prakash

The thought of society intervening and effectively destroying his interests had been nagging away at him. It wasn’t easy to decide; it appeared to be a Hobson’s choice in any case. ‘But inconsequential thinking is a waste of time’, he thought and brought his attention back to the screen. His professor was explaining genome evolution, while his three year old frolicked in the backdrop. He wondered if the professor looked at his running, flailing child and saw the whole arduous genetic process that created him instead. It was an unlikely but funny thought. Outside his window, a pigeon cooed and grunted, thoroughly displeased at her new observer. “Watch your professor, don’t waste your time on me”, she seemed to say. But he knew that there was no point in trying. For every three sentences his professor said, he understood only a single word. And with the number of times the word “genome” was uttered, everything else blurred together in an incoherent way. With a tired sigh, he shut his laptop and stared blankly at the wall. A few seconds passed and he noticed that if he sat still enough, he could segregate the different sounds that seemed to swallow the space around him. There was the clatter of pans from the kitchen, that seemed to be in harmony with the sound of children playing down below. And if he closed his eyes, held his breath, and really focused, he could hear the distant temple bells. A swarm of devotees walking barefoot, their noses peeking out of surgical masks and their feet dragging in annoyance at the mandatory need to cover their mouths. He smiled at their naivety and opened his eyes to find a bare white wall staring back at him.

Before dinner time, as was his habit, he takes his Walkman and sets off to the nearby park. His grandfather, Gigi, had always told him that in times of personal conflict, it was best to seek answers through a solitary walk. “The universe is always showing you the way, he used to say, you just have to be willing to see”. So, with Gigi’s words on his mind, and Ravi Shankar’s Dil Zaffran playing, he walked on. Much like his advice for times of conflict, Gigi had left behind quite the legacy of wise anecdotes with his grandson. And in consonance with these, he made sure to observe. The sheer complexity of the lives that surrounded him always fascinated him, and with every glimpse that he caught, he wove an intricate story, with protagonists and villains, with anger and heartbreak, with love and betrayal. And in some ways, they always left him better off. As he neared the park, he thought of the guard, Prakash, who liked to stall him just to talk. He knew he would see him today, and he wondered what new story he would have for him. He quite liked Prakash, with his good-natured smile and humble eyes. All his stories seemed to carry and certain degree of illusion, but by his very nature, the stories felt real, and in that they always left him with a feeling of excitement; an inexplicable excitement of the unknown. But Prakash wasn’t there, and instead a burly man with hooded eyes asked him to fill in his name at the entry gate. “Where is Prakash?” he asked and the man looked up, his hooded eyes seeming less intimidating at hearing the name of his friend. “Prakash quit”, he said with a subtle smile, “and rightly so, he’s a bright fellow with big dreams and he’s gone to Bombay to look for some producer who said she liked his stories”. “You see, he read an advertisement in the classifieds. Something about a call for story writers, and he wrote something for them, and they liked it plenty”, he looked up and they shared a silent smile, both thinking fondly of their friend. “Do you want a receipt?”, the burly man asked. “No”, he smiled, “I think I’ll go back; it’s getting quite cold now”. He retraced his steps, but this time along with Gigi’s words, it was Prakash on his mind.

It was almost midnight, but he had not been able to get Prakash out of his thoughts; A man with shoulders weighed down by responsibilities, but also a man who grew his wings amidst it all. He lit a candle to soothe his thoughts, his mind a chaotic cluster of thoughts. Almost as though it was a natural response, he reached for his leather bound journal and spilled it all out. The ink swirled in unruly lettering and rhyming words, releasing his pent up conflict and dread. With the last word, he let out a long breath and shut the book, standing up with a renewed resolve. He thought again of Gigi’s words, of the universe and its mysterious signals, of Prakash; of Prakash and his defiance, of Prakash and his courage, and of Prakash and his leap of faith. He suddenly knew what he needed to do. Gigi’s words seemed to echo around him as he filled out the application for a writing job he had always wanted- “.. and when you allow yourself to see, you suddenly find yourself amidst a whole new world of possibilities”.

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