Trying to Remember

“Why does everything have to be so hard? Like we are just pretending and pretending. I try to be happy like everyone else. Forgive me for the days I can’t.”
I had scribbled in my diary. I was lying on the white sands of some unknown beach in Pondicherry. I wish I could’ve enjoyed the road that led to this surreal place. The road was covered with lush green trees on both sides which gave way to beautiful sandy beaches every now and again.
I just couldn’t enjoy the breeze, or the earthiness of this small town, or the beautiful coastal aroma, or the sound that waves made. Sometimes she popped up, sometimes the thought of my future, my parents, my unborn child, sometimes society. There was always something or the other.
Just then I saw a flash. As if somebody captured this moment from the heavens; then I heard a huge roar — Thunder. I could see fishermen bringing in their catch and then disappearing into the tree cover behind the beautiful sandy beaches. Soon the beach was empty. It was pure heaven; look of the sun setting in distance. The coast looked picturesque. The sky a mixture of red, black, purple and orange. My piece of land, my solace.
I could see just one guy standing at the gunwale of his long, narrow ferry boat, with a long wooden pole in hand. He wore a white dhoti with golden embroidery and a bare chest. He had smooth wrinkle-free skin and eyes that suggested that he was older than he looked. He smoked a wooden pipe.
I was drawn towards that boat. He maneuvered the boat and aligned it along the coast so that I could enter. I climbed into the mustiness of the narrow boat and sat on the stretcher. It creaked and squirmed under my feet. The boat smelled of fish, wood, and tobacco. He slithered to the boat decking and moved his wooden pole in a zig-zag fashion which propelled the ferry further. He remained silent, so was I. It was dark and starry, with a hint of black clouds floating above, they were playing hide and seek with the full moon.
It was silent. Every few seconds I heard a rustling sound(of tobacco leaves burning), his pipe lit up just for a microsecond and then the boat was engulfed in a cloud of smoke. He paddled and steered every now and again, but for the most part, he remained still. He stared in the distant night sky away from the lights of the beautiful Pondi City. I could see people dancing, drinking, smoking and cheering in the distance, within the numerous shacks along the coastline; but the sound refused to reach me. I tried to hear hard but could hear nothing but occasional gurgling of water. I assumed they were having a good time, although it’s so difficult to assume; with people, you can never tell. It was misty and foggy and we were wet as if covered by a wet blanket.
To my surprise, he then started to sing songs in some mysterious language. He had a husky troubled voice. All this while looking into the distance as if he was gazing at someone or something. His voice brought back so many memories, some good, some bad. Songs that brought happiness and sorrow at the same time. I was in a trance. He was silent again and continued his gaze. I wanted to hear more but I wasn’t sure if I could.
“I’m trying to forget someone. Aren’t we all?” I said as I looked up, half expecting him to agree. But his eyes were transfixed in the distance and a fume of smoke escaped his mouth.
“Nope. I’m trying to remember someone,” he said with the pipe still stuck at the corner of his mouth.
I sat still and expected to hear more. I could see his silhouette and a bright red dot at the end of his pipe.
A silent moment, a rustling sound and a huge cloud of smoke.
“I’m trying to remember myself from a long time back. Back when I was a kid, back when I was happy,” he added. For the first time, he moved his gaze and stared into mine. He had troubled eyes.
“Who are you?” I asked, still transfixed.
“I’m Charon,” he said calmly in his earthy rusty voice.
That name sounded familiar, I’ve heard it somewhere. I withdrew my hand from the water in shock. I remembered!!!
“Am I dead?,” I asked.
“You are if you have to ask,” he said with a chuckle. “Can’t you feel the mist on your face, waves on your palm, the soothing aroma of fish and tobacco. Death can’t be so beautiful,” he added, now looking into the distant sky.
“Do you believe in heaven and hell?” I asked.
“I do. It’s right here. You trying to forget someone is hell. You being happy is heaven. I’m trying to remember myself from when I was young, since back then I listened to my voice and I was happy. But now, its all too complicated isn’t it? Too many voices and too many opinions. And you know what a voice and a memory can do, can’t you?” he said. His last line brought back the memory of trance.
“Make sure it’s your own voice you listen to. A secret we forget as we grow up,” he said, still looking into the distance but this time with a calm smile.
A silent moment, a rustling sound and a huge cloud of smoke.

Sandeep Shetty

Engineer from Mumbai. Ambivert. I like to read and ride. Love coffee and tea equally


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