Thursday, August 5, 2010
The Silent Spectator
This isn't actually a post but an article published in Central Chronicle...
When there is a story teller sitting beside you to narrate things and stuff, effort gets easier penning it down on a sheet of paper.
Narrator here is someone very close to me, and through the following story wishes to baygon spray the bugs of regret running within his body since years. "It is from my childhood days that turned into younger days and it's hard to believe that I have grown mature with this guilt, being of no help to the poor tailor but sympathetic," he says.
A Tailor’s Tale
"Riding bicycle as the newest birthday gift for growing to a 12 year old naughty kid, I was enjoying the smell of breeze when I first saw him. An ordinary man with a thread in his mouth was likely the first multi-tasking creature I saw in my then lifetime. Gadgeted with a table like sewing machine, his hands and legs were parallely working, I wondered how Near to him seated a lady whom I later discovered as his wife, who was busy untangling the tangled load of clothes and pieces. She was constantly mumbling something that I couldn’t hear but she looked annoyed, possibly on the tailor who was absolutely unreactive to everything she said. Actually the khrr..khrr..khrr..sound of machine embracing wife’s mumbles didn’t really allow them to reach tailor’s ears. Though he was poor but he had all the essential equipments that a tailor must have, his ear had a blue chalk tucked behind and a measuring tape was hanging around his neck and whenever his hands rubbed on machine’s wheel to stop and adjust the cloth, it ached me imagining his rough hands getting scratched over the wheels.
They lived in a small rented house that exposed the tailor’s shop from outer view. It soon became a regular sight for me on the way to school but never an unusual one because it was fun to see the tailor struggling with clothes, changing needles and threads. As a kid it was quite astonishing to see a large piece of cloth being converted into a shape of shirt. If I look back from now, what I didn't notice was his sincerity towards work that never allowed him to notice a guy who usually stood by his shop to watch him.
In a way it relieved me because I felt comfortable to watch him being unnoticed. Neither I nor the tailor knew what was coming. One day he was thrashed out of the rented house with his belongings due to unpaid rent. He was quite as stone and unresponsive as if politely saying “Yes, I agree that it’s my fault as I haven’t paid the amount and here I stand bowing my head to survive as God wants me to.” On the contrary his wife seemed highly furious spitting out words of dishonour towards the haughty landlord who spectacularly showed arrogant superiority to disdain the unworthy. She was crying her heart out while collecting her belongings scattered on the road. “Hum kahan jaenge, arey samaan to mat phek H*******r. Uparwala kabhi maaf nahi karega, garib admi ko satata hai.” she screamed. I watched standing at a corner, the softer side of me asked to try to rescue them and the harder one pulled me suggesting that I would be awfully nosy.
I knew the summer season is ending and rains would make their roofless life, impossible to survive. Though I wasn’t related to them in any way but the human within me was clinging to tailor’s life. Now I started visiting his place more frequently, twice a day only to be a mute spectator. For next few days they managed to cover the heap of dwellings with black tarpaulin sheet and slept, ate, worked and lived roofless on the narrow passage beside the rented house. I heard her wife fuming again to the passing landlord “Road se toh koi nahi bhaga sakta hume.”
Ofcourse not, within a week as the rains arrived they secured themselves in a three by three metre of space under a tarpaulin sheet tied to five bamboo-like sticks. The fifth one stood in the centre preventing the rain water to accumulate and ruin the self-imposed house.
While lying on my comfy bed I imagined the couple with their knees pulled up to chin trying to be cozily warm in the rain outside and I pulled up my blanket to shy away from the burning guilt within. What appealed me most about the tailor was he looked so passive about whatever is happening around him or to his life, absolutely unparticipative. As if only thing he was concerned about was, stitching. He worked like he doesn’t need money, silent like he has never been hurt and lived like no one was watching. But I was…
Gradually the tarpaulin sheet was replaced by a square shaped tin that needed no fifth stick in centre to disturb the ambience of house. “Actually the sheet got holes on several parts that drenched them last night,” I overheard a group of local people chatting. To me it seemed to be his first step towards progress and I found myself imagining him in a bricked house one day after he has earned good sum of money.
I remember the last time I saw him before leaving the town for further studies, he was operating the sewing machine again to convert the cloth to shirt, sitting at the door of his ‘bricked’ but ‘cement-less’ house. The wife still mumbling, what, I couldn’t hear. Regretting to imagine just a bricked house and not the complete one, I left and never returned to that place until yesterday. No, he isn’t there. “Mysteriously left the place one night,” said the landlord who has now become the tailor of that area. Insatiate, I enquired from a beggar across the road and there lied the truth to satisfy me “Saheb, he was beaten badly by some ‘gundas’ and I know who sent them”, winked beggar grinning. “When his wife was assaulted by the ‘gundas’, the agitated tailor surprised everyone with his defensive stunt but got badly wounded. And then he left the place that night limping without a word of complains.” …..period.
Now, looking back to the time, a vague feeling convinces me that I couldn’t be of any help to the tailor perhaps because as a kid I didn’t know the right way to avail him with resources but I was quite sensitive and empathetic that is why it keeps coming back to mind even after years in one form or the other because the fittest continued surviving.
“It’s true that story of a poor men’s life is written on his body in a sharp pen but the only relief that I can give to the poor tailor in an indirect way is this, writing his life on paper and not his body,” narrator concludes.