Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Childhood Fantasy

It all started off when we decided to play hide and seek in the neighboring house. I remember the occupants had just left, making that house an ideal retreat for snoopy kids like us. We spent our time trampling that house, running amok in the compound and prodding every nook and corner to discover unknown secrets. It was then we came upon a very strange corner of the house, which was wilder and spookier than our vibrant imagination could ever describe. It was their little shed in the backyard—well, not a shed, actually, that would be a disgrace to that room in the back…it was a huge room, and if one peeked in through the window, one would get a clear view of the bizarre and unworldly….and I know the thrill of terror I experienced whenever I stared through the window, it felt like looking into that horrible darker realm that I believed existed. Now, if you were an adult, you would have found nothing to be scared of, but we whispered in hushed voices, and the room remained our topic of discussion for many days.

I don’t know who started the rumor. It would be better not to find out, but we firmly and secretly belived that room was haunted. It was always locked, you know, and we had our reasons to believe it was haunted. If you peeped into the room, even you would find out. It was a very dusty room, which looked like it hadn’t been opened in centuries, with an old family portrait hanging meekly from one wall—we had never seen that family inhabit this colony, we had never heard of them, we didn’t know if they still existed, which made things all the weirder, of course. Unsolved mysteries appealed to our growing minds and we were just beginning to understand the joy of discovery. And then there was this black, horribly old sofa set in one corner of the room which seemed to have been abandoned for quite a few years…the look of it, with a huge gash in the center made us reason that it was literally ripped apart by ‘the ghost.’ There was a chair too, nothing too charming about the chair, it was made of plain wood, but we were grateful it was not the rocking kind, because we were sure that we would hear it creak in the middle of the night, and crumbling, infested walls…we were scared. Well, after spending many an afternoon staring blankly into that room, imagining all sorts of horrors, nothing exciting really happened, the room remained untouched, and soon was assumed to be unworthy of attention.

Most of us gave up, but this avid ‘bird-watcher’ considered ‘room-watching’ as the most noble honour any kid could be blessed with. What more, she had a wonderful side-kick who believed in everything she did, and trusted her beyond belief. My friend Shruthi and I made this ‘room-watching’ an compulsory and routine event, as we were sure something exciting was bound to happen, and we took out time off, introducing every child in the colony to the ‘spooky house.’ We wanted more sentries, but we never got them, no one believed us, so we spun some fabulous lies, and grander tall tales which were quite convincing, but no one was brave enough to accompany us, and that is why we found ourselves so lonely on solitary afternoons.

You should have seen the ways we discussed our theories, which seemed so wonderfully probable then, and which look utterly stupid and hilarious now. My god! The detailed discussions nearly drove me mad with wild explanations, but believe it or not, after month long of waiting, our patience and hard-work did pay off, because something exciting did happen. Something which explained everything, anyway. Someone moved into the house. It looked like a disaster, but we still snooped around the house, finally, we did enough snooping to be noticed, and no one quite appreciates and welcomes the idea of a group of two girls mysteriously prowling around their house for no apparent reason. The house-owner was observing us; he even introduced his daughter Preeti to us, but we continued prowling around, hungry for some news, frenzied with curiosity, and finally, he was irritated enough to talk to us, puny little girls.
“You want to look into the back-room, is it not? Come, I’ll take you there,”
We followed hastily, it felt like dream come true. Somehow, entering into that dark hell of the room, which was always locked, blocking our entry had given in. After so many months of staring through the mesh-window, we were actually inside, right there, the only two girls in the entire world who were entitled to enter that room! It did strangle our curiosity, it dimmed our interest, after having finally understood there was nothing extraordinary about the room whatsoever. The man stood around scratching his head,
“What a mess to get rid of! People preserve all kinds of unwanted things here…it’s going to take me time to clean it all up!” The window had never given us a complete view, but now, the room looked paler than before, and most unattractive. We were enraged that our time had not payed off. He opened the wooden shelf in the corner, which too was stashed with unwanted, broken articles, he raised his eyebrows, picked up something, dusted it, and said,
“Here, you want this?”
It was some yellowed and illustrated book named The Tales of Odyssey, and we accepted the prize and looked into it, and tried reading. The pages were missing, and the story was too uninteresting and complicated with a tiny print for us to read, and we gave it up for good. But we preserved it because it was our reward for guarding that room. And we triumphantly showcased it as a souvenir of our endeavors, and most of our friends grew envious, now that I think of it, that book was even unworthy of envy! It could have been picked easily out of an old paperwaala’s cart! Finally, we ended up loosing the book, it too disappeared due to carelessness, but it spurted more of our interest, and we spent our time once again, murmuring that a ghost has returned to claim it’s book! Remembering this makes me think of how mischievous and incurably hopeful kid I was as a kid, my mischievousness has evaporated and I have grown out of that attitude faster than I can wispher ‘ghost’ in someone else’s ear.


Kadalabal said...

great narration and explains the curiosity when such things happen.
ultimately as u said u saw it was a dumping room. yes during those day it may be common to have one in the backyard. but now everybody counts the sqft. how it can be used.
nostalgic took me back my childhood days they are the best part of life.
for your age your writing skills are simply superb. keep it up and who knows what may turn out.
all the best in ur endeavours.


Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Thank you for such wonderful encouragement sir. I write because it is a passion. But I realize I do have quite a few deficiences which you might not have noticed. My strong points are clear, narrative sort of story-writing. I cannot write humour so superbly like Mr. Shenoy there. I'm glad to know my little blog helped you to revist your childhood.

narendra shenoy said...

Beautifully written. Let me amend the previous comment by 'kadalabal'. He said "for your age your writing skills are simply superb." I think your writing skills are superb for any age.

Writing is not about using big words or fancy ideas. It's about communicating in a way that is effective, artistic, I don't know what else. Which is why I think it can't be learnt or taught. You either have it or you don't. Lakshmi Bharadwaj evidently has it.

In order to flex your creative muscles, you could experiment with different genres, though. Short stories with a strong plot are the best, though it is a bother thinking up good plot lines. O. Henry and Roald Dahl are my favorite in this genre. You could make up stories about people you see or know.

Another creative outlet is writing well researched and trivia-filled articles about topics of interest. Travelogues, sciences, environmental issues, the effect of development and modernisation on common people. Bill Bryson is an author I love in this area. His "A short history of nearly everything" is a must read for everyone, especially someone who is studying science.

Well, sorry if I've been ladling out unnecessary advice. Just had a bit of time on my hand and well, I'd like to claim a bit of credit when you make it to the literature hall of fame.

Maddy said...

lovely narrative - enjoyed reading it...go on lakshmi

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Thank you Mr. Shenoy and Mr. Maddy sir. It's funny, Mr. Shenoy that you are echoing just what grandpa has told me. In the beginning, I did believe writing is about fancy words. Oh yes, even I love Roald Dhal...I don't know about Bill Byson. Maybe I should try it out...but, I wonder, where did you learn your humour from? I admit, I am a starry-eyed admirer of yours.

Nanditha Prabhu said...

beautifully written , lakshmi!
you have a special way with words..and you have weaved your childhood memories so well.Hope to read all your creative expressions in hard cover some day!

Naveen said...

the marked simplicity and honesty of your narrative is what makes it special ... you sure have imbibed the distinctive faculties of the authors you said you admire ... & seem to have a stable head on your young shoulders to be able to achieve all your dreams & still keep your feet firmly on ground ...
all the very best ..

Naveen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Thank you for your comments, Mrs. Nandita Prabhu and Naveen sir. Actually, mam, I hope so too. I confess I love seeing myself in print, it gives more joy than blogging. Even though it takes a year for Tinkle comics to publish a very small 3-page story of mine, I wait an year for it, more eagerly. Now that you talk of it, I have written so much exclusively on childhood, that it's occupied a lot of space on my comp. So, slowly, I have decided to blog them one by one. And Mr. Naveen sir, I really like your writings, I hope I can imbibe your qualities too. I think my role model when it comes to writing is RKN and also my grandpa, Krishna Vattam, who is a journalist.