There is something about these big towns, they allure you, promise you something beautiful and make you chase these hopes and dreams feverishly and then, the same sparkling town turns to devour you, disparage you, tries you and tires you, until you are scoured by it hollow and then you are just another face, gone by settling for the mediocrity that it is capable of delivering to you. I don’t know if I can claim to be exempt from such misgivings of the big town or it merely dismisses me as a worthy opponent in its little games.
I follow a routine that isn’t even remotely packed to call it so. I wake every morning, wash my grandfather’s old leaky ink pen and wonder at the patterns the ink leaves on the ceramic bowl I use for a wash basin. Then I put on some dusty clothes that have been hanging behind the door for weeks. “I must wash them”, I say to myself. I say this everyday but somehow at the end of everyday there is never anything out of place. It is all where it is meant to be. And so, in my dusty clothes I go to work where I sit all day typing at a computer with broken keys, numbers of a multitude of people I’ll never meet and accidentally sipping coffee that was cold from the previous day. How I hated that taste but nevertheless, I did the same thing every day, kind of like a reminder to tell me to get hot fresh coffee.
Then, I walk back home around the time school is let out and I pass ‘Shakkar’ the neighborhood bakery. Around ten o’clock in the morning, the baker’s apprentice, a boy of fifteen, neatly stacks the vilely colored pastries in hues of fluorescent pink and green in the most appeasing manner. They have little jam blots that serve as fake cherry and the sugar in these pastries are nothing short of diabolic. Every single day school children flock this bakery, all angling like desperate little hounds for the last piece of that poisonous pastry. I can’t help but think – their parents won’t find them awake the next morning, they’ll all be dead from that sugary poison. How very sweet in the first bite and the consistent satisfaction till the last bite. Surely it couldn’t make dying so remorseful after all. Happy children, dying. Happy.
Then I looked at the tea shop, Ghani stands there – I smile at her, she lives down the street. She was one of the prettiest girls I knew, her long wavy hair fell perfectly above her shoulders, her eyes glinted like they were always hoping and so in her life, this hope kept her going and she worked hard and had a decent job. She’s sipping hot tea from a paper cup, blowing into it to quickly cool it. Here she stood everyday perfectly dressed, in a well cut skirt and stiffly starched cream blouse. I knew she drank her tea from here every day because she couldn’t stand a rich and educated tea, and the poor like us, we can’t stand to stomach it and you’d have the luxury to refuse it only if you were as pretty as Ghani.
There have been talks of a wealthy young man in pursuit of Ghani. A man with the name of an ancient Durbari singer- Tansen they say he is called. In another corner of the big town, a young man stands before a dull and aged mirror, barely able to see himself and he thinks, “ This coat suits me I wonder if my friend will let me keep it.” He had struggled against the big town and his face was hard and wise from the difficulties it repeatedly flung at him. He thought of Ghani, what perfection she was, and of a wealthy home too. She had such petite doll like features, he could only marvel at the fragility of her being. And then to himself, he says, “At least I won’t be alone anymore.”
Just when you feel like you’ve defeated the big town and lasted till the end and conquered your dreams, that’s when it deals you a nasty card, it decides to tempt you with a new dream and again you gather yourself and go chasing after this empty dream. I say it is empty because it’s what the big town has created for you, not what you wanted and then, it watches you fail miserably and says in triumph to itself, “In the end I always win.”
Ghani and Tansen, they meet in a place befitting the rich, where a strange coquettish undertone is accepted in the air and they take bites into a pastry for their kind, dully colored with the same kind of sweetness, just as sweet as what they are about to endure together, but little do they know the poison of it all, the manner in which these sweet moments will consume them. They read deep into all that they have said and done, and they both decide, “No, I don’t want clarity.” They are afraid the truth won’t be as fine a musing as the distortion is. And so there they are, two of them seemingly close to celestial beauty, giving up what they have, in a pitiful lie, only to end up where they had started. All over again, after an effort crazy enough to fool them, only to know they will wake to the same side of the same bed every morning.
Then I will wake up yet another morning, wear my dusty clothes and yet be wholly happy with who I am. I will wonder of this lot, who are so afraid that they’d rather be in the arms of someone for a strange kind of comfort than give passage to loneliness.
In this big town I have seen we grow to be glorious, our creativity is killed. Innocence is mocked at, humility misunderstood, kindness is ignored. Selfishness is the principle for survival, guilt is thrown out, and our lives become one such lie that survives to become reality.
The only ones truly laughing here are people like you and me, who have no real reasons to relinquish life and those who’d rather feign mirth for the sake of it.