Monstrous houses have popped out of the tiny wooded hill like large abscesses on a head. The tiny path has become a detour for people going to avoid throng of vehicles and their reckless drivers on the main road.
The House was an idyllic place neatly tucked away in the thick forest of pine, oak, rhododendron and a mass of low growing bushes. Away from the noisy and crooked gossiping streets of the town and overlooking a monastery and a large temple, it was quiet fertile space. Monkeys danced on the slat rooftops, birds nested in the crevices of wooden beams and eagles landed on the tall trees. Frogs croaked in the small pond on the lawn during the monsoon. Flowers blossomed and corns of the pine trees flourished. Nature was ebullient.
The man sat on the reclining chair in the veranda, his pipe unlit. In the quiet ambiance of the wood and among the piles of books, his mind gave birth to scores of ideas. It was here while the birds sang in the trees, he struggled against the demons of communism, wrestled with his tribulations and toyed with thoughts of resistance, activism and freedom.
The House stood on the highest point of the hill and prayer flags fluttered on its roof. It attracted many beings from the higher realms. They hovered in the clear blue sky, watching the man grapple with many things. They knew he was perhaps on the right path.
He generally looked up for inspirations though he never saw anyone floating in the space above. Chirping of birds, rustling of leaves and monkeys jumping on the roof were his constant companions.
One monsoon night, the sky became overcast. Lightning struck across the hill. Thunder raged across the sky and hailstorm pounded the night. When the morning finally came, leaves had occupied his veranda and the lawn was a mass of broken branches and needles of pine trees. The pond had over flown. Frogs were gone and monkeys had disappeared.
The monsoon had finally receded after months of murderous rain. Sky was once again blue and clear. But times were ominous. A slight wind blew yet no leaves rustled. Eerie noises were heard in the dingy corners of the town declaring hope, anguish and disappointment. A lone hoopoe resounded hoo-hoo-hoo and puffed out its neck feathers. When it saw the disturbed face of the man, it made a quiet chattering sound and flashed its head crest.
On the morning of a particularly sleepless night, he brought out a chair on the lawn and sat staring into the sky. Blue sky became bluer. As the time whiled away he reclined on the chair half asleep, his eyes wide open. His moustache became wet with a clear liquid running down his nostrils and from the corners of his eyes he saw colours he never liked. Blue slowly turned into shades of black and red.
A woman wearing excessive jewellery gently danced in the sky. She slowly moved her hands from side to side oblivious to the bespectacled Gendun Choephel, who had just come out of his celestial tent. Within minutes the entire horizon was filled with heavenly beings. There was godly calm in the entire spectre. From a distance a sound of flute floated to which they danced.
The woman was now in the centre softly, but ecstatically, waving her hands. Others circled around her, each under the light of the other’s halo. The sound of flute faded. But the melody lingered amidst the gyrating beings. There were no shadows. He saw through them.
After awhile Gendun Choephel, with his right hand on the shoulder of a woman, stopped the circle dance said, “Boy, don’t change your colour. You are a whole grain of sand.” He gave a stern look and disappeared into the tent. Silence reigned.
When the man woke up he was staring into the firmament. The sky was still blue. He must have leaned his head towards the right because saliva dribbled down from his mouth had wetted the collar of his shirt. After he wrung his stiff neck and yawned, he noticed that the hoopoe was still on the grass, but was no longer chattering. It had changed its colour from cinnamon to chestnut.
A moment later a waft of fragrant smoke entered his nostrils. It must have had come from the temple. Monkeys are back dancing. Birds sang. But the hoopoe was gone.
Taxis honked from the road below. A stereo boomed loud music from one of the new houses nearby. Construction workers were installing a dish on a dead pine tree. Two women are complaining about the rising prices of tomato, onion and other commodities. ‘A kilo of mutton now costs two hundred and forty rupees!’ said one.
The House is no more the tranquil haven and the man he is no longer a whole grain of sand. He is ... uummm.