He was about 2 yrs old when he made his first demand, “I want a balloon”, and met with the same answer that he was to get to his various demand over the years. “There is no money, maybe later….”
As he thought of that moment standing outside a shop, admiring a shirt he would have like to have brought, he admired another thing that he hadn’t known as a child, the helplessness a father felt when he was not able to provide something which his son demanded.
The shirt was blue, his favourite colour, with white stripes. The shop was a fancy one. The one in which he would shop in his dreams. Thinking of the money he had in his wallet, he decided to enter the shop, and finally once, buy what he wanted.
He stopped at the last step, he had to buy his son a new school bag. And like numerous times before, he let his family’s dreams be fulfilled before his.
He was like this as long as he could remember; it used to be his siblings at first, then his girlfriend, then his parents, then his wife, and now the children. Had he lived for himself? Yes, he said to himself, I am living for them.
He walked on, feeling elated, that he had made the choice that he should ideally make. No, that wasn’t true. He was deflated, he was tired of wearing the same clothes for so long, which were now worn due to the hardwork he put it through the day. For the past seven Diwalis now he hadn’t brought himself new clothes since his children wanted crackers, wife wanted money.
Where was the time for luxuries? This is the life of a man, he consoled himself. To provide for his family, to work 15 hours a day, to put others needs before his. After all, he had seen his father do the same. And he had died peacefully, seeing his children satisfied. Yes, this was the right way to live.
He walked in home, and the routine went on. Somewhere at the back of his mind was the blue and white striped shirt. Stifled, like his other desires.
What plans he had had as a child! He wanted to have a big house, a loving wife, children who would look up to him, a big office where there would be no corruption and only prosperity. And where had he landed up, a chawl in the ever crowded city, with a wife who only grumbled about his uselessness, children who despised him and a job where he would be bent double over cash registers tallying every single rupee spent and covering up the expenses that were unanswered for. He was a defeated man, abandoned by the principles he had grown up on, disillusioned by his marital life, and most of all, a man who couldn’t provide for his children.
It was his encounter with the blue and white striped shirt that got him retrospective. He had to live for himself. What was he waiting for? His children to grow up and support him? No that would never happen; his wife would leave him too, in every probability. What had he achieved so far? A job where he was despised by all inspite of his hard work. Dissatisfaction in life. And no say in his own life. Was this what he wanted to live for?
No, said a voice inside him. He wouldn’t live his life his way. He hadn’t had a sip of beer all his life, he lived the ideal life. Never smoked, never touched beef or pork, never looked at a woman obscenely, never hit his children, never disrespected elders. All for this?
That day as he left his workplace, he took the route he usually avoided, the one which passed by the magnificent Arabian Sea, and plush hotels and bars. He gazed into the orange horizon, yes, he said to himself. I will do all that I never did. I was never allowed to.
Transfixed by the superb hues made by the setting sun in the sky for miles around, he discovered himself. Tonight, he thought, I am reborn!
He walked, as far as his legs would take him. He observed some tourists as they clicked pictures alongside a 5 star hotel. He saw the hotel; he had wanted to go to its namesake in Agra as a teenager, full of romantic fantasies. Then, like a million others, it had remained a dream.
Next month, he resolved, I will be in Agra. He walked through the by-lanes. Roads he had never travelled before by, but knew where it would lead him to. It was time to drown all the sorrows. The way his favourite film stars did it.
He walked behind that five star hotel, walked on bit by bit. Yes, he had come here before. His children would shop here often. Clothes were cheap there, he thought, unlike the locality it was in. He saw the bar to his left. It would be nice for a change, to spend his night in a restaurant cum bar, something he had always avoided when out with his family. He walked in. Took a seat by the one of the many counters. He saw the menu, knowing exactly what he wanted. Then his eyes wandered off to the prices, and gulped. That was all the money he had. Never mind he thought. Today I am living. He ordered his drink and waited. Thinking of his life.
Then it happened, in a matter of seconds. A boy barged in, with a gun in his hand. Their eyes met, and in that one last second, he knew. This was what his existence was for. He was not supposed to live. It was his fate. To live a drab existence, devoid of pleasures for himself. He was a loser, condemned to a lowly life.
As the realisation dawned, a smile spread across his lips even as the bullet nestled in his chest. He had at least, tried to live. He was one of the first to die in the carnage that followed for the next two days, but for him, his carnaged life was salvaged by that one bullet. The silhouette of his dreams, lay there. Unrealised, unfulfilled, never to be enjoyed by him.
He had tried to live.
Note: This story was written by me, almost a year back. Never thought it was worthy enough for someone to read it. Now, I think I am ready to face the criticism. Please give me your opinion, whoever does read it. Because that would encourage me certainly. Brickbats invited too! 🙂