While she sat contemplating over the thoughts of a lost youth the sea billowed like the manifestation of a million sighs. A broken vase, scattered feathers, spilled ink and a torn rainbow – thoughts of a lost youth. She remembered she had wanted a child. An unshaped mound of wet clay. An arbitrariness that laughed with dimples. A tenderness that emoted without prejudices. She had wanted a child.
A child meant a little warm breathing kiss. A nimble nakedness. A meaninglessness with wide eyes, waiting to be loved and bathed. A canvas. She had always wanted a child.
A house with terracotta horses and a bronze vessel with floating lotuses. Like the ones in the pseudo designer boutiques where you can only laugh at the reeking opulence. Yet she had wanted those in her home where she would give them meaning. She had wanted a long wooden swing with brass chains and a sleeping man in it. She had wanted to be the woman with a nose ring and anklets peeping from the dark interiors of a dim-lit room; the open roof throwing selected rays of the sun onto the courtyard. She had wanted to brew coffee from roasted beans, the aroma permeating the kitchen. She had wanted to be in that house of a past birth near the well and the karivepilai waving its leaves in the breeze. Near the washing stone and the few shoots of sesame that sprouted from the fertile earth. Near the murungai tree and the baby vaazhai offspring. She wanted to pick tomatoes and pumpkins from the garden and watch the coconut trees sway their heads to the sounds of an ancient veena. Thoughts of a lost youth.
A small boy came her way. He wanted her to buy some sundal. He carried a tin drum indifferently. It resembled the biscuit tins her dad brought back from foreign trips. Those biscuit tins were filled with biscuits shaped like many animals. As a child, she used to imagine she was a carnivore when she ate those biscuits. Now they were available in excess at a certain departmental store with fifteen branches. The boy called her “akka”. What was she to him? What was her father to his? She laughed at this connection.
She remembered that there was a certain contagious epidemic in the city and eating anything at the beach was not a safe proposition. The boy was a child. He placed the tin drum next to her and began digging the sand with bare hands. She said “Yaay! Don’t do that!” The boy grinned sheepishly but continued to pick the sand and rain it through his fingers. She said, “Do you give out sundal with these same hands? It will give everyone a tummy ache.” He continued to grin sheepishly.
His hair was dry as a shrub. His face had patches of grime. His shirt looked like his father’s, oversized and awkward. His hands were thin and nimble. He wore a black amulet around his neck. His fingers were tiny. She asked him if he went to school. He said he went to school in the mornings. She knew he was lying. She knew he built sand castles, ran errands for his master, sold fish at the auctions, swam in the sea and teased the dogs and chicken all morning. He did not go to school. In fact, he feigned a tummy ache, conjunctivitis, a bruise and a throat ache to not go to school. He was only a child like all other children. She smiled at him.
She suddenly wanted to take this child to the garden where she sat all alone the previous day. To the park where all the children fought for their turn to be on the swing. To the ice cream parlor where the children smeared ice cream on their noses and threw a hundred tantrums. To the big book shop with tiny colorful books for children his age. She wanted to pick him up and cuddle up with him. She wanted to tell him of the years she spent waiting for him. She wanted to plant a kiss on his grimy forehead. She wanted to bathe him in pink bubbly soap and scrub him till he screamed. She wanted to wipe his wet hair with a fluffy towel and powder him with an expensive baby powder. She wanted to make hot paruppu rice and roast potatoes and feed him while they watched Oswald on TV.
She asked him if he would come away with her. “Will you come with me?” she asked. He was worldly wise. Though he was not so old, he knew the pain of disappointments, the laughter of the wicked, the shrewdness of businessmen and the smiles of the cunning. He looked at her and once again flashed the same grin. She could not gauge much out of it.
He was far away from her world. All he could think of was to sell all the sundal and go home with the day’s earnings. All he could think of was the game of street cricket he would play in the lamp light, with his friends. Who he would beat up that evening, how many scars he would have in comparison to Raju, how he would buy a big ship, how he would sell prawns the next day, how his baby sister would tug at his shirt back at home – His head was a jumble of thoughts and sleeplessness. He asked her if she would take some sundal. He seemed to have a refrain, “Akka! Please, ka! I have not sold anything from the morning..” He kept saying this almost involuntarily.
He was bored now. He scratched his head and picked up his tin drum, its contents intact. He spotted some potential customer at a distance and ambled away, leaving her to her thoughts of a lost youth. The sea billowed like the manifestation of a million sighs.