said its a very painful process...but it was worth it. some of your images - the kid trying to fly the kite in the street 'cause he has no access to a terrace - then the man's lust you potryed it so well *its not bad or evil i think its natural at times - devil is in the details* and the boys relation with his mother -those are solid imagery man. Wonderful - keep writing

Anonymous said...

then again if you ask me to remove one para...i wud eidt the last one..i think you wanted to end it somehow and it felt like some commentary on the story - like saying moral of the story is...i lost my flow there - but again it was all worth the time you spend on it, however painful

Jiby said...

mathew, thanks bro and u just pointed out a glaring weakness. I was expecting people to make the connection from the man's graciousness to his lust from the plot itself...it happens when he meets the woman, and adds a new dimension to his until-then casual interest in the boy. maybe i need to give a better understanding of the man's initial interest in the boy to flesh that intricacy out.

bvn, thanks man, writing about lust was like walking through a minefield and i was scared i was writing it all wrong. you know, i sort of see your viewpoint on the last para...but the problem is deeper...i derived the title of my story from there...so u better suggest me a new one, if i decided to take off that para...haha!

thanks very much, both of you guys for taking the trouble to read it through and letting me know the weak parts.

Matter of Choice said...

brilliant mate!!!!!

very beautifully told...this certainly looked professional to me...u def shuld do this much more often!!!!

do we see another Malayatoor in the making? :)

Anonymous said...

Good one Jiby, Interesting...good..
How I wish I could master the art of writing...
-RS

Anonymous said...

Hi Jiby, well hatched plot, good narrative technique, equally spontaneous fluency of wors to match. but thought you rounded it off too hurriedly. BTW the transition in the man's character was too hurried.
p.s very potent translation of emotions into sentences.

Rai said...

Nice story! And I must say it's a bold attempt to write on such a theme ...

Jiby said...

anishe, ayyo...where is malayatoor and where am i...moreover my upsc preps have fallen by the gutter. neways sure will try to write a better one next time around.

RS, you wouldnt know unless you tried, right. Begin a blog and see where you can get. Thanks for coming back.

amu, thank you very much for the encouraging words and the criticism. i hope to do better next time...the inconsistencies this time about was due to my patience wearing thin towarrds the closing of the plot. oddly i thought all was fine...but like i find out here, readers seem to disagree. your blog is very interesting.

raka, thanks for visiting my blog. yeah, even i cant believe i cud write so boldly. today it feels like all my posts till yesterday were candyfloss. and i loved your poems.

hope and love said...

nannayittodu ketto.. keep it up..!!
:))

Anonymous said...

This was so so beautiful!!! I wouldn't add or delete anything...the story was just perfect and so real....the flow is simple, natural and you are left feeling neither pity nor anger...because the turn of events was so natural... Awesome!!!!

Anonymous said...

Good one Jiby. Liked it much.

BTW Where in US are you now?

Lekshmi

Jiby said...

angeldoc, thank you very much!

silverine, nice to hear i shouldnt touch it again...coz i was toying with the idea of rewriting some parts though i really didnt want to!

lekshmi, thanks a lot. me in LA at the moment.

Shakhi said...

first attempt at fiction? u shud do it more happen, it is really beautiful and very well well-written...

Anonymous said...

Well narrated , well written and a nice plot to work on. Kinda feeling of seeing a Ray film :-)

Geo said...

aliya entha pattiye? :D
enthaa preshnam ;)

Jiby said...

shakhi, thanks a ton. hope i get inspired soon to write another one.

anon, wow thats the best compliment i cud have ever got.

geo, nammal kandu parichayapettathe kondalle nee angane parayunnathe...haha...i am hoping none of my classmates come across this! they'd be equally shocked!

Lavanya said...

Good job Jiby I hope you write more. Reminded me of Abraham Early. If you can get your hands on a copy of his book called "Night of the Dark trees" read it,the writing is just as natural and matter of fact.

lavanya said...

sorry that was Abraham Eraly

Jofu said...

angane hope cheyyanda..
jnan jhettalil ninnum ithu vare maariyitilla...

Amazing 'story' telling jabba....
but cant help not reading between the lines.....

Jiby said...

lavanya, thanks and sure will try to read that book.

jofu, thank you aliya, and tell me, what made you try to read between the lines and what did you understand from that?

Arjun Ramakrishnan said...

criticism is not as easy as reading and enjoying I guess.. :) the latter was so easy!

language is perfect I'd say, hard to believe you're writing fiction the first time. narration stands out. the only fault I can find has already been mentioned in one of the comments viz. the transition of the man was a bit too hurried. the woman and child are very easy to relate to, the man is not that consistent. Just my thoughts....

you can really perfect the art, looking forward to more stories. all the best....

Soney said...

Jiby,
Congratulations on your first attempt as a story teller. I must say you did it very well.
One comment is -as someone already said- you were litle fast. You could have used few more details (descriptions) to explain the helplessness of the woman :-)
Overall it was well crafted and the plot was also well chosen.
Regards
Soney

Anonymous said...

Very Nice man!!! i hadnt touched ur blog since u left tvm..was surprised to see this one...

you know me very well, I wud never have the patience to read a story fully without skipping lines and paras...but this one i read it all along..:-)..it had some kind of suspence in it i shud say..at one point i thot maybe the man was not there for lust factor.

I liked the theme and the way u presented it...keep it up man!!..

i suggest you not try making changes to this story, keep it as it is and try new ones

nice work again

Cheerio
Shan

Vinod/Kakka said...

Very good. Feel a bit sad, though!

Anonymous said...

adutha katha ezhuthukayayirikkum alle :))))

Anonymous said...

hai jiby its me biswajith.

its perfect if you polish a little bit and in writing one discovers the real shades.
To be precise - the general norm of a short story is its monodirection ( there are exeptions
if the theme is philosophy,angst,or
any emotion in its hightned mode
then it needs a different path to convey that)here the 1st few lines
are great bcos of the inherent tendencies of the imagery present in that eg kite - a powerful image
the loneliness ,the expectancy of the infant,the expance of the skies this coherence is declining as you proceed towards story.from a philosophical strain he moves to a general plain, (this is trsnsition that others spoke of)
2nd - the persons , events , you- (narration) should head towards a point . here there is two strands
of flow one which sees the pluralistic whole with an innate passion and a moralistic flow and both are divergent,it can be united
you stand between these two streames . your strenght lies in your expressiveness, what ever you see will be seen by others so try to see a little more give a little dimensional touch to every charecters then its a perfect patch of story. bye takecare.

pophabhi said...

That was very nice first attempt. Great story, great background creation and a nice stage. The kite dangling part is a part of NorthIndian-Paki-Afghan culture as depicted in "Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini. You have linked it beautifully with the hard realities of life. Good start and I hope you make headways in it!