BRINDA RUNGHSAWMEE

My book, I’m sorry. I’ve dumped you somewhere, neglected you. Almost forgotten about you. If lockdown had not come back again, I would have completely forgotten you. I’m tired of reading via a screen and the artificial light. My eyes are sore. I want nature’s petals to soothe their soreness. I want to read with sunlight, natural light.

How am I spending my free time during the holidays? Playing some games with my human companion is very enjoyable. It has taken me back to my college days. Laughing at myself as I can’t find some simple words while we play hangman.

After lunch, what do I do now? I go to the spare leaking bedroom. I crouch down and pull out a large bag from under the table. I search it. One hand touches something that can be a book while my other hand is holding the bag. I pull it out and let go of the bag. It is the book I’ve been looking for.

Hope rises in my soul. I plunge both hands this time in the big bag. Surprisingly it is standing upright. While rummaging, I find two other books. I pull them out. They smell of age and silence. My soul is happy. For years, they have remained undisturbed. Are the books happy or do they hold a grudge against me?

My soul convinces me. They are eager. In a few days, I will flip their pages while my eyes will caress each word as I salute it and move to the next one. These words which will reopen the doors of another world with old acquaintances who will turn into friends and perhaps mentor or muse to add gems and sequins to my life.

I can feel pride and pleasure emanating from the first book I got from the big bag. I have invited some friends over. The trees, the flowers, the birds, the butterflies, the bees, sky, wind, clouds, sun and moon have gathered around THE BOOK as the ceremony of book-opening starts.

I look at the title and my soul gives a nod of approval. I glimpse the girl on the cover. Was I not like her in my teens? Same struggles, same naivety looking at the other cotton-candy world which says their ways are the best and ours the worst.

My book smells of something, kind of age-smell but so comfy. It is familiar terrain. I won’t be lost. No threats looming. I open it and start to read. Someone introduces herself as the narrator. She is grieving her brother’s sudden death. But she is also happy, as he will never again taunt her because he is a boy and she is a girl. Reader, don’t judge her. She is not evil. Doors of opportunities open wide for intelligent and hard-working boys like her brother.

When the narrator, who is our main character too, has knocked on one door of opportunity, a sullen hand and an angry look have opened it. Then at her sight, the sullen hand and angry look have slammed shut the door in her eager face. The eagerness has frozen on her face and almost sunk to the bottom of her heart. However with our main character’s inner combativeness, the embers of eagerness have clung onto a wick of hope  … in her mind. To maintain the family status, the door of opportunity has reluctantly opened to let in A GIRL.

After years of hard work, another door of opportunity opens up but this time a friendly hand and warm look welcome her. Oh! They like girls. They are wise as our sages. They know our brains can think and learn and memorise and understand facts and solve problems like boys’ brains and men’s brains. We girls are not meant only to excel with our pots and pans in our predestined office: kitchen. We are meant for the glory of earth and nature because of our brains.

While my character has been doing her household chores, I remember with pride that I am as brave and strong as she is when I was her age once-upon-a-time. In two days, I finish reading my book. I have gone to school with the main character, dug the soil, planted the seeds and looked after the young plants like a mother. I have sweated with her while we walked miles and miles to fetch water, to visit her sick grandparents and sell her vegetables at the next village market. My soles are hard, rough from walking in my worn-out slippers but I am as strong as a bull today. I can face gossip, prejudices and pain. I stand tall even now with my grey hair and middle-aged body. My character has taught me to be proud of, and depend on myself.

I have started to read the first chapters of another yellowish book. The printed characters are tiny but the chapters are very short, which make them easy read. Here there are guns, status and a teen love story and wild nature with icy mountains and solitary emotions and a trip here and there to a supposedly Eldorado for one of the minor characters. I have more to dig, more treasure to dig. A feast for the soul awaits me.

Reader, bye for now. I will meet you again for another trip into books.