He sits in the corner of the dimly lit carpeted room, knees hunched, head bent, eyebrows knit with concentration, writing in his journal. A leather bound one with dog-eared corners is worn, a constant companion through the last 14 months. The fading afternoon sun drawing shadows across his forearms forming bands across shirt and skin.
Distinct images in mind that he transposed into words. Scratchy, unintelligible to the average reader, they reeked of his thoughts, his feelings and his resignation. Perhaps he knew it himself, the stench was unbearable, but it had to be endured.
A specific fall evening at my usual haunt, the tea shop. My mother shooed me away from the home, our neighborhood, calling on my friend to go with me. With throbbing veins at forehead, fists rolled, we huddled in the corner, spitting anger and rage at the minutes before. Swamped in our bitterness, we did not notice a mature bearded man watching us as we were told later on. Felt his presence when he laid his weathered palms on our table, and with a soothing authority engages us in a conversation. A listener no doubt.
He could hear his friends outside in the yard. The sounds of the ball being chased, kicked and the whoosh of it in the air. The urgency in the voices, the unbridled excitement and the goading albeit familiar in its tempo. Symbolizing their afternoon breaks. A rare moment that was not guided, or kept tabs over, even a privacy within themselves. A respite from the call of duty.
Mom’s eyes. The fear and helplessness in them, the very same that seeped into her fingers as she gripped my shirt. Determined and clear as I was, I couldn’t let the moment drag on. Moving quickly, I bid goodbyes and ran out into the waiting jeep and into the fog that quickly swallowed us. Our bodies and souls vanished into the grayness, while my mind lingered on just a bit longer onto clarity.
A train moves along the tracks and he counts numbers off till the wheels recede into the distance. Another day, another afternoon, same schedule so far. That much he is sure. His eyes narrow and he throws his head back, reflecting. All these months were culminating in order. Like beads of a chain that he held in his pocket, one by one, they all were falling into place. He looked down at the throbbing pulse in his wrist.
The first run in the damp drizzle was painful. 8-9 kms. Everyday. We jogged through the swamp, the rain, the clingy mud and the thorny branches and ragged stones. Next day it was the city. The sidewalks, the drains, the people, carts, buses, corners and the crowds. Skirt in and out, faster, limber, quicker. Agile. On your feet. Like a bird. A gazelle. No scope for delay. A second wasted is a goal vanquished.
He hears footsteps race across the stairs and one of his own peeks in with a message. He nods and listens intently. An imperceptible nod, a mention of names and they part ways. 6 PM. Adjusting his wristwatch to beep an alarm and with a clarity in thoughts, he looks down at the courtyard. The team has now scattered, a couple sharing a smoke at the edge of the dry well, a group continuing to kick ball, while another was drumming a popular beat on the jeep’s hood as the other two sang along.
The lectures. The doctrines. Strong and loud, reverberating in my ears. The early morning ones through afternoon. The night ones were the most effective, when I think back. Hungry from physical exhaustion, the mind lapped up all that was served up front. The days blurred into each other. It was the same voice again and again and again. A cycle that picked up speed with each rotation. My anger, the retribution, the reasons, the paths. Fuel. More anger, more fuel. Reason? What reason? Logic? There is no logic. This is faith. Deep, blinding, faith.
It was time. He calls for them. They troop inside, wash and gather in the large square room. They wear smiles, a symbol of the nonchalance of the youth and of the familiarity of it all. He takes lead and they follow. The room soon resounds with their voices. In unison. A marriage of intonations, a coming together of one belief, of a single focus.
After a few months of this rigor, all lines have started to blur. What was once a horror was now a calming relief. There was a purpose, a strength in the mind. “Your faith is what you believe in. Not what you know.” Mark Twain had said. I believe in the faith that is me. I am the faith, I am the believer. This is the chosen path, the only path.
They eat a dinner in silence. In a trance. Thoughts weaving between them, binding them together, a wave of brotherhood, a kinship. As they finish and they get ready to leave, the darkness outside sneaks its slimy dark fingers inside. A reach within them, and through their eyes. Dark. Grim. Severe.
The heavy waters splash them, a coldness as death itself. Icy, bare and mechanical, stiff as a corpse.
He enters with one other into the crowded magnificent building. Turning towards a group of bystanders, as easy as lifting a cricket bat with which he played in the streets of his hometown; he pulls the trigger and fires from his hip.
Faith means not wanting to know what is true. – Friedrich Nietzsche
Sprezzatura (n): a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says, appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it
Short note for posterity sakes: This post was linked by Desipundit in the New and Upcoming category on March 10th 2009, under Philosophy and Fiction. A first from Cesmots.