The regardless footsteps towards home, as usual start with a routine, tackling the strides of the never-ending flights of a stair, each step a tango to the flow of time, to the seething tick-tock of a haggard clock, every ticking movement, a drop of sound trying to quench the thirst of time’s muteness. Perhaps, the reason for the signboard next to the clock-tower, Time n Sound. Strolling yonder, head as usual slightly bent downwards, the unbaffled gaze beholds, lying next to the partly deformed railing almost battling to guard the catwalk, a sodden cover of the famed glue given the name Quickfix, and a bit across it, a dull brown poplar leaf, an embodiment of the soul of autumn’s rage, persisting through the cold beauty of winter. The sight brings to mind yet another unflurried act of nature mocking at human efforts of restoration, irony immortalized.
Some yards further, the steps are greeted, as they have been a countless times before, by a feigning stretch of the defunct side drain, now having assumed the form of a prolonged pool, of storm water, presently home to a queer looking used bottle of potable water, alongside an empty packet of cigarettes. The picture of ravaged lungs on it, appearing equally ravaged. Next to these, some frozen lumps of snow, adorning a fine layer of dust, oddly resemble the adjacent small blocks of concrete, which roofed a shop till some days before. Apparently, in unison atlast, celebrating the banality of the functional failure of the very side-drain which houses them and too of the administering minds. This side-drain is not alone in its travesty, as it has its reasons to enjoy its place in the grand scheme of all side-drains and also of the (mis)administering minds in the city, proud to embrace failure collectively. Just that the empty bottle looks so thirsty, and the cigarette packet so withdrawn.
Somewhere midway before the home, on one of those creepy corners on the roadside, lies a cast away bottle of beer labelled Kingfisher, seemingly wailing its emptiness or perchance even feting the same, Reminding the uneasy mind of the ever-so restlessly fluttering Kingfisher hovering over the turbid Jhelum on the bundside. The only difference, possibly, between the actual Kingfisher and its impersonation on the beer bottle, being, the packaged confusion reflected amply in the convoluted line of shops and malls dividing the serene bund from the chaotic road. A subtle conjugation of disjuncture.
A tad farther, while passing the playground, its desertion makes one feel, as if this homeland is nothing but a forlorn canvas painted in hurry, it instills infinitely varied feelings each time one beholds it. Now an audience, now an act. An anchor sometimes and a storm at other. A life full of revelry bestowed on a being of dirge. An Armageddon inside the sanctum of Paradise. A resignation consoled by dejection. Lord Almighty might have been inspired by this place to create Adam, at-least.
The road to my home, like all other roads in my homeland, does not seem to lead you anywhere, it’s like a moment of silence striking all the tacit notes of requiem all at once. The countless faces passing by do not bring forth a sense of familiarity, rather a sense of suspicion, suspicion that the eerie look of loss in their eyes comes from the same suffering that has my eyes stony. Wonder if a time comes, when someone suggests them all to cut their hands, which failed to gouge these eyes, a constant remembrance of agony. But as for now, even with this much of excruciation, the dull and slow brevity of the roads in and around my homeland, never fatigue to act as a drug which inebriates most of its dwellers with a severe sense of sentience.
This ruefully merry city is unlike the contritely gaudy cities which overwhelm people to the point that they completely vanish in the ensuing make-believe glitter, rendering them just dark spots the glimmer thrives upon. This homeland, with all its emptiness, is like a sincere black-hole, where the spirit of all light reaches its zenith, an embrace of two boundless emotions. Its silence, the lament of its own choked sigh, the ripples of its own impeccable sight, now blurred, by the streams of tears shed to protect the sanctity of the seas of blood that feed the same void and make the wings of freedom flutter with an abandon.
Without knowing the why or the need thereof, being here feels more like a tree, though with a shade greater circumference of mobility, but still a bare tree, breathing through the gaping hollowness of its own retiring skeleton. A tree, deeply settled in and laying with the indistinguishable layers of time’s soil, the trunk, a mute memory to all the storms, to all the calm, to all the blossoming moons, to all blazing suns, to all restless summer days & anxious winter nights, to gripping moments and dull mundane instants, to infuriating dog barks, to deafening gun barrels, to protracted and pointless tulip rows, to almost empty mass graves and famed terraced gardens, to disappeared body of human souls, to spontaneous and visceral coronaches, to cheerful and lively wedding songs, to the firecrackers about to set the night sky on fire, to retired & tarry spines, to passionately thumping bosoms, to autumn’s red bridal cheeks and winter’s white bridal gown, to hollow laughs & rich wails, to the stillness of apparent flux, to blatant secrets, to knowledge & ignorance, to relentless dreams & tireless sleep, to deeds imprisoned in words & words proudly divorced from deeds, to failure & hope. Contrary it may seem, yet it’s the trunk that has to bear the burden of both, being rooted at one end and of the exemption of its branches which have nothing to embrace at the other.
Just about my mute trunk reaches the farthest bounds of its circumference, the rumble of the worn out engine of a combat vehicle brings back the sense of friction between my feet and the undulating surface of this road. I wish there were more stairs to manoeuvre the indefinite gaps between dead ends in oneself and the stalemate of roads, I would die to see them both end up in the wilderness, like a tree in a stairwell basking in the suspended freedom of the staircase, the ultimate abode. But, as always, the dreadful thought of a fall, as in this moment too, echoes again, and I resign to hope, the last stretch of dusty & unpaved road home.