The ripples chased each other as I placed the paper boat in the mucky green water. The thin paper body of the boat sunk soon; rocking at the same place for a few minutes and finally sinking as the water spread through the paper like blood in veins.
The rocking of the boat brought back some memories I had made sure I had forget. For the pain they caused me to remember the flashes of my childhood, the joy of feeling the fading memories was almost compensating. As the lump of my boat touched the base of the little puddle, a lump formed in my throat as I reminiscent those forgotten details.
“Jal! Where are you? You naughty boy!” bellowed my mother from the other end of the room. She was a soft spoken women in her cotton starched sarees and the ringing bells in her anklets. They announced her arrival every time she stomped across the hall, cuing me to hide under the table. Not like her sharp bellow wasn't an ultimatum.
“Are you hiding again Jal? You are already late for school. The bus will be here soon and driver uncle will be angry at you for making him wait again. Do you want to see him curling his mustache and his ears fuming?” That made me giggle. From my ambush I could see my mother’s feet. My giggle gave me away as her feet rushed towards the table and soon there was oil being rubbed on my hair and my tie was tighten almost to the limit of choking me.
“Jal? What are you doing here? Come on its time.” I shivered as I rose from the ground dusting my white kurta off any dust. I stumbled to the prey and stood there waiting for my instructions. Everything was a blurry haze. The sounds were muffled and the sky seemed grey. I went about the rituals mechanically. My body felt tired. My head felt heavy and my mind wandered. Soon I was standing with a torch in my hand. I could hear my uncle sob urging me to go on and burn my mother’s prey. Why did I have to do the deed? Couldn’t I be the one sobbing in someone’s arms like a helpless child in his mother’s arms? Mother’s arms.
The fire rose and flickered like a wild beast consuming the serenity possessed by my mother. The warmness of the woman was burnt and the essence of her living charred to nothing but grey ash soon to be blown away by the oblivious wind. Black smoke danced into the air rising upwards as if creating a passage for my mother to go up to heaven.
The kindness was gone. The late night calls were far away. The love was gone. My mother was gone leaving me to live alone and lost.
“Mama how can I make a paper boat?” my mother was sitting on her chair arranging the vase. Carnation enhanced the beauty of the ceramic vessel adding elegance to the patio table. The celestial omnibus lay beside it opened and marked from when mama last read it. “Jal don’t go out its still drizzling you will get a cold.” My mother warned without looking away from her flowers.
“How do I make a paper boat?” I repeated the question, now insisting. Mama sighed and took the crumpled square paper from my hand. She folded it multiple times and soon a boat bloomed out in her hand. I sat on the floor wide eyed with my mouth carved into an ‘o’. “How did you do that!” I exclaimed as I took the vessel delicately from mama’s hand like it was the ceramic vase.
Mama gave out her warm knowing smile and ruffled my hair. “Go on set sail in that puddle over there.” I ran bare feet onto the squishy damp mud to a puddle wide enough to be an ocean for my boat. I lightly placed it on the water surface and ripples of water set out, running towards the edges. The drizzle hit my face lightly and fell on my bare shoulders as I shivered. Soon the boat was soaked and sank filling my heart with disappointment.
“Seems like your boat sank.” Mama confirmed as I walked to the patio sulking and pouting. “I thought it was as strong as me” I complained. Mama glared at me to wipe my muddy feet and said softly, “even the strongest boats sink and the strongest men can be defeated bacha.”
“No! Nobody can defeat a strong man!” I exclaimed in anger. “Why?” mama asked calmly. “Because he is the strongest of all!” I exclaimed in childish illogical stubbornness. She pointed at the fallen tree killed by the thunder storm and looked at me with her warm deep brown eyes and said, “That tree fell being the strongest of all. It died because of its own strength. Killed under its own weight. So did your boat. Sank due to the burden of its own weight as it soaked; now just a lump of its own stubborn strength.” She looked into my eyes “we all do die a little under the burdens we soak in and allow to weigh us down.”
I looked at her and asked softly, “did you read this in that book mama?” she gave a hearty laugh, pinched my nose and went back to arranging the flowers.
Now I was dying under the weight of my own sadness. Just like the paper boat continuously soaking and then soon sinking.
Few words: I hope this metaphor is understood.