frames In Time

 

A young boy would get up before daybreak to go to his school. There was no timepiece to give an idea of the time. He wouldn’t dare to get out of his bed before his mother had. Stories of village ghosts creeping up behind men who ventured out alone before daybreak were rampant. Add to that the belief of a village Spirit who patrolled the village. Early morning was supposedly his flag-march time. He would bang the earth with his broad stick; driving evil spirits away, the villagers would tell though none of them had ever seen the Spirit for themselves. Everyone, irrespective of their religion, revered the mango tree on which he would reside during the daytime. Villagers felt that he was closer to them; guarding them. Theology was precious to them. But they preferred the guardian Spirit of their village over some almighty God residing in the heaven. Somehow they felt the Spirit was more accessible. It was amazing to see a tree dwelling Spirit alter and shake theistic belief systems.

 

Guardian or not; our boy would not dare come face to face with the Spirit. The thought of it would send a chill down his spine. His faith would pulsate with the Sun and Moon. He revered the tree during daytime and feared it as the night would creep in. He would not dare throw a stone at the juicy mangoes that the Tree produced. The Tree would make rustling noise even when there was no other sound to be heard. No one had the guts to go and investigate. There were no religious teachers to interpret the happenings and there were no myth-buster squads to challenge the belief. So the Spirit was open to interpretation. Everyone saw it the way they wanted to. And the Spirit wasn’t demanding either. It would be satisfied with basic offerings. There was no priest as an intermediary. More than a protector, it was a friend to the people of that village; their Spirit-friend.

 

The roof of the bedroom was made of clay tiles; with one tile removed and replaced with a glass to allow sunlight in the room during the daytime. Electricity was very unreliable, but God Sun wasn’t. He would rise up every morning and follow his predetermined path, riding his chariot driven by a thousand radiant stallions, or so was the boy told. And even if there was power, his Grandma would fuss about putting the lonely incandescent bulb on. “It will increase the bill”, she would try to assert. She wasn’t educated; the only uneducated member of his family. But she was very precious to him. And for her, her grandson was everything. She would pray for his safety asking God to redirect all evil destined for him onto her. She knew how to count money though. She had developed a color based currency identification mechanism for her own personal use. It used to fail, however, when the central bank printed a new note with a different color. She would then have a heated argument with the local fisherwoman over the new note. She wouldn’t accept it unless she had it cross checked with someone she could trust. She had a lot of faith in her grandson and the task was usually assigned to him. Then, pretending to be a forensic expert of some sort, he would examine the new note. He loved tasks like these. He was just a kid but such tasks made him feel like an adult. He always longed to be like an adult. He had read too much about Plato and Aristotle and Socrates. He wanted to be like them. But for the time being he had a more immediate problem at hand; the new currency note. The fisherwoman would wait in anticipation. She could read numbers but had no idea when or why the color of the notes would change. She always thought that it was the Prime Minister of the country who sat and designed notes. After all it was an important part of the country’s economic health. They possibly couldn’t give such a critical task to some lowly officer, who in turn would screw it up. The way they had screwed up everything. She hated the local officers. They represented the same dirt from which she had come. They were like mirrors. She could see her own self in them. But they had power. And with that they dictated everyone’s lives.

 

The anxiety over the new note was usually short lived. When the year old would declare that the note was ‘safe’, the two women would shift gears and get back to their village gossips. It was their routine. More than selling fish; the fisherwoman would sell stories. If the gossips were ‘hot’ enough, grandma would probably buy an extra mackerel from her. Nothing in this world could interrupt this everyday cycle. The new currency note somehow seemed to have the power to break that routine.

 

The fisherwoman’s name was Catherine. But that never moved beyond her birth certificate, if she had one that is. Every household had its own version. Some called her Kaatery, others called her Kaatherin. Grandma would call her Keeterin. But no matter how one pronounced her name; she would always greet that person with a smile. She had her rivals too. But they never managed to make inroads in her territory. Grandma would say; “Her smile is golden, and so is her heart”. Public relations managers today need years of business administration training. Keeterin managed to hold on to her market with just her smile. Our young chap like her too. She was a good woman. And that is what he liked to see in people. He would feel sorry for her because she would carry her fish basket on her head and walk for miles everyday. Weather didn’t seem to bother her. Whether the mercury was soaring or rain was pouring; Keeterin would be there, selling fish, satisfying everyone’s appetite. He asked his Grandma one day. “Why is she so bent on earning?” Grandma answered, still checking the fish that she had just bought, “If she doesn’t earn, her alcoholic husband would trash her and her children would go hungry”. So Keeterin had to earn enough everyday. She had to provide for on bottle of whiskey, food for her children, her household expenses, her in-laws medicines … The list was endless. When countries go bankrupt they go to the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank begging for help. But Keeterin had no IMF of World Bank to go to. She ‘had to’ earn. He would now realize the reason why she would never wear new clothes. Even during the Christmas season, when all the Catholics in the village would buy new clothes, Keeterin would come wearing her old torn clothes. She couldn’t afford to distribute sweets the way his neighbors did. But she would never shy away from spreading her warmth. He would later realize that there was only pain behind that warm smile.

 

 

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This is based on someones real life experience. It is not complete because its too overwhelming to type in one go. I will share the rest..... Thanks for reading. :-)

jaykain jaykain
22-25, M
Mar 7, 2009