Hide and Seek
Hide and Seek6 mins 191 6 mins 191
My father is a bit of verse
strangulated by the razor-sharp sentences
of political poetry, of news reports,
that move forth, swaying to the metallic wind
of a mechanized monotony
my father is a bit of thought
that comes in, a bit of thought
that goes out, a bit of thought that lingers
for a while on family albums, on dry cheeks
and then, a bit of thought that disappears
like every other thought
my father is a set of ill-pronounced English
strung together, with the crude touch of
vernacular verses, the bitter-sweet flavors
of an abuse, like the sourness of a betel leaf
my father is entangled in the numerals
of their conversations, as they spend four minutes
and forty-five seconds discussing the death-toll
and possibly, a millisecond or two extra
when they mention the digit that he occupies
''Forty seven thousand, eight hundred, sixty four. . . ''
my father, is a mound of sand, beneath which
a young boy, lay a butterfly to rest
a butterfly with wings, tenderly crumpled
like a poem, which is good enough, but
just does not satisfy
We’re playing tag, my father and I. Hand in hand, we measure the length and breadth of the playground, noting down the dimensions of our happiness on the translucent pages of my heart. I watch the way my father runs and skips, ducking behind the brightness of the swings and slides. There is a certain stiffness in his gestures, as he covers his uniform with his bare hands, seemingly protecting his crisp perfection from the imperfect soils of childhood grounds. ‘’This is not the way to play hide and seek!’’ I tell him, my lower lip drooping in nine-year-old stubbornness. ‘’You are just not trying hard enough. You’re too easy to find. This game is not fun’’ I state with assertion, trying to cover my otherwise twinkling eyes with a stone-cold layer. ‘’Sorry, meri rajkumari! Apologies, little princess!’’ he laughs, lifting me in his arms. ‘’But do understand, a little bit of me always has to be visible to you…’'
Today, I stand behind my mother at the war memorial. There are bundles of white flowers beneath her arms, as she looks for the tile that bears father’s name.
Commander Ashish Singh
(Missing In Action)
With slight tears in her eyes, mother lets the flowers drop, petal by petal and for a minute, we close our eyes and clasp our hands together in reverence. Behind my closed eyelids, I see him in the heart of a battlefield, dodging the bullets that rain upon his being. I see myself, sitting on the clouds that float in the blood-sodden sky, just the way we’d sit in the cinema, in the top-most row, simply because I insisted. And then, as the bullets rain in quick succession, I feel as though I am losing sight of him, as the bullets weave in and out of the spaces around him. My twelve year old eyes widen with desperation. ‘’Please let me see a little bit of you, father! Please let me know that you are okay!’’ I cry, as I dig my nails into my palms. ‘’You are trying too hard. You’re too difficult to find. This game is not fun!’’ I state, my lips trembling like a leaf in the breeze.
As I open my eyes to a world glazed with tears, I turn around to see the commander of the army standing behind me, with a soft, sad smile on his face. He has a diary clasped between his fingers. He takes my hand, and places the diary in my palm. The diary is in a battered state, the pages are almost on the verge of falling apart, and the words in faded lettering seem to be clinging onto the page, as they seem to be scared of disappearing altogether. ‘’Your father’s barrack was searched’’ he says. ‘’Apart from some beer cans, old shoes and tattered clothes, I found this. I didn’t know what to do with this. I tried reading it, but I didn’t understand what he wanted to convey. But then, I realized that perhaps I am not supposed to do the understanding over here. I think the understanding needs to be done by someone else. And, this someone else is you….’’
With trembling fingers, or rather trembling fingers trying in vain to stabilize themselves, I take the diary and flip open the pages. I rub my fists into my eyes to get rid of the tears, and begin reading.
Before saying anything, I want to clasp your young hand and take you into the realms of your childhood. This instance is something that I simply haven’t been to forget, no matter how trivial it may sound to you at this day and age.
Both of us were playing hide and seek in the town park, and you ducked behind a bush. The bush was dense and tangled, and you were a three feet tall thing. You were totally hidden behind the bush, and I was scared. I called out your name, once, twice, thrice – but you didn’t reply. Then, my voice touched a point of urgency, and I was almost on the verge of crumpling into tears. I know this very sentence may sound startling to you, that your soldier father could cry for something as simple as not being able to find you in a game of hide and seek.
I remember asking you if you were scared. I mean, ideally you should have been scared, as ou were all alone behind that dark, dense bush. You said ‘’Appa, I wasn’t scared. Don’t forget, I could see patches of your green uniform from behind the entanglement of branches and leaves. So as long as I could see you, I know I wouldn’t…. couldn’t be lost’’
You were just six years old then, but your words had this deep, unfathomable impact on me. It was the best and the purest poetry I have ever heard. I was coaxed into wondering about possible times when you wouldn’t have me around. When patches of my green uniform won’t be visible through the entanglements of life, how will you find your way and convince yourself that you are not lost? There’s a little place in your heart where you’ll find me. You know, like those frill-laced pockets that you’d stitch on your frocks, where you could put in a mint sweet or two? There is a similar pocket in your heart.
This pocket is very powerful. It has all our memories lifted and folded like bits of cloth. This pocket is what contains your third eye. You’ll see me all around you, if you use your third eye, you will see all the beauties of this world. You will see all the things you have yearned to see, you will be all the people you yearn to be…..
The words after this were blotched out. I clasped the diary to my heart, and straightened my back with pride. The trees around me bloomed with great fervor. I smiled to myself.
These were patches of my father’s green uniform. And as the wind rustled, I almost heard them say, ’you are not alone’