A Glassy Sky
A Glassy Sky12 mins 231 12 mins 231
Endless days spent counting stars,
Each a spark of hope,
Tarnished from the battle scars,
Clawing at a little rope.
Searching for the bird,
Just a feather for a clue,
Deep in his heart,
He knew it to be true.
Pulling himself up,
A fleeting feeling of high,
Before it came crashing down,
The cold and glassy sky.
He was never one to believe in emotions. His philosophy in life was - emotions make you weak, work hard for what you seek. Others were just the rungs of a ladder to climb to the top, and needed to be kept at a distance. That didn't mean he was a machine; his personality was something others craved for. Seemingly boisterous, outgoing, confident and hardworking, he was the office heartthrob for most of the women and a few closeted men in the office, not to mention the object of jealousy for some. He wasn't the kind of person who would back down from parties and the occasional one-night stands, he swung both ways, and wasn't worried about it. As long as his agenda was fulfilled, he would pretend to be what others wanted him to be. Afterwards, he couldn't care less.
All of his co-workers knew about the dark side to his personality, but nonetheless flocked to him like moths to a lamp. His short-lived fairy tale-like childhood and all the subsequent hardships after the demise of his parents at the tender age of eight drove this fact deep inside his mind that - use or be used. To him, that's all the world and society comprised of - following a set of rules, and trying to be better than the others. He didn't know when to stop, or maybe he didn't want to. At the pinnacle of his career, being the CFO of a leading electronics company granted him more than he wished for. He broke the glass ceiling, a literal rags to riches story, tinged with brilliance and endless sweat and tears. The distractions in his life were bubbles of normalcy in his otherwise Machiavellian perception of the world.
Always trying to harden the shell of complacency around his heart, stifling the faintest glimmer of love, he felt empty. The knowledge of his toxic nature, gas lighting attitude, and the smile that never reached his eyes was never lost to him. The most human thing about him was his capacity to not feel for anyone, at least that's what his definition of kindness was. Little did he know that his very perception of the world was about to get flipped on its head.
It was an impromptu decision that one of his friends decided to do something different for his upcoming marriage anniversary. Instead of an over-the-top flashy party, he and his wife, who worked in the same company decided to spend their day at the local orphanage. Being childless themselves, even after a decade of their union, they really felt it was time to look at other options, and spending the day at the local orphanage would help them get their minds on the track for adoption. Being orphaned so young, he knew what it meant to be bereft of parents, and unsurprisingly, he decided to tag along, even when some of the other well meaning colleagues politely declined.
It was a sunny day, the one like in spring. A few clouds floating like cotton on a blue sea, he felt uplifted that morning. He knew not why. As planned, all the friends gathered in the mini-van and drove off to the local orphanage. The first thing they noticed after stopping their vehicle at he entrance was a small group of kids who came running to the gate. Their faces bore mixed expressions of longing and hopelessness, seeing which some of the guests started weeping. 'Even this rich folks shed tears', he thought, with the faintest of a smug. He knew what he was seeing long back he was such a unknown child.
In the midst of reminiscing around the past, his gaze fell upon one he workers who worked there. She attended the kids, fed them and cared for them. Due to stifling finances, the orphanage couldn't attract a lot workers, the handful were volunteers only. He knew all about this, but what took his breath away was the fact that she was sightless. As much as 'Naina didi', as the kids lovingly called her, cared for the kids, the kids cared for hear as well. "What an irony between life an name", he smirked, before moving along with his friends to look after the food arrangements and gifts to be given to the kids. One of these kids would be lucky enough to get adopted by the couple organizing this event. The kids knew this, and tried to be on their best behavior.
For all the falsities in his life, he did feel genuine affection for children. Those bundles of joy and innocence made him repulse himself at times, feeling the exact opposite of what he thought of himself - the diamond becoming glass and shattering, or the glass hardening enough to be a diamond? There was this dichotomy in him that he seldom addressed. 'Better to leave the deep thoughts deep' - another rule to live by. The day progressed almost smoothly, culminating in a girl and a boy getting adopted by the couple friend. They decided this after the little girl kicked up a storm after being separated from her twin brother. Thus, it was decided to keep them together, and the orphanage was content to leave the kids in caring hands.
When the party was preparing to leave, there came a came a sweet voice beckoning him.
"Roshan ji", spoke Naina, "I don't think you really liked being here." Roshan flustered ever so slightly. It was an unexpected conversation after all.
"What made you think so, Naina ?" asked Roshan.
"Well, of all the people here, your laughs seemed hollow..." As if realizing that she had said too much, Naina relented. "I'm sorry sir, I didn't mean it like that, it's just that my ears are eerily sharp, and most of the time I was around you, albeit unintentionally."
Roshan now realized why Naina was hovering around him; not because of who he was, but because of what he was stifling him. 'The poor girl must have felt strange around me, the coldness of it all...' surmised Roshan.
"Well Naina, I like kids, it's just that I don't want to get attached with anyone, kids or adults alike. My laughs might have sounded hollow, but that's how I laugh anyway. If you got a problem with that, then it can't be helped", replied Roshan wryly.
"Sir, at least you've got a choice to laugh at things you can see, I have none whatsoever, yet I choose to be happy. Goodbye sir, have a safe journey.", spoke Naina.
Roshan was flummoxed. He had seldom been at a loss for words, but at the moment, he felt something, he couldn't name it, but something shifted inside him. At that moment, it seemed too small to be of any notice, but it was the beginning of a tectonic shift in his life, as he would come to realize soon.
That night he kept on turning in his bed. Getting a shuteye wasn't easy for him, but this night seemed to be even harder. The words of that frail-looking girl had resonated with the depths of his soul. Roshan didn't even believe that souls existed, but there was no rational explanation to explain his unease. Curling into a fetal position, a torrent of thoughts started poring into him - the car crash that killed his parents, the subsequent abuse at the hands of his uncles and aunt, getting tossed into an orphanage after bribing the institution, more hardships there, and his never-ending, Sisyphus-like fight to make a man out of himself. All of the repressed memories where whirling in his mind, creating an inferno of agony that ended in him breaking down, bawling uncontrollably on his bed, in the studio apartment of his, all alone.
The next morning wasn't easy for him. Remembering the past left a bitter taste in his mouth, something that even the best of the coffees couldn't fix. Office was a big no that day. He just didn't feel like going to that place, not out of boredom, but to reflect on his life and decisions. It was as if that chance encounter with Naina had stirred up his feelings. A longingness to belong, but the voice inside his head suggested him to shut down such invading thoughts. He was meant to conquer and use, not to bow and be used. His heart was writhing in agony, and his body manifested it too. He took a deep breath.
'I need to go and meet Naina again, ask her why she chooses to be happy despite her tragic life. Why? Why? How?', he shouted at the ceiling wall.
Before long, he was dressed up and shot out to get his beloved motorcycle. Not a moment to waste, he sped off to the orphanage. He would resolve his dilemma, no matter what.
He was surprised to know that Naina had left the day before. The caretaker of the orphanage said that she had to go back because her work was done for the time being and she wanted to go back to her ailing mother. Getting the details from the kind caretaker, Roshan booked the next available tickets to travel to her village. The only note he left at the office was that he was feeling unwell, and would start work ASAP.
The journey was longer than expected, courtesy of the Indian Railways. Still in one piece, but dead tired, he rented a room in the nearest lodge. That night, he slept like a baby. The vagaries of the journey had sapped out his strength.
He dreamt, after a long time, of Naina. A little smile curled up. He felt a little peace. Although he only had a feather in hand, he wanted to hold the bird, because he had been touched by a miracle. Everything was happening so fast that he couldn't believe himself. Maybe Naina was his angel of deliverance, the answer he was looking for the question that he had shoved into the deepest regions of his mind. For the first time in his life, he imagined a happy future for himself. In the citadel of his soul, he was standing in the centre of a pond, and looked back at his past, the man who he was, and hated it. Then he looked ahead, and saw a possibility of what he could become, by choosing to negate his hardness, coldness, and for once, be vulnerable. Instead of driving others away, allow them in. He never realized that the void inside him was so wide. Until that moment, he didn't even know if he had a void. 'So much darkness for a person known as Roshan' he surmised.
The next morning he set out towards Naina's house. It was a long and meandering walk. Coming from a city, it took him a while to appreciate the simplicity of a village. It was not a village in the traditional sense, it was transforming into a town slowly, painfully, but surely. After asking for directions from the jovial villagers, he finally came upon a dilapidated hut. Strangely, there was a crowd of villagers surrounding something, or someone.
Roshan moved in closer, although his feet hesitated. Unlike the explained feeling of happiness that he felt earlier, this time the icy shards of horror and trepidation was gnawing at his heart. Inching ever so slowly, he saw the most beautiful visage, eyes closed, draped in white, and eerily calm, with a faint Mona Lisa-like expression, lying on the ground. Overcoming his trance, he realized that he has looking at the still body of Naina. Even in death, she looked more peaceful than he had ever felt in his life.
His legs gave away, and the world spun around him.
He woke a few hours later inside a tiny hut, lit by the flame of an oil lamp. Sitting across from him, looking with a tired gaze was a woman, It took a moment for Roshan to realize that she was Naina's mother. After formally introducing himself, and his reason for the sudden visit, the mother finally spoke.
"So, you're Roshan, the guy Naina was so excited about. Yes, later that night, she called our neighbor who owns a mobile phone. She felt for you, although you were a bit cold towards her. My Naina always had this gift of finding the light in others, even though she was missing it herself from her life. She reached here in the late last night, and on her way here, was struck by a lorry from behind. My little angel succumbed to her injuries only a few hours later. Before she took her last breath, she mentioned your name, dear.", spoke the old lady in a single breath, as if she wanted to unburden herself of the painful memories.
It took a while for all the information to sink in. He was in a state of denial, yet the truth was rearing its ugly head every now and then. The sky came crashing down on him, and he broke down, but this time he cried in the lap of Naina's mother. For the second time in his life, he felt orphaned. His heart, exposed, and thrashed for trying to open itself up. Just two days, and he had faced more tragedy than in the past twenty years of his life.
Getting a hold of himself, he said, "Mother, Naina and I met only briefly, yet that was enough to touch my soul, and started to transform me into something I was always afraid to be - a loving person. I cannot express my grief enough, nor can I imagine yours. So please mother", with tear-filled eyes he looked up and said, "will you take me as your son?"
"I am an orphan, yet this tragedy has brought us together. In that little chat, Naina gave me the power to choose. So I choose life over despair, hope over sorrow, and happiness over gloom" , spoke Roshan.
Then both of them hugged and wept some more.
It's been a decade. Naina's mother, now living with her adopted son Roshan lived the rest of her days in content. Although the loss of her daughter would cause her to tear up occasionally, she had a son in whose eyes she say the reflection of Naina's soul, and she was content with that. Roshan married, and his mother gave her love and blessings to both. Work is fantastic, people love Roshan now, as opposed to liking him from before and he is the father of a baby girl, Naina.