In one of the Facebook groups I am member of, we have this practice of writing a short story a week. One person would give us a prompt and the others would write a short story on the prompt. The above picture was the prompt for the week and below is the story I had written for it.
The eagle was soaring high. It was circling the temple tower. Her grandmother usually says her that eagle is Garuda and it pays its respect to God Vishnu every day. However, she could not see it as a spiritual connect. The eagle symbolized power to her. It could go wherever it wanted to go. He is not one of the birds in the sky. He owns the sky.
Grandma’s place was always special, far away from the mechanical city life. She always loved to spend time with her grandma. She had fond memories of gossiping with cousins in the backyard garden. Not to mention the delicious food grandma cooked each time and the temple visits. When she used to come here for her summer holidays all her cousins would be there before her. After the games in the scorching sun which is followed by delicious lunch they will have a small nap and get ready to temple as soon as the sun went down. They would buy balls and balls of jasmine flowers and deck it neatly in their head. It was not a harry potter era back then. All they heard from their grandma was how Andal used to weave garlands for the Krishna in hope of marrying him someday. It was not uncommon those days for adolescent girls to think themselves as Andal or Meera.
It was in one such visit they saw Gopal. He was the son of priest in the temple. Grandma and the priest shared good rapport. Since it was a small town, everyone knew everyone. Though Gopal was very shy and handsome young man, he never came and talked to the girls. Her cousins would sometimes go overboard in ogling him. But to her, Gopal reminded of a peaceful lake. Like she can see him and instantly she will feel peace inside her. He was just two years elder to her. He was the best student in the district, her grandma would say. It was eight years ago.
Now she was there for a different reason. Ajit. Her parents could not take her tantrums anymore and she was packed to her grandma’s place. She initially didn’t want to go. But then grandma’s place is always the place where she gets pampered and she could be herself. She can even call some of her cousins to be with her. She doubted whether they would come. All the birds of the cage took flight as they had completed their education. Their eyes were in the sky and their education added strength to their wings.
She met Ajit during her first day of college. Some people were like slow sedatives. They grow on you. Some people are like tornado winds; they sweep you off your feet and carry them wherever they went. Ajit was of the second kind. Wherever he went, people noticed him. Rather it would be apt to say, people noticed only him. She was no different. But she thought Ajit would never even notice such a small town girl like her. She was very wrong.
“Meera” Her grandma called her, disturbing her thoughts. She was very sure that her parents would have called grandma and have said her everything about Ajit. Grandma would play very nice now and try to make her forget Ajit. At times she missed her innocence. Grandma was standing before her with hot filter coffee. Meera took it from her and Grandma sat with her observing the temple tower.
“It has been so long since we went to temple together. Can we go today?” The day long power-cuts in the village left Meera with no other option. She yearned for some fresh air. She got ready to go to temple. The streets reminded her of pre-independent India. People were sitting outside their houses and chatting. They had lit lamps outside their houses. The candles in their living room gave out a small silhouette of things that decorated middle class household. She couldn’t help thinking this was the way it would have been when Andal walked through the streets to the temple.
Gopal was in the temple, helping his father. She didn’t expect him to be there. He was a bright student. She always thought he would have left to some place abroad to pursue his studies. She wondered why he was still hanging around in this small town. He was not a shy person anymore. He walked up to grandma and Meera for a small talk before disappearing to take care of the crowd that thronged in.
“He works as lecturer in a nearby college.” Her grandma said. He was handsome. If her cousins were ogling him in those days, now they would die to get his attention she thought. She couldn’t help but take a second look at him. That familiar feeling of peace she had not known for so many years filled her mind. The darshan was good. Though the temple was crowded, nobody was in a hurry to go anywhere. She wondered where the city people were rushing all the time. It was the same case with Ajit. He was always ready to take off.
The contrast in their upbringing brought them closer. She yearned for what he could do and his freedom and he liked the way Meera carried herself. It was an instant connection. But Ajit was unpredictable. She was in her last years of teen age and nothing was more exhilarating than that reckless, handsome young man. He would be absent in college for days together and while he came back he would be telling the story of backpacking to Spiti valley. It was impossible for him to stay at a place hours together.
It was the same story till she reached her final year. Her parents were supportive when she said she liked a boy in her college. Her father wanted to meet him. They decided to meet in a common place. They waited for few hours but Ajit didn’t turn up. He wasn’t even attending the calls. He was never serious. She should have known better. Her friends confirmed that he was in a train to Kerala for hiking. Her father was furious, because some brat chose the mountains for his daughter. Meera couldn’t believe it. She always thought he would be there for her. Apart from the recklessness, he was such a sweet guy. She rebelled at home to be with Ajit, whenever he chose to come. That had landed her in the native village now.
Grandma was silent for most part of their temple visit. They sat down in the steps for rest.
“Your father told me all about what you are going through” Her grandma started to talk. “You can stay here till you want. If you want to go immediately I can understand.”
“Where can I go paati? I don’t know where to go. Father is so upset with me” she said.
“He is not upset with you. But the choice you made. You can even go in search of your Ajit. Kerala is not in another country. But just think how long you can go in search of him. It is absolutely normal for a pigeon to get attracted to Eagle. But it is foolish to keep up with Eagle. Either pigeon will die or the Eagle will be unhappy.”
Meera didn’t know what to say. She wanted to protest. She always thought Ajit would carry her with him whenever he took flight. But she was not sure anymore.
Grandma pointed Gopal. “Some people are like oxen Meera! Wherever they go, they come back home when night falls. Some people are like Eagle, they just want to see new places and easily get bored with the routine. It is not their fault. It is their nature. If they get the company of like minded people, everything will be alright” Grandma got up indicating the conversation is over.
“But what do you want me to do?” Meera asked.
“Your father spent a lot to educate you. You are not a kid anymore. You can think of what you want with your life.” Grandma started to climb down the steps. Meera felt good suddenly. She could make her decision, at her own sweet time. It was like a cloud passing after hiding sunlight for long time.
Ajit is a distant dream. She can always look upon him with fascination for the things he could do and the ways he made her smile. But her life is rooted and she had to follow the ox to know where the water is available to quench her thirst. But both the eagle and ox can wait. It was too early for her to get married. She followed her grandma planning the dinner for that day. There is no rush to decide for the next day.