Silent Conversations

It always has been my fascination to silently observe people who talk to me. Many times they stop their conversation and ask
“Hey, are you still here” thinking I have been lost in my thoughts
How incapable of them to not know that I was all this while immersed in them and got so involved in my observations that I lost track of the fact that they were talking to me.

Though I am not sure when I developed this practice, the earliest incident I remember is about twenty years ago (Never thought my memories have traveled so far with me), and that probably got me the hang of it

Reena use to be our neighbor while we lived in Bangalore. When I was around ten Mr. and Mrs. Bhatia moved next door and Reena was their twelve year old. Her five year old younger brother suhas was a cry baby from the day he entered our complex to the day he left for the Army, and I swear that he made a commendable leap for a person that he was, Ma’s pallu to Bharat Ma’s Godh, (from mother’s pallu to lap of his motherland). That’s the last I saw of him though I heard later that he has been doing well and has got married now.

Reena was nothing like a love for me, but somewhere hidden I had developed a desire to know her more. May be I am still incapable of giving it a name for that would leave some mysteries solved and life is fun with unsolved mysteries like my feelings for Reena. But you should understand that it was more of a curiosity as to how she was the way she was, unlike those nosy, silly dames that adorned our complex corridors. Reena I believe never knew she was being different enough for people to start noticing her. Yes different is the apt word in all ways suited for a mix of being attractive, having a beautiful way with words, studious, well mannered and a smile that won’t kill you, but make you want to live more. I have told this to people and they have told be it was love, morons they never heard the rest and the rest who heard could never comprehend the story.

To make a short story longer I will take you through a day in the life of the complex so that atleast this time you can have the backgrounder to figure out if I should have been writing this at the first place.

The Morning in the complex was as usual in any middle class neighborhood, people racing against time run in and out of their houses preparing themselves for the day only to be late enough to miss the buss or forget the lunch box or anything that would make that day also as usual as any day, hurried, late, unfulfilling and never ending.

Once the bread earners and the future bread earners left for their usual portion of life outside the complex, life within starts to settle down for the next eight to ten hours. This is a process of cooling down, with the noises slowly dying off, and people moving back to the houses with the doors slammed behind them and the neighborhood gets calm with the almost dead silence in the afternoon except for the vegetable seller or some similar traveling salesman passing by once in a while.

In the evenings the commotion starts earlier sometime as the future bread earning little brats land up early shouting for food from the gateway. People seeing would have thought that the children were made to starve and the evening meal was the only meal given and that too on school days alone.

I was in my 9th grade and it was a usual Wednesday and I was at home that day with a swelling from the syringe game the nurse played on my last medical visit. She had driven the needle so hard that I could sense the medicine going in and hitting the bones and spilling all over inside. I was quite prone to allergies of all sorts and the needle started a swelling that immediately became a reddish patch so evident on a fair skin that I inherited from my mom.

And so on that day for a change I witnessed the morning commotion without being part of it and retreated to my couch participating in the neighborhood cooling process there after. As I was getting in I noticed that Reena was also at home that day, quite unlikely as I had spotted her with her bag ready for school during the morning commotion and most likely she should have gone to school. I asked my mom and she said that Mrs. Bhatia had the usual attack of migraine that morning and she had to stay back and my mom was preparing the lunch for them as well.

By noon my mom came and asked me to take the lunch to the Bhatias. It was the large five level Lunch box that we bought on our usual yearly trip last year. I saw that my mom had gone the extra mile to make more than usual. I was not sure then as to why she did that, but the truth was she had made it for me, I was home for a change and she really felt good about it.

Reena opened the door and gave the same warm smile that (you know what); yes makes a person want to live more. I handed the Lunch box to her and she thanked and went inside. She called out to say that she will give back the Lunch box in the evening. Though I expected her to come back and we could may be sit and chat for sometime, she just called out from the kitchen that I can close the door behind me when I leave. I found that quite rude, not because I bought her lunch, but because that was not the way she acted normally.

Coming back home I laid back on the couch for about an hour or so still feeling quite uneasy on how Reena reacted and I decided to go back and find out why that warm smile that welcomed me had transpired into the cold farewell. I knocked the door for a few times, but no one seemed to reply. I was at the front door for about five minutes and as I turned and was about to leave the door opened and Reena stood there and looked at me with surprise. She had changed her dress to a more colorful skirt that I had not seen her wear before.

“I am sorry I have not yet finished the Lunch, is your mom waiting for the Lunch box”

“Oh No, I was just ……”
She was wearing a blue top that I believe she wore for suhas’s birthday last month, She looked gorgeous in those and today with the colorful skirt the image of her was even more stunning. Her dark complexion glowed even more with the light was reflecting from the colors all over her.

“So you just came in is it…?” She asked

My mind murmured for me to hear, hopefully she did not hear it

“Standing before you is the beauty that discounted your existence, embrace it and you will have the final revelation”

Seeing me Reena said rather apologetically
“I am sorry I have not yet finished the Lunch, is your mom waiting for the Lunch box”

“Oh No, I was just ……”
She was wearing a blue top that I believe she wore for suhas’s birthday last month, She looked gorgeous in those and today with the colorful skirt the image of her was even more stunning. Her dark complexion glowed even more with the light was reflecting from the colors all over her.

“So you just came in is it…?” She asked

“I was wondering if you wanted to play chess, I was getting bored at home”
What is that pattern on her skirt, at the first sight it looks like a design of some sort, but it is not, it is a picture of birds, or may be…, the frills on the skirt make it difficult to see and comprehend the art well.

“I did not know you played chess too, how did you know I played” She asked

“I have always seen the open chess board in your study and presumed that…”
The combination of the colors turned to be more exotic with the frills in the skirt, looks like she has not ironed it either, or may be that is how the skirt needs to be worn.

“You want to sit in the study or in the living room” She asked

“The Living room will be better, there is more light in here and I guess the cool breeze with the door kept open will make me feel better”
The skirt, it’s different from usual, why is it so brilliantly colored, I wish I could see the art better, may be when she sits

“Oh I forgot, you are not well my friend, you need to be taking rest and not be running around” She Said

“I am fine now, just needed to sit somewhere and not move much and it was boring at home, and mom is taking her afternoon nap”
Are those birds in the pattern flying or is there a tree on which they are sitting… why is the pattern unusual when an art with birds is so common. It’s their color, looks like a familiar color though….

As she walked towards the study to fetch the chess board I tried noticing the pattern from the rear and could not relate it to the patterns in the front and looked like she was wearing a totally different skirt, the colors do not match. May be I should see the art all stretched out on a level floor and then it would make sense. But why am I bothered about the art, its just a pattern and that’s not why I am here. But still how can you miss something when it is so close and instills in you a need to see and understand more.

Reena came back with the chess board and kept it on the small table in the living room.
“white or black”

“I will have black” I said
Black…., black….. No it’s white

“White” I jumped up on my seat
“Ok… Ok… you take white”

“No it’s white” I said, “the color….”
“The color of what” She asked

The color of the birds
“The birds?…” She looked at me

“Yes the birds.. But I am not sure if they are flying or are they just sitting on the tree”

Reena looked at me “Hey you… What are you looking at, haven’t you seen any art before”

“I have… but not like this partly concealed and failing to reveal the completeness”

“Why do you get bothered about all this when the beauty is in reality always incomplete, without the presence of an appreciation” She said

I looked at her and our eyes met

She smiled and said “I guess may be the beauty should be revealed after all when appreciation comes and waits in the doorway, Give me a few minutes and I will be back and you get the chess board ready and we can start the game. And mind you I have been playing for a long time and so don’t expect to win the initial rounds”

She went to her room and in a few minutes she called out
“Hey you want to see the art”

I went over and Reena stood there and on the bed she had the skirt all spread out unraveling the mysterious art that had tested my patience for sometime now. It was in fact a bird, the color was as I thought white, but it had lines on it that were the color of rainbow and that was the familiarity in the pattern. The bird was flying though it looked more like falling out of nowhere and there was an arrow in the pursuit. The arrow was colored too and was made of the petals of a flower and was not pointed as a usual arrow.

I turned over the skirt and there I could see another image which looked totally unrelated with the other image. But on closer observation it gets clear that art in the totality had two phases to it that was depicted more as a before and after phenomenon. The rear of the skirt depicted a rather plain looking combination of colors, more like showing how barren and dull the phase was when the arrow started its course. The sky was gloomy and empty and no birds there in, the sun was there but looked as if it had gone stale.

“So do you understand it now” Reena asked

“Yes, but how do you see the complete image, how are these phases related to each other” I was getting more interested in the complete form of the art

She moved closer and untied the knot on the skirt and spread it as if it was on single cloth and now revealing the two phases and the relation.

The rear image was a phase of hope lost and so everything was dull except for a small flower that was always hidden in the frills of the skirt and could be revealed only when spread out. The flower depicted the last element of faith that could turn the dullness into brilliance. From the flower emerges an arrow made of petals that depicts the action that is created out of the faith. A faith so strong and pure that the action by itself becomes the faith, fairness and righteousness in the next phase

It was interesting to see that the arrow (or the action) was the relation between the two phases, the connector that had one side of it drenched in the dullness of the rear image and the other part breaking off from the dullness and emerging with brilliance as it enlightens and begins the image in the front.

The white bird was as rightly thought falling, but not from nowhere but from above, heaven, paradise or what ever one would like to call it. It was the prize for breaking out of the dullness and also the bird can’t exist in dullness, it is a symbol of brilliance, the rainbow lines on them denote the brilliance.

As I allowed my thoughts to run wild on what the artist would have thought and was trying to convey Reena broke the strain of thought again

“Isn’t it exciting to see that the crux of everything is always concealed until you reveal it or atleast act for it to reveal itself. I have been having this skirt for so long and I always wondered about the pattern, the image. You are the first one who ever noticed it the way I did.”
She smiled again, yes, the same smile that makes you want to live.

I was sure she always belonged to the second phase of the art.

“Let us go the chess board is waiting for us” she walked before me

I noticed that she had changed into the jeans she wore in the morning so that she could show me the art on the skirt.

Yes as she said, she did win over me at least ten times before I could do a check mate on her.

If I had not been attentive to what the world shows me and just listen to what was being said, I would be at home after playing chess and a usual day and life would continue again. .. But the force of noticing and silently conversing with myself and my surroundings made me understand something that many people missed to note in their acquaintances.

While people saw just another gorgeous lady in Reena, I could after that day find in her a lady who was the rising, the awakening, the brilliance that a second phase in anyone’s image of life could bear witness to……..



Categories: Opinions

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3 replies

  1. Active listening is not common these days. So if anyone gives 100% attention doubts come rather quickly.
    Also, on the other hand, people want handshake signals…I see, Okay, Is that so, come on…..to make them feel comfortable.
    So don’t start going deep when data is being transferred. Process it later.

  2. well written Vinod !! Loved it.

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