I looked at my nephew. Not only did I have absolutely no time to look after him, I was so spent after classes he would have to babysit me. I didn’t doubt the two year old wouldn’t, the sweetheart. What ever preconceived notion of masters I’d had, it had all vanished – poof – within the first week here. Back in India, people only applied for masters abroad for a handful of reasons. For me it had been a combination of those – to avoid getting married immediately post bachelors, to get a dose of healthy freedom, to live another story, and to actually truly learn and understand concepts. Oh you visit some online forums you’d see more specific and noble reasons stated, or on towards the other edge, disgusting ones.
It wouldn’t be a lie to state that it was more than what I had bargained for. Thoughts of partying was a spoof I’d idiotically believed before landing up here. Thoughts of having a life and going for long walks, visiting the local library and getting lost between long shelves filled with classics, meeting people from different cultures, and the perfect Hollywood scripted daily life were just that – mere thoughts.
If I hadn’t had my brothers place to crash I’d have been flat broke by now (funny I never did learn proper money management), and if he didn’t feed me food I’d be living on apples for the next two years. And if I didn’t have to babysit this goose my human interaction would be restricted to my thesis guide and a handful of classmates. We tried in class, to talk, you know. But when Emily fell asleep in the middle of a sentence, we all mutually agreed to not try too hard in at least this avenue. Am I exaggerating? Of course I am. Or am I?
Who is John Galt?
Funny isn’t it, how Ayn Rand has more of an impact in my head than say, XYZ of PQR Science field. The way I’ve grown up is .. English and books is pleasure and hobby – Science and Engineering and the lot is serious business – work. No? You don’t get it? Never mind, I don’t understand it half the times either.
Back to my rambling life. So here I was babysitting Tarun while my brother went out on a date with his bike gang. Any other time I’d have thrown a tantrum to go with him, but as I’ve highlighted already, I was way too tired.
“Mu” my nephew said, smiling up at me. Stop snorting, that isn’t my name. He can’t quite get my name. Yet.
“Yes T” , I replied, hugging him close. No kid in my life was so.. Calm. Understanding. Now, for example, here he was in my arms, not moving or crying. I could have crept into deep slumber hugging him so, and he wouldn’t utter a syllable. How damnably lucky was I?
A little distance away:
The leaning bent clock. Half the day I’m straight as the builders deemed fit to build me, the night I bend over. Right now I’m bent into half, writing this. Good exercise for my bum, it is!
Good exercise for my eyes too, seeing everything this way. For sometimes you should try this tool changes a lot in your life. What’s right seems different from here and what’s wrong doesn’t seem half as bad. Mind you, I’m talking about some specifics. I look straight or bend over Rajput the crow is going to look just what he used to be, the thieving crow. But the rest! Well well well!
What am I doing? Why writing another story for my human friend Tarun of course! He should have been here in his pram for a stroll with his pop already. He missed out on yesterday’s story time too. Let’s home papa dearest gets his phone along and takes a few too many calls, else Tarun can never be up to date on matters.
WHERE IS TRUN TRUN (Tarun)
It’s lonely at times to be a stationary clock only having one degree freedom of rotation. Bending over my imaginary hip. But having that cute rascal over helps. He’s doing a marvellous job of editing my stuff too. The other kids seem to be growing too soon, they don’t remember things, and all they care about is acting human. Hmph.
Back at Tarun’s:
In some time, I was up and about. It happens without fail – the more I think about sleep, farther away does it go. I decided I could use some exercise and cold air. Here, I’ve understood the difference between fresh air and cold air. The former is but a phrase, the latter is omnipresent reality.
I bundled my T in four layers of baby clothes, myself in more, checked out of the house baby, pram and self.
“Where to T?” I asked the silent child. It was well past his usual pram-roam time with my brother.
I knew where he’d point to.
The clock tower.
My brother took him there everyday, mostly. The clock visit was a mandate in his life. Since, like I mentioned, he’s a calm and cheerful, a non-tantrum throwing kid, my brother took him to the clock readily. If he missed a day, the next day he spent double the time there, allowing T to smile and make noises to the silent clock. So today we’d be spending double the time there because yesterday my brother had left on a date, ditching poor T and me to Linda, our nanny.
So we started strolling towards the one thing T was adamant about.
As it so happens with adults doing anything like taking a stroll through the cold but pleasant night, pushing the pram became a mechanical activity allowing me to think-dream walk.
I liked it here. Contrary to what I portrayed in my earlier rambles, this was a good decision. Many didn’t understand my choice of continuing my engineering career. It wasn’t my passion, and it never would be, and yet here I was. Even I didn’t exactly understand it, but, I still felt right about it. Sometimes, however, after a hard day like today, there was a need to understand the decision. To remember why I was here, to recapture that reason that decided it all.
“Mu, tutu tutu tutuuuuu” T started yelling. I realised I had gone past the clock,lost in my thoughts.
I felt irritated, however, being awoken from my thoughts.
“Yes Tarun, turning back” I literally yell at the poor thing.
I better watch out or I’d start redefining the word virago.
We went back to the base of the clock.
After a while, bored of my self pondering, I turn to watch my nephew.
He has a goofy smile plastered on his face. He turns to me and points to Tutu, blabbering in baby tongue. Suddenly I wish I understood. I turned to Tutu and said “Tutu, you are making T laugh. Make me laugh too”. To no avail. Tutu didn’t say nothing to me. I didn’t give up. I decided to imitate T. My brother had said he used to stare solemnly at Tutu, initially, when they’d started visiting. I now did the same. For the first time I noticed Tutu was a magnanimous clock with bookshelves. Wait, what?? I peered closely. Maybe the light was playing with my eyes. A bookshelf in a public square, within a clock, at the mercy of all the natural elements?
“Mu” said T. I looked at him. He just gave a reassuring smile. Is it? I asked him mentally. He nodded.
Whoa. Telepathy works? He didn’t bother replying this time.
I looked at Tutu again but the bookshelves were gone. I observed every square inch of him, I don’t think I’ve ever tried describing structures before, and now I know why. It’s because I simply cannot. How does one talk about how a building looks like. It just is. Probably could manage a few adjectives – big, towering, striking, magnanimous. Okay. Maybe I could try a bit harder. The clock wasn’t exactly a clock per se. As in, it wasn’t only a clock. It had stair like impressions on a bark like sturdy structure which was brown in colour. The stair like groves were purple, dark, differently purpled. Now that I think of it it resembled a tree, an ancient tree, only it didn’t have typical tree colours or leaves. There were numerous designs and drawings on the bark like structure. I pushed the pram ahead and went for a closer look. There were charm bracelet like designs, babies, chocolates, more stairs and ladders, stars, the moon, symbols and more designs. The colours in the night hue charmed my irritation away and I picked T up from the pram, and we went about the bark touching them designs. They seemed to awaken at our touch, like touch me not plant leaves.
I must be asleep and dreaming. Well, who cares, really.
We finished one round around our mulberry bush, our Tutu. I stepped back, so me and T could stare upwards.
T suddenly giggled and snuggled into my shoulders. “The damn clock is talking to you isn’t it?” I exclaimed. T nodded in apparent delight and giggled again. Not fair! I want in too!
My eyes roamed about Tutu, going from one step to the next, from daily symbols to unfathomable designs, to sudden changes in colour and aura. On and on till it reached the white face of the clock.
I assumed it to be the part talking to T and said “Not fair. I want to be spoken to by a clock too. I’m a kid too. Just because I’m all grown up don’t mean I don’t want to be part of your story!”
I was now vehemently saying unintelligent things to a non living thing in the presence of my calm nephew and thankfully, when no other human being was in sight.
“Mu” whispered T, holding my chin and turning my face towards the clock’s eyes.
Yes the damn thing now had eyes too.
They were the most ancient and kind eyes I’d ever seen, filled with naughtiness and heart. As I looked I grew mesmerised and just for that episode I felt like I’d lived a thousand lives and had been with this very same clock through lives.
“The clock speaksss” I whispered to T, astonished.
He giggled. Oh the monkey, of course he already knew that.
I gave him a fond peck and looked at the clock’s white, searching for the mouth that spoke.
“Ah. I have a voice but didn’t feel the need for a mouth”, it said.
“I’m a he. Not an it” I was promptly corrected.
“Hi Tutu” I answered meekly.
” You seem flustered. For no apparent reason” said Tutu.
I’m having a conversation with a clock. Of course I’m flustered.
“UMM” I reply.
“Your world ia kind of cluttered up. Everyone so productive and busy and working for their ideals. Maybe you’d feel better if you listen to a fable. I was just telling T my hundredth story. He’s a wonderful listener is he not?” Asked Tutu.
I ruffle my nephew’s hair lovingly.
“He has heard ninety nine stories. I took a pledge to write one a day, about ninety days ago. My best friend died you see. He was Rajput the thieving crow. More than thieving however, he used to talk through his nose. So it only fits to write fantasy and fiction in his memory, right?”
I nod, tears already gathered in my eyes.
And then me and T listeneded to Tutu.
The funny thing was, as he spoke about golden stairways and pixie dust and exams and children and flying.. I had a funny feeling that I’d been through it.
I think I felt as if I climbed up those purple steps on Tutu’s body and went right up to the white of his face and opened the door.
The door that lead to the paradise in his words.
And T had had this for ninety days. Wow.
Other short stories in chatterboxerr can be found at https://www.chatterboxerr.wordpress.com/short-stories