Monday, January 12, 2009

Obituary For a Past

"Burn them."

A two-word order to end all that had been, before heralding the happiness to come. An decision briefly and briskly made by a practical woman before turning back to dust her racks and shelves, a decision to obliterate the memories and photographs of another's smiling, happier past before the foundation was laid for a new beginning.

The photo albums were in a stack by my feet. Kicking together a pile of dry leaves and twigs, I held a lighted match to it and the blaze began. I was the human photo-shredder for now, tearing old memories into mean little bits that would smoulder, melt and darken away into burnt photo paper. The odor of burning chemicals rose with the smoke and I hastened to add more leaves to the fire. There was a lot to burn, and to make sure I did a good job, I could only burn a few at a time.

Smiling, happy people. The Big excited eyes and a childlike happy smile, thrilled at surreal experiences, giddy with joy at perfect times. Random pictures, beautifully shot, capturing the shy hues of nature at dawn. Profound peace in the big eyes, a lingering aura so strong that you could almost reach out and touch it. Before shredding and burning every pile, I'd hesitate-- is there anything in this pile I could save instead? The mid-morning sun was filtering through the the leaves of the tree overhead and looking over my shoulder at the little fire I was feeding. In the backyard of an uninhabited house, a sullen stillness found its voice in the odd crackling monologue of a few burning leaves and memories. Some ashes rose with the smoke, dancing as they burned, carried away by the breeze for a flight of fancy. The chemicals on the pictures melted till they turned an incoherent blotchy brown, then pitch black.

An acute tug at my heart and a persuasive voice would stay my hand, Maybe I'll save just this one?

These memories were not mine to have; they're not mine to keep..

I shut my mind off and let my hands and eyes take over. The flames were feeble; I very nearly had to set each individual shred aflame towards the end of the process. My back felt hot from the direct sun and the imagined heat of dozens of piercing stares from neighbours-- What could she be so desperate to destroy? Rivulets of sweat trickled down my face, my arms were tired of working so fast and my brain was tired of the questions I wouldn't let myself think about.

But half an hour later, the cremation was finally over. I carefully sifted through the embers with my foot to ensure that no glowing happy faces remained and no emphatically written words survived.

The photo albums, now empty, lay in a broken pile in the corner of a once-flourishing vegetable garden, now overrun with weeds. They're an unwelcome obituary to their lost contents. Everyone wishes they didn't exist. No one's going to pick them up and bring them inside. They lost the glossy happy people they were populated with, to a terrible, mean act of nature, commonly known as Fate.

8 comments:

mayank said...

let's see who has the guts to critique this :)

Piyush Goswami said...

Gawd, aren't you all cheerful.

Mohit Rodeja said...

'Stark like an Obituary.'
- a brief (!, and little justice done either) critique by Mohit Rodeja.

Kokil Jaidka. If you will, she's a high-wire act. Her prose is complex, her characters dense and her intellect-heart connection 'enviable' (yes, that's the word I think).

In this particular piece, written in starkest shades of simplistic prose, her sentences have achieved a form previously un-exhibited or eclipsed (by other literary devices), as the experienced jaidka-reader would observe. What this critic infers is that this new prose reflects the greater level of mental clarity Ms. Jaidka has ascended to. This critic is of the view that this is significant. The way the punctuation separates the sentences, like folds in the brain, clearly separating thoughts, is remarkable.

"Smiling, happy people. The Big excited eyes and a childlike happy smile, thrilled at surreal experiences, giddy with joy at perfect times. Random pictures, beautifully shot, capturing the shy hues of nature at dawn."
Forceful, purposeful use of word.

"Maybe I'll save just this one?"
Stands out like a cliff between its two walls.

"Everyone wishes they didn't exist. No one's going to pick them up and bring them inside."
A motherly treatment to the subject at hand.

This piece transcends its textual limits: it exhibits an aura of the suddenness and starkness of an 'obituary' not only in the theme and situation, but also in the simplistic, stolid, stoic prose, achieving justice to the theme on these two discernible levels. If it be my place to judge, I would call it good writing.

mayank said...

@ rodeja : really waiting to see how she deals with you now

Mohit Rodeja said...

oh, and btw, this piece is a good mixture of the "show, don't tell!" and "tell, don't show!" opposing schools of fiction.

Ko said...

:-O guys, jeez, this is embarrassing..!

but thanks yaar.

Anonymous said...

Great Writing :)

Anonymous said...

Do you update any of your blogs now?