Long long ago , amidst the flickering dim light of a sole lantern, which precariously hung on the verandah I followed her word by word, her strong and determined voice, revising her days lessons, her hand deftly drawing the triangles of geometry mesmerized me to no end. The gleaming silver paper with which she covered her note books reflected the yellow pale light of the lantern, accentuated by the pitch darkness around us. Me in my little red frock, bent over my wooden bordered slate with milky white slate pencils in my hand imitated her, her seriousness and tried becoming like her.
During the day when I went to the tiny little school, if you may call it so, it was a make shift room, made up with coconut leaves and bamboo sticks, the old ‘ashan’ or master made the kids , me and many like me write Malayalam alphapets on the white shiney sand which was spread on the dark brown earth of the makeshift room, each one of us was made to write with our forefinger on the sand , the ‘Ashan’ held our tiny hands to make us write the complicated, rounded exotic alphabets, but the effect was so deep and so impactful that till date that very feeling of my forefinger on the sand following the shape of the alphabets has never left me and I shall in my life never forget those alphabets, that sand, that makeshift school and the old ‘Ashan’. Well it was here that I also tried to be like you , to be ahead of everybody, to recite the countings, to be the first one to finish all the tasks, but I failed, miserably.
There is something which I drastically lack in me, I don’t think it is about smooth talking, good listening, is it about being too bossy I do not know, but every time I fail, I languish in self pity, I feel like that lantern which though used to give us the much needed light in the pitch darkness but we always longed for electricity and the electric light which we could see as a dot in the castle like house across the paddy field, across the railway line .. we always undermined the importance of the lantern and me and her always looked longingly across the railway line at the dot of light , making the lantern fail, fail miserably… well coming back to her.. she was the anchor , the much needed laughter and the warm blanket of affection which carried many a tale of my secrets, sometime crushes, sometime forbidden novels and sometimes just a good cry on her lap …even a day before my wedding day I cried my heart out on her lap, feeling happy and sad and sadder on the thought of going away…. I was like an extended body part of hers, more like a tail which hung behind her , everywhere she went. In those lantern days whenever her teenage friends visited and she used to take long rounds of the house along with her friend I used to follow her at a safe but annoying distance trying to catch a word or two of the whispering talks they used to have, irritating her to no end.
I used to wait on the mound of orange gravel heaped on the side of the house jumping on it , sliding on it , sometimes looking at the brown and black bodied red eyed bird which used to visit us regularly , which used to perch itself on the lowest branch of huge and tall wild jack tree. Finally having exhausted all my options , I used to get hold of the old magazines kept in a cracked wooden shelf, the magazines had an old ,enchanting smell, the smell of old paper, though I could not read much, it helped me wile away time till she came back from school, and we could have our rice and heavenly fish curry made by my grandmother, expertly.
Then after a long , eventful life of being her extended body part, her tail, her baby, her friend, then a partner in crime, a secret keeper, a confider , I walked away just like that with the help of my mouth which mouthed angry, hurt words and threw it at her venomously, all because of some sinfully young and adept charmer of a young one in the family, who daintily smoothened her fragrant lacy skirt and sat in my place, yes, my place which was right there, in her heart and believe me it hurt and it still hurts like hell , I feel like a rudder less boat swaying in the current of times, I long for the warm blanket , I go back to our lantern days and my obsession of imitating her.. I do not know what is wrong with me at this ripe age of wrong side of thirty.. am I becoming the little girl in red frock bent upon her slate with white slate pencils and trying hard to be like her making round alphabets on the white shiney sand.. I do not know.. I do not know…….but I do feel lonely and clueless so unlike the age I am in… I long for the laughters, the loud voices of our talks , the low whishpers of ours which will never happen now …never…