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Durlabh Singh

 

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ALCHEMIST.
 
 
The night has been oppressive and Sharat has been dreaming- feverish dreams. He has been dreaming
of alchemical ingredients. Mercury has been taking horrendous shapes and these shapes have been
attacking him fiercely but whenever he took courage and tried to grab these shapes as a matter of defiance,
 they just melted into his hands & then took even fiercer shapes.
 
Mercury became a shining naked sword which plunged through the air , aiming straight at his heart. He woke up in a scream, the perspiration bathing his whole body in hot sweat.
 
Pale morning light was peeping through the chinks of his door & trying to dispel the darkness within
the room. He wanted to find some relief from his ordeals of night and decided to get up.
 
He went out. Against the soft blue skies , tufts of cotton wool clouds were chasing each other in a
playful mood. Skylarks were doing an energetic morning dance with zigzagging movements.
A cool breeze touched his feverish face & Sharat let out a sigh.
 
 Since long his ambition has been to become an alchemist. This weird ambition could not be traced
back to the reveries of his childhood as no one in his family was ever familiar with the notion of alchemy.
 
He went from village trying to find a teacher . It was not easy an easy matter as the science of alchemy was vouched in a secret language of Sandhya Bhasya or the twilight language. A teacher will not disclose his
knowledge until he tested the pupil to the limits of his suitability , through hard & degrading trials. He spent considerable amount of time, travel and money to search for such a teacher.
 
In the end , with someone’s help he found such a teacher and for number of years carried out laborious learning exercises as the first steps in the acquiring the secret knowledge of the coded language.
 
 Suddenly a wave of despair came over him and the universe dissolved into a fog . A coldness entered his soul and slowly crept into all the corners of his brain. A suffocating breath began to choke him turning him
into a sort of a standing stone amidst an indifferent landscape. Slowly this rock began to enlarge till it filled the whole universe. A huge rock- uniform , dark without an edge and he realized that there was no escape. The whole universe became a massive stone which aimed to crush his mind and body.
 
 He felt dizzy and fell to the ground but slowly picked himself up and took the road to the river which flowed outside the boundaries of his village. He was unconscious of his surroundings. He paid no attention to the cows grazing in the fields or to the chattering monkeys jumping overhead in the canopies of trees.
 
Eventually he reached the river and stood on its banks. The muddy river invited him to come in. Vapours of
moisture arose , hit his face , hit the rock within his brain. He just wanted to remove that crushing burden.. He will end his existence and may be the existence of the damned rock within his brain. He stepped into the river.
 
The water came over his feet , to his knees , to his neck. His eyes could see the murky darkness within the river. Water forced its way into his nostrils and bubbles of his breath escaped drawing out his life force. The water entered his brain crushing the rock into dark coolness. It was soothing , a nice oblivion to die.
 
Through misty eyes he saw that he was lying on the bank of the river with wet sand plastered all over his
face. A strong hand was pressing his back and then there were few loud thumps and he vomited a lot of water. ‘Spit it out you foolish man’ – a strong female voice instructed him. He tried to turn up but the hand
was too strong for him and he surrendered to its force.
 
He vomited again. The sun was strong and he felt empty. He turned on his back and looked up. A tall woman in green sari was bending over him and cursing him for his foolish ways of trying to kill himself.
He felt like a stupid infant being instructed by teacher in classroom. He was just a coward to end his
life in such a way.
 
The woman picked him up and put him over her shoulders, with his head dangling over her back. All the time he was coughing and spitting water and phlegm. After about ten minutes walk , she entered a small
cottage and then a room which was in total darkness. He was dumped on a cot. Exhausted he fell asleep.
 
 It was evening when he awoke. The last rays of the sun were trying to paint the room with orange red colours. The sky was ablaze with the rage of the dying day.
 
Through the corner of his eyes he saw the woman cooking something. A copper vessel was gargling above
the fire and she was dropping some herbs into it .A pleasant smell arose. His encroaching loneliness was pushed back momentary by the presence of another human being . He began to shiver in his wet clothes.
 
The woman noticed his shivering and began to take off his wet clothes. He protested but to no avail. She
wiped his body with a piece of rough cloth and then vigorously messaged his feet , his palm and then his whole body. A little warmth began to run through his body. She covered him with a blanket.
 
Warm herbal broth was brought to him with few pieces of bread which he ate and enjoyed. All that kindness was new to him and so overwhelming and he began to cry. He extended his arm to touch the woman and pulled her gently towards him.
 
The woman lay beside him and enclosed him within her warm strong arms. He felt a hunger for even a closer contact and began to kiss her hands , her face and then his legs entwined her. He felt at peace and surrendered himself to sleep and warmth.
 
Another morning arrived. He looked around and there was no sign of the woman. He conjectured she must have gone to work. He had noticed her tools of trade. She was a stone breaker doing a hard dusty job. Suddenly he wanted to escape as he felt disgusted with himself . He has slept with a woman below his caste.
 
But that was ridiculous , she was the only person that has shown any kind of concern for him, perhaps closer to love .She had saved a total stranger from jaws of death. Anyway who was he to judge people like that? He was a man who could not even manage his own life.
 
Suddenly he felt that he did not belonged to any caste or creed anymore. He was just an outsider. A wretched man without a name , without a caste ; rejected by the world , and even by death. He felt that has lost an infinite world. He will go out and loose himself into the vastness of India , Unnamed and unknown.
 
 
 
 
 
 Copyright © 2006 Durlabh Singh.
 
 
 

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A   GHOST STORY.

 

 

 

My nostrils get assailed often by a pungent smell, like that of death and decay and yet I do not know whether it is due to my state of mind , which helps to produce these effects or perhaps this advent of smell is from some outside sources.

 

 Sometime I wish that a gust of fresh breeze will blow through eastern windows of the castle and blow away all the stench out of the western windows. That freshness will help to concentrate my mind better, on my predicaments and struggles.

 

I know that this does not behove a ghost to think like that about such things , as matters like these are supposed to be the concerns of living only but who knows what is living and what is being dead ? As a matter of fact I should not think about such things, as myself who after all does not exist and thus should guard against such blasphemies against ways of nature.

 

This castle used be inhabited by great deal of people but now only an occasional visitor comes just to examine the state of castle, usually at dusk. Once the lady with a lamp came in to examine it and you know what happened? She came face to face with me but did not notice me except by a muted shiver which ran down her spine. She passed right through me and alas my effort to blow out her lamp was not successful.

 

 The old castle still stands in its ruinous glory and it is my only habitat at present. Once I used to be lord of this castle when I was alive in flesh and blood as they say. I was conspired against and murdered in cold blood while sleeping one night. It was a crowing glory for the conspirators but it was heartbreak and a disaster for me. I was full of rage and revenge at first but with the passing of time the grudge against my conspirators had diminished and I do not worry about it at all now. You see time can be a healer.

 

I was appalled at the ignorance of people around me. They were dull lazy and were only seeking and getting satisfied with physical creature comforts. Mouthfuls of food and drinks were sufficient for them to ward off all the grim realities of living. Deprived of life of any creative urges , they were incapable of find any newness in living. Food chewing mouths and overblown bellies were their ideal state, ie for well-being.

 

  In time they became jealous of me and my ideas and what does a simple foolish man do

as to counteract his inferiority, he just simple destroys the object which has  caused all this agony and trauma. In order to show their intellectual prowess, they used to throng to all the shows put out by the established entertainers and whose presentations were as dumb intellectually as of their followers.

 

By associating with the fashions in vogue and with the popular culture, a naive person feels refined and sophisticated as to find himself attuned to the latest whims in mediocre arts, interior decorations or all such fads.

 

In order to distance myself from this mass mediocrity and suffocation, I became interested in books and began to furnish my shelves with the outstanding books

on literature and philosophy. True even the great books contain lot of trivia among its pages but one or two pages or sentences are sufficient to lift these out of ordinary.

 

 As the years passed I began to spend greater and greater time midst my library and this knowledge began to open new pathways into my soul .Sometime I spent whole evening and nights studying. I neglected my affairs, my finances went to pieces and with it all the managements associated with the castle. I wanted to find something significant and true in my life.

 

Thus by exerting my independence, I created host of enemies among my associates whose finances were also tied to the castle estates. The loss of money and prestige was enough to group together and to plot against me.

 

 My faithful servants warned me about this but I could not be bothered by these trivias and in the end paid the price by being stabbed in my bed under the cloak of darkness.

 

 

I wanted my revenge then but with passing of time found it not the worth of any effort.

 My enemies were just names in a sea of identical humanity. These simple, naïve people without any spark of intellect or emotional brilliance were just the common lot of the day. Anybody of different persuasion or of life style was inimical to their minute perceptions.

 

 

2.

 

 

Perhaps it is years or may be a century since my murder took place. It is hard to comprehend as time does not exist as such in my world. I do not count in months and years.

 

When I was freshly dead, I used to frighten people with my tricks and angry howls . Even few people did feel the presence of a ghost among them and gradually abandoned the castle one by one and now I have the whole place to myself .At last I am its only resident ghost whatever it may be.

 

Things get bored by just walking the corridors and in order to create some adventure and novelty , I try to climb to the roof by squeezing myself through the chimneys with its dark soot ridden passages so as to witness grand panorama of the surrounding countryside from the roof top.

 

Sometime I even try to climb the trees in usual way via trunks in order to experience physical sensations of my bygone days.

 

 To keep my mind active, at dusk I walk around the courtyards and when I get bored, I find a niche underneath the stairs to sleep till the cool of the morning. Often I hear thuds and footsteps over the stairs but I reckon it is the sound of my own footsteps reverberating from the distant past when I was alive in flesh and blood.

 

I have no sense of past or future and do not hope for such in the future. I just exist in the stillness of days and nights forgetting time and its passing.

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright©  2006. Durlabh Singh

 


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