Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Perfect Homecoming

Serenity. Maybe the business suit guys at Oxford had seen something like this to have coined the word “Serenity”.....The scene at the graduation ceremony said it all. The crowd looked like a huge yet silent wave of black coats with hats and diplomas. To even think that crowds could sometimes become mobs seemed impossible in the least. One could see a trickle of colour here and there, proud parents, friends and family, dressed in their best. Sherry was one among them, her name yet to be announced to accept the diploma. This was the moment she had been waiting for, God only knew since when. Becoming a graduate is a very common dream these days, in fact it no longer qualifies as a dream anymore. And more so for guys, since its the minimum requirement to get a job, a girl, a life. But then for Sherry, it meant the world. A new beginning, she knew she still had a long way to go. But atleast this was a start. It had been a difficult childhood for her, money hadn’t flown easy. Everything was a hand-me-down, be it books, toys, clothes or even her one and only bicycle for that matter. There wasnt anyone to complain to anyways, and it didnt matter much, nothing would change. Very few kids of the pre-teen ages learnt it the hard way, and she was one of them. Maybe this was what made her resolve so strong. She had been a quiet kid at school, diligently working to make it through, and then helping out at home even though she was the youngest. School responsibilities, household chores and homework to top it kept her busy and active during her school days. College was not much different, but here was where her battles started. Getting through courses wasnt that simple, and payments were difficult. Staying aloof was worse, but money was scarce and she couldnt afford to hang out too much. She hadnt made it in the looks department either, for guys to woo her and buy her gifts. There was nothing special about her, she was just the normal next door girl. She was the kind where someone might even feel sorry for her and buy her something out of sympathy. But self-respect ruled every heart. Friends were few, sympathizers more, yet she lived those days with her head held high and a firmess in her step. Father used to help her a lot during those days, Mother didnt know much, she wasnt much educated, but then she was the best. Father understood but there wasnt much he could do. With 4 kids and the state they were in, Sherry was still proud of what he was doing for them. Mother had seen a lot of rough days herself and she knew how it was being a young go-for-it girl handling life alone. Now, with a confident gait, she walked down the steps of the podium, degree in hand, a winning knowing smile of her face and a hope in her heart of making it big in the world. Sister Rosie stood there looking on proud. Mother and Father would have loved to be here, if they could have. They would really have been proud. She had really wanted them to be here. This was for them. Circumstances said otherwise. The trip back home hardly even registered as her mind was remniscient of all those memories of a life lived long ago. Memories of years past, of those days long long ago. Of those days as a 6 year old, when she had once been taken to the doctor. Why? Because she had been keeping her pencil in her mouth, and her friend told her its got marks on her mouth, so she swallowed an eraser, those young innocent years when you thought doing something like this would erase out the wrong. The very thought bought a smile on her face. She thought of those years as a 12 year old, in school, pushing her friend into the stream which flowed beside her school, only because she wanted to cross the bridge first, the day when she and her group had stacked stones to throw at the enemy group of girls, of those young thoughtful years when you thought .. just thought, when wierd strange ideas spring up.. like why is there corruption in this world, why do we need politicians, why do we need a government, the days of crushes and heartbreaks, of gossips and tell-tales, of girlfriends and other girlfriends, of those endless hours of discussions, when time spent with friends would never be enough. And yet at the backbone of all this, she remembered her parents, Mother and Father couldnt make it here, they would have wanted to, she knew that for sure. But life made its own rules. God created those rules. Now she was all alone. How was she going to make a living all by herself. She couldnt bring herself to answer. The train pulled into the ever packed busy station like a huge tidal wave and it brought her out of her reverie. The scene here was one of total commotion and confusion, parents yelling at their kids to be in sight, hawkers running around, beggers loitering, porters trying to swindle money out of poor passengers struggling to unload their ever heavy luggage, it was just like any other metro station. With a heavy heart she set foot into the city of Calcutta this was where it had all happened, this was where she had lived most of her life lately. The city bought back unwanted memories yet she knew she couldnt run away from it anymore. Sister Rosie kept glancing at her every once in a while for any signs of breakdown but they never came. The sad face was still very strong deep within. They walked the familiar stairs, nothing much had changed around her, the peeling yellow walls desperately in need of a re-coat of fresh paint still looked the same they had 8 years ago. Graffiti adorned the walls and there were some tobacco spills here and there, some old some fresh ones like someone had just been through here. She recalled sitting here with her friend, Kristin, who was more of a sister than a friend, telling her about different kinds of people that had been around and how she might have to be more careful. It was dangerous here especially for young girls. Back then she was 8 years old, it hadnt made much sense then. Now looking around, and thinking back at those words her best friend Kristin had said, it all fit in. Kristin had long since left, she didnt know when, in this place people just came and left, it just was a walk of life. Newer lives, better dreams and aspirations, or maybe just different ones, no one knew where they ended up. Sometimes she thought of what had happened to Kristin, maybe she should have been more close to her, she would have known what was going on in her mind. Someone said she had run away with the caretaker of this place, he had been missing too since the same day Kristin went missing, but to Sherry it didnt fit right. Kristin was a lot more choosy about her guy, she wouldnt have settled for someone like this, what did he have after all? Or did she? Drugs did a lot of things to one’s mind and sometimes she had doubted Kristin on illegal drugs. This place did strange things to you. Before she even realized it, she was there.. the place looked awful as ever, yet this was it. With faint shaken steps she approached the room, and slowly opened the creaky door. With a heavy heart she took a few dainty steps inside. It was like walking into a mist, even though you knew it would suck the life out of you. Her resolve still held, but she was starting to crack up. As the dust settled she could make out the people in the photographs around her. And that was when she finally broke down. Tears flushed down her cheeks as cheerful yet painful memories flooded her mind. A silent sob gave way to a deathly wail and she let herself cry. Cry loud for all those lost years, for the parents whom she lost when she was 8, the sister whom she lost to the caretaker, to poverty or to destiny, she couldnt decide which. She couldnt bring herself to think Kristin was dead but then no one even knew. She had been missing for years. She poured her heart out and cried for the brother she never knew, because he gave in to drugs and eventually to his pending death. Rosie looked on but there was nothing she could do. Someday the grief had to come out, and it was better to get it done with. The girl had been living with this all her life. You couldnt say if it was a selfish choice or a decision taken with pure honesty and a will to live, and get and give love in return. The gigantic brown oak doors looked down at Sherry with all their majesty, guarding her with all their might, holding their heads low in respect for all that she had been through and all her decisions and yet remained true. The door placeholder read Little Angels Nursery.. For my Mom and Dad. Sherry gently opened the door and stepped inside. The walls beckoned to her calling her back to her abode, her belonging. With Mother and Father and her memories. This was where she belonged. This was Home. The morning sun brought with it a new ray of hope and a sunshine that threatened to carry you away into its world of dreams and light. As the babies 4-5 years old walked in one by one, and looking at their cherubic faces a picture of innocence, a look of hope, she knew she could make it. She would live.


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