It’s a foggy day and I am walking to somewhere all alone, carrying a green umbrella pendulum-like. Rain shower won’t stop me. The blinding whiteness won’t scare me. I check my watch, it assures me time is good.
Hearing footsteps following me, I try to hasten, only then I realise it is no one, but me. These gumboots I tell you. It is all very funny, but still I cannot take a chance to laugh aloud.
Never knew the fog could trick. The fresh green plants and giant trees that till now looked painting-like, now seem spooky.
Suddenly I hear fresh footsteps running from a direction towards me. Numbly I tell myself don’t move, still I turn and find someone in a funny raincoat running towards me.
Then a voice, “Smarty pants, give me back my umbrella, don’t want this silly raincoat of yours’. It is my friend Marcia. I smile and say, “But you look good in it.”
We fight and then laughing aloud walk ahead together.
Hypnotizing black eyes, burning red face, twisted antennas, bushy moustache and a funny pink tongue…
Why will someone buy such a bizarre face? Why waste clay and colours on an ugly head? Sonu often thought this but never had the courage to speak before his uncle.
He had a strong feeling though that these monster masks were bringing bad luck for them. His hatred increased gradually towards these masks, so much so that he tried twice to throw them from the cart while returning home with his uncle and to pretend that it was an accident.
However, it never happened and Sonu knew it by then that these masks were evil.
Lying on his chaarpayi (woven bed) with twinkling stars above him and crickets playing their favourite tune around him, Sonu was in his thinking mode.
His cousin brother Chandu and cousin sister Munni were asleep, tired after spending some routine hours at school and some happy hours with friends.
He could hear his uncle and aunty chatting inside the hut. He couldn’t understand but he somehow could feel their words.
Every talk in a poor house is always about money; a thorough discussion about their sufferings. He wanted to help. He didn’t want to be a burden.
He remembered seeing a hunchback in a roadside show when he was too young. People were attracted by that weird hunch and the show was a hit. Sonu thought he can do better than a hunchback for his uncle and aunty.
The starry sky was making him dizzy and the silent breeze was telling him to go to sleep. It was only the punk music of the crickets that kept him awake. Sonu had a vague idea in mind before he slept. He has to get rid of those masks…has to get rid…masks.
Next day Sonu’s uncle was a bit surprised to see his nephew’s keen interest to sell the masks by any means. Sonu was chanting a new mantra, ‘buri nazar bhagau mukhote le lo’ (mask to ward off evil) instead of his usual ‘matka le lo’ (buy these masks).
Many people visited, few bought and few sought for some time and then left.
Time told them to go back home with the sun coming down. But Sonu was eager to sell the masks. He shouted once again his new mantra, but his sound was not heard, he felt as if it was ignored and the masks made that happen.
He was sitting in the cart along with his uncle, thinking again to kick the masks out from the cart. When a car passed them and Sonu saw a foreign face peeping out from the car.
Somehow he knew that it’s time to say goodbye to the masks. The car reversed and the person sitting inside gestured Sonu’s uncle to stop.
Sonu was right. That person in the car was the one who bought all the masks form them. He didn’t look of this land to Sonu and talked in a different language. Sonu didn’t care as those monster masks were gone and nor did his uncle cared because he got a good price for the masks, much more than his expectations.
That night Sonu was smiling all the time, even when his aunty shouted at him for being lazy and not washing the dishes properly.
Before going outside to sleep he told his cousins proudly that their family trade will do far better from now. He didn’t realize that both his cousins didn’t react at all rather they were both filled with their own stories.
Sitting together and talking unfinished sentences about their silly dreams was also a routine for the three.
But for Sonu one dream had come true and he couldn’t stop but smile. He danced at the tune of cricket and swayed along with the blinking stars. Then obeying the silent breeze once again, he fell asleep to dream the victory.
Next morning, Sonu had a mark on his face, a mark of five fingerprints. He was putting the monster masks in the cart as directed by his uncle who had slapped him because he broke one of the masks thinking it to be an old one.
But his uncle told him that it was one of the new pieces he had left to dry. Sonu’s uncle had painted new ones hoping to sell more of these ‘lucky masks’, and earn more profit.
The cart was moving slowly towards the mundane destination. Sonu was sitting upset and confused. He turned to look at the masks.
Those nasty heads were gazing back and this time Sonu heard them laughing out loud at him.
A flower knows not much/
Or knows too much – ‘cause just see/
How it blooms, dies, blooms.
A storyteller, following the ancient tradition of cave chroniclers, standing in vrikshasana (the tree pose) on a hill top (it is sunny, but windy), breathing in and out stories (relishing it all, but at times overwhelmed), declares animatedly that she will continue to – tell stories, share rare story gems, and connect with the pacy universe while also keeping the website ad-free.
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Chiming Stories (formerly Home Chimes)
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