Unwept Tears, Untold Stories (SAMPLE READING)
(START OF SAMPLE READING)
Stars above tell their stories…
Though you don’t lend them your ear,
They sing out in all their glory!
Stories of every smile and every tear.
Saturday, June 22, 1996
I dreamt I was falling off a cliff. I woke up and found myself in a valley, on a full moon night. Strangely, I wasn’t afraid. It seemed right. I was to be here… and be here now. I walked alongside a stream. The air seemed fresh and I could feel the cool dew on my bare arms as I walked.
I walked alone with only my memories for company. A childhood filled with laughter and sorrow; probably not in equal measures. My youth filled with risks to break away from everything. I remember this morning being different from others. I was with friends, out on a trip. Or were they mere acquaintances?
I turn 21 in two months to the date. I am young and my whole life lies ahead of me. But, I digress…
Yes, they were acquaintances but this was to be a fun trip with them nevertheless. Most of them were faces I had grown accustomed to while I was breaking away from bonds weighing me down.
I was an accident, Amma reminded me at least once every other day… an unwanted child, she would say. My siblings were both older than me, Radha by 12 years and Akash by 14 years. They were from a different planet altogether so far as I was concerned. Akash an accomplished doctor in a faraway land and Radha an IT professional married off into a wealthy family. Akash had moved to a different country to study when I was 2 and Radha moved to boarding school a year later. There were no annual family reunions or festive celebrations to speak of, not any that I could remember. They had broken free altogether long before I could even create a bond or get to know either of them.
I was left alone; Alone… to fend for myself. I didn’t complain. I smiled every day, especially in front of people and particularly in school. I would always be the first person to reach school and usually the last one to leave. There were days when I would be so lost in my thoughts sitting under my favourite mango tree oblivious to time or place. There were notes sent to my parents at regular intervals. I dreaded those! Not because I feared what the teachers or the principal might tell them but because my parents would never come. Instead, I would get a good whipping with Appa’s favourite belt at home and in school the teachers and principal would continue to single me out reprimanding me for not bringing my parents. This single figure standing outside class as punishment was a very common sight. At first it bothered me a lot, the feeling of desolation and abandonment… Slowly I stopped letting it bother me. I discovered it was the ideal time to let my thoughts wander and take me away to far off places and be lost in a dimension my own.
I would dream of a life filled with butterflies and fields of marigold, a life filled with laughter and no forced smiles to hide the hurt. I could not wait to grow up. I dreamt of finding myself a great life, a loving family and a bunch of friends to take me away from the burdens of life at home.
When I was little, no more than three, I remembered a lot of screaming and shouting at home and I thought it was normal. But then I began going to school and listening to other children as they spoke about home. I noticed the sharing of stories… of many happy moments at home. The sweets and crackers during Diwali, the gifts they got for Christmas, the games played with siblings, summer vacations in hill stations or beaches and so much more. I felt left out.
This was when it began; the lying, I made up stories of a happy home, loving parents, protective and caring older siblings. It was easy because both Akash and Radha had already been products of the same school; both extremely popular and successful in their time. Both with exemplary records in everything, be it academics, sports, cultural activities, debating, name it and their name was etched on the walls of fame. It was only natural for everyone to believe I came from a happy home and had these two wonderful siblings to care for me. I rarely made close friends, scared the truth about my life would be exposed.
One day in the summer of 1983 when I was nine years old, I sat lost in my world under the mango tree when a boy walked towards me and sat on the bench. He sat there for a while before asking “Oi! Why do you always have a smile on your face? Are you sad about something?”
I didn’t think he was talking to me and only looked up when he repeated himself. I recognized the face from my class although I had never interacted with him. When I looked up, it felt good; first, because I was noticed and second, because someone saw beyond the façade of my smile.
I was tempted to spin my usual tale of lies, this time though for some unknown reason I resisted the urge. Instead, “How do you know I am sad?” I asked curiosity getting the better of me. “My Ajji says if someone is smiling all the time but not talking much, it means they are in a lot of pain.” He responded casually kicking aside a stone. “Wow! Your ajji is right. I am in pain but I don’t know if it is a lot.” I blurted out before I could stop myself. “Of course she is right. Ajji also says if you talk about your pain, it will not cause your heart to bulge up and burst.” He laughed using his hands to show a bomb blasting into pieces adding a “Badaaam!” for effect. “Oh! I don’t want my heart to burst like that!” I responded involuntarily adding “My Amma hates me. I don’t know why. And I am scared of Appa. My Anna and Akka don’t even who I am. I feel very sad at home. May be I am a very bad girl.” And before I knew it I was sobbing uncontrollably. “Crying is good for your heart, it lightens it and doesn’t let it bulge up, my Ajji says.” He said as he thrust a handkerchief into my hands. I burst out like a dam, full at its seam, waiting to overflow, to just let go. I told him about home; a little bit of everything, Amma’s hatred towards me, my siblings abandoning me and Appa’s belt. He didn’t ask me any specifics of what went on at home; instead he listened and nodded.
He let me ramble on. No discomfort. Before I knew it, I was blowing my nose in to the handkerchief and wiping the flow of tears. Once I was spent from all the crying, he finally offered his hand with a, “My name is Daya. What’s yours?”
“I am Nayana.” I responded, stretching out my hand and making way for the first friend in my life.
We were best buddies from thereon. Daya would keep me company on the bench every afternoon, mostly in silence. However, every single day there was one question he would ask in varied forms, “Are you okay?” “How are you feeling today?” “Do you feel like laughing or crying today?”
Being asked how I was made me feel happy. Wanted. Safe.
“Oi! What are you doing?” Daya asked me one day walking up to me, as I sat day dreaming. “Nothing… Just dreaming.” I replied, still partly lost in my parallel world. “With your eyes open? That is so cool!” he squealed adding “what are you dreaming about?”
“Just some silly things.” I was afraid Daya would laugh at me if he knew what my dreams were. “Ajji says you must never stop being silly and dreaming silly dreams. Otherwise you will get older than your years with no hair behind your ears, she says” His eyes gleamed as he tugged at my arm with a “Tell me what it is. I also want to know and maybe I will be able to dream some silly dreams too. Ajji tells me my dreams are all too serious. Mostly I dream of growing up and being like Appaji. She says I will grow old too soon if I don’t learn to do silly things and dream silly dreams soon. So tell me your silly dream!”
“Actually I was dreaming I was chasing a huge butterfly, the size of an eagle, in a marigold field. It had great, big wings with all the shades of green, even neon green!”
“Like my shoe laces?” interrupted Daya
“Yes. Like your shoe laces… and its body was the brightest purple I have ever seen! I was attracted to it like a magnet and couldn’t stop running behind it even as it whooshed its wings creating enough wind to blow my hair all over my face.”
“Whoa! How big was the marigold field? Did you catch the butterfly? Were you the same size as you are now? Or were you also bigger?” Daya was unstoppable with his questions.
(END OF SAMPLE READING)
Manuscript in Progress: Untitled
From the author: “These are stories waiting to be told. Every day I wake up with these stories in my mind, each character getting bigger and more distinct, taking up most of the storage space in my mind. They need to be told, they need to live their own lives so I can live mine, without them in my head. I give you these stories so they can inspire you, entertain you, bore you or live with you forever. So here I am with these stories… Some of them are so real that they aren’t true and some of them are so untrue that they just might be real.”
This untitled book is a story of a family whose life is struck by a tragedy so deep that none of them remember it… Or do they?
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To connect with the author email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @amithasingh