Monday, November 17, 2014

A mundane fantasy

It is 6 o clock and I wake up from my stupor. As I look around, I feel a bit like one of those princes in the fairy tales who has been spirited away by an amorous rakshasi or witch during the night. It is indeed my home and my bedroom but there is a strange sense of detachment. I lie down for a few minutes working out my identity not unlike Odysseus lying naked on the island of Scherie. Like rain washing away mud, my brain has been wiped clean by the cerebrospinal fluid.

In a few seconds I remember my wife next to me and then my daughter next to her. The spell of sleep is broken and my mind whirs into activity, free from the yoke of the sable goddess' leaden sceptre. Not really free though, for it gets trapped immediately in the maze of tasks - brush teeth, milk for baby, black coffee, bath, dogs... like Parthiba's bow, they speed my mind along and press it towards their mark unerringly. My mind ever the truant, flits about a bit and manages to flirt with two parakeets, a mynah, and a few other sparrows and perhaps swallows. The lovely coucal though, evades me today.

By the time we've all had our poisons - bitter black coffee and extra sweet milk, two of the dogs have run away. The girl it seems is teaching our little boy the sweet taste of rebellion. And he, who is now an old man, revels in the excesses that this little girl provides him. When they come back finally, they stroll in without a hint of remorse in their eyes, rather there is a hint of a smirk.

I am now astride my mount. I look around a bit bidding an unwilling goodbye to my love, my sons and daughters, the home, the trees, the birds... there is not enough time to enact an elaborate farewell like Sakunthala did when she left Kanva's ashram. 

In a few minutes though, I am no longer Sakunthala leaving behind her beloved forest, but Dushyanta in his chariot. That which is curved becomes straight and that which was now far away suddenly leaps close by as I ride my steed that despite its pace does not foam at its mouth. Like Dushyanta, I too am in pursuit of a buck, only this buck is more elusive than the buck he pursued. For it is not a black buck, but a green one, one that also houses a green-eyed monster.

Pleasant pastoral scenes slowly give way to the caverns and crags of the city. Undaunted my steed pierces the ranks of traffic signals and irate horns. I have an easy victory as I slay the evil beasts catching them by surprise before they awake.

Work then opens her cavernous mouth and swallows me whole like Surasa swallowing Hanuman. I once again lose my memory and identity falling under the charms of this Calypso. Like the cursed princess who must spend her day in the stupor of death or like Dushyanta whose memory is hidden by the fog of Durvasa's curse I submit to labour and commerce. 

There are snatches of a song, whispers in the breeze that speak of love, of a hearth and its warmth. But I plo(t)d on unmindful of these supposed distractions. While the thrall of sleep is that of a lover, the thrall of work is that of a master. One clasps you in her slender arms and holds you prisoner by her lazy charms while the other whips your back and urges you on without slack.

As the sun sinks in the west, the spirit finally awakens itself and overthrows the yoke of work. "It is time", she whispers, "the birds are heading to their nest, so is the sun." And then she produces the ring of memory, slit open from the fish's belly. "Here!", she exclaims, "gaze on this token of love and hurry back to what is yours." 

I recall my wife, not the Sakunthala whom modern poets have turned into a dumb doe eyed beauty, but the Sakunthala of Kalidasa who had for a sister the jasmine creeper, who spoke to the trees and was kin to the birds. I recall my daughter who I am sure will not just count the teeth of the tiger cub like Bharatha but also heal the cub's teeth if need be. In a thrice, I mount my chariot and fly back home to fall under the spell of domesticity, of silence, of sleep.

Thus I pass from one trance of a mundane day to a mundane night carried away on the wings of fantasy.