Monday, March 16, 2009

For a cup of tea

- Sachida Bista

It starts within one of us – that thirst. It proceeds onto a proposal and then a tacit agreement. It is as if we plan it all along. Then we clothe ourselves in our woolens, to protect ourselves from the cold of the night; to keep from exposing our nakedness from night’s wanton gaze. We push the gate; how the metals clash as they fight each other; and off we shoot ourselves, spurting onto the night’s cool skin. Our shadows dissolve into the dark.


It is a long, winding road to PC; where remnants of life still chatter, fuss, trade in the night. The road is empty, desolate. We walk – usually the three of us; sometimes a forth joins us, and sometimes it is a human chain, hissing, as it pulls itself forward. We walk on into the night with that great sense of purpose, with a need to satiate our thirst that gnaws our insides. That thirst is a void that absorbs everything that comes in its way; so we and our voids march forward absorbing every fibre of dark that we brush against. Sometimes, a conversation about something startles us and it accompanies us till our destination; sometimes, nothing.


The lamps that illuminate the road to PC hum in that low note, singing to the insects that collect around them. How those insects swirl around each glow creating a universe oblivious to another.  Each insect battles another for a touch of that divine fire; that dispassionate flame that evokes all desires; and after a fierce fight where each one is for oneself, an insect finally touches it - it burns, shrivels and falls from the heavens to the earth, from whence it had once sprung – a closure to its exquisite dance of death – a declaration of its limitations.


We walk on, unaffected as we pass these lamps; unaffected even as we see the carcasses lying around the lamp-posts. We search for our own spotlights – to touch the source of that illumination and to be scorched by the mere brilliance of it. But mostly, it is through the dark that we travel; it is in that dark where we imagine ourselves significant; it is there in that unknown, where we suddenly and fully know our purpose; it is there, where night is most blind, fragments of forgotten dreams converge into a point of concentration; it is in that dark we reign, we survive; for there, we are secret.


Life fades in as we near PC. There are men of different kinds, caricatures mostly; in a pathetic display of light and shadow. Whispers of women ooze out of cracks, in the barred windows, only to be stifled by the loud grunts and abuses outside. Sometimes, a car flashes past, tearing everything apart, followed by a gust of wind; but PC has a peculiar habit of stitching itself together again.  It has stood witness to fights, rapes, perhaps a murder; it has been bruised, wounded, scarred and yet, it is there still, firm, throbbing, a vein – a passage for life.


We collect around the tea-stall, for a cup of tea. The burning flame moans as the priest prepares the golden liquid that must quench the thirst that keeps ghosts from their sleeps. Hundreds gather around to see the sacred event, to be united with each other, in their desires. When the tea is finally ready the man who has practiced the great power of keeping everyone in suspension, pours it in small plastic cups. Each man sells his life, concealed in a few coins, for a cup. After he gulps down the burning liquid, the ceremony is over. He must return.


 We, are among those, who witness that eternal fire that warms the cold night in the deepest of winter; we are among those few, who travel great lengths for a sip of that elixir that flows endlessly in the rivers of that nocturnal civilization. We are among those restless pilgrims, who journey the unknown, in search of that god to be redeemed from the sins of the ignorant world. With that realization, we must all go back from whence we came; we must all submit to night’s calming powers. The road back is the same and its shadows too. More insects are stricken dead by the towering lamps and we must all return to our beds as sleep finally beckons us. Returning is a happy burden and numbed, we walk back, forgetting all that we had desired, all that we had been.


Then, in that last minute of wakefulness, as we finally settle ourselves in our confines, we suddenly come to realize: Night purloins our dreams and dissolves it in a cup of tea.


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