Deja Vu

And his love flowed like the Indus; quenching his parched desert heart; preventing it from cracking under the harsh tropical sun. A cool north wind caressed him reminding him of the long nights he had spent under the millions of stars in the untamed wilderness of Sicily. He had lost himself in transition. His dreams vaporizing to mist, his thoughts captivated by her beauty and charm. He felt like a child, whose happiness is defined only by his toys – innocent love. She had pulled him out of his quagmire and helplessness, holding his hand as the tide washed the shore trying to pull back the sand to the undefined depths of the ocean – the tactless void of eternity; lost forever in the deep and dark chasms of the unknown. A lull in the breeze broke his thoughts and dropped him off at the present. The futile yet colorful existence which he lived in – the two rooms he called home suddenly surrounded him; strangling him, suffocating him, pulling him down into the misery of his existence. The sweet smell of Shiuli flowers outside his house filled the confines of the room purging his thoughts.
Yet his thoughts strayed to the wilderness and the innocence. He remembered ‘Flute Music’ by Rabindranath Tagore. Yes, it was this poem that defined him best now. But he was not Haripada, the bank clerk; he was Ferdinand Miguel Chatterjee, professor of history at Rabindra Bharti University at Shantiniketan. The sudden stillness of the room broke his dreams. The fan had stopped rotating, the lights had gone out. He looked out through the small window. The moon shone brightly, the wind rustled among the leaves as the city came to a halt. It was another of India’s famous power cuts. The clocked chimed seven times in the other room. It was his grandfather’s. It reminded him of his carefree youth days. The moon shining over the still waters of the Mediterranean; the moonlight shimmering on the surface as if thousands of lamps had been lit up in celebration. The sound of the waves hitting the rocky cliffs and the cool spray of seawater carried by the wind blowing across his face. It came to him as if it was only yesterday. The sound of the generators switching on broke his dreams. He heard the beat of the Madal from the nearby Santhal village. It was time for amusement after a hard day’s work. He had visited these villages often but he always remembered the first time he had visited it. For a boy accustomed to the hills and scrubby wilderness the vibrant red soil and the eucalyptuses filled him with awe. The beat of the Madal increased as all other noises fell muted by its powerful bass. The chanting of the women as they danced to the beat of the Madal roused in him the power that these people had imbibed within themselves over the ages. A sudden urge gripped him. He couldn’t stay in the close confinement another second as the rustic tune picked up rhythm. The sound of the agony and torment these people faced and the red earth reddened by their blood boiled in the sound of the drums. He looked around the room. He would have to leave it fast before desperation overtook him.
But he was tamed, his running days over. He had escaped from the scrub to the vibrant country following his dreams with her by her side. She was inspired and motivated by his love and passion for this economically drained and mentally destroyed country. He was possessed by the spirit of Subhas Chandra Bose, Rashbehari Bose, Nazrul Islam, Rabindranath Tagore and such inspirational and outstanding individuals. He had come over to this country a penniless Sicilian with her to support. She had stood by him as they searched for the power behind these immortal sons of Bengal. Now his journey was nearing the end. She had tamed his wild spirit and his zeal. She had completed his transition. Now at the sound of the Madal the wild Sicilian blood boiled in him again. He looked at the clock. She would not be back before 8:30 as she had classes of her own at the University. They had finally settled here. He does his research and she teaching foreign languages at the University. He took his bicycle and left. The streets looked funny without those powerful irritating lights. He paddled in silence along the bustling road crossing the Kopai River and taking a left turn going along its quiet banks.
The moon shone on the water reflecting hundreds of shimmering bulbs; the quiet gurgling sound of the water breaking the silence intermittently; the trees gently swaying with the wind and the rustling of the dry leaves invigorated him. As he went forward the beatings intensified again. The cycle chain clanked on the uneven road. He had been this way many times visiting the nearby village or just sitting under the trees with her. It reminded him of his past which he had left behind in Sicily – his parents, brother Raul and their three Alsatians. He had written them letters but there had been no reply. He didn’t know how they were. It had been a long time……15 yrs…….it was a really long time. The passing by of another cyclist broke his dreams. He realized that he had stopped. The place seemed familiar. Yes, it was here that he had first asked her to marry him and it was here that they fell in love with the place and themselves once again. He got off his cycle and sat down on the river bank. His thoughts strayed…. Birsa…. Munda….. Rabindranath…… Subhas Chandra…. Satyajit Ray…. all had been here and had fallen in love with the beauty of this place…… SHANTINIKETAN- the abode of peace. Their spirits still haunted these woods. Far off the Madal played on in its haunting voice.
He closed his eyes. Back in Sicily sitting near the beach he felt the same experience. The innocent boy sitting there by the beach late in the night……sitting and getting sprayed by the cool seawater…..enriching himself with the knowledge of far off places and people carried by that hallowed water contemplating on Nazrul he had read from his grandfathers book. A thunderclap and lightning jolted him to the present. It was raining. The smell of wet earth filled his lungs; his eyes caught the beauty as the trees danced to celebrate the blessing of the heavens. The river swelled gently as small rivulets of water filled up and emptied into the river. He turned to go back home shivering as the wind blew through his wet shirt. As he turned he froze in his tracks. There she stood in the rain dripping water, her clothes clinging to her like a parasite. They stood in silence for a moment.
“How did you know I would be here?” he asked gripping her.
“Knowing you it wasn’t hard to guess”, she replied with a warm and powerful smile.
The rain fell around them, on them; cleaning everything. The dust washed off the trees, the earth cleaned of the daily filth and abuse it received. She asked looking into his eyes, “Thinking of Sicily?”
“Yes, it’s been a long time”, he replied staring at the empty road and hugging her, “but my heart is tied here forever.”
“Which pulls strongest?” she asked looking into his eyes which saw the white beaches and the clear blue sea.
“Let’s go back home to the wilderness and civilize it with Nazrul and Tagore”, he replied kissing her.
“Yes. That is India. Its colors know no boundary. There is no limit to its elegance and charm. It is like seducers waiting for you to let down your guard but once you taste it, there’s no letting go. It just wants to be spread…..coloring the world and making it vibrant.”
He picked up his bicycle and they retraced their steps back home to Sicily- the scruffy cut-off from the world, wild and untamed innocence where his heart lay and Tagore, Nazrul, Atul Prasad travelled with them to the new lands lighting it up with joy and color; mixing with the local flavors redefining beauty, grace and teaching them to be civilized.

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