(See version 1 here.
This is a modification after Kavita Bhanot’s workshop on fiction-writing)
Julia labored up the dirt path, thinking, not for the first time, how long the years had been and how much had happened in them. Minute to minute, thunderstorm to typhoon, everything had kept changing. Of course, she admitted, the typhoon in those situations had almost always been her own will. There was so much be lived in one life, after all! She had always enjoyed shaking people out of their complacency, out of their stereotyped ways of thinking. Sometimes people just needed another perspective. Or another person to show it to them.
These last few years she had not felt inclined to play rain-maker any more. Actually, Julia surmised, I suppose I never did like the discomfort it caused, these changes. But one does what one must. And the wheels had been rolling for ages now. How appropriate.
She sighed, a little out of breath. Almost near the top. The sight never failed to move her. An open sky spotted with pinpoint diamond-bright stars. And what was the colour of the sky? Orange? Brown? Black? Blue? An evening coloured sky with sepia undertones, she decided.
The grass was coming up from the ground in little clumps. She sat down with an undignified ‘oof’. Anita would lecture her to doomsday about trampling on moths. What a thought! A moth would be there tomorrow and if not, another would be born. That was the way of life and the world would not end for the loss of one insignificant creature.
Anita was an environmental activist and may well be on her way to politics some day. Save the world, thought Julia, save it from Anita! She grinned to herself and added as an after-thought….they’ve done much to earn someone like her. Talk about a force of nature! Anita could run over a bulldozer. Good thing she had managed to channel that vitality into something that could only bode well. Julia was glad she had revised her original plans for Anita. There were enough of rats in the race, the capitalist world must not profit from yet another Anita. She was well placed caring for the real world.
There had been some trouble with Kenny initially. Julia frowned, thinking that his keen mind and sensitivity would have been well applied in creating something tangible. He would have been a wonderful architect. Or an urban planner perhaps. A perfect complement to his green-minded sister. And Anita needed a safety-valve like her gentle brother.
But Julia had realised that she could no more teach her shy son to turn gregarious any more than she could turn Anita into a dignified lady. Even Anita’s fire could be tamed but it was hard to mould Kenny’s uncomplaining persistance. Kenny was born to make music and teach it to children. Which he did well, gently coaxing out melody from restless, impatient young lungs.
It would have been nice to have him be the leader making sweeping changes to a difficult world. But well, there was always Anita for that. Anita, her brash, opinionated, hard-headed first-born. Quiet, unobstrusive Kenny was adding beauty to a world that his big sister was busy scouring with her acid speeches and protests. They could take care of themselves and the world. Julia was done with changing people’s lives.
Feeling her breath relax back to normal, Julia sank back into the still-moist earth. A trickle of childhood memories seeped into her along with the delicious chill from the ground. Wandering off during games of hide-and-seek. It was fun to hide but she discovered shortly after how much more delightful it was to be the seeker. The trouble was people always wanted to tell you what and who to look for. And eventually they started dropping her from the games that her abrupt rambles would disrupt. Couldn’t have the seeker going off after butterflies instead of her friends. It was annoying and it took a great deal of effort but she learnt to play their games.
Ah, well, time to indulge again, she thought with a faint smile on her lips. And she closed her eyes.
Jacques heaved out another box out of the tiny apartment. What a surprising load of stuff people kept in their houses! Potted plants – not the flowering variety but some sort of mini vegetables…what were they called? Sprouts? Herbs? All of them were being shipped off to that socialite-activist lady who was in the news recently. Something about aerosols and insects and the ozone layer. Whacko sort, he imagined, hoping to God that there was no bomb tucked away in any of the boxes. And then he smiled. Probably just a crazy old lady who collected strange plants the way some old ladies collected cats.
Plenty of books as well, he noted. He’d know, he had packed 8 cartons full of them! And these were going to an university down south. A will beneficiary, he supposed, probably a cherished and much-suffering nephew.
He stepped into the kitchen for a drink of water. Nice view, he thought, though it might seem lonely to someone living alone. Outside on the ledge, he noticed a slim notebook and cursed under his breath. Why did people leave their stuff in such unlikely places? A notebook on the window-ledge indeed! Like he was a bloody maid to pick up after them. Normally there was any amount of sentimental rubbish that people thought they just could not live without but left in all sorts of places. The odd thing was this crazy plant-lady had been fairly immaculate with her possessions.
He sighed and opened the book, wondering if he could just toss it into the trash. Who would notice one single missing notebook?
To go alone from a mountaintop on a twilight summer evening on an untended grassy patch…warm breeze turning just bearable, insects chirping and a distant stream flowing. Stars in a sky not black yet and the moon sliver-like. Incomplete. And then complete.
Suddenly he was interested. There was something about peeping into other people’s lives and watching their silly idiosyncrasies. That was probably why he stuck to this crummy job. Packing people’s stuff and lugging it around may not be the best job in the world but it did allow him to look into other people’s lives without them realising it. He shook himself and read the next page.
Give me an evening
with the stars starting to shine
and an incomplete moon
Let me go with the vision of all that is perfect and complete
As well as the thought of all that still remains to be lived
Life and the universe will go on
I have done my share
May there always be water for every thirsty mouth
And a song for every melodious voice
No more lessons, no more games
No more fanfare, no more pomp
A celebration of one in a crowded world
Let that be my final bow.
Jacques shut the book gently. And then he did something he had never done before. He picked up the tiniest pot with a single baby basil plant in it and put the notebook into his pocket. As he walked out of the empty apartment, he tipped his hat to a lady he had never met.