Crimson, yellow, magenta splashed across the palette of the evening sky. The shimmering beams of the sun camouflaged on cement architecture. The chirping of the birds flying back to their safe abode permeated the swaggering zephyr. A peaceful ambience dispersed across the land.
Vicky gazed out of the grilled window, holding its bars, rubbing his nose unto them.
‘Wow!’ he gawked at the sight of a murmuration of birds. The whirling, ever-changing pattern of the swarm caught his attention. For a moment, he let the pain slip his memory. And the magical swirls sowed a pinch of peace and freedom in his heart.
“Vicky baba, dinner is ready,” Kareem Chacha entered the room with a tray.
He was dragged back into the present, “Keep it on the table.”
“Food tastes good when it is hot,” Kareem Chacha picked a morsel and held it closer to Vicky’s mouth.
“Stop it, Chacha,” he roared, “Keep the tray on the table and leave me alone.”
Disappointed, Kareem Chacha walked to the door, “It’s been a year. Learn to move on. This old man won’t be by your side all along,” and he slammed the door shut as he left.
‘No one does, Chacha. It’s only a long wait to the final destination,’ Vicky sneered.
Days ran into months, but the emptiness in the house and his heart prevailed. The numbing silence monstrously engulfed the life and glee out of the surrounding.
Vicky sat by the window staring at the mansion’s iron gates every day. Occasionally, he would pick up his mother’s diary and read a verse or two.
He gently caressed the pages and took a deep breath to inhale the smell of the book. It didn’t smell of worn-out wood, but of the fragrance that he yearned for – his mother.
‘Caged, I am, in my thoughts.’ Somewhere in between the pages, he read and shoved the book hastily inside a drawer. The blankets seemed a better place of solace to him, and he dunked his head under the pillow.
“Window, umbrella, gate. Caged in my thoughts. Please take me along, Maa. I beg you,” Vicky wailed and howled aloud, holding his parents’ feet but with his eyes shut.
“Vicky baba, what happened? Wake up,” Kareem Chacha held Vicky’s trembling frame.
Vicky woke up startled and teary-eyed.
“Every day, you have nightmares. When will you start leading a normal life?”
“Normal life? I don’t deserve a life, Chacha. I don’t deserve to live,” Vicky fell on his arms, sobbing, reminiscing the gruesome day that changed the course of his life.
On a midsummer evening, twelve-year-old Vicky coaxed his parents to take him on a short trip to the lakeside.
Vicky was the only son of Kumar and Kavita. Kumar was a self-made millionaire and pampered Vicky dearly.
“You are spoiling him, Kumar. He will grow up to be a manipulative opportunist,” Kavita would retort.
“Stop using these fancy words on our son. He will be just fine,” Kumar would shun her premonitions.
“Papa, I want to see the sunset by the lakeside. And the fireflies on the bushes,” Vicky dragged his father to the car.
“What is it that you are holding in your hands?”
“Oh, this?” Vicky opened the tiny rainbow-striped umbrella, “I will place flowers in it and see if fireflies come and sit on them. Then I will close the umbrella and collect a few in my glass bottle,” Vicky’s eyes twinkled.
“Foolish idea,” Kavita retorted, “How will…”
“Let him be. Let him experiment and learn on his own,” Kumar ignited the car engine.
The lake was an hour’s drive away from their town. The journey towards the lake was serene. Golden dry fields glowed on either side of the road. Vicky pulled his umbrella outside the window and held it open.
“What are you doing? Either the umbrella will fly away, or you will hurt yourself,” Kavita frowned.
“Maa, look how it swells in the wind.”
“Stop acting childish, Vicky. Your father won’t be able to see the rare view mirror. Kumar, You always encourage him to do whatever he wants. Can’t you hear the horn of the vehicle behind us?”
Kumar flew his hands in the air to gesture a disagreement. But before he placed them back on the steering wheel, they heard a loud thud. In no minute, their car was dragged along. It glided into the fields uncontrollably, finally colliding with a worn-out iron gate of a farmhouse.
“Maa, Papa, wake up,” Vicky shouted in pain.
Kavita opened her eyes between her red eyelids. Gasping for breath, she tried to open the jammed car doors. The smell of gas startled her. She told Vicky to jump out of the window and get help.
“No, Maa. I can’t leave you alone in this state,” Vicky cried.
“Please listen to me,” Kavita pushed him out.
Vicky tried to crawl out, but the car exploded, and he was thrown meters away.
The burning car at the gate and the colourful umbrella lying at a distance were the last memories he had of his parents.
“Vicky baba, please listen to me. Let’s go out, come and sit in the garden.”
Vicky nodded his head and signalled at the crutches by his bedside.
“Baba, the doctor is positive that you will be able to walk again like a normal person, only if you try.”
The accident had left him severely injured, crushing his limbs. The road to recuperation was extensive. But, he had lost the zest to walk and flow along with life.
One day, he sat by the window, as was customary. The gates opened, and Kareem Chacha walked in.
‘That’s new,’ he noticed a huge multicoloured umbrella just outside the gates.
‘Must be a roadside vendor.’ But what struck him the most was the stripes in the umbrella that resembled his own. The one he wanted to forget, the one he wanted to bury for life.
Later, whenever the gates opened he spotted the umbrella and wished it were gone.
A few days later, Kareem Chacha walked in hastily, “Baba, the doctor cannot visit today. I will accompany you to the clinic for a check-up.”
This would be Vicky’s first outing in more than a year. He despised the idea of going out in the world and socialising with fellow humans. To face the faces that blamed and pitied him for his plight.
But he had to listen to his elders, at least that is what his mother always expected from him.
He reached for his crutches and slid himself out of the bed. Holding the support tight, he hopped one step at a time.
“Wait at the gate. I will go and get a cab,” saying so Chacha left.
The decorative and aesthetically built gate welcomed him. He wished to embrace the fresh air and run out into the fields, but his heart was filled with resentment.
He heard a few voices outside the gate and peeped out, ‘Oh! So a cobbler sits here under the umbrella.’
The cobbler noticed him in some time and extended a hand, “Hello, beta.”
Vicky gave a side-eye to him.
“Hmm, you don’t greet people, is it?”
Vicky raised an eyebrow.
“You never know, you could find a great friend.”
Vicky frowned, “I am not interested in this small talk. Please, excuse me.”
The cobbler smiled, “Oh, so sour. What is it that is troubling you, my young friend? Tell me, I could help you. I am good at mending,” he winked.
Vicky smirked, “Help? Can’t you see?” He pointed at his crutches, “I won’t need any shoe fixing soon.”
Just when he was about to hop back into the house to avoid any conversation, it started raining. As an immediate reflex, he hopped in the shade of the huge umbrella.
The cobbler smiled, “So you see, I was indeed helpful to you.”
Vicky managed a tiny smile.
“I have seen you many times by the window, looking into nowhere. And enquired about you with Kareem. Sadly, you had to deal with so much pain at such a young age. But, life is unpredictable. The only thing that is in your hands is how you deal with adversity and rise.”
“My friend, the window will show you the world. The good, bad, bright and dull colours. It is up to you to either slam the window shut, or walk up to the gate and wander into the unknown. To embrace whatever comes your way. Who knows, a bright rainbow coloured umbrella may be waiting for you at the other end.”
“Come, baba,” Kareem Chacha called out from a cab.
Vicky shook hands with the cobbler and thanked him. As he walked towards the cab, Chacha exclaimed, “You seem different. Is that a smile I see?”
Deep down, at a corner of his heart, Vicky felt a rock being lifted.
- Baba: Child/Kid
- Chacha: Uncle
Connect with Penmancy:
Penmancy gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!