The dream child
He went through the first flush of his consciousness as a one-year old infant in the cloth-cradle. Existence baffled him .The snugness of all-around cloth was an extension of his fetal existence. Did he really exist? Was he a real physical self ? The physical world smothered him. Did he not exist in Somebodyâ€™s dream ? This Somebody, unphysical and dream-like, was enacting a dream, of which he who was himself unreal and a creature of an ethereal world, was a part .At the age of ten he moved about in the physical world uncertain of himself trying to blame his existence on the Somebody who appeared to have made him the Chief Protagonist of the dream-play he seemed to be enacting. What if He stops dreaming bringing an end to this unreal existence ? He became acutely aware, at the age of ten, that he was not the special entity he thought he was. By then he had developed a world-view ,a fragmented one, based upon an amorphous mixture of the half-logic of the workaday world and a skewed intellectual grasp of the Reality. He had to reconcile several irreconcilables .If there was a cause, there had to be an effect but what was the cause of the cause? If the universe existed, there had to be a Creator But who or what constituted the genesis? The finite mind grasped a scheme of things where a cause-and-effect sequence seemed inherent. In that dream-state where he existed as a chief protagonist of the dream-play of Somebody, did these physical laws ,which make the causeand-effect phenomenon an inexorable reality, have any sanctity? Could the human mind not grasp a reality beyond the Cause? The human logic, itself a product of the finite mind, seemed to suggest a beyond-logic which permitted a scheme of things where there could be cause without effect and effect without cause.
What bugged his puny mind much more was the existence of dualities . His mind grappled with hundreds of dualities like yes-no, good-bad, black-white possibilities. Did not a beyond-logic suggest a third, a fourth possibility existing in the cosmic scenario? His dream-like existence flowed through the arid plains of intellectual speculation. He continued to believe that this Somebody in whose dream he existed was laughing at him for the absurdities of his own small little dreams. Could there be dreams within dreams? Once, at the age of 15,he dreamed of the Dreamer ,in a state of delirium .It was an existence-erasing dream as though the end of the world had arrived and nothing seemed to matter. Engulfed in the swirling waters of dark souldeath he cried out in oxygen-starved pain, an excruciating pleasure-pain that stupefied his physical existence.
He dreamed of many things. Of venomous snakes, of crisscrossing planes and of wingless flights. During recurrent bouts of head-cold he went through hallucinations. He felt he was in the midst of casuarina trees on the Kalingapatnam beach with the wind buzzing through their needle-leaves. His senses ached with exquisite pleasure. He started actually looking forward to colds. At times he had violent stomach upsets caused by eating raw mangoes brought down from the trees with a pebble. The mango-smelling pukes filled the air with malodorous disgust. Running eucalyptussmelling colds elevated the senses and brought an unearthly sharpness to them. At night the cold winter air bit into the fever-fresh skin filling the vapor-opened pores with ecstasy. When the little typhoid germ struck him,at the age of nineteen, he hoped for a miracle that there would be a catharsis of his soul .Miracles never happened in his life. For that matter nothing ever really happened in life. At the age of ten, lying on a string-cot in a claustrophobic room he experienced a fear-pain in the belly, a paralyzing fear of the unknown as pale shadows stretched across the closing walls and grotesque taildropped lizards crawled on the wooden beams of the thatched
roof. The same fear gripped him when he passed through a deserted street under a diabolic tamarind tree which housed multitudes of suicide-ghosts who seemed to be calling out in eerie silence .It was the same fear which gripped him when the stomach-churning spirit-smell pervaded the government hospital when he was waiting for his turn to see the doctor. At night he had his gut-wrenching nightmares in which he saw himself in strange diabolic blood-soaked pits covered with foul-smelling excrescence.
He had his small redemptions . In the early hours he went out ,bare-footed , into the morning-smelling bed of unkempt grass to pluck fragrant flowers . Leaves covered with droplets from the nightâ€™s dew touched his bare skin. In the half-dried river-bed a tiny stream snaked through the brown tingling sand. He squatted in the muddy waters to let the warm-cool water flow over his body and as he looked at the distant mist-covered Salihundam hills he conjured up visions of the re-birth of the lost civilization which lay buried under the scraggy hills. In the rain-moist coconut plantations of Uddanam stately coconut trees danced against the Bay of Bengal ocean-breeze as his bare feet squished into the sea-washed beach. He carried on through lifeâ€™s journey ,half -aware and halfknowing .Awareness stifled him .Knowledge suffocated him. In that knowing-futile moment he died a thousand delicious deaths .Each time he died he ceased to exist as himself , the dream-protagonist of the dream-play in Somebody's cruel dream . Each time a different he sprang up from out of the miserable putrefying corpse of his earlier oxygen-drained dream-existence .Once at the age of ten he lay on the soft under-bed of a bullock-cart as it it slowly wended its way up the dirt track and imagined the excruciating pain that certainly awaited him at the end of the journey. There ,in Ampolu village,the women were waiting to poke wicked fun at ten-year old boys in half-pants during the marriage celebrations .Women in moth-ball-smelling kanjivarams would be singing funny songs mocking at your pedigree
(What great people These nilamraju family are! They go on beating their drums Announcing that they demand attention) He thought of the younger sister of the bride who would come so dangerously close to him entreating him to sing the latest film song. Silly girl , she would sit on the edge of the string cot deliciously arching over him, while he ceased to exist. He remembered with a blush how he had sat very close to the bride and the bridegroom in the palanquin carried by four turban-wearing bearers who shouted into the still air rhythmic' koho kohokko' as if complaining to the gods. He still remembered the kohl-eyed daughter of the neighborhood patriarchal farmer in Vanitamandalam who thought he was a stylish city-boy who had a thing or two in him. When he showed off his wisps of broken film music he always had a plateful of roasted cashews placed before him. Another time this termagant of a woman,who had broken off with her husband, seemed to have a crush on him . Her eyes were pools of defiant sadness and as the pigeons roosting in the coop outside moaned silently he thought he felt a deathly chill in her attitude towards him, a slowly creeping shadow on her smooth exterior. She suffocated him and made him weep. She enjoyed every bit of it. The earthen pots were piled one upon the other on the cow-dung-smeared floor and behind them, unknown to the residents, lurked dangerous eight-legged spiders one of which killed his cousin, Roopa.Yes.It was this very species of the spider which injected deadly venom into the victim. There she lay on the hot river-bed of the Vamshadhara with her eyes closed and unmindful of the low plaintive wail of her grief-stricken mother who had hoped that her daughter would somehow come back to life if they delayed the lighting of the pyre. It was her fondest hope that the same spider
which had bitten her daughter on the stomach would come from somewhere and breath life back into her.
It was in the narrow bamboo-walled kitchen of this house that this lady, sister of his mother, who had spent a major part of her life. She knew nothing except pure crystals of love. When she lit the three-stone stove, smoke filled the the thatched house mixed with delicious fry-smells and long conversations ensued over sizzling pakodas.The afternoons became hot as the day lengthened over the Vamshadhara sands. The lone boat brought stray villagers, returning from the Gara marketplace ,whose bare feet burned on the hot sands as they climbed the sand banks. Her smokereddened eyes had shadows of insanity harking back to her initial years of married life when she filled the walls of her in-laws' house with bloody scrawls. Her eyes flashed as she sang, hysterically, satirical lyrics on her mother-inlaw set to taut music. It was the same sweet voice which had earlier sung
(There is no comfort Without tranquility O Lotus-eyed one ) When she sang the sound came from her deep throat like the sad caw of a one-legged crow perched on the tamala tree. She had experienced the heart of darkness. The dark rings around her eyes betrayed the barrenness of her soul which had silently suffered the excruciating pain of having to watch her youngest daughter Shanta walk out on her .Her own tranquility vanished when Shanta struck up a lustful ,defiant relationship with a peasant's son with absolutely no chance of the relationship fructifying into marriage.
Shanta had suffered the banality of her existence silently till the peasant's son came along. This man-boy aroused her deeply making her forget her brahminical superiority. His touch exploded on her shattering her girl-woman body which submitted itself willingly to his unbrahmin maleness. Soon enough his touch had lost its magic and in a month's time both of them tired of each other. It was by then too late and Shanta had to walk out of the bastion of her brahminical home into an unknown future.