This story was published in an e-magazine Fried Eye 15th July 2012 https://www.friedeye.com/2012/07/the-ailing-abode.html
The green fields growing tea plants look so dull today without you around. I wonder where you might be these days. It’s been a month that I last saw you. And when I returned today you are nowhere to be seen.
Our last meeting was the day I left for Mumbai. That day, I could see the tears wetting the face of my mother. I could see the pain in my father’s eyes. I could see my sister crying near the Banyan Tree, hiding from me. What I could not see was the anxiety in your eyes, the upcoming peril you were about to face as I leave.
I cared not of what the neighbors would say, or what my father’s fellow factory workers would say. I cared not of what my mother’s fellow tea plant workers would think, nor of what my sister’s to-be spouse would think. Nor did I care about you whose life, I knew not, was only a day more since I left.
With bones of legs half broken and fingers snapped, my sister today kneels in front of me. Her refusal to talk to me screams in my head that I was wrong.
A woman half burnt, with face smudged with terrible scars, claims to be my mother. Her state of agony cries in my head that I was wrong.
Sleeping on the arms of the woods, a cold father waits to be burnt. His each dead cell yells in my head that I was wrong.
I looked for you, but you could not be seen, not on the land where you used to be.
I met all today- questioning eyes, betrayed hearts, ashamed faces, disdaining looks, troubled minds, lost souls, poverty, helplessness, pain, misery.
Somewhere in this land I hear you, blaming me, cursing me, with a voice trembling and weak.
A month ago, in the same land, what I could not hear was the same voice begging me.
When I looked at myself, a month ago, I saw myself breaking shackles, freeing freedom, flying high, flying away to be free, to find love.
But today, when I look back, I see myself ditching my own family, putting my needs before theirs, spurning their love aside, throwing them in fire, to be a free man’s whore.
Wooed by the money in the man’s pocket, blandished by the luxuries promised, I fled with the man agreeing to be his kept.
With a swollen eye, a fractured arm and a few bruises as I return today, each wound of mine tells me I was wrong.
I return to you today, only to realize you are long gone. All that remains of you today is nothing but ashes.
Your memories all lost, seeing the burnt face of mother today. Your felicity all lost, seeing the worn out face of my sister today.
The villagers’ belligerence of that unfortunate day, appears today on the face of a mother who was burned alive. Apathy of the neighbours appears on the face of a father who was beaten to death. The to-be in-laws’ wrath, appears on the face of a sister who was denied marriage. The brutal ways of live appear on the face of the land that once carried you.
I searched, but in vain, to find even a trace of you. Befuddled, I rummaged everywhere in the realm. Mother, as always, knew what question my eyes hold. She points towards the direction where the answer to my question unfolds.
I looked at you, of whom only ashes remained. Seeing you today, the tears in my eyes, I retained.
The ashes of you, lying on the barren land, yells at me that I was wrong.
I kneel today before your ashes. I realize I was wrong. I beg for forgiveness but no answer comes. Your ashes silently look at me as I wail my heart out. Mother stands near me, showing me that my family is obliged to live on the road, as no longer we have you- My Home, to whom I returned.
The villagers burnt you, with my mother inside. Mother survived while you burned down, leaving us no place to hide. I weep today, I cry. But nothing I do can bring back that day gone by. Because of me, my family suffered. We lost father and you- our home.
The sleepless night I spend today reminds me of yester years spent with you- playing in the tea gardens, returning to you for a nap, all sitting in your balcony to discuss the day’s events in the eve, and sleeping on your lap at night.
I put aside those memories; I fight back my tears and look for a new morning as I go in rummage for a new you- a new Home. To bring back all that’s lost, I pray, but in vain, as any place we ever were happy was you- my Home.