When I was a child, my one of my favorite games was pass the story. My friends and I would entertain ourselves for hours telling a story and passing it along at the interesting points. I kept this up through junior high, my friend Libby and I winding a tale as we wound our way home, her brother an appreciative audience, occasionally chiming in. But I haven't done this in years. So, I saw this first on Lorem'sLife is Sweet. But she doesn't know me from Adam, so she didn't tag me. She tagged Estelle who then passed it along to me. So, here goes, a moment of revisiting my childhood.
My contribution is in bold.
Rules for the Story Tree:
Everything below the dashed line should be copied and pasted with every accepted tag.
This is a Story Tree and is best nurtured as follows:
1. A blogger can add only 90-100 words (no more or no less) at a time.
2. All previous snippets of 90-100 words need to be copied before the new set of 90-100 words are appended.
3. Each entire snippet should be linked to the respective author (and not just the first sentence or so). Feel free to steal my code (under 'Source') if that would help.
4. Characters, scenes, etc. can be introduced by an author.
5. Bizarre twists, sci-fi, fantasy sequences are best avoided.
6. A tag must be accepted within 7 days else the branch is a dead branch.
7. After appending 90-100 words, the Story Tree can be passed on to at most 3 bloggers.
8. If more than 1 branch leads to a blogger, s/he is free to choose any one of them but cannot mix the snippets of the individual branches.
9. The Story Tree is best left to grow than be concluded.
10. Please attach the image of the Story Tree below with each accepted tag (the link address can be copied and used).
A Blog Tree Story and Rules Above
Sunday, November 13, 2005
He thought it would be an ordinary journey. Standing behind the pillar he watched the train snort arrogantly into the station. With each snort he was reminded of his grandfather's words "You will fail in the city and return penniless"; with every heavenward whistle, he heard his cousin, "Don't worry. Come here and I will get you a job at the construction site." Now he had a 34-hour journey to prove one of them wrong, and he expected the excitement at the end of the journey. He looked at his ticket once again: compartment S9 berth 23.
Pushing his luggage under the seat, he sat close to the window. "Papa, when will you be back?" his four year old daughter Munni asked innocently. He stared into those soft brown eyes of the motherless kid. He held her frail palms in his, through the window. "Munni, Papa will get you a nice gudiya from the city...Say tata," his sister spoke to the kid, to avoid an emotional outburst. In a minute, the train pulled forward, and Munni's little fingers parted from between his. "I need to go..." he thought, "I have to, at least for Munni's sake."
The humid summer breeze and the rattling train coaxed him into an uncomfortable state of drowsy consciousness. He dreamt that Munni ran away, the closer he ran to her, the farther she was, like a mirage. He woke up with a start and squinted at his watch. "What is the time please?" A smallish woman, a meek voice as if she was scared that her existence would annoy someone. Her only noticeable feature was her rather large, expressive eyes. "4.30" Something made him look at the woman again. He had stopped noticing women long back. Ever since Meenakshi passed away.
Four long years. His daughter’s birth. His wife’s death. Joy and sorrow in an instant. A heady cocktail. He had hardly recovered from it. He barely had a chance to. You can’t be a poor farmer in Andhra Pradesh and have time for emotional upheavals. Life betrayed him once with the death of his wife. Life betrayed him again, three years in a row, with the failure of his crops. Every year, the debt increased and it felt like a noose tighten around him. Tightened till he could not breathe. He shivered with the memory of the night, where he took a bottle of poison in his hand.
He threw the bottle away when he heard the small voice behind him, “Papa, what’s beyond the big well? Sanju says that’s where the world ends.” His then-preoccupied answer had satisfied Munnis innocent curiosity, “No, beta…That’s the railroad to the city…There’s a lot of world beyond the big well.” He had repeated the answer to himself, “No, it’s not the end of the world”. Maybe some of that same innocence in this woman’s voice or eyes made him rephrase the answer to her question. “What is the time, please?” In a crystal-clear flash of certainty he realized…“It was time.”
It was time to put the scattered pieces of his life together. Just like the marbles he picked up as a boy. That he won and collected one by one from the ground, his pockets laden and bulging with his precious treasure. He had to play the game of life again. He looked at the large expressive kohl-rimmed eyes once more. Shy and downcast at times, hesitantly observant at others as she gazed out at the rushing landscape beyond the rusted iron rods of the second class carriage window. He suddenly heard himself asking, "Are you going to the city?"
She shook her head, and looked away, out of the window. She looked tense. Almost a little scared. Balbir wanted to ask "what’s wrong," but hesitated. He'd been too friendly. He turned away and looked out of the window.
The train slowed. Radhapur Junction. Dusty. Near-empty. Interchangeable with so many rural stops. Just one man got on board. He wore the bright, colourful pagri of the region above his sunburned face. He had a happy face and no luggage. As he walked the corridor his eyes scanned the berths. He reached their compartment and stopped in front of the woman.
Slowly she turned, could this be possible? Her eyes spoke of the panic she felt race through her body! He had found her, but how? She had taken every precaution to ensure her safety—this time! Trembling, yet she could not look way, she froze as if time itself had been suspended. Flashes of pain seared through her mind with the memory of those days.
He stood poised smiling down at her. So calm his demeanor, his shell. But the core was churning uncontrollably. He wanted to reach out, tear the flesh from the face that he once loved.
“Well, Lohra, we meet again.” His dark eyes shifted from the woman to the opposite seat where Balbir sat. Balbir was trying not to notice the man standing over him but he could not control his own eyes from locking into an uncomfortable stare with the man. After a few frozen seconds, Balbir stood and asked the man to sit down, motioning him to take his seat. Without a word, the man slid into the seat next to the woman. She quickly slid her small frame over, tight against the window. Balbir shrugged and sat back down opposite them.
From the corner of his eye, Balbir watched for any sign of intimidation or impending violence toward the woman. He was surprised at his feelings of protectiveness; he knew nothing about this woman or the man she was so afraid of or even what relationship there was between them.
Balbir recalled with shame the times he mistreated his wife. In their first year he hit her so severely that, afterwards, he needed to only cast a brief angry glance her way to bend her will to his. In spite of this, she loved him deeply. And now she was dead.
The memory of his late wife seized Balbir. This wasn't just a woman sitting across from him; this was his wife, his mother, his daughter, every woman he ever cared for in his life. The wife he'd driven away into death by not getting the midwife quickly enough. His mother, who had thrown herself on his father's funeral pyre, having nothing left to live for. The woman his daughter might grow up to be. Her destiny was not yet written, nor was his. He still might be able to redeem himself. His future, his karma, waited on his next move.
Ignoring the stares of the man, he turned to the woman he now knew to be called Lohra. “Why are you scared Lohra? What are you running from?”
He recognized it in her demeanor; the pain, the defeat, the look of a woman who is broken. She had tried to escape, and he had found her.
Her eyes would not meet his, instead they stayed fixed upon his tattered shoes.
He wanted to save her, to right the wrongs, both of her past and his. The words escaped his mouth before he could stop them.
Kethro chuckled. His smile touched his eyes and died in the frost there. "How quickly she has affected you. You can't have met more than a few moments ago." He held Balbir's eyes for a moment longer before looking away. "You are kind, but you are ignorant. She uses her eyes well." His tone to Lohra was flat. "Give it to me and I'll walk away."
Lohra's face stiffened into a mask of hate before smoothing again. Kethro doubted the fool across from them noticed the fleeting change. Lohra, control regained, turned beseeching eyes toward Balbir. "Yes."
Ok, I tag...
It makes me nervous to tag people, it feels like I'm imposing. Or testing their loyalty. Let me know if you don't want to do it and I'll tag someone else. And Lauri, if you had a blog I would have tagged you for sure. If I don't hear something from at least one of these three, I reserve the right to re-tag people.