Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sher Singh

It's strange - i've been thinking of him a lot lately. To be honest, i never thought i would miss him. And i was right. Till he was gone. Don't they say something like that about taking people for granted...? Now, i think of many things. His eyes - hollow, listless, hopeless, his body, always stretched out awkwardly in a recline, his gait - clumsy and unbalanced. But most of all his eyes. Hollow. Hopeless. With the memory of all the thousand other lives he had lived, binding and torturing him, silently, slowly, constantly.
For nobody except her was he worth anything, even the space of cardboard that he occupied. She for whom he was a respite from the loneliness and regret that her life had become. He was her pitiable beggar child cripple whom she would cuddle and pet and mollycoddle and talk to, pretending he understood and maybe loved her back. Well maybe he did both, who knows these things?
When he fell for the 22nd (?) time, it was to be his last. This time though, he was all alone. Ammi was out of town at a loud garish family wedding where the men huddled together and talked about business, and the women eyed each other's kanjeevarams and gold in the 42 degree centigrade, sweltering south indian summer. She hadn't much of either, so she was usually ignored. The maidservant whose responsibilities included looking after him, was away from work, probably arguing with her newly acquired daughter-in-law as had become her preoccupation lately. So Sher Singh lay on the hard ground, crying and paralyzed with a broken spine for three days till Ammi returned.
Pain mixed with melancholy relief as his short, dependent, burden of a life flashed past his eyes, sweeping through his senses? That's how i imagine it.

When Ammi found him sprawled on the ground, he looked at her and summoned his final reserves of energy to let out a low, crackled moan. Ah, but his eyes! They lit up - she was here finally! Everything would be fine now. But the moment they exchanged glances, a piece of her heart tore inside her, and she knew she had lost him. Life had gone back to a darker shade of grey. She picked him up tenderly and lovingly with both her hands and whispered into his ears, Thank you for loving me back.

The neglected, stupid one who everyone pushed around or stepped on because he got in their way. But who always picked himself up and started all over again, forgetting what just happened. The handicapped beggar who'd follow anyone who gave him the slightest attention. The cripple who liked neck rubs and curling up next to me with his nose in my stomach.
My valiant Sher Singh, I wish we could meet again. I would tell you then, that you are one of the bravest i know. That i wish i had let you curl up next to me with your nose in my stomach more often. And that secretly, we all want to be like you. Able to forget when life is unfair to us.

I miss you more than i ever thought i would.

P.S. - This is a picture of his grave that Fatty took for me, when he went to India last. We planted a little sapling there when we buried him, and Fatty put some flowers for the photo.