Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Room

Her flight was cold. That was the only thing about the journey that registered in her mind. Two days ago, she got a phone call and a familiar voice from the distant past brought her present to a complete stop. Twelve years ago when she walked out of that house to live the life she was destined to, she did not know that its door would forever be closed for her. Finding herself standing at a crucial crossroad of life, she took the only road with the green light. The city lights in the distance beckoned her. And she soon found herself blending in perfectly, becoming one of the many, whose dreams got entangled with the skyline of the city.

It had taken her more than she had expected to detach herself from the memories. But slowly the city gave her a new lease and she discovered new wings to fly over unchartered horizons. Indeed, there was no looking back for her. Or so she thought.

As she heard the voice on the other side of the telephone, her mind went back to that moment light years back. She was sitting at her desk in her old room. In less than a month, she will no more be able to call this her own in the same way as she can now. In less than a month, she will be married off into another household where she has to start this journey of growing relationships all over again. The past roots will slowly fade away while the newer ones will drop anchor. She thought the former was impossible. But time proved her wrong. In less than a month, the custom-made single bed, just like the way she wanted, will no more be enough. She will have to finally walk out of the safety of the room and embark upon a journey that was unknown and made her feel giddy in the head.

She closed her eyes and once again felt the engravings on that wooden desk that went back more than a generation. Every time she sat to work on that desk, she felt she was becoming a part of history that will narrate its story at some other century to another soul. The room had a musty feel to it. It must have been because of the stacks of books that lined an entire wall from the floor to ceiling. It was the secret haven of her grandmother when she was a newly wedded wife. It was her grandfather’s study where he snuck in his young wife to share with her a world that the books had opened up for him. She had discovered this room only when she was eleven. The room was located at one end of the house. Riddled by many rooms and the numerous families – kith and kin – the house hardly managed to register the existence of this room. A game of hide and seek, a tumbling into one of the never visited rooms, the nervous looking around and the eventual falling in love with it. That was how it all started. That was how everything started. For a long time it was her haven when she wanted to escape into her own world. And now she was standing at that threshold of life all women stand, wondering apprehensively what the world on the other side would be. She looked out of the window at the evening sky, silently asking where would these clouds take her next.

The next few days flew past and she registered little of it. It was only when she found herself at the airport, holding her mother’s hand, which she will later realize, to be for the last time, that she realized she had forgotten to say her last goodbye to the room. Everything happened so fast. The family had found it impossible to accept the person she had chosen. For them a nondescript fellow from the adjacent neighbourhood, without a ticket to a golden future that she deserved but never wanted, and most importantly, one not belonging to their community was unacceptable. She was too young, they thought, to decide what is good for her. And so they decided. Dollars it must be. That was the end all and be all that defined her very being from the day she was born till today. Or so they thought; for them the room never existed, neither the soul that bloomed in the four walls of that room.

Off she flew into the clouds, over deserts seas and continents to her new home. She tried to settle down but the memory of that room kept haunting her. Those long afternoons spent in daydreaming in the midst of old books held a rapturous romanticism that few around her understood. The unsmiling white faces held much against the desire for that room. That life.

She never went back to her room. Home for her meant whatever fitted within the computer screen. Her mother, or an uncle beaming a toothless smile too close to the camera, confused which way to look and where to speak into. For them she became nothing but a voice, an often-pixilated being on the screen, a few colourful photographs of her life from the land of dollars. It was difficult to hold on. Slowly one by one faces from the screen disappeared, until there was no one in it. Was that when she succeeded in cutting herself loose from it all?
And now this voice. For a moment, her heart faltered, but it never failed to recognize it. And the room flashed before her eyes. A lot had passed in these twelve years. With the passing away of her mother, she completely obliterated that world from her memory. It held no fondness, only a lot of pain and unfulfilled wishes. The dollar-hungry relatives couldn’t keep their avarice in check and soon the singular large house had to be split. She was the only living kin to whom a portion of the house belonged to. They had already started demolishing other portions of the house. All she needed to do was out her signature on paper. Surely, the dollared life she was enjoying all the way at the other end of the world did not need the pittance that her share of their ancestral property could give. Nothing else mattered to her now. Only one thing – the room stood at the top of it.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda