Thursday, 4 May 2017

Look Inside the "Parrot under the Pine Tree."









Chapter One


From the pagans of the pre-Vedic period to the faithfuls of the post-Vedic era, only the Sun God hasn’t lost its eminence in the daily lives of the human beings. Both the believers and the atheists hold it in reverence. Heliolatry has persisted from the prehistoric times. No natural phenomenon has captured the imagination of so many people as the sunrise, which has provided intellectual nourishment to the educated for generations. 

        And it was the sunrise of a divine kind that drew thousands of enthusiasts to a lesser- known place in the Himalayas. These were pre-dawn hours. From behind the snow-capped mountains, hidden under the veil of brume, the sun prepared to rise. It took time to climb those lofty peaks with precipitous gradients. In the valley below lay a sleepy little town. 

        The dawn here was long, the day longer and the night the longest. Here the Gods controlled everything and eternized tranquillity. It was their land. The local folks in reverence called it as the ‘Devbhumi’. In this land, time was its own master and not a slave to some conceited man.

         Like any other day, Kausani with every passing minute emerged out of the darkness, tree by tree, house by house, street by street. Every rooftop was filled with folks, the locals and the visitors. The prospect of a good sunny day had driven the native women to carry grain, chillies and clothes on the roofs for drying. But the tourists’ worries were of a different kind. For some, it was their last day in Kausani and hence they prayed for a great sunrise so that they could, for posterity, capture the divine spectacle in their cameras, in their hearts. 

           Also, in that motley crowd love stories, born in a short span of time, faced a bleak future as the reckless lovers readied to leave to different destinations. In spite of the uncertain future of their whirlwind romances, the lovers gave last-minute promises to one another and exchanged addresses, phone numbers and email IDs. Parting hugs and kisses filled their eyes. But misgivings remained in many a heart. For some, though, the love in such fleeting moments had been what it often was: a quick physical liaison to be had and forgotten. 

            As the darkness dissipated fast, the crowd rushed pell-mell on the rooftops, filling every inch of the space. Attired in colourful clothes, people with cameras—still and video—hung around their necks paced left and right, forward and backward in needless anxiety. Some women, smelling of cheap perfume that stifled the fresh mountain air, fidgeted in low quality, ill-fitting jeans that they had worn for the first time. Those in Indian dresses moved around without any constraints. 

          In a corner veiled in grey mist sat a young couple waiting for the dawn. The man had a quick glance around and then kissed his wife on the lips. A stunned woman hugged her man with a question in her eyes. Back home in the orthodox land where the men walked a yard ahead of their wives and where holding of hand in public drew snide comments and disapproving glances, a public kiss like this could have created a mini-riot. In their five years of marriage this had been his most chivalrous act in public. It made her heart pound faster with thrill expecting gallant actions in the privacy of the bedroom. The sound of footsteps forced them to break off their embrace. 

           On the next roof stood a young mother who post childbirth a year ago could not shed as much weight as she had wished for, though she had got rid of her face fat. With a sweater tied around her waist, she tried to cover her less attractive behind. She was a single female traveller. Many nosy parkers indulged in bizarre, unwarranted guesses. Unconcerned, she soaked her soul in those salubrious climes. 

          On the adjoining parapet sat a young woman, dangling her feet over the side and gazing at the misty mountains. The freshness and freedom of the place inspired her to hum a love song. Back at home covered in black from head to toe when she moved in the company of other women, she felt her beauty go unappreciated, her smile unreciprocated. And when furtive glances presuming her an old woman slipped past her face, the beauty beneath the black sheath struggled to unshackle itself. Her heart suffered a sharp pang of regret for marrying into an orthodox family when she had a choice not to.

          A stone’s throw from that crowd, a few makeshift teashops had come up in the wee hours. Their owners did a brisk business. Amongst them sat a middle-aged Kumauni man under a plastic lean-to that neither protected him from the rain, nor the wind. The tea seller with a freckled face and sunken cheeks looked older than his age. Poverty had stolen several of his youthful years. A worn out shirt and pant, and a faded sweater did not diminish his pride. Out of a faded cap hiding his bald pate blew out his scraggy, grizzled hair in every possible direction. From the grey-white stubble it looked the man cared little for his looks. The man smiled with cracked lips whenever a customer came to him. 

        Beside him sat his sari-clad wife, the mother of two children, in a diligent supporting role. The ten-year younger woman had big blue eyes, thick lips and a sharp nose with a large circular ring. Bright lipstick, dark kajal, face powder and perfume were proof enough that she, unlike her husband, she took pains to look attractive. Her brocaded blouse, designed to cover the bosom and cleavage, failed once a while in its duty. As more customers thronged to the shop the woman, unable to handle the rush, panted and light beads of sweat dripped down between the cleavage of her perky breasts. Every time she bent down to pour tea in the glass, her cleavage flashed, attracting glances; some abashed, some unabashed. A few elders were sympathetic to her present existence but indignant that such a good-looking woman deserved a better fate. Unmindful of this, she went about her job as usual. 

        Hours of hard work under the sun had weathered her skin so much that her normal eyes looked bigger and enticing. And whenever they fell on a man, even the strongest couldn’t escape its magical spell. Some men at the teashop had had more than one cup in the hope of getting her tempting glance. While the others were contend with spending a few minutes more in her warm presence. 

        To read the complete story, please buy the book.
         

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