The toil of Sisyphus

He climbed out of his makeshift bed, and with great difficulty rubbed his sleepy yet painful eyes. This was a routine he was more or less accustomed to. The thought of providing a cemented roof for his 5 year old and psychological security to his loving wife motivated his hands to splash cold water on his unrelenting eyes. It was 4 AM and he didn’t have the luxury of a relaxed morning routine to board the first bus to work. Hurriedly completing his morning drill, he steps out of his quarters only to find that the infamous desert winter had set in already. He covered his face with the tattered shawl, the only one which he could afford from his meager means of livelihood. Realizing that he was late by 5 minutes, he begins to jog to the bus stop which at 4.20 AM is a symbol of man’s steely will against the odds. Men and women, wearing shawls, torn pullovers and sweaters with gaping holes fighting everyday obstacles to work. Each had a story which revolved around debt, lack of education or escape from native tyranny. Fighting the winter chill, people board the first bus to the work site which is over-crowded almost as a rule than an exception. The hour long journey gives some of them an opportunity to catch up on lost sleep provided they could bear the cold winds blowing on their faces through the broken windows of the ride. Once they reach the destination, the migrant workers are welcomed with hot tea and bun which doubles up as the brunch for the day. Then begins the arduous part, lifting bricks, wood, cement and steel. Each worker is expected to put in 12 hours straight, often working against environmental and physiological impediments. The shift ends at the strike of electric horn which is made pleasant only because of what it implies – the end of the toil. Not long after the shift, the same bus arrives to carry the workers back to the city bus stop. He gets off the bus, wiping sweat from his brows. With almost a natural action he strides to the Indian tea stall at the end of the road. The hot tea was almost a constant companion through his journey in the alien land. Tea represented the experience of the peaceful scenes back home in his quiet village. He soothes his nerves with the cuppa and heads straight to his quarters. After a quick bath and a plain meal, he dropped into his makeshift bed. Happy and content that his month’s salary would contribute to the walls of his house in progress back home. This is the brief insight into the life of Sisyphus from Ramnad.

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Faltering and falling into infinity

The evening prayer call floated through the starry sky and gently filled up the East park. She was sitting on one of her favorite benches right opposite to the central fountains observing the scenes around her. A family of four had just entered the park, and the youngest of the lot jumped into the grass lawns while teasing her elder brother to join her. Maybe it was the way in which she gestured to him that she was reminded of similar scenes on the beach back home. Her mother used to tell how she tugged her dad’s khakhi trousers in an effort to make it all “sandy”. She could faintly remember how she used all the might of her little fingers to clutch the crease of his pants while he carefully guarded the little one from getting hurt. A rush of emotions filled her head and she had to focus on the fountain to regain her balance. It was all ironical to her – the whole process of life. The more she held on to thoughts, people, places and love the more it eluded her grip slipping away into the far corners of the universe. The elder brother lifted the little one up and trudged far away from their parents. Then she began to ponder on the whims and wishes of her own which seemed to pull her away in different directions. Yet, she clutched on to each one of them in the hope of making peace and showing her affection. Far from it, she was affected by serious bruises and some unrelenting scars that are a constant reminder to her futile plans of clutching and wailing. At this exact moment, she could spot the little one escaping her brother’s clutches and her parents’ frantic bid to return to them. The cute one in pink frock, who a while back was uncomfortably wrapped in her brothers arms now broke free and ran to the central fountain. First in slow paces, and then picking up speed as the cool splash of the fountain neared. Her feet began to grow restless, and the next thing she could feel was the cool air blowing across her face as she dashed towards the fountain. In the sense, it didn’t seem like running away from people, their plans and egoistic battles but running towards the only constant trickle of the fountain at the center. As she sprinted across the lawns, she could almost hear her own folks cautioning her about the stumbles which lay ahead. But this time, the little girl on the beach had let go of everything and running to the waves – the symbol of constant cycles in her life. She was free.

An evening by the stream

As he walked on the stone pathway, he could feel a sense of anticipation and nervousness combined. It gave a very weird feeling and he wasn’t sure if there was an apt word to describe it. Poets have tried, and so have playwrights but they have been able to vaguely describe this feeling as “love”. Maybe, the smiling saint of Assisi described it better, he thought. Again, he wasn’t sure if all the saints felt this way. The slow gurgles and swishes of the stream flowing nearby brought him back to the present. Rather, he was always in the present which made it all the more beautiful. Her face. He could witness every feeling of exhilaration and joy contained in that lovely index of her heart. He could feel her presence in him all the while, but when he met her in person it was a different world altogether. Her face made him realize that it was possible for the sheer brilliance of the universe to be emanating from one source. Her. He pulled her close to verify the truth of his intuition. And Voila, he could see the whole expanse of space and galaxies, feel the presence of a million nay, a billion souls. As the eyes locked, words stopped and so did interpretations and expectations. There was no thought. Only feeling. When the two embraced it was difficult not to feel the overwhelming sense of peace and oneness that prevailed. It was almost as tangible as the sweet fragrance of dewy rose petals on a misty morning. For thousands of years, poets and playwrights have tried in vain to describe this love. Indeed, it is the fool who discusses and relates while the lover dies and only love prevails.