Questions that were asked had to be answered, it was an impetuous nostalgia! Innocuous, yet a trivia ought to be lived, The rule of the thumb said, “Unanswered questions would dig into the soul, and create an imbalance, a turmoil! Such that each moment would seem a replica of a thought process, each passing phase would be a conflicting dejavu. “
Of all the happiness in the world a reunion with a long gone childhood, gave me the freshness of elixir, I was ready to start it all over again!!!!!
Rama, with all his sinful possessions, his dwindling eyesight, shivering hands, wrinkled expressions and an all exasperated agony, had not lost the glitter in his cataract affected eyes. He had many a tales to tell a customer if at all any one tried to trespass his buoyant past and an underprivileged present. True, he wanted to yell and say how respected he was as the best barber in the locality and how posh was his poor stool for the affluent of those days. Even he could spare a dime or two to offer his customers coffee. They were all on the look out to have his hands on the scissors to make them look younger than their real age, “deception was sought even then!”, and these new, so called parlors were just an extension of what he claimed, he had started long back. Things were much uncomplicated then, he thought and smiled even more wryly!
Only time being a great leveler, his so called posh barber shop had given way to sophisticated parlors and he had not kept count of how and when all his customers had ditched him to an unreal pseudo glory of less efficient people. He did not complain but waited in anticipation of a clan which could resonate with his expertise and would look only up to him to give those perfect mushroom cuts. Those kids, who would call him uncle and try to seek his attention just to skip the monotony of cumbersome ques, where were all of them, he had done a favor to many of them, yet, had they all forgotten him?
Ha! Time was one cruel, kept! always seeking new lovers, new avenues for treachery. Still he kept on telling the old walls of his premises, his lone acquaintances for years now, they could never forget me, and look they would again come back to me. How he wished at least one of them would turn up! How he wished, those walls would not mock at his insignificant last days of solitude again on the said night!
Why was he laughing still, what made the glitter in his eyes seem as if they were from another world, was he really expecting customers, or was he waiting for an opportune moment to meet his maker and ask him why did treachery always have to go hand in hand with love.” Love”? Was it a self cooked delicacy to soothe the inner hollowness? Many of them, the outsiders, called it ego, he acknowledged it as an inevitable part of his being!
Had he not loved his customers? why none of them understood that their presence made him breathe? He despised not the petty dimes they gave him as remuneration, he loathed to be in their company, yet where were all of them? Lost in the oblivion, whom would he share his experiences with? Who would hear his stories? They were a bubbling with energy, like a dead volcano, ready to erupt at the slightest of hints! His hands trembled as he recounted the flaws in the heredity of many of his customers, how he had spent sleepless nights planning a different mushroom for each of them!
He had lost everything to time, his name, his fame, his wife, and children, (who had finally decided that may be he had lost his sanity as well), and like his customers had chosen the easier path. His smile had a satire and an acknowledgement, true it was out of the world yet there was this anticipation that may be all was not lost!
The scorching Sun, as I walked past our old market place, reminded me of those, exuberant Holi days, March precisely, when colored in the vermilion of ecstasy we would all try to preserve the dark colors for the next working day to boast about our heroics in school. Maa, would apply oil on our otherwise scathing, dry skin and compel us to visit Rama barber as an aftermath to weed off the damaged hair. Ha, the colors in those days had just started to experience adulteration, and may be Rama barber enjoyed every bit of this impurity.
” Only roles would be reversed one day”, and Marx’s law of Marginal utility would ensure that at a point of enhanced impurity, his business would start a downward trend and some other Rama barber would enjoy a bigger liberalization.
“Just an afterthought!” I crossed the same street that was my regular route, I crossed the same kirana shops which had stuffed my mouth with a rainbow of candies one day, some owners had remained obstinate, and some had changed to come in terms with time. Each shop took me to a different experience, each face made me halt in a time frame, each pebble on the road was trying to seek my identity, only a time frame had changed and look, how different everything was. And they say, “Ground is static”!
Loathing through the lanes of ignominy, I dared to look at the same eyes that he so caringly made me seat on a flank placed on his cushioned stool years back! It seemed like everything had come to a halt, there were just two souls one seeking his childhood and the other a lost glory, which both had tried to preserve to believe in a past and to look forward to a future!
How I dreaded that expression initially, yet how I loved it by the time my mushroom of old days was arrested beyond all time zones. A tear rushed past my eyes. I had cried after many ages, never had time for a tear and he had laughed after many ages..The same vibrant roar had given way to the irony that had dared to afflict his smile.
As I stepped onto his shop, a current passed through my senses, was I reliving the old moments? How I had cried the day dad had brought me for a hair cut. How I had shhepishly looked at the onlookers who mockingly stared t my desperate turmoil? How Rama barber had consoled me, cajoled me, given me an orange candy and had slowly but surely converted by wails into a reluctant acknowledgement? How I had boasted back home to my mother of other cowards and my bravery! Ha! Things came coming back, from my grey matter and I acknowledged each one of them promising that I would treasure them for ever..” I was lost in an eternity of old remembrances, served by this poor barber, who was richer than me in terms of a serene present and a rich past! A past he had so fondly held close to his heart that his present day impoverishment mattered not to him!”
Babu, he said, will you still prefer the candy, or do you want me to order some tea for you? I had graduated from a candy to ,” A may be what!”’, yet I looked at him and said, “ Whatever you prefer uncle”! little knowing the repercussions, as he ran like a kid possessed, he ran to the next kirana shop and brought me the same orange candy that he always gave me whenever I came to his kingdom. They were the only reasons for me to spare time on a Sunday to have my hair cut to his liking, yet Sunday after Sunday, I had chose him to crop the edges of my curly hair and give a perfect mushroom cut!
The candy embarrassed my flabbergasted ego, yet the look in his eyes compelled me to savor them with utmost happiness, and true they were still as tasty, only I had denied myself the little pleasures, which had seemed enough as a kid! Where was life running? What exactly did we seek from the several moments of hollowness that we unknowingly practice, who was this Rama barber, the Kid in each one of us?
I looked at him, and said, “ Uncle need a haircut, the same mushroom cut, have got an important meeting tomorrow, need to look presentable, can you trim my hair and give me a shave”?
A tear rolled down his dry cheek, He again smiled and said,”This will be the first time I would be shaving your beard , but the mushroom, I still remember it!”
He asked me to sit on the chair, which was nothing short of a throne for him, proudly looking at his blades, his scissors, the Old spice shaving cream, the floppy shaving brush. Everything was so unused, as if they were all waiting for this day, a meeting with a glorious past, speaking about which was forbidden now! I mounted the same old chair, the foam had become a tad crispy now, the wooden handle made a creaky sound, “Hmm, I had put on weight, I acknowledged”! A look at the mirror, which had formed dark patches with time, and I was lost in a world of my own.
The expert’s hands were on the job, his lips kept on murmuring, each story took me to a time frame which I had sought before coming to his shop. I cannot describe that feeling of ecstasy where I was reliving all those bygone moments, My mind was numb and listening to him made me feel like a kid, I had to rush back home to finish my homework, Dad would scold me otherwise, then there was this afternoon cricket match with the sector two guys, Oh my god , School again tomorrow?
“Babu”, Rama barber said! “ See if I should trim it a bit more, cataract has almost spoil my eyes!”
“Yes” I said in acknowledgement! May be it was time to go!
“ Babu!”, he said, almost sheepishly again, still smiling, “ Remember how I would pick you up and make you sit on the wooden flank, placed on the chair?” ,
” It would have broken now, or may be I would have broken my wrists lifting you! “.
Ha he smiled again, “ You have put on a lot of weight. Where do you stay now, and how did you come here”?
Too many questions , I smiled wryily, may be I should have gone to some parlor the city boasted of now. But, I never fathomed why I deliberately came to him. After so many years, I risked a thing or two! My presentation was due the other day, my colleagues would certainly stare at an outdated mushroom that I so willingly came to bear. I didn’t say anything, smiled back at him, he smiled even more flamboyantly.
Did I do the right thing, I asked my self and was soon lost in the complexity of my thoughts. They were my only friends now, how I wished I could still talk to those old mates. I didn’t hear him properly, he was still murmuring as if chatting with himself and proudly boasting to the old walls of his only premise which had so patiently waited for a customer, as if telling them, “ See I told you the kids wont forget me!”
The scorching Sun had soothed a bit, the pebbles had gradually conspired to accommodate me, I felt he edges of my mushroom cut, not much had changed, yet a summary of a past event had forced me to drag my soul into a time machine which had so consciously changed zones that I laughed to its tunes. True, Rama and I had different reasons to smile yet we both relished in two different zones of accomplishment. Life would again be the same tomorrow, yet the anticipation of a meaningful tomorrow would have become more tangible, more pragmatic!
“Eternity, can it ever be surpassed”?