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Creations of Life

Her  glass bangles clinked as she furiously pulled the needle through the intricate maze of thread-work spread out in her lap. Each tug on the thread wove out the pattern that she knew in her head without even looking at the cloth . It was supposed to be done by tomorrow when the lady from the NGO would come and inspect her work- all to be packed and taken away and finally become a kurta to be worn by someone far away. Outside the wind had given way to rain ,the dark clouds rolled and as the sounds of thunder in the distance made their way into the room her hands moved faster, the clinking of her bangles getting louder and angrier as if they could sense her own impatience at the clouds. The impending storm meant it would be darker soon- taking away nearly an hour from her work. A final knot and she held out the thread between her fingers her biting into it to snap it away from the cloth. Holding up the needle to the fading evening light from the window she squinted trying to push the red thread through the eye. Just a final row more and the design would be done. This time maybe a new pair  of shoes for her little boy. She called out to him as the needle pierced the cloth once more, creating another pattern.

He peered up into the sky under the neem trees swathed in the evening breeze. Grey clouds rolled across the skies glaring and thundering at the world below. In the distance the boys from the other school raced across the ground chasing the yellow and grey football ,kicking in fury their tee-shirts soaked with sweat and clinging to their chests ,screaming and calling out names as the ball streaked across the ground. He watched quietly occasionally glancing at the window of the room they lived in for he knew his mother would call soon. In a few minutes little droplets of rain slowly made their way into the dry earth disappearing near his bare feet. He looked up into the skies hopefully as the drops grew larger a couple falling sharply onto his cheeks. An enormous roll of thunder heralded the downpour he had been waiting for and the screams of the boys got drowned out as the rain beat down onto everything in sight. A tiny rivulet of water poured from a branch of the neem collecting into a puddle beneath the tree. He inhaled deeply the smell of the wet leaves and the wet earth and pulled out an old sheet of newspaper from his frayed shirt pocket. In the distance he could hear his mother calling her voice nearly drowned over the rain and thunder. Slowly he squatted spreading out the sheet and folding it into half and then again- his fingers quick and sure. Raindrops soaked his head and feet as he bent over the piece of paper he was folding taking care that it remained dry. His tiny eight year old fingers had been waiting all year for this. As the puddle near his feet grew larger he held his tiny paper boat between his fingers holding it from the tip as if it were made of glass. Once more he looked up and as if they knew what he wanted the clouds magically halted, the drops were now not so sharp and the rain had now reduced back to a drizzle . He placed his newly created boat into the puddle and watched as it bobbed slowly. His mother called again and this time he answered his eyes fixed on his boat as it rocked in the tiny puddle. In the distance the street-lights came on casting a golden glow on the slowly pattering rain drops. He looked up -the old man across the street was at his window looking at him. He waved and smiled as the boat he had created quivered in the breeze

The old man could barely hear. Often the postman would bang at his door and leave because he would not hear. He liked watching the boys as they played in the distance. They reminded him of his grandson. Today he stood by the window as the raindrops streaked down the panes. He watched the little boy under the tree folding his little piece of paper and setting it to sail in the puddle. The rains reminded him of his wife-she loved the rain. She would rush towards the stove and make them both a cup of tea. Warm, milky, sweet with the sharp taste of ginger in it. They would both sit and drink it while watching the raindrops. His wrinkled hands quivered as he silently wiped a tear at the edge of his eye . He missed her even more today,his throat ached and he yearned for her special tea. He closed his eyes as he leaned back into the chair trying to recall how she made it.Then slowly he got up holding onto the stick by his chair his feet unsteady- with pain and age. He shuffled up to the kitchen and poured out a cup of water into the pan. With slow and measured steps he reached out for the dry and old little bit of ginger that was lying in the  kitchen basket. As the water bubbled on the stove he stirred in the ginger bits trying to recall the way his wife would. “You don’t be around here- go sit outside”, she would say if he ever tried to help in the kitchen. The water in the pan bubbled and sizzled and he slowly measured out the tea leaves into it. Drops of milk spilt on to the kitchen counter as his hands shook while pouring it into the pan. He caught the pan with an old and dirty rag pouring the brown warm liquid into the chipped cup spilling a little outside. Slowly he made his way back to his chair, cup in one hand and his stick in the other. Then he sank back into his chair inhaling the tea and rain .  Slowly he sipped .Her tea-and he had tried to recreate that feeling today.

The rain had stopped now. The wet paper boat floated in the puddle being tossed every now and then by the breeze.

For WordPress Daily Prompt: The Prompt for today is Create

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Grey, Sepia and Solitude

I have an inexplicable fascination for sepia- for the old  and worn out , faded photographs, for stories that permeate into the grain of discoloured paper. As the SUV halted outside the gate of the antiquated stone fort on a bright summer afternoon  I glanced up and knew- this was my sepia moment in the mountains.  A kaleidoscope of colour all around – crisp ,bright blue skies with fluffy white clouds the reminder of rain the previous afternoon, a landscape dotted with  enchanting shades of hazy purple –blue jacaranda flowers on the banks of the Banganga , crystal clear waters gurgling across smooth grey and white rock, vibrant green pine and deodar on the  hill side , the mighty snow clad Dhauladhar peaks in the distance and   the  steely grey solidity of a  stone fort that overlooked the colour and the buzz all around with a stately demeanour –after all it  had withstood generations of conquerors and the ravage of time.

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The sun was harsh and afternoons in hill stations are not meant for trudging up slopes of cobbled stone and breathing in stories of antiquity. But the minute I stepped out of the SUV and stood outside the Kangra fort gate, I knew this was my moment of complete bliss. Above me the fort stood damaged by the earthquake in 1905, invaders and time yet holding its own blissfully aware of the epithet attached to it-“whoever conquers the fort will rule the hills”.

Pariah kites flew in lazy abandon encircling the fort, surveying the ruins that lay below. Splotches of colour here and there dotting the quiet imposing sedate grey – an information board here, a newly planted bougenvellia bush in rampant bloom there.

I stood there atop the fort, trying to catch my breath post the climb and trying to take in the mystique of the structure timeless and eternal. Grey-brown stone columns standing tall , the remains of a temple,  carvings on the wall, ghostly silhouette of a peepal tree that knew more stories than the historical narrative could retell. It stood there wise and majestic its leaves gently whispering in the breeze casting patterns on the stones.

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Forts and ruins have their own stories ones that I prefer to breathe in on my own, with no guide or informer.  The Kangra Fort is not just one of the oldest forts packed with history , mythology and stories. Standing there looking through the ramparts nearly swallowing a heartbeat and soaking in the history  I was mesmerised nearly willing time to stand still ,not wanting to go back to buzz and rush of the city and work back home. The fort overlooks the confluence of the Banganga and the Majhi rivers and the windows present a visual delight of the rivers and the valley carved through. I have a penchant for clinging to old stories and each of the walls , corners and doors seemed to have a repertoire of endless stories of mystic and lore imprinted on them.

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Silence permeated the broken bits of architecture yet the stone walls wove their magic over me. Perhaps it was the solitude, the exhilaration of having explored something so mesmerising all by myself. Perhaps it was the dull thought in my head that maybe some of my ancestors walked these cobbled stones before me. The fort held a quiet, un-settling ,elusive  quality that I could not put my finger on.

 

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Maybe some magic still lives in these walls.