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  • After Dark…

    Posted on May 4th, 2010 Vijay Velayudhan No comments

    ‘Twas there he stood;
    I’d seen him there before;
    On the rugged path to a lonely home;
    He was all sad, I knew no more.

    Read the rest of this entry »

  • Year Out

    Posted on April 25th, 2010 Vijay Velayudhan 2 comments

    The class had been silent. The afternoon had been quite hot. John sat in class, being the only one fresh and excited. The teacher walked into the class. Everyone stood up to greet her. After they were all seated, they answered their attendance one by one. The last student in the list answered 61 and sat down. The class went silent again for a brief moment when there was a loud call “155” from the back of the class. There was a roar of laughter as the teacher looked up wondering what was going on. John stood up to explain, looking at her, attracting everyone’s attention. He had just introduced himself in the previous hour. “Miss, I just rejoined after being year-out. So that’s my roll number.” He hated telling everyone he was a year out, it made some sort of insecurity within him.

    He sat down after that, smiling at his neighbour. The odd feeling of being around with his juniors didn’t seem to settle. “God, I’m so happy I hadn’t ragged anyone while I was a senior.” He thought to himself. The class went on. His neighbour pointed into his book and said, “You mean you’re gonna write down all the vitamins that she’s teaching.”
    “Yeah, but not exactly. Why?” Said John.
    “Pathetic. You were a year out and you haven’t changed?” Retorted his neighbour.
    John laughed out. His neighbour patted him on the shoulder and said, “Rule number 1 in the back bencher society, no laughing loudly, that will attract attention and tempt the teacher to ask questions. Rule No: 2 If you are kicked out of class on not answering a question (since they treat us like kids here), walk out with head held up high.”
    “Yes Sir.” Said John.
    His neighbour gave him a wide smile.

    “155” John shouted at the top of his voice a week later in class. He was used to people laughing when he said it. Now he was confident, so he would shout it out loud and clear. He used it with pride. The pride only had a problem when he found that some of his attendance was somehow going to the number 55 in his class.

    He made friends fast. They were a group of ten boys and they shared their interests and their back papers too. His friends had moved on to a house nearby. He had helped out to carry the tables, chairs and the books. That night had been a great one. There was no light in the house so he ended up sponsoring a bulb for them. There was no water in the house and so they had gone to fix the motor. He managed the job by pulling out the motor pipe and getting himself and the rest of the gang wet. “You aren’t handling any fragile things around here anymore.” Said one among them.

    The exam time had settled in. The third semester exams were regular for them and supplementary for him. “I hate having back papers” said one his friends. “No man, don’t worry, you’ll get used to it” John replied casually. He got kicked on the bottom and was asked to study.
    “Whose turn is it to start the story?” Asked Sam.
    “Story?” Asked John.
    “Well, that’s how it is. We dance and play around while one guy studies and at night he takes a class on what he studied and we write the story in the paper.” Said Sam.
    “I wish there was a paper like humanities where we could write movie stories” They went into talking about movies and finally everyone slept and no one was there to hear the story.

    The exams went as they came. John was hoping to clear at least a paper, making a mental note to be more serious next time. Classes were regular again. He was always the one to be called to the college office for one reason or the other. Some of his teachers preferred to ask him for what to do in case of year out students because he seemed to know about that better. Both as of going through it and explaining it to people who asked him.

    He recollected being called to his tutor’s office a few months later after he had joined. “Your new roll number is 81” his tutor had said. He was happy thinking that it was at least a two digit number this time. That day he had answered his attendance after the regular last student 61 and his teacher had said, “Its only 61, I haven’t reached 81”. There had been uproar from the class. He had to finally explain to her that after 61 came 81. Then another day he had had to run about for getting library cards in his name when the librarian had checked out the list of students and said, “You don’t exist. Where did you come from?” “I was year-out sir” and there he was explaining about what had happened and why he wasn’t there in the list. Most of the teachers seemed to condemn him to be a lazy brat and so he was the one to get in trouble most of time. The hardest part was when he would go to his friends place and their parents would ask how he emerged without being in first year with their sons. “I was lateral entry uncle…” He had said to some. The only thing is he had to keep remembering his lies once a while not to make a mistake… Back in his home town, people seemed to wonder why he wasn’t in the third year by now. “That’s the university. They take a long long time correcting our papers” He would say.

    The registration to the next semester was quite tedious for him too. All the students were able to register online and finally when it came to be John’s chance the computer seemed to say, “Invalid Register Number!” It was another day of running around for John to manually give a registration application. And because of his expertise in writing formal requests and apologies, he was always asked to write them for his friends and he soon came to be known as “The Apologist!”

    “Hey, why the sad face?” Sam asked one day in class, hitting John playfully on the head. “Nah, just a little tired running around. You know man; I would never have been a year-out if I knew it would be this tough.” John said. “Ha ha, it should be so that you won’t be doing it again”. Said Sam.

    The hour in class had been a terribly boring one. Then someone outside called the teacher to the door. Drowsily John looked up, “Oh hope she comes a long time later”. They began humming a song in the happiness from the back bench when the teacher returned and called out loud, “John. You are to go to the office, now.” Not exactly glad yet relieved he walked out of the class. At the office he was told that his condonation form had come back to the college from the University for Correction of some logical errors. He had to wait a long while for his tutor to come and they together had to check the staff room for his details list. That and correcting the facts took him around three hours. Reaching back to class at the end of the day to get his bag, he smiled at his friend who also seemed to be filling up a similar form. “What’s that?” John asked. “Well, I guess I will beat your record man. 2 condonations” said his friend Pete.
    ”Not my record. No! I’m done with a life condonation and a year out.” John smiled as he grabbed his bag and left.

    The campus had been empty. John sat down on the staircase, holding his head in his hands. There was this certain pain. He remembered… Walking down the steps of his college a few months back, he had thought of the note he had left for his only friend in his old class.

    “Hey pal. I’ve been year out. I don’t have any one else to tell. I’m leaving. Bye”

    He had felt numb while he had walked down, leaving the steps behind slowly. One would think he was counting them. He remembered having seen people mocking behind him… But it wasn’t clear to him, why was it so hard to face this? Was it because he took it serious unlike the so many who he knew went through the same?

    Everything felt usual, the large trees shading the gardens, the fountain full of life- gleefully greeting people, the climbers hanging from the main building, the gates felt like huge wide open arms. Everything had its own beauty but he couldn’t feel it that day. It is the mind that colours the eye… He had paused to speak to the guards at the gate who greeted him. He had managed a smile and said “I’ll be back”…

    He remembered how hurt his parents had been about this. When everyone had been telling him to quit and go study something he could handle, he remembered dad. He never told them why he was such a wreck. Dad had never said a word. His silence had made him feel worse. He remembered lying in bed at home, not being able to sleep when dad had walked into his room. John had pretended to sleep. His dad had pulled the quilt over him and whispered before leaving, “At least fight with me once a while. Home’s become so silent”.

    “John?” Someone called out from the corridor.
    John woke from his vision and looked around. It had been Steve. “What makes you so blue?” Steve asked him. John looked up at him. John felt like his mind was being read so he closed his eyes. Steve had been that friend whom he had written a goodbye to a few months ago. John smiled. “
    “So coming for a ride? I got a new bike.” Said John.
    “As long as you pay for the petrol” said Steve
    “And you pay for the food…” Added John.

    The ride was as always to Steve’s house. It had been a little away from the college. Steve took over the riding. It was a pleasant evening and the path had been enriched with beautiful views. It had always been that rural retreat that John preferred. The open fields were scare crows stood guard for the never ending vicinity, the long roads that seemed to lead nowhere, the clouds up at the sky that promised the calm and the cool, the poor and innocent people riding away in cycle rickshaw’s, people returning home with flocks of animals after a long day’s work, the greenery and how they all blended in with each other. The narrow paths that lead to homes where children played their twilight games and mom’s urged them to come home and wash up before lighting of the Godly lamps. The smell of the soil as rain fell upon the ground…

    “You ok back there?” Steve asked as they were starting to get soaked to the skin in the rain. Reaching home they decided to go for a movie. The theatre had been empty and so was the movie. Steve decided to leave for the interval but John insisted on watching. “Well, I should kill you for sitting for such a stupid movie but I guess the second half was better” said Steve after the movie was done. John smiled wide. They walked towards a temple where the art form, Kathakali was going on. John had always been away from his home country and never knew much about its history and patrimony. Steve explained about how the different people had dressed representing different characters and about the story they depicted. The blur of colours and actions, the heroic and evil depictions, about old kings at war or a hero’s accents to the throne, the endless singing that rhymed with tongue tying twisters and endless wonderful stories, John seemed lost amongst them.
    Dinner had been great. It hadn’t been a huge hotel or a five star. But just a small shed by the side of the road. It had been raining. There was just little light from a kerosene lamp on the table. Steve looked up at John.
    “What?” John asked.
    Steve smiled.
    They finished their food. Shaking hands with Steve, John said, “I guess I better go.”
    ”You take care of yourself ok?”
    “Yeah, you too.” Said John
    “And…” Steve paused.
    “Just learn to take things as they come and lightly too. Okay? You’ll be alright.” Said Steve, thumping him on the back.

    Steve walked off as John started the engine. Looking at Steve in the side view mirror as he walked on, John read the words written there, “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear…”
    “True”, John said to himself as he drove off…

    Days and months went by. Life went on. One morning, John was called to his sir’s staff room. His sir had always supported him through his endeavors.

    “You have a memo from the university. You are to go and produce your readmission order at the University office today itself”.
    “Yes Sir.” John smiled and turned to leave.
    “John?” His sir called him back.

    John entered the staff room again, silent, but his head held high. “How has things been John?” His sir enquired. John pondered. It was past a year now, with his good and bad times with his class. They were his family now. Not everyone could like everyone, yet, they made a great family together. Wiping a tear off his cheek, he remembered, even when his best friend said that she could never consider him even for a friend, because the way he was, was just not right, he knew, it was not in losing out. But in being himself. He realized, “It’s not about not falling down, but standing up again and walking on. It’s about learning from where you lost and about accepting what you are…

    He stood before his sir.
    “John…?”
    “Yes sir, I was year out in my fourth sem… Now I’m back.” said John, smiling.

    -Vijay Velayudhan

  • A Walk to Remember

    Posted on April 25th, 2010 Vijay Velayudhan No comments

    I remember a little path winding past the woods. When I was a little kid,

    mom used to tell me that there was a forest beyond the path and the path

    itself was really dangerous. I imagined that beyond that path were huge

    monsters who ruled the earth, frightful to behold. Being a little child I’d

    manage only to go near to the path, look for anyone coming the way and then

    run. I believed that I would be someone like superman and fight the

    monsters once I grow up… With my head held up high I’d walk on the path and

    fight the monsters down and I’d save the people from them all …

    My desires to fight these monsters grew. Life had its own thrills then.

    Regretting that I had to disobey mum, I walked on to the path. The world

    was beautiful there. The rays of the sun that blessed the leaves still in

    morning dew. The mountains that held the shaded outline against the sky,

    the clouds that promised gentle showers and the breeze that blew as I

    walked along lost in the beauty of nature. I reached a pond where I’d

    washed my face and looked at myself in the clear reflection. Life was so

    pure. I knew mom didn’t know all this beauty ahead. I wouldn’t have seen

    all this if I’d just sat there at home…

    Hours went by and I continued my journey through the beautiful lands and

    the roads that led to nowhere or to unknowing absolute nothingness… I

    didn’t want to go home without fighting those monsters. The sun grew a bit

    hotter now and the gentle warmth I felt on my back was no more that way.

    That was all just a few thousand steps behind. But i was puzzle again. I

    didn’t find a forest but people. I found shops, hotels, cars and busses

    running as if it was the end of the world. People were hurrying through and

    buying things from shops; ladies’ walking around with little one’s like me…

    Some people patted my head gently as they passed. Everyone was so nice… But

    there was something about these people hurrying around. I thought the

    monsters could be on the way. I picked up a little stick from the ground

    braced to

    fight for the people but nothing came… Sad, I walked back home and all

    along the path I thought about the monsters and my dreams to fight them. I

    was mad at mum for telling me all that nonsense. There was no monster, no

    forest… It was all just a lie so that I wouldn’t go anywhere away from

    home…

    When I reached home mum was in tears and I found a lot of people around the

    house. Apparently they had thought I was lost. After a lot of sorry’s and

    hugs mum stopped complaining. I wanted to ask her why she’d lied. But

    something told me I wanted to find out myself… I grew up… There was a day,

    when I had to leave home, mom and dad, friends, everyone. I remember when

    my parents looked at me with unseeing eyes and I walked past the gates of

    the house to the path that I’d taken only once in my life. The path that

    lead to the town with nice people…

    I learned over time to wear faces, to smile when tears were inside me, to

    do things to please the one’s around me for my benefit, to shake hands

    biting down wrath… I learned to be selfish, to forget the one’s we love,

    dissolve both bonds and bounds…

    And somewhere as I lay sick at a corner of home, I looked back. Back at the

    way I’d come, the battles I’d fought… I had everything I needed in life,

    but I didn’t know if I won this battle. The monsters I’d wanted to fight

    were the people around me. I looked at my hands that had been tired of

    fighting for my gains, scarred of sins that would never wash away… My mom

    and dad were with me. But they’d never liked it here, here where we smile

    with bitter hatred, fight to be better than the other, fearless as a lion

    but to kill one’s own brother. Letting go, the feelings of the one’s around

    us, hurting them till they die…

    I went back along the path that I had taken that day. Things were silent

    and the same as it was before. But I couldn’t stomach it. It had lost its

    beauty. Or my eyes had so long been disused that I couldn’t see the

    beauty… I walked faster amazed that it was this far when I was a kid. It

    started to rain as I walked on. Drenched in cold and wet I reached the

    threshold of my house. I could hear my old voices echoing, my mum answering

    to my tantrums, voices of all of us laughing out loud at the jokes we

    shared… This was home… But now it was broken. I wished I’d never left it to

    fight those monsters, those people who are one on the inside and another

    above… For I’d lost that battle and I’d become one of them. I could never

    be myself again. The peace that home gave

    in the thundering rain was momentary. Past the path I was a different man.

    The rain wouldn’t wash away the past and wouldn’t kill the flames that

    burnt inside me. It only made the shadows behind me leap higher…

    My life was almost over. But just a thought over choices I made. Tired and

    numb, standing in the rain, I looked ahead up the path, long from where it

    starts to its narrow bends and down to where it all blurred and

    disappeared…

    Vijay Velayudhan