Wednesday, 30 January 2008

FREE BIRD

A truck full of assailants clad in white shirt and white mundu and carrying sickles!!

A hero, with rage in his eyes and a heroine in his arms!!

The assailants thrust forward with a roar.

The hero jumps in mid-air, twirls and spins around, kicks and punches the villains and they are thrown all around. After performing a la Superman/Spiderman act, which proved incomprehensible to the laws of physics, the hero and heroine retires to some fancy land to dance off their victory in the backdrop of uniformly clad zillions of dancers. Then the titles scroll up. The crowd is happy to see their favorite hero emerging victorious again.

Ravi too joined the crowd’s frenzy by clapping and whistling. He himself does not know how many times he’s watched the same movie. He carries in himself an unquenchable thirst for movies; and therefore he took up the job as the theatre staff of Vasantham theatre. The job was not a very demanding one. He has to sit in the ticket counter before the show. Sometimes he’ll have to help out Projector Operator Balu to change the reels. Often, after the second show he’ll have to take the film posters to different parts of Chennai and adore the walls with colorful graffiti announcing the arrival of new Tamil movies. The job made his life proximate to the tinsel world. It allowed him to roam around freely in the maze of fantasy, getting astonished by its glitter and glamour and to be in oblivion of the vicissitudes of life.

Balu was his soul mate. Though their salary might seem to be a pittance when compared to the hefty amounts drawn by the corporate and IT professionals, for them it was too much. Their only philosophy of life was pursuit of pleasure; however their quantum of pleasure was much shrunken. Relishing on Chettinad Biryani now and then; getting heavenly sloshed on desi booze; admiring the beauty of abundantly endowed goddesses of earth, although the aestheticity of the act was maligned with a tinge of lust-these were the different facets of their pleasure. Moreover, their profession has made their life inundated with deluge of movies, which gave new manifestations for their fantasies. The quintessence of Epicureanism could be found in their lives. They ridiculed the people who were living under the yoke of the hands of the clock. They were accountable only to their own self and had no obligations arising out of family, society or any other blah. In all sense, Ravi and Balu were free birds who were exploring all available vistas of hedonism.

One day, Ravi and Balu were immersing themselves in the tumult of Marina Beach. Twilight at beach was as usual bustling and it was characterized by an unusually strong sea breeze.

“Hey, Ravi, listen.” Balu opened the conversation.

“Yes. Tell me”

“I’m leaving Chennai. I got a new job in Mumbai”

“What?? Why you’re leaving this job??” Ravi was perplexed.

“I secured a job as a laborer in a construction company. They pay me double this salary”

“But Balu, Why? Then the workload will also be the double. They’ll make you work like a dog. Then what’s the use of a high salary? You wouldn’t be able to even think of spending it. By the end of the day, you’ll be fatigued like anything. I can’t fathom what made you to make such a strange decision!”

“Last week I got a letter from my mother. Father has fallen ill and he won’t be able to work anymore. And the creditors are pestering her a lot. Moreover, my sister has to be married off. With my father falling ill, the responsibilities have passed on to my shoulder. Now I’ll have to take up a job, which pays me more. I don’t care about the hardships which I might incur.”

“Come on Balu!! What responsibilities? Don’t try to be like one among that pack of fools who ruin their life in the name of responsibilities. Listen. We’ve only one life. Try to enjoy it to the maximum. Don’t bind yourself with all that obligations.”

“Enough Ravi. I don’t want to listen to your absurd philosophies anymore. I fell prey to your allurements and had been leading a meaningless life hitherto. I had enough. I owe very much to my family. I can’t afford to be selfish. And you won’t ever be able to understand the meaning of family values; for you’ve run off from your family. Whenever you are free from your pursuit of pleasure, just think about the worth of your life. Anyways, Good Bye!” Balu walked off.

Ravi was left stranded in the beach. Balu’s sudden change of mind bewildered him. He wandered aimlessly through the beach. The sun had sunk into the waters. The lighthouse was throwing light in all directions in an attempt to guide lost boats. Ravi sat down on the sand and reflected about his past.

He grew up in a lush green Kerala hamlet situated in the lap of Western Ghats. His father had died when he was very young. His mother brought Ravi and his brother Chadran up. He perceived his mother as a tyrannical character. She was very fussy about virtues like discipline, punctuality, hygiene, sense of responsibility et al. And these things were a strict taboo for Ravi. His mother took the pain to send him to school. There he bunked classes very often to watch movies and to play cricket. On the other hand, his brother, by being an embodiment of all cardinal virtues, was a perfect antithesis of his. He was his mother’s last straw of hope.

Ravi stepped into youth hood. He spent his days sleeping, eating, gossiping, gambling, boozing, watching movies- in fact doing substantially ‘nothing’. One day he was sent by his mother to withdraw some amount of cash from bank for Chandran’s admission purpose in an Engineering College. On the way back he ran into an old friend of his. They decided to regain the luster of their friendship with the help of liquor. Reminiscences about their past adventures impelled them to rediscover the thrill by indulging in gambling. Eventually, the nostalgia about the old friendship siphoned off a lump some amount of the withdrawn cash.

That event dealt the coup de grace to Ravi’s bonding with family. His mother couldn’t bear it. She lashed out at him. “I’ve borne you for ten months. I’ve looked after you for twenty years. Yet, you haven’t done any good for the family. Now, you’ve ruined your brother’s life. What a wretched being are you? Now I’ve only one request. Please do me a favour by complying with it. Please go away. Go away from our sight. We don’t need you. You are a thorn in my heart. Flee off to any other place. We’ll live somehow.”

That was enough for Ravi. He took the remaining cash and landed up in Chennai. He never felt any kind of remorse over his acts. Rather, he felt relieved to be free of his bondages. Here, he discovered a turf where he can act in furtherance of his self-interest by exercising his discretion to the maximum. . The notion of child repaying his debts towards parents did not make any sense to Ravi. He firmly believed that since they have given birth to a child, they have to duty to take care of the child and the child has the right to be taken care of.

Alcohol filled the vacuum left by Balu in Ravi’s life. On a rainy night he was having an inebriated stroll. Then a motorcycle, apparently running out of balance, knocked him off the road. He hit his head on a lamppost and fell into a sewer. There, in that filth, he lied unconscious for hours. Later, some Good Samaritan showed the mercy to hospitalize him. Thus he ended up in Royapettah General Hospital. He had broken his hand. On the top of it, he was diagnosed with acute dengue fever.

Ravi felt like being in an inferno. The nurses seemed to be agents of Lucifer. They had no compassion. He was subjected to merciless injection; forced to swallow insipid tablets, which killed his appetite. The conditions of the General Hospital were worse than the sewer. The over-crowded place was filthy and stinky. Ambulances sirening, babies crying, stretchers rattling, wounded and sick people moving around: everything got into Ravi’s nerves. The disgust, anguish and above all the unbearable pain were harrowing him.

He closed his eyes. The image of mother came into his mind. Whenever he fell ill, his mother used to serve him some medicine made out of household herbs. That had a pleasant aroma. She’ll sit near him and feel his temperature. Her gentle touch itself had a soothing effect. She’ll enquire periodically about his state. She’ll caress him; feed him. She oozed compassion. And her love and care will vanquish the disease.

Here he was languishing. No soul is concerned about his plight now. No one was bestowing upon him any sort of kindness, any sort of humane consideration or any sort of pity. He’s completely abandoned. Tears rolled down his cheek. ‘ Oh God!!. What a worthless creature am I? My mother toiled her entire life for me. And I’ve always been a cause of anguish for her. I’m paying for the grave sins I’ve committed. With my obscene riotous life, I shattered my mother’s expectations. I ruined my brother’s life. God please give me an opportunity to mend my ways’. He soliloquized remorsefully.

After three weeks he got well. He caught the next Kerala-bound train to reach his hamlet.

It was past ten at night when he reached his village. He proceeded towards his house, with apprehensions about the way he would be welcomed. He knocked at the door. His mother opened the door. She couldn’t believe her eyes. She was very much astonished. She hugged him.

“Where were you my dear son? Where had you been? After you’d left I’ve had no mental peace. In that fit of fury, I might have blabbered something nonsensical. Who asked you to take them seriously? And not even a single letter in these three months. Hey Chandran, look who’s come. Your brother. God!!. I can’t be happier than this… Have you eaten anything? Shall I prepare dinner for you?..Look, you’ve grown thin and dark..Lack of proper care is very much evident”

Meanwhile Chandran came. He ran towards Ravi and embraced him.

His family thus witnessed days of rejoice. The homecoming of the prodigal son was celebrated grandly. Subsequently, he got a job as a cashier in a shop. He was happy that he was handling responsibilities and leading a productive life.

Months passed away. Ravi felt something missing in his life. The job was very monotonous and hectic. He had to wake up very early in the morning. And the entire day he was hooked up to the shop. By the time he reaches home, it would be late in night. He was getting salary and was supporting the family. But he felt that his life was very mechanical. There was no time for friends. No movies. No life for himself. Moreover, all his acts were under the scrutiny of his mother. He imbibed in himself a kind of void feeling.

One day he stumbled upon his old gang of friends. And history repeated. He came home very late, that too completely drunk. His mother couldn’t tolerate that. She scolded him profusely and harshly. He also retorted back and vented out his frustrations. And that resulted in a major altercation.

Next day his mother couldn’t find Ravi in his room. Instead she found a letter in his desk

Dear Amma

I’m leaving to Chennai. I’ll get my old job there. My mentality is so programmed that I won’t be able to adjust to your discipline and schedule. Moreover, my staying here would bring disgrace to our family. But Amma, I assure you, I’ll be more responsible this time. I’ll support the family. I’ll take care of Chandran’s education. Here, I won’t be able to live according to my disposition, which is very whimsical. A bird that’s tasted the nectar of freedom will loathe confinement; it will find it more loathsome if the confinement is voluntary. I just want to fly like a free bird. Please forgive this capricious son of yours.

With Love

Ravi

MANU SEBASTIAN

13 comments:

step by step said...

story is nice... reminiscent of malgudi days. I liked the way u opened the story especially.. (Cinema Paradiso?)

(one small glitch i found in here is the language. little too refined for a village dweller. i would prefer simple, unpolished diction in this case. but that's just my opinion.)

neat work..congratulations!

kartikey said...

this story of urs can say is not written in ur way..........i mean it is not that quality that i've appreciated before........this time i guess u've tried hard not to be verbose..........but my frnd..........u did so well in all those lengthy descriptions........i suggest u shud read it once more and yeah........u left charecters and their state of mind unexplained........do tell if i've been hard on criticism.......these r my true words

Novice Writer said...

very interesting story.. well done..but i think u could have made it much better..

geoooor said...

though the tale's name is reminiscent of keats lark, i felt this time around your tale's style was much more stifled than the free flowing style you employed the last time around, but nevertheless a good effort. and to take a leaf out of Stephen King's style of working, i would sujjest- keep writing. God Bless

joseph said...

i think u have presented a really brilliant idea through your story..the tussle between one's freedom to enjoy and one's obligations towards family has been depicted well..i think everyone can identify with this state of mind..this is the modern day adaptation of the fable of "The Prodigal Son"..

srinivas said...

Hi Manu,
Went through 'Free Bird'. My views are expressed below:
The opening of the story is good. It evokes curiosity. however not being part of the plot/story it could have been shown in a different font from the original story. The 'present tense' effect has largely worn off. though it surfaces now and then. The choice and arrangements of the words is very good however it suffers slightly from flowery language and verbosity ' Quintessence of Epicuranism', 'vistas of hedonism'. However that is your style. Okay!
Please edit spelling mistake 'Chandran' for 'Chadran'. Choice of sentences ' It allowed him to roam freely in the maze of fantasy, getting astonished by its glitter and glamour and to be in oblivion of the viccissitudes of life' is very impressive. 'to be oblivious' would be better choice than 'to be in oblivion'.

Gayathri said...

Hi! ohk..here i go!
for starters, i simply loved the beginning...especially the line 'A hero, with rage in his eyes and a heroine in his arms!!' it makes one want to read up! kudos to the captivating opening! it was really cool!
the story has a good flow, and the language is good, it is vivid... but i wudnt say it is beautiful...i mean not the kind that wud make one read it again and take it to heart...
now to the story part of it.. donno if this is too much to say..but somehow i feel razor's edge has a better appeal.. mabbe because it reflects a real difference in thinking! it was such an uncommon wave of thought! this one kinda strikes the same old chords again! but hey never mind.. original thinking comes naturally to u! so patch this up next time..rite?
and one more suggestion... despite the lovely beginning, the story fell back to morbid realities of life..not that it is bad..but really, for fun loving readers, too much weariness is a turn off! liven and lighten up with a lil bit more fun next time..!
yes...i guess i am exceeding limits! thank u for allowing me the privilege to comment on this..and in the meanwhile, u better keep writing..god bless!

meera said...

hi manu,


sorry to say that it was not really upto your usual standards.the opening was real good. it makes you want to read the rest. but, then, it becomes a bit dragging..something's missing manu..u know ,the spark..'razor's edge' had it.It was so different.

manu, i don't write..so i don't know whether i'm right or not..
but, when u write, write frm ur heart..feel what what u say..then it will naturally be conveyed to the reader also..

nyway, u do hav what it takes in you.. so do write..hope u r doing well

Noorjahan Momin said...

Great work as usual...keep it up...but as some has already said...the language is too polished...a tint of local dialect would have made it more realistic...sometimes the usage of too many adjective in a small space has made the reading bit hectic...
the end had been brought bout beautifully..."A bird that’s tasted the nectar of freedom will loathe confinement; it will find it more loathsome if the confinement is voluntary." beautifully put!
Once again congratulations! Keep writing...(i see great potential in your work...and ur blog represents dat u a meticulous writer)

sidhhart said...

brilliant work..really amazing..what i really liked is the climax part..thats very realistic..yet unconventional in literature..no sugar coats to the climax so as to please the reader..just narrating plain reality...a free person cant live in confinement..a well concieved thought..i checked your profile and i was astonished to learn that you are a very young peron.you hav got the thing in you..carry on...a literary maverick is in making..

dev said...

the thought behind your stroy is really great.a struggle to make a reconciliation between hedonism and responsibility.individualism and collectivism.but i feel you didnt improvise it well.still this is a decent work.i feel its better than 'razors edge'. i thought it was a bit freaky.

nikita g said...

dat was a brilliant story!!!! n it seemed v true..i think all of us want that freedom n there's always an urge to run away 4m d obligations..bt still we need the support n care of r loved ones.......
interesting story particularly the ending :)

just me... :) said...

The beginning was captivating but somehow big words distrupted the flow of the story.. The simpler the narrative the deeper is its impact..that is what I think..

P.S: Somehow I couldnt imagine u writing such a FREE Spirited story with that prejudiced and orthodox mind. A surprise indeed!