Pangs of Remorse

Continued from “Orgies of Love”

“Every life is unique but rarely one is exceptional,” he continued after a long pause as if he was reminiscing about his own life, “and mine was rather unusual; oh, I had my first brush with intrigue when I was in class seven, then aged ten. Chandu and I were classmates besides being neighbors for our families were co-tenants. All children in our neighborhood used to flock to his place to play caroms on holidays and his mother was wont to serve us some snack or the other. Well I used to avoid those for they were invariably prepared with garlic that I had always found repugnant.”

“Isn’t it said that one either loves garlic or hates it?”

“There was a king in the Roman era who hated garlic so much so that he had banned it in his land. He could as well be the progenitor of our present-day rulers who ban smoking in all and sundry areas dubbed public places,” he said. “Can you imagine us smoking in the cinema halls in our youth, why, the norm in those days was ‘smoking is no disrespect’, and now the coinage is ‘desist passive smoking’, my foot, as if the air we breathe is pristine pure. That the addicts no longer smoke in the railway coaches is because of the changed social mores and not owing to a newfound urge to obey the railway rules. Oh, how the poor smokers quarantine themselves in the toilets for a puff or two while the police on scent wait on the sly to harass them for bribe. Before I gave up smoking, what a pain it was in the smokeless pangs on the flights and in the trains alike.”

“The fate of a nation is the plight of its politics and the petty politician is the bane of the polity.”

“Beautifully put, for the fate of the peoples is governed by the whims of the powerful,” he said, and resumed the saga of his childhood. “One Sunday afternoon, as was her wont, Chandu’s mother served us all with some pakodas, and Shankar, younger brother of my friend Murali, wanted more of them. I felt that it was inappropriate and said so to him; looking back, it was an unsolicited advice, all childish, but then a child would only think like a child.”

“Don’t we see even the grown-ups rendering unsolicited advice till the end, and more so towards their end? Maybe fate maps the course of life through an intellectual short-route from the cradle to the grave.”

“How do you like the Aviva ads of Rahul Dravid receiving cricketing advice from all and sundry,” he said heartily. “Well with his captaincy gone, the ads were withdrawn and that’s the way with the frills of life with which we tend to shroud its ethical core. But now, shorn of my aura, I see my life in the glaring shadow of its falsehood, and what I see but the derivatives of life within its voidness.”

“Won’t that better the Shakespearean ‘sound and fury, signifying nothing’?”

“It’s only proper that we remain humble before the master, who as Alexdandre Dumas Pere said, ‘after God, he had created the most’. Back to my story, that very night, Chandu called me out and asked me to taste some garlic-less preparation that his mother made for me. As I had my dinner by then, I excused myself, but he virtually forced me to have a bite at least, and even before I had a spoonful of it, Murali and Shankar came out from their hiding to accuse me of double standards. While I protested that there was no parallel, a perplexed Chandu apologized that he was tricked into the act by them. Well it was the first and the last time that I ever gave an unsolicited advice.”

“What cussedness even in childhood?”

“What’s surprising about it; won’t the plant of a kind grow into a tree of that kind,” he said. “Any way, during the month of karthik, our family was privileged to cater to the sky-lamp of Brahmeswara temple of our village; and at dusk, it was my wont to carry from home the needed sesame oil there. How fascinating it was watching the pulley and rope in motion as the pujari pulled it down from atop the mast and put the lighted one back in its place! Once, lost in some sport, I didn’t reach home in time, so my grandfather had substituted for me and what hell I raised for having been denied my due and how they tried to convince me that there was no way they could’ve waited for me as the lamp had to be lit up in time? But I had none of that, and insisted that the procedure be repeated, and as I stuck to my guns, my grandfather had to prevail upon the pujari to set a new precedent. I was still a kid when this happened.”

“Don’t worry I am not going to give a superstitious twist to that childhood sacrilege for your latter-day travails.”

“It’s sad that man has not benefited from the Shakespearean wisdom that superstition is the religion of the weak minds,” he said. “Shortly after that episode of an ill-fated advice, I found myself in a much more awkward situation. I was friendly with a neighborhood girl who happened to be my classmate as well. I used to go to her place for the so-called combined studies, but that day, as I returned home, she came running after me to check up if I took her fountain pen, and I let her search my rack and she left finding none, only to return saying that her parents weren’t convinced about that. And it was no Mont Blanc either, for it was a cheap Chinese ‘Hero’, whatever, is there a kid now, who experiences the joys of refilling a fountain pen. It’s another story that when my father-in-law presented me a Mont Blanc, Rathi buggered it fiddling with its complex refilling mechanism. Well I went with that girl to her house to clear my name, and asserting my innocence, I goaded them to search for it in their own place. Oh, how fervently I prayed to Lord Chandramouli to help me locate it, and lo I found it, of all the places, beneath a jar of pickles? Maybe for that childhood devotion during the karthik to Him, notwithstanding the sacrilege as you put it that God had saved me from the ignominy through that miracle of miracles. How ecstatically I ran to the temple for thanksgiving.’

“Instead of running to the God had you been right up your street, maybe you would have ended up being a godman.”

‘Why given the credulity of man, one can’t rule out the possibility,” he said. “But when I prayed for god’s help then, I was blissfully unaware that Brahmeswara of our village and the Chandramouliswara of that town were different deities at all. But when I realized that it’s the faith that makes man blind, I began to distance myself from the religion itself; why when one begins to believe that his religion is the best of all, I see the worst of ignorance in man.’

“Some time in future, when science would have scanned the entire universe only to find that there is no abode of the God, much less heaven and hell, maybe then, man might turn his back on his religion.”

“I doubt still, for man might believe that God keeps himself away from the intruding man,” he said wryly before getting back to his recap, “The obduracy in a child could be the perseverance in its nascence or who knows pigheadedness in the making. Once, a relative, who was a school teacher, came to our place, and as is the wont of those in the teaching line, he tried to gauge my depth in depth. How his verdict that besides native intelligence I was blessed with innate logical abilities gladdened my grandfather I still recall; well I was not even school going then. It was another thing that the distractions of youth ruined my potential to excel at studies, and by the time I had that low-grade engineering degree on hand, my grandfather was no more. But the pain my poor scores caused my father hurts me still; oh how his tone conveyed his agony as he said, ‘so with these marks you expect a job’. After all, he had endured so much hardship to make me an engineer as by then my grandfather had turned our lands into promissory notes without any noteworthy promise to note. But later, when my brother passed out with distinction, I felt lighter, and thanked him for reengineering our father’s dreams. But still, as his words haunt me, I could never forgive myself for having let him down so badly. How I used to feel that if only I could go back in time and come out with flying colors! It could be this subconscious guilt that was behind that dream that too in my early fifties in which I was at the B.I.T all again. As if to prove that dreams don’t reflect the realities of life, how confused I looked in my Alma Mater in that familiar dream setting. Maybe, it was this psyche of failure that subconsciously fuelled my later-day urge for success.”

“Luckily for you, your guilt didn’t bog you down.”

“All the same, the glow of youth failed to illuminate the perilous path of my adult life,” he said ruefully. “You know, my life began in the dimness of the kerosene lamp by which I lived the first ten years of it till my father’s love for me gave him the vision of my education in a town. I can say with hindsight that it was the kerosene lamp that illuminated my path to adulthood, whose fluorescent bulb had cast a shadow on the way to my manhood when I began lusting for wealth to my hurt. Well that was after the quirk of fate had placed the wheel of fortune in my hands as till then I craved for love to the neglect of my studies and at the cost of my career. While the ennobling love of my youth seemed a hackneyed expression not backed by money, all my mid-life wealth was of no avail for its fulfillment as by then lusting for sex, I lost the capacity to love. Maybe the singular focus on one aspect of life makes man lose sight of the other possibilities of it to his detriment.”

“It’s the human frailties that make a saga of life and but for them your story would have been a mere statistic of success.”

“Why you make me think all again,” he said and closed his eyes as if to shut out any present influences from interfering with his contemplation.

Continued  to “Villainy of Innocence”


More by :  BS Murthy

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