I met a boy, a young one of early 20s, no mustache, dressed in raggedy jeans and a pale gray full-sleeve shirt with white streaks of salt from the sweat. He was a daily wage earner at a construction site, who told me during a lunch break, in the warm sun of that fateful February 15, that he wanted to sing for a living. He continued with a song to rest my skepticism. A Bollywood number with which I had a forgotten familiarity, one that was from the time when lyrics made sense with the melody.
He sang with conviction, like the morning canary, confident on the high pitches, soft on the low, breathing in and out with the words that brought sweet nostalgia to the fore. The lunch breaks for laborers at the construction site is neither entertaining nor boring. It’s more than providing the body with food for fortitude more than rest for the limbs.
The lunch break is used to reiterate where each one of them stood in their personal lives. About the money, they owed to loan sharks back home, their spouse, their children, the wars within their souls. And when the eyes are tired moving to the clouds thinking about these, they rest in dreams.
They don’t need alarms to wake them up, neither are they required to be called. Their sleep is clockwork, no matter which dream they travel, they save their worlds when the clock strikes two. Then, up they are, doing their jobs where nobody acknowledges the liberating experience they just had.
The boy’s song was a break from routine and a refreshing change of sound. In the dead of the noon when everything was sleeping, his voice reverberated off the lattice columns and the pipes and drums surrounding them, creating a feint that made his sound seem like it reached the heavens and back.
My cheeks drew an involuntary smile. Like those realizations that derail you from life’s routine to remind you that this is not all what life is. I asked him why he didn’t pursue. Retaining the charm but with an uneasy expression of ‘I don’t know where to start’, he said, ‘Sir, mai-baap raazi na hue.’
While he was reasoning, I was wondering why his parents took his decision for him, to not let him pursue what he loved, wondering why parents do this to their children; when they are good at something, why do they urge them to do something different, something against their calling?
‘Magar, acha kiya unhone,’ interrupted he, and I was rattled as if a kite without its string, violent in the fierce wake of the wind. With my curiosity hinged at his reasoning’s mercy, I stayed befuddled, longing for an explanation that would’ve resonated with my own story of choosing a path on the crossroad I was at since.
Over the yard, the sun was scorching now, the checkered shade of the bracing on the roof moving from our boots providing beams of light to break open our vision for dust that sparkled on our skin, while the puffy fuchsia clouds floated the other way, disappearing a little above the horizon.
The stagnant air was stirred now, and then with rapid gusts of a tormented summer wind, breathing relief for the beads formed down the neck among the shoulders. The body was calm but my mind ran amid a myriad of possibilities of the whys and the don’ts, pushing and pulling on theories that would’ve made sense, if only I knew what I had wanted from life.
~ Jeswin M Varghese | Edited by Nandini
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