Monday, February 27, 2012

The Journey Home: The Day of Demolishing

The seasons are changing, as evidenced by the falling leaves outside the door of the house I sit in, across the street from my burnt house. I have been so afraid that the past season would refuse to budge, that I would be stuck in a downward spiral of catch-22's, of hopeless self recriminations and endless "what if"s and "if only"s. However, I am reassured that that is not so: that the earth turns, and finally, at last, the truck is parked at my burnt house; it is being demolished, with a promise of a sparkling new house in its place. The vague "they," the promised people who would work on my house to heal it, finally have faces.

Of course, this has spooked the poor grey cat who was beginning to get used to the settled soot and ashes, among the debris. Her safe house is yet again invaded by strangers and noise. I do not have the language to reassure her, and she glares uncomprehendingly at the lack of any alarm as I talk to the noise-making strangers wielding hammers and masks.

Some of my village people shake their heads at my inexplicable joy at seeing my house being brought down. They know what is to come: unimaginable bureaucracy, onerous, meaningless, repititive, defeating. They tell me that I have no idea that what lies ahead is going to be much worse, much more taxing that what is past, that this journey is not going to be smooth sailing, now that work has started; it is but the beginning.

I think of Odysseus sitting at the edge of Calypso's island in the light of the setting sun, looking out to the sea, towards where he imagines Ithaca awaits. I know that he is farther from home than he thinks, that the Universe has decreed that he has miles to go before he is allowed sleep in the bed he dreams of constantly, the one he carved out of live trees. I think of Odysseus taking stock of his assets (the arguments he would use to persuade Calypso into letting him go), arranging them, sharpening his position and pleas. I wonder if his planning is marred by all that he has lost. I wonder if he will ever find the promised, reviving sleep when he reaches his bed. I remember that his trials by no means end when he reaches home: he has to convince his home to accept him again.

I think of Rama in the Dandaka Forest, sitting on the steps of the rude cottage carved out of wilderness, contemplating the moon since it reminds him of his family, the dynasty he belongs to. He deliberately avoids looking towards Ayodhya, for fear that his brothers and mothers would sense it and miss him more acutely. He is homesick and sighs his longing, but he has no idea how much farther he shall have to go, of the monstrous unknown of his lurking destiny, which awaits for him like a demon in the darkness. He knows his home awaits him with bated breath, that it, too, will not exhale until he is gathered to its bosom. I wonder if he senses the unreasonable, unimaginable demands this home will make of him.

The moon shines very brightly tonight, so brightly that sleep seems improbable, not made for a night like this. It shines right through my burnt house, which has no walls, so one can walk from west to east in the moonlight. In fact, I can see right through the house, to the street on its other side.

I wonder at the joy I had felt earlier today, when I saw the men with hammers crashing down the blackened walls, ripping off the plywood from holes in the concrete where doors and windows used to be. How could I have felt this way while my house was being demolished? But then, I remember. The house did not look as insubstantial in the day light as it does now. As I wonder at it from across the street in the light of a sickle moon, it looks like somebody's left-over dream, transparent like a grocery store bag, a hollowed husk that will blow away in the night breeze, which will melt in the morning sun.

Tonight, I shall call the grey cat out, tempt  her with treats, so she will emerge from the shadows and run towards the little front door light, the lamps of her eyes dancing bulbs, reminding me that I have not lived the house alone. I am hopeful, tonight, that my rose bush, buried as it has been these past months under debris and ashes, shall revive: I hang my hopes on a branch sporting green thorns and leaves on an otherwise browned, drooping trunk. Tonight, I shall wend my way through the epics and borrow their hope, that the sun and the moon shall guide the path of this journey.

1 comment:

  1. this made me cry. i now understand how it feels to loose one's own house. i love the way you write.

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