Saturday, March 15, 2014

The man who painted dreams

       That was one of the days which I will remember always. I was born and brought up in small town . Small town do have many similarities. Our town also had some. Everybody seemed to know everyone else. Even if you didn't know someone, you started talking with him , he would come out to be a neighbour of someone you knew. We particularly knew everything to be known about the town. Which gulli would lead to which sweet shop, what would be the last time in the morning when Ramesh's Hotel would finish the last serving of their famous daal-puri .We could also tell which traffic police with the big belly and half grey moustache would be checking bikers and scooter riders  near the road leading to the market in hope of a few extra penny . Everything was in same order everyday. You would see the same people going to offices, same rickshaw pullers, same shopkeepers.

          Every household almost had the same activities going on. When we went to school with  three or four bicycles riding in a single file with one hand holding own handle and other hand holding the other's handle we would  look into all the passer by , all the girls going to schools, throw a glance  all the household . If at some house the man was just starting his bike for going to office, at some other you could see the woman giving her children the tiffin boxes for school ,  somewhere else you could see the newly married wife seeing her husband off for duty with a smile. That sequence would repeat again shortly, may be at a distance of few households. Everything looked same .

      What was different was that one particular house in the middle of the town. There stayed an old man, suffered from that white skin disease . There was never anybody else in his house , no children getting ready to go to school, no man going to office, no woman cleaning the courtyard . This house showed no hurriedness . He had a lawn leading into the veranda where he had put on cane wood chair . Every morning when we approached that house we could smell fresh rubber . The old man had some wooden frames for making balloons put out in the sun in his lawn,  always except for rainy days. In those frames were those fresh rubber covers painted .  The concentration that he would work with it seemed he was trying to put a story on each one of them .  And all of them would make you happy . When going to school every morning we could see him working on the lawn with the balloons. Afternoon when we returned from  , almost all of the latex he painted in the morning was converted into colourful balloons. He would inflate them one by one , blowing his lungs out , putting life into them . Then he would tie all of them up in a bunch and cling into the wooden frame of his veranda . All the afternoon he would sit  in the cane wood chair in his veranda . When sun would start its descend , with the sky glowing into a mixture of red, orange , purple , the old man would light a smoking pipe , lean back on his chair , rest his legs against the wooden railing . All he did was to stare at the balloons, and smoke his pipe, like admiring a self portrait by a painter. When you look at him like that , you could feel like a breeze passing through your hair, like a very old tune playing at the back of your head. A view of that house could make you feel happy. There were hardly 20-30 sticks where these latex covers were painted in the morning. It looked like he painted dreams on them. Some were red, some violet, some green . He used to sprinkle different colours on top. All of them smelled the same, but looked so different.What happened to those balloons after the evening, we never bothered to know or nobody else did I guess. Next morning again you could see him painting new colours, planting new dreams , creating new stories. We though it would continue forever like that and it did until that day.

     That morning , there was no smell of rubber when we approached the house , neither was the sign of that old man , sitting on his haunches painting the balloons . We did felt something odd but did not bother ourselves. we went to school in that same single file of 3-4 bicycles in line , looking into everyone else. When we returned in the afternoon we could see a huge gathering outside the house. We stopped, somebody said the man died last night. we peeped through people. There lied the old man , in white sheet around his body on his lawn. Neighbours were doing some ritual to take his body for cremation . No one had ever seen a relative or family member of that man. There was nobody to weep for him. There was gloominess in the air but no moist eyes. Then came a small girl holding her father arm. She had one white balloon in her hand . Her father tied that balloon into the bed of that dead body . Then suddenly everyone felt there would be no more colours, no more dreams, no more stories from that man , no more happiness without a reason when you passed by that house .
      Everything has changed now in the town. But when I pass by that place where that house was , I still can smell those fresh latex, I still look into the house in hope of a new dream , a new story, a little happiness out of nowhere.
     I still remember the day .

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