Witness7 mins 23 7 mins 23
He sat in his balcony over an old, crooked chair.
The chair screeches each time he tries to adjust himself.
He has a newspaper in his hand and a pot of milk seems to be boiling in the kitchen stove.
He stares hard at the newspaper, with stern eyes and deliberate concentration.
He doesn’t know how to read.
But, he always feels like that if he would stare hard enough at a word, it might just end up spelling itself out for him in his mind.
It never happened yet, but maybe he hasn’t stared hard enough.
The milk is flowing out of the pot.
He lives alone and that happens often.
It hardly bothers him anyway since he likes black tea.
He actually buys milk out of boredom.
In the evening, when he walks from the bus stop to his rented apartment while coming back from work. He would stop at this store each time for no particular reason whatsoever. He buys something or the other. Some days milk, some days biscuits, some days sugar and salt. But he buys something nevertheless.
He likes to walk very slow, he likes to imagine himself as Ibn Battuta; walking around the world. He would often make up vivid stories in his mind about how things around him came into being. He would love to have a friend to share his stories, but communicating with another individual takes much more effort than talking to one’s self.
He has a nice apartment though. The living room has two windows, both adjacent to each other. The morning sunlight would glitter through the flimsy cyan curtains each dawn. He has a centre table which is made of bamboo and a second-hand sofa set whose previous owner seems to have made the most of it. He has a shelf full of books he cannot read. Each book is vividly coloured. He always buys a book only by carefully judging its cover.
Over the table, he has an old transistor and a broken bottle of wine which is made into a vase where lay a wreath of dry, dead flowers.
He only has two cassettes.
But he plays them often.
Both these cassettes came along free when he bought the transistor.
He comes in and removes his shoes.
He slowly sits down on the sofa and exhales a deep breath.
He looks at his wall; there are a few pictures hung to the wall parallel to each other.
One with a little kid on a tricycle, another with a happy couple holding each other in embrace and one more with a beautiful woman reading a book.
He knows none of these people.
But yet now they seem so familiar to him now, like he knew them forever.
He was 22 when his parents passed away in a gruesome car crash.
Their distorted bodies still haunt his sleep.
He couldn’t even eat for 13 days.
He burned all their pictures after he burned them. He acts like they were never there, he always considered himself to be good at forgetting things he wouldn’t want to remember.
Even though he knows, his parents must be proud of him since he has taken better care of himself than they ever could.
His father used to curse at him often when he was young, even beat him some nights when he got more drunk than usual.
Afterall, he was a burden to them; thankfully he is not a burden to himself now.
He always thought he was the reason for all their agony and distress.
He used to slap his mouth infront of the mirror. Weeping and wimping, all he wanted was a normal tongue. His was too short to speak. He did try a lot but he just couldn’t speak. His parents couldn’t conceive another child since years of his father’s alcohol abuse perhaps took its toll.
So, his father would curse him even more.
He always felt like an outsider; more so because his parents indeed loved each other. Sometimes much more than they could ever love him. They would close their door and talk softly, even giggle for hours. He would sit outside their door listening to them, feeling left out as usual.
In his sweetest .of dreams, he shall see himself talking and giggling with his parents, laying in their warm embrace.
His father put him in the local school when he was 6; because he would look at books and magazines with utmost interest. Often elaborately acting out illustrations with gestures and his disfigured yet sweet voice.
They called him names in school. His tender soul would break each time he is reminded of his misfortune through casual jokes and friendly taunts.
He could never learn, not because he was born dumb but because for the first time in his life, he was made to realize that he was dumb.
His left school and learned sewing. Not because he liked making clothes but because he liked the consistent and uniform sound of the sewing machine.
He works with a government textile company and he enjoys his job, except for the fact that he got the job through the handicapped quota. He knows he is much better at sewing than most of the employees who could talk but yet he was always consolidated with sympathy. As if he was given the job out of pity.
Anyway, he has made a life for himself. Perhaps he will die someday and no one would know. There won’t be an obituary in the newspaper and his distant relatives would hesitate to take responsibility for even his final rites.
But for now he is alive and he is conscious.
He knows that he lives.
Maybe no one else does.
The strangers who saw his face when he sat beside them in the metro or walked past them on the street shall perhaps be the only reminiscents of his existence.
His life matters just as less as his name.
Some men don’t want love in their life but a witness.
Something like a mirror, where you can see yourself. Sometimes you need to assure yourself that you exist.
His name was “Abhay”.