(A short story
First written onJune 8, 2016)
Four-year-old Arun is playing with his toys – making the bull and the horse in hands wrestle, the horse is winning, Arun wants the horse to win, he likes the horse, he knows it will win ….. When he hears the voices of his parents arguing. He turns around to see them entering the room but they are not themselves. Though he has seen them angry before but never this much, he has always been sensitive to their anger but this is something else, something…. their anger, the cruelty in their faces, their bitter voices, the swift movements of hands (that they are making in their argument) .. all that has something ugly in it. So ugly it shouldn’t have existed. A child can’t understand the mixing of the opposites – good and evil, angels and monsters, beautiful and ugly; they all must remain separate …the ugliness of that bitter anger on the faces of his beautiful parents was an unbearable mix, they, the ones to whom he turned to in times he felt scared of monsters sitting under his bed, now themselves looked like monstrous … and besides this fear, he felt for the first time, what so many of us feel quite frequently, a sudden realization of a certain loss, a loss of (shall we say) home. Isn’t home a place where you can be at ease, and you can find shelter from your undesired excitements and fears just by being there? Isn’t his home his parents who now seemed so monstrous? And who is in need of a home more than a child?
Arun bursts into silent tears but the silent tears are never going to get their attention. As much as grownups like to think to contrary but children never cry for attention, they only cry because they haven’t still submitted themselves to the ugliness of the world. They cry in protest and protest is what makes Arun’s sobs grow louder. Hearing him weep, his mother picks him up, have him in between her forearm and breast, his head on her shoulder, and starts shaking him with her upper body in, by now well practiced, slow movements left-and-right-and-back in the effort to console the child. But all this while she hasn’t stopped arguing and neither had the father. And how can they? It is, after all, a matter of their egos. Not to answer is to accept defeat. Each is sure that he or she is right and is baffled by other’s claim to contrary but things must be set right, let it be decided today for, each has tolerated beyond his or her patience – only to find the tolerance being taken as weakness, but not now, not any longer, the misbehavior of other must be corrected, it has gone for too long alre ..
The child burns his head into his mother’s shoulder as if trying to dig a distant cave for himself, away… away, away, away from all this ugliness. But when was this ever possible? The argument has only got worse. The child feels her mother trembling with fury, his ear is near her neck, and so he can feel her voice pass through her throat … a voice that had once been so soothing… no, it can’t be his mother’s voice … where is his mother’s voice? Will it ever come back? “CHUP! CHUP! CHUP!” he cries finally, asking them to shut up. The pain in his voice is so obvious that it silences his parents, they forget their argument and looked at the child with fear and shock – not guilt, though, it will come later. Once a few moments later, when they get out of their shock, they will try to comfort the child – choosing to let the forgotten argument stay forgotten. And Arun will stop weeping at their repeated pleas and on seeing that his old parents are back. But he will never be comforted … never again, not in the way he was comfortable before he heard the argument. The change would be subtle, his parents won’t notice, he will hardly notice it himself and the whole incidence will be forgotten– yet that old innocent and absolute happiness, which you can only be born with and never regain, was lost, lost forever.
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