Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The dilemma

Ramu felt the sweltering heat hit him on his back from the solitary ray of the sun. He was lying on the ground in the backyard of his mother's ancestral home in the village, at a spot about three feet away from the well that was the only source of water for the entire household. He was at bliss in this part of the house, which was well populated with all kinds of trees, the vegetables of which found their way to everyday lunch and dinner. In spite of the covering from the trees, he felt a single ray of light peering through the gap formed by the branches of the neem and drumstick tree. He tried to ward off the ray by moving aside slightly, but as he was confronted by one more, its counterpart, he fell back to his original position. His laziness prevented him from making further adjustments and rightly so. The backyard, the well, the trees and the stone used for washing clothes gave a sort of aura to the place elevating him to an unexplainable bliss. He loved drawing water from the well and pouring it on himself, a ritual in this part of the country, and so alien to city life. Whenever he went back to the city, he always carried pleasant memories of the place and wishing for more time to stay back. His stream of thoughts was interrupted as he fell asleep in due course of time, unaware and unmindful of all the activities taking place inside the house.

His sleep was broken by a small twig from atop the tallest branch of the guava tree. In deep slumber, sometimes, even the minutest irritation can wake a person, leaving him restless and irritated. Ramu shifted slightly and once again, closed his eyes. But sleep is such a strange thing that the more you try to get it, the more it escapes from you. He just lay staring blankly at the wide expanse of the sky above. The chirping of the birds and the rustling of the leaves added a new dimension to the already existing harmony of the place. He knew that as the day progressed, the ground would be covered with dry leaves and flowers, not to forget the numerous twigs. He did not know for how long he lay there. He looked at his watch to realize that he had been lying there all morning, and it was already close to noon. Sometimes, time just flies, he thought. He recollected how it would seem like years, when he sat in the classroom, peering out through the window hoping for the slightest distraction that would break the monotony of the drawl. As he, with great effort, rose to get inside the house before people started missing him, his gaze fell upon the small puddle of water near the well. It was the perfect moment to try his boat making skills. He pulled out some leaves from the trees, carefully stitched them together with tiny twigs lying on the ground, and formed a sort of miniature vessel. He placed some dry leaves inside and erected a twig to the base of the vessel, giving it a mast of its own. He balanced the vessel with soft hands on the still water, and left the place once he was really sure that the vessel could manage on its own.

He entered the house, and as expected, was a beehive of activities, with several people voicing out unnecessary opinions (that's what he felt) at the same time. The commotion in the entire household had to be seen to be believed. The ladies were discussing the different recipes for the same item, the logic of which he absolutely could not understand. Ramu's grandma was stirring something in a vessel kept on the stove. Ramu liked his grandmother a lot, and he had not seen any cook surpassing her skills. The men of the house were caught in rapt attention to the cricket world cup being telecast on television. As usual, they discussed about the poor performance of the home team. The toddlers were playing in the hall listening to the men in conversation. Some of them were playing the swing, which was swaying forth in full gaiety. Ramu found a place on the wooden plank, and he was able to swing forward and backward, the cool air generated from the natural movement filled him with tranquil amidst the noise. The aroma from the kitchen wafted to all parts of the house. His cousin went inside quietly, and brought murukkus and mixture away from prying eyes. The swaying motion along with a good munch put him at ease.

His uncle, who was resting his back against one of the supporting pillars, smiled at him and asked him "What next?" Ramu replied "Maybe one more murukku." "No, I am talking serious stuff. I meant What next in life?" Ramu knew not to play with his uncle when he was serious. He always thought it to be trivial to talk about the future. He was not a sort of person who would plan things the way others wanted him to. He was in his final year of college and he had not even decided whether to take up engineering or medicine. He cursed at the structure of the society. Everybody wanted him to do a professional course. He never understood why it was always the same question. He had a vision and he desperately wanted to voice it out. Why can't I take up journalism or law? On a lighter note, he thought Why can't I become an engine driver? He dared not say these things to his uncle. He wondered about all the bottled up dreams and aspirations he had in him. Why was he forced to become materialistic just like everybody else? He always saw himself as a social creature. He could not strike a career by sitting in a corner and dreaming about the yearly expenditure and savings. Ten years back, when he was asked the same question, he had screamed out Truck Driver. The whole family had burst out laughing. He felt he had not changed a bit from what he was ten years ago. But the difference now was that he could not give the same answer. Ramu's mind was filled with a flurry of thoughts. What if I tell him Engineering? After four years, I would be facing a similar question. The quest for the next step, he felt, was endless. He looked at the toddlers and was filled with a sense of jealousy. But he quickly realized that they too had to follow the same path. Ramu was the eldest in the family in the new generation and he was the focus point of everyone's life. Ramu, inwardly laughed at the futility of life - education, job, relationship, marriage, family, responsibility and old age. There is nothing much in life after all this, thought Ramu. He hated these decision making moments. He felt all decisions, ultimately, led to the same path in life. His reverie was broken by his uncle's voice "Ramu, what are you thinking?" Ramu had the good sense not to answer that question. He looked back and forth and he needed no second invitation when he heard a voice from the kitchen calling out his name.


  1. always wanted to be a Engine driver.Never understood how they used to turn the train at such fast speeds.
    This story reminds of the talk we used to have in the railway station.

    finally started blogging, its more of dairy for myself in future than a blog.

  2. Yeah...!!!

    Man when did you start writing...nice da!!!