I am brimming with nostalgia. My naked feet pave a pathway on an otherwise isolated canopy of untamed trees, shrubs and creepers. Smiling to myself, laughing loudly at times, I make the forest come alive. The wrinkles make miniscule waves on my tarred cheeks as I smile from within. The trees bend like teenage gossipers wanting to hear musings about random first-loves. Cackles of devilish laughter paralyze the bees in the midst of their nectar-nal activities. Against the white, blue currents of the river I sit on the forlorn rock. Gathering my breath I make my way to the adjacent entrance. It is a bright red gate. There are balloons and christmas-trees adorning the gate. The walls are done up in punky graffiti. Inspite of the solemness and sanctity attached to the place, it gives out another reason to live.One of the wall reads "So, how was the ride dude?". Another reads "Where's the party tonight?" and the huge, spray-painted sidewall screams : Bravo!. In a secluded corner, in metal,was engraved - Cemetery.
"Rohaan Carnegie", he cleared his throat as he introduced himself in his unwarm voice. A sense of deja vu ran through him as he took his name for the second time in 48 years. "Parinaz", "Parinaz Ahana". 'Mera Lucknow se aana', I giggled as I introduced myself.'
I recollect the shy diffidence in Rohaan's voice as I run my fingers through my hair, every strand of which stands testimony to timeless memories. My unkempt nails leave behind stains of life on my hair. Stains of meals shared, skin felt, and tears seeped.
"I am the caretaker of this cemetery. I have been working here over the past twenty five years, what can I do for you?", his tone as if he owned that grey mausoleum.Nothin much that you can do but give me company, I am the new sweeper", she said. "Rohaan Mia, humein in murdo ki sehad ka khayaal rakhne allah ne yahaan bulaaya hai", in an angelic voice which startled Rohaan. "If you are not aware, you will work under my instructions. You will report to me every morning", said Rohaan in a cold, unapologetic tone. She laughed, "Yahaan, jahaan allah taala khud humein unke instructions pe leke aate hai, wahaan aapki or meri kahaan chalegi, khair baaki aapki marzi... i've come here to make this seemingly boring place a lil' more exciting and colourful, tum saath doge humaara", in a voice that leaked raw energy. Rohaan for obvious reasons was shocked beyond words. In his colourless world surrounding the dead, he could not fathom a) this sudden outburst of sonorous sound, b) change.
Rohaan Carnegie had had a placid childhood. There hadn't been much movement in his life. His parents passed away when he was eight. His uncle took adequate care of him. He was served a meal once in a day and had to work for thirteen hours in his garage for five years. Beyond this, his life was a smooth sail. When Rohaan was twelve, he made his first enemy. His name was "Emotions". Rohaan never understood what made people laugh, what made them cry. He never reasoned. His reasoning had no answer. He would wake up in the morning, do his work in robotic monotony, come back home, have his meal and go off to bed, everyday.
"So will you give me company?", she asked seekingly. "Yes", he said sternly. "When we die, I will ensure that my tombstone is next to yours to give you company",
he added with venom. "Hum rukenge! Aap time pe aana", she added cheekily. Rohaan did not smile. He walked away.
Rohaan undertook his tenure as the caretaker of the cemetery when he was twenty-three. He's been dead ever since. Till he found another reason to live. The dark, depressing, detached life aligned with his very being. Men and women would come to bury the dead, day in and day out. Some would cry, some would howl, some would forgive, some would discuss. Some would talk about the will, some about the sex-life, some about nothing. Some would wonder why they came, some would get bored with rituals, some would pretend to be deeply affected, some would pray. He was interested in none of the some. For him men on earth were just there. There was no meaning to existence. "As time-bound mortals, we are born on this planet to kill time", was one of his famous quotes. He wanted to save time. Thus he took up a job at the cemetery. Life for him, was not white or grey. In a grey ambience, his life was Black.
"Good morning Rohaan! - ain't it amazing to feel alive at the cemetery", said she in her traditional giggle. "No. But its amazing to die here.", he replied curtly."Why have you come here Parinaz?", he asked discomfortedly. "Kya bataaein..."
(Monologue)*Pointing at herself* Her name is Parinaz Ahana - Born in Lucknow, 1964, she hailed from a family of "vaishyas" in old lucknow. Her childhood was filled with turmoil. In school, she was an outcast and had to give up on her education at the age of fourteen although she was a bright kid with relentless untapped energy. Post independence, her family was looked down upon by Independent Indians. What irony! Her mother at that time told her something simple, yet profound - "Society will mould you to their comfort. You have two options - Change to fit in OR be yourself and form your own society. A society of liberal, free-thinkers - beyond prejudices and conventional trappings : which will let you grow in the purest possible way". Thus at the tender age of fourteen, she did what most conventional parasites call "Rebellion". She ran away from home to St.Augustus Villa in Panchgani and spent thirty-five years of her life teaching, praying and living.
I taught mathematics, dance and theatre to children. I also handled the administration of the church for the last fifteen years. Under Father Menezes, I realized my true potential as a human being. He helped me identify my strenghts and honed them. He inculcated timeless basics of hardwork, focus and discipline in me. But more importantly, I learnt the power of love - pure, platonic love.
During my stay with Father Menezes at St. Augustus Villa, I learnt some beautiful life lessons :In one of his letters to me he shared,
1. Life, my child, is one big celebration. In the time between our womb and tomb, we experience the greatest spectacle in the universe. Life. The best part is, a chunk
of the celebration is designed by us.
2. Our journey is evolutionary in nature. So unless we try really hard to retard our growth and state, we will move over events and circumstances in our life which seem
devastating at that point of time.
3. Paint your life with colour. "Grey will give you insight. But grey out of choice, is no delight." So paint the town red.
4. Give love for the joy of it. Forgive for the joy of it. Pray for the joy of it. Learn for the joy of it. Live for the joy of it.
5. Do not Ahana, you promise me, give up on your integrity and loyalty to people you love, care for and swear by - even if they compromise.
6. Do not, for the sake of the Lord, take life too seriously. When God created mankind, it was one helluva' joke. Laugh with Him.
7. And lastly, do not lose faith in God. Even if he wrongs you. Just laugh at the irony and continue to celebrate.
Arm yourself with these insights and you will have no looking back in life. Life's biggest regret is that we regret. All the Best Parinaz Ahana. Conquer the World.
St. Augustus Villa,
Pachgani - 32
After serving the church and the children for thirty-five years I finally ventured into the world. I took up various odds and ends to fill my stomach. I did not have anything that society asked an employee of. Insights, experience, joy and a smile. Won't work at most places.And thus after working for eight months at a bakery where I served bread and a smile, I took up the sweeper's job at the cemetary to understand why people cry out of sadness and not joy?
"Aaanh, you have an interesting story. It's the longest i've heard in forty-eight years", and he burst out laughing, ole' Rohaan."Parinaaaz darling! - where were you? I've been waiting for over four hours now. Idiot... and when you're sleeping by me? - It's been two years now that i met with that fateful accident. It's getting damn boring here. But I love enacting our introduction act everytime we meet... In that one year you changed my life Parinaz".
"This dusky, loud, over-enthu muslim girl gave you a new life, you fool! - you were boring, old and dead. In the one year before your death, you've lived a lifetime", I announced.
"I sure have angel ! - Father Menezes was right after all. Love Wins. Always.", laughed Rohaan. "Remember, how irritated i got when you put up balloons at the entrance of the cemetery. I couldn't for the life of it believe that I, Rohan Carnegie, was letting you do it. I was warming up to your smile, wishing that you come a little early everyday and so something ridiculously new at the cemetery", said Mr.Carnegie looking into my eyes.
"Hahahaha... you bet! - tum to pure heraaan hi ho gaye, and remember how i got caricature's made on coffins - you were soooo scandilized!", I rolled.
"I Love You Parinaz", came his sudden expression. I loved it that way..."I Love You too Mr. Cemetery Caretaker", teary-eyed I told him...
"Now go back into your dumb grave and eat the blue-berry cheese cake i got for you from Aunt Martha's place. Listen to good music and if it gets stuffy inside, come out for a breather. And take care of the new christmas trees, will you?"
Anyway, 'ts time for me to go - go spread the power of our love. It might seem like an abrupt, incomplete, exaggerated excerpt of my love story to some. But for
thosesome, this narration i do not mean to write. I write this for all the people who've had the priviledge and the power to love, lose and love again. This story is a celebration of the survival instinct of humankind. It is an ode to the one man I love. My Rohaan Carnegie a.k.a Cemetery Caretaker.
Tere pyaar ne humein pyaar karna sikhaaya,
Tum naa rahein to kya,
Un chann lamhon ki badaulat,
Humnein duniya ko phirse jeena sikhaya
1964 - Immortality
(Read : This one's for you darlin' : your strength i admire, weakness i overlook. God Bless You. Love you. - Somebody ;)