By Pallavi Das
A tenth-century devotee of Shiva, Devara Dasimayya, wrote:
‘If they see breasts and long hair coming
They call it woman,
If beard and whiskers
They call it man.
But look, the self that hovers in between
Is neither man nor woman . . .’
(English translation in A.K. Ramanujan, 1973)
Desires are simple by themselves. Try to put them in words and they get contaminated.
I have lost count of the days since I stepped out of the house just for a casual stroll, a smoke, or a cup of tea from that roadside tea stall. Standing by the window, while craving for the old days of being able to live, to breathe in open air, I saw him. He was standing by that makeshift tea stall. There was a heavy drizzle that afternoon.
I could see him, but not very clearly. A big tree, dancing with its leaves spread wide, created that curtain of hide and seek. I tried looking, shifting places, changing corners of the window. I could see him, and still couldn’t. He was looking at the sky with so much peace and intrigue, as if having a conversation with it.
I wanted to get my umbrella and climb down the stairs and pretend to be a stranger, another passer-by. Or maybe order some tea and ask him, casually of course, to join me. Would he agree, I wondered. He seemed to be waiting for someone, or why would he stand by a tea stall and not order a cup? Or does he not like tea? Is he waiting for someone to share a cup of tea with? My mind wondered these and many more such questions…
The sound of many pearls dropping on the drums was slowly receding. The wind was no longer making the tree dance. It was drenched, and so was he. He spread his right hand out to catch a few last dropping pearls. I realised I was drenched too. ‘Nikhilesh…’ I heard my wife call from the other room.
A taxi stopped by the tea stall. He smiled and waved at it. I tried to catch a glimpse of him again. I could, still couldn’t. He got inside the taxi, and it vanished in a blink.
I was still standing alone by the window, drenched… ‘Nikhilesh… Why aren’t you answering? What are you doing?’ I, still looking towards the empty, wet street, answered – ‘Breathing…’
Pallavi is mostly perplexed about life, and the absurd artificial rules it comes with. She firmly believes – Sawaalon Mein Jo Aazadi Hai Woh Jawaabon Mein Kahan (The freedom experienced in questions cannot be found in answers). It is in these rare moments of clarity, while telling stories, that she finds most peace.