It was raining humans. The dull grey skies had joined them in the mourning. An old lady masquerading as a distant relative (whom nobody recognised), but who often surfaced next to bodies at funerals (a funeral junkie? A latent necrophiliac?) put cologne on a wad of cotton wool and with a devout and gently challenging air, dabbed it on his forehead. He smelled of cologne and coffin wood.
The graveyard poured with people from different walks of life. Advocates, nuns, surgeons, administrators, caretakers from the centre; all who knew him but failed to appreciate his ways. Black coats with equally black umbrellas flooded the burial ritual. The monochromatic umbrellas formed a dark canopy as people gathered to say their final prayers. Few had prayed to him earlier as well while few others had threatened him to abandon the cause he was fighting for.
His cause was causing systems to overturn like dead earth upturned for a fresh lease of air. Musty odour emanated from the age-old system and belief. Cobwebs as large as fishing nets, trapped people in their vicious prejudice. With one colourful umbrella, he had opened several gates of monotony. This umbrella was his companion of rain and shine, of support and style. Yes, he had a remarkable style! Otherwise which man roams around the town with a rainbow coloured umbrella!?
The colours raised questions about his masculinity. Men loathed him for this choice while women giggled at his identity. To raise eyebrows and prove otherwise, he never had a female companion to call him his man, except ME!
Yes, he was my man! Whatever the world said or faked, we were a happy couple. His love for me was purely platonic. Long ago, he had taken me under this very umbrella when I could barely appreciate its colours. Today, that I see the red, blue, yellow on the umbrella, my life is grey without his presence.
That smile on his face said, ‘I’m not gone, Jina. I’m in your pretty little eyes. Just close them you will see me again.’
I just couldn’t open my eyes. What if he fell with a careless tear!?
With the umbrella close to my chest, I shut his image in my eyes. People believed the surgery was hurting me. They were free to believe so or anything they wanted to.
The umbrella against my pounding heart soothed and steadied its rhythm. Like he was caressing my hot forehead, saying, ‘You are too hot to handle!’ Where the cologne sponge failed to lower the temperature, his humour did wonders.
Was he awake for his funeral? For nothing gave him a deep sleep. He was perennially wide awake, fiercely vigilant and brittle with exhaustion from his battle with Real Life. It must be so easy for him to see the clear sky with criss-cross patterns of an aeroplane trail. Lying in the coffin, he could easily see which precarious raindrop the leaf would shed on him. Very easily he could juggle it like the way he juggled his football and instead of a goal made it land in an overflowing dustbin. There he found the goal and purpose of his life. A baby not more than a day old, with the umbilical cord still oozing maternal stench, attracted him.
How? Where? What? Such questions failed to bother him and the girl was picked by him to be raised for life.
‘Son, you can’t keep this suckling at home. She needs more than care and attention.’ A well-wisher had advised him.
Something in him had moved the cheese and he very meticulously boiled milk and water for the little angel. On occasions, the milk curdled and he could not cuddle her to sleep. Few incessant knocks on his door distanced the sleep further.
‘Take her to an orphanage. The court will punish you for keeping her behind closed doors.’ Neighbours coerced him into pushing open the rusted gates of Mother Mary Orphanage.
‘Where was the child found?
Who kept it there?
What was her condition?
Are you not the illegitimate father?’
Questions, with tails of accusations grew larger than dinosaurs with days to come. How he wished was the father legitimate or illegitimate was never the question. Alas! He could never be her father, though she always considered him to be one.
Fingerprint testing, DNA fingerprinting, and many such tests increased the magnanimity of his testing times. Finally, he was proved to have no hand in the birth of this child and the child found shelter in the shelter home. But his turmoil was orphaned, on the street with maggots infecting the open wound. There was a goal and purpose in now adopting the girl he had found like Christ wrapped in the murk. His paternal instincts knocked the doors of courts and various judicial bodies. It rained criticism on him.
‘Single men can’t adopt girls.’
He was tormented by the blindfold lady who could never weigh a balanced judgement. The legal battle continued with him challenging the Juvenile Justice Act of 2000. The girl as if meant to be a part of his destiny struggled with a retinal disorder. Both struggled to see the light at the end of the long, tumultuous tunnel.
At one end, he fought verbal and written wars with the judiciary, while the other he played lego and ludo with her at the orphanage. She sat long hours at the frail window to hear the creaking of the iron gate and smell the fragrance of his aftershave wafting through thin air. She knew he was here. And then would begin the mock quarrel with his blur figure. Sometimes she felt he purposefully brought his cheek to her tightened fist so that she could punch hard on his face and not curse her growing blindness for missing the target. In a way, he had brought his whole life to a standstill to see hers growing.
She was the star of the orphanage for what came for her, came for others too. But her doll with a little more glitter, her car with a little more flashy lights and her books with little more pages! She was much, much more than what he could have asked from life.
He an abandoned child had discovered legitimate joy, innocent love and unconditional trust.
‘Friend, show her more colours.’ The therapist who was working on building strength in her retina had suggested. And then one day waiting at the window, she had seen a large blanket of diffused colours walk in through the iron gate.
‘Darling, see the myriad colours life has to offer.’ With this, he had swirled the open umbrella and danced like a joker to entertain her. These colours stayed with them until today.
‘Jina, Rody’s favourite umbrella needs to go with him.’ The sobbing, cologne applying aunty now controlled suggested me.
‘I, too, was his favourite lay me in the coffin.’ I just couldn’t let go of his umbrella and if I could have it my way, not him, too. What use was this eyesight of when I could no more see my man smiling at me?
‘Rody, my soul mate, my now heavenly father, come back. I wait for you at the window. You push open the orphanage gate much to the nuns’ dismay. They would be after your life if it came crumbling down. I know you pushed it to make an unusual noise of your arrival. So, a blind girl who all day fumed at the window could now break into peals of laughter. The fragrance of your after-shave, the stubble on your face and the sound of your mirthful laughter was her real light. By donating your retinas to this blind girl and not giving her your name, you gave your entire life to a wastrel who was never wanted in this world. Do You think you were great? Extraordinary? Then listen Mr. Rody De’costa, you were nothing… nothing that this would produce again. These advocates who call themselves the guardians of law, and these surgeons who call themselves the messiahs of God, will never see a man emptying his pockets for a pocketful of buoyancy. Yes, single men can’t adopt a girl child.
For his desires are running amok like a loose tap with no bucket to collect the wildness and force. Yehh… but married men you see are Godmen you have fixed vaults to empty the treasures of their longings. A single man can never be a father. He is always the imposter.
Rest in peace, my beloved imposter. Take this umbrella if that is what makes you happy!’
I end my tirade at the church. I’m tired of watching the rain, drench people in its mourning. I’m tired of those monochromatic umbrellas. The iron gate and window at the orphanage beckoned me. I had to push them open.
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