Monday, September 5, 2011

Raji’s Father

Raji sneezed three times. Each time her eyes widened and shone brightly. First time she said “papa is thinking of me”. Then second time “mom is thinking of me”. Finally she said with a smile: “papa”. I sneezed four times and I said all four times “my mom is thinking of me”. Raji lifted a book and clonked my head.

Raji’s papa is jogging. His potbelly shakes with a rhythm and sun shine reflects on the bald patch of his head. Suddenly he slips on a banana skin and falls flat on his back with a thud. Joggers who follow him also follow suit. Soon they all lie down flat like banana skins. Huge skins with black dots on yellow, their bottom torn into two like widened legs. As I wake with this dream I can hardly control my laughter. Neither could I remain calm as I narrate the dream to Raji the same day. Though she gave a stern expression I could guess she was amused too. Her eyes twinkled as she giggled. Then as if she suddenly remembered something she knocked on my head and said “you are an idiot. You have never seen my papa, how could your see him in dreams then?”. I said we see in dreams only those whom we have never seen in real life.
The dream continued the following night. A multitude of plantain skins. Her father’face grinned in all of them. Raji prances ahead and throws behind skins of plantains she has gobbled.
After mom returned home, for a few days I hardly met Raji. Like in the past I slept holding on to mom and the starchy smell of her saree permeated through to my dreams. One day I introduced Raji to mom as she came to pick me up at school. “Mom this is Raji, my friend”. Mom bent down and pinched Raji’s chubby cheeks and crooned to her “ such a cute girl”. Then she bent again to plant a kiss. Meanwhile, sitting on mom’s hands, I tapped Raji’s jimiki. Raji pulled up a long face and did not speak a word to me the whole day.
I saw Raji’s father at the annual day for the first time. Though he looked different from the dream, he seemed like one who would slip down on a banana skin any given moment.  Twice I found him cracking jokes with my mom and his belly was jerky like jelly. Raji sat next to me humming a tune and shaking lightly her double-plaited hair. Then she whispered to me suddenly “you know what, I dreamt of your mom.” She giggled and her plaits shook rhythmically. “A huge elephant was holding her aloft and running wild. Then it ran and ran and ran and then finally threw her in the temple pond. Boom!”. The tube lights above shone directly on her face and sweat drops were crystal clear. I softly tapped on her head “you have no brains. My mom won’t come in your dreams, because you have seen her already”
That night in the dream Raji and I are ambling down the Neelakanda Swamy Temple street and chattering endlessly. Raji’s shoes raise a whistling noise each time she stomps forward. she says “can you hear that, these are musical shoes. When I dance I don’t need any music”. Then She says “see like this…” and does does a little dance step. She then tears a fruit from the bunch of bananas in her hand; she relishes every bite and throws the skin behind with abandon. We hardly notice her papa jogging behind us. As always he slips down like one born to do it. In no time he sticks to the surface of the road. He is as thin as a banana skin and his features are flattened. He is unmoved, but his scream could still be heard. It reverberates across all the empty houses in that desolated street. Raji kicks the soil vigorously and a cloud of dust rises. Then I could feel shake and vibration below my feet. In no time a huge elephant runs across us. It is holding my mom aloft. Mom’s red silk saree glitters in the evening rays of the setting sun. The elephant runs to the end of the street, takes its right and turns towards the greenish temple pond. In the eerie silence it drops my mom on the pond. There is an unbelievable splash of water. It starts to rain and the sky is green. We walk uncaringly towards the setting sun.

I never revealed this dream to anyone. Not even to Raji.

After many years, one evening Raji was plaiting our child’s hair with her eyes fixed on TV. Then Raji suddenly sneezed. Her moist eyes widened and shone brightly. I said “someone must be thinking of you”. She carefully applies kajal to the child’s eyes and smiles.

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