Senhora of Expectation-2

 

When he reached the cliff, he was close to debilitation and needed several minutes of gasping and huffing to come back to his old self. His children, both in the teens, were not the least bothered by the climb and instead, went on taking the well-shaped cobbles by the serpentine walkway and throwing them far into the canyon beneath. He ventured once to protest but abandoned, seeing the excitement in their spirit. For them, this was another occasion for jaunty adventure, that arrives once in a season. At the summit, the panorama was cloudless and bright and the sky was azure, and the rain that showered yesterday had mopped the valleys fresh. Every grime was scrubbed away from the front yard. On the side of the church, which was a blend of the foreign and indigenous architecture, stood several signboards in the local tongue and English, warning the guests to keep the site spruce. This is going to be a plastic-free zone in the future eras and is already listed as a national monument. Among the enormous natural boulders grew dense brambles and trees and the yellow flowers of Cassia fistula (Golden Shower, Indian Laburnum)at the distance gave the places a celestial tune…

The legend says that this was not the usual haunt of the saint many centuries ago. He lived in the small cave in the tiny range nearby and meditated and preached regularly his new religion. But on that special day of his passing, he was chased by the assailants and in an attempt to flee, he reached this mountain but was shot by one of the enemy’s weapons. But the legend varies…Finally, a monument came up.

He entered the shrine after removing the footwear, as it was the practice and his children accompanied him. There was a passage to the altar and on both sides, you see the depictions of the saints. And by the reredos, the relic of the martyr is kept for veneration along with the painting of the Madonna and the Child, he had brought with him from his country. The composition was reckoned to be done by a doctor who had contributed greatly to the faith. He kept silent at several instants in deep contemplation and reverence, and the air was quite solemn with pilgrims praying at several secluded corners. There were three masses- in the morning, noon and the evening.
By the other side of the shrine was a bookshop that displayed titles in several languages about the sacredness of the place and the cause to which the saints stood for. He bought a volume on the historical features of the site.
The children seemed famished and thirsty and pressed him for snacks, as the food packets he brought from the resort were consumed on the several stations of the tour. He proceeded to the only luncheon bar at the edge of the mountain and had to be satisfied by the scones of inferior quality and the bottled liquid that was of a new brand. With hesitation, he took those things, as the other tourists and folks. Many had brought the food parcels and are seen at private nooks under trees and emptying the parcels and then advancing with empty bottles to the drinking water tub…
Presently a fellow approached and chatted with him in the local tongue, which his children did not understand and he supplied the guy manifold replies and further engaged with him small conversation in the local tongue. His daughter who will be thirteen in the coming December went on staring at his face with great amazement by the style he spoke to him. When the person departed, as if in answer to her curiosity, he told her– ‘ I was born in this place’. She stood flabbergasted, but anyway not his son, who was in the pre-degree course and was hearing cricket commentary from his walkman. He continued- ” I was born in this city 48 years ago- To be exact, twenty-five miles from the place where we are standing now.” Then he told his tale in abstract- How his father and mother inhabited in this city before he was born, and after the independence of the country, when the separate states were created, his mother who was earlier in the British service, became an employee of the State government and how she accepted a transfer to the State of her mother tongue and took him along with her . He was only one and a half years old then. He studied in his native land while his father was hired in a newspaper press in this capital. But during each recess, he would revisit his father along with his mother and in those holidays, he gained many local buddies of his age and he used to converse that language like one amongst them. He even grasped how to read the alphabets and, yesterday he purchased a droll journal that was the rage of his youthful times [the founder editor, meanwhile deceased] and assayed to brush up his awareness in that semantics… But his son during this conference did not exhibit any awe as he had already comprehended this truth a couple of years ago when he had to fill up the application form for  the Youth -Camp he attended then- in the column of his father’s birthplace, he wrote the name of this city. The memory further transpires him to the stories of his parents of which he had only second-hand data mostly narrated by his own mama….

His mother and father belonged to diverse religions and his mother was the only educated member of her whole line and she came to this city when she was in her twenties. In course of time, she met with a bus accident and she was alone on the journey. When the disaster victims were evacuated to the hospital, she was the only passenger without a kinsman. Suddenly a young guy came to her rescue, discerning that she articulated his mother tongue, and got her in a carrier to the hospital. He waited by her side and informed her kin in the hometown about the mishap. – That was about 18 hours travel from there- He got the gashed dame, drugs prescribed by the physician and also food and fruits. Then they parted. The young lad was a social worker and a member of the National Movement. He, at times, had to seek the aid of some families sympathetic of the cause, and when he was in one such house, he encountered again for the second time, the above-mentioned accident-stricken lady, [now hale and hearty] and she was staying with that family as paying guest. The association soon matured into a fraternity and culminated in the marriage. The lady, for fear of her kinsmen, had to marry in secret, as she was bold enough to do that with an utter stranger, but had already given him the pass- grade at the clinic itself, seeing his sheer kindness to an unknown desolate woman.

The young man was assisted by his younger brother, as both regarded each other hugely and in spite of the disapproval of the other members of the line, the nuptials took place. The younger sibling stood as the witness for the groom, at the registrar’s office. The young lady’s intimate friend, Padmini Jackson, and another friend signed as witnesses. That was the marriage of his father and his mother. There was only one contract between them- You follow your religion. I will follow mine. You should not interpose in my sacred credos as I will not meddle with yours. They did likewise, till the closing shutters were drawn…
The sun was getting hotter and now he got a phone call from his wife, and it befell that she was almost free and could reach if necessary, by evening. But he informed her that their joint trip could be made at some other season…That instant his daughter announced that it was time for the midday mass and while they were, discussing, the chapel gong chimed…Suddenly he felt emaciated by a concatenation of thoughts and reflected for a while how he was unbecoming of the profound love of his spouse and the angelic smiles of his kids, recollecting his recent days in Saarbrucken.

–[To be continued]

 

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Senhora of Expectation

Short story

He was chasing the steps that led to the mountain that was named after the martyr. On the 121- st step of the climb, he waited and took the limewater container from the kit and swigged two sips and scanned around to view the amazing flash of the city that stretched far and beyond. The spectacle that encompassed was once a center of trade and military and the Dutch, the Portuguese and the British competed for the supremacy and the British finally got it as a part of the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, the culture was hybrid, leaving the place to many traditions that are a conglomeration of the European as well as the native. From the 17th century, this part was populated predominantly by Anglo-Indians. He had in fact planned this trip a year ago and it was his wife’s urge that he scale these tracks in his salubrious frame and offer thanks to the Senhora of Expectation that was in the church at the top of the cliff for releasing him from the past malady.

Now in this very morning, his wife aspired to accompany him but in the end, hours was held back from it by a phone call from the head office, leaving the kids with him. Originally the journey was mapped in detail including all the four members. He thought for a while that if his wife were there, she would carry his hefty sack, and it will be comfortable for him to make this climb. These are the luxuries he enjoyed in her togetherness. In return, she will sleep on his lap in those long travels by night train, if they did not get reservation berth for both, as he could stay awake the whole night and postpone his sleep for the next day. A guide came and gave him some information, as he had earlier encountered him with the group of pilgrims at the base of the climb….

The Portuguese developed the shrine out of an old pious location. An Armenian merchant paved the granite steps till the end of the cliff, out of sheer piety, and the legends are that your expectations are fulfilled once you offer your prayer before the Senhora, and many believed in it and his wife was one among them. He had gone two years ago to see the Catalonian shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat with her because she was a great believer in and had her families near Barcelona…Our Lady of Montserrat or the Virgin of Montserrat (Catalan: Mare de Déu de Montserrat) that bore the inscription ”Negra Sum Sed Formosa” (Latin: I am Black, but Beautiful) and through his wife, he got much knowledge of these topics…

He met her two decades ago in Barcelona when he was the chief promoter of a text that was into its first Spanish edition. He went there with the book’s author and came back to his country with a woman. His wife. But that is an old story. During the last couple of years, he was not healthy due to different strains and then happened the ultimate bathos. He was coming from the office and waiting at the railroad station for the electric train. Suddenly the left part of his chest ached and he thought that it was a minor gas problem as he had experienced in the previous many years, but the catch did not sink and he took a seat on one of the concrete benches. He had reached this location every day at this particular course of the day for the office, but today everything seemed unusual, the terrains, his own perspectives. Quickly he swooned and when he gained cognizance, he was in one of the hospital beds with his spouse’s and children’s expectant casts around him. He later grasped that he had a heart attack. and further in the coming days, he underwent an operation and after several weeks of stay in the hospital came to his flat. When he was quite whole and commenced proceeding to work, in one of the fine mornings, his wife told him that she had promised to the ‘Senhora of Expectation’ on the mount and had sworn that when wholly healed, her husband will come and offer the thanks on this altar ascending the trails with his own limbs. And now he is here to accomplish her promise. He was not a believer at all. But in wedlock, you do plenty of compromises out of love and though he often suspected the pertinence of such thing, in his all-pervading integral life he yearned to lead[ though could not completely], and later when he viewed the bright smiling faces of his two children, his own more innocent versions, he is thrilled about the general outcome of it all.
–[to be continued]

THE HAPPY MAID

He was at close quarters. Dusk. The maid had just parted. Her name was Stephanie. Stephanie, an arresting figure. Tiger sharp with a whimsical look and an April sun like flash. A smile. And a few words on this brumous day. And a very few words. When September, came she gobbled up a lot of candy along with her stepfather who was very nice to her and considered her as her true daughter. Wear daisy. Borrow books. Eat Aranygaluska gulp Champurrado and sleep and at the end of the day few complaints, sing country music, snore, and sleep. She told to the west wind while taking food in the balcony-This is Stephanie eating lurid yellow cakes and dried chervil and sitting beside a foyer near Gramercy Park. The show has started. Marriage problems. Engaged once to a former wrestler. Now taking rest in the country with turkeys. All standard breeds- Black Spanish Turkey, Bourbon Red, Bronze, Narragansett, Royal Palm.Heritage breeds.Going to the Caribbean.Put her picture on youtube. Adventurer.staying summers at Hallandale.Wise Investor. Lazy husband.[Recently married]. Good dad.Weekly Shopper.carrot eater.old buddy.seasonal writer, philanthropist, the good neighbor, helper of outcasts and women, evening service in the public toilet, a free service and a good occasion to watch the life people. Not a body escaped without his scathing remarks. Life is flat at 32. What is that James Hukhin telling in situations like this? Did he see an emerald isle and suddenly vanish? maybe ‘no’.James Hukhin sputtered up the stairs and peered into the Byzantine oligopoly that cut through beyond the boulevards. A youth was looking into the feast hall inhabited by veterans. One veteran was rather hesitant to coerce to a lady who otherwise would have found elite company elsewhere. This summer he had found new ways of dealing with time. The maid had troubles at home. She was an adopted child and her original parents were living in the same town. Earlier when she was adopted there was an agreement that she would not see her original parents. Though her school was to a certain extent near her original parents’ house, she was not permitted to see them. As a child, she did not know about them. When she grew up, things became crystal pellucid. When she grew big, she requested the consent of her foster father to see her real parents. Because she loved his foster father, a kind man who was behind every move of her life, she did not want to affront him. Then, one day she went to see her original parents. They were so poor that they lived in squalor. Her father had a frail constitution and he often coughed. Her mother was sitting at the edge of the room which was dirty. There was neither fire nor wash space. Her father looked into her eyes and she saw a special radiation in his eyes, that he had never seen in her life. Her mother’s voice had a very guilty feeling. She felt confused. She learned from their conversation that they had a son younger to her but he has left home before some years and his whereabouts are not traceable. She did not know what should be told but was at loss of words. The happy maid saw that somebody was following her and she ran fast. When she reached Karakka, behind the culvert and the edge of a brook by which a road was passing by, and from where one can get a glimpse of the sunset, she looked back. No, the cat was not there. Not a hint of him. She looked down. The brook was flowing. A calmness that led her memory to so many fine twilights in the seaside retreat where she spent her time with her late husband.‘Miria’, somebody beckoned by her other name. It was like a whisper and a heavy truck rushed by. She is jinxed these days that she gets phantasms and maybe the noise she caught, or the one she was eager to hear was one of the countless items she yearned in life.
2
Now she walked past the overbridge and the junior seminary where her boss’s boy studied and she reminisced about his strutting and uncouth manners. When you lose everything you thought as estimable in life, what will you have that the others will appreciate in life? Stephanie was into all these solicitudes when her old boss called her and told that her service is needed for her son’s marriage that will take place after a fortnight. She was surprised. So soon. That strutting fellow of twenty-three- for a girl. She was irritated by his long soup-strainer and when she climbed the stairs, he also climbed down. Quite mannerless. Seems he studied in a famous college and has no deportment. Stephanie knew how to regard old people, people who are not hale and older than her. This made her quite popular in the repository and in the omnibuses when she came back with loads of vegetables, she bought for other housewives. She got a cut for her work. She used a chunk of it and deposited the rest in the cooperative bank. Since she has no children to take care of her, she thought that this will be of some worth in her old age when she cannot work. She may need medicine. She may need the aid of somebody to assist her. Then she needed to give that person cash.And so she deposited the bills, the savings from her commissions in the bank. Many personages appreciated her in this regard. Particularly the bank manager. She also canvassed for the manager to get some huge accounts for the bank. She is powerful in a way. When the polls came, the candidates approached her to work for their party, as she knew many houses in that sector very closely and also the psychology of those people who inhabited the dwellings. Elders admired her because she kept the secrets of the families. She was a good matchmaker and many ladies solicited her support for the wedlocks of their sons and girls. Recently she got a groom for a lady’s daughter who was not getting a good alliance so far after years of search. This spread her fame as a matchmaker. In a way, she liked that reputation. But she did not get a good match herself so far. one fellow, she liked and he too liked her. He was a camion tailgater and went to other states in the truck. this was a good fellow, but later she found that he was a big drunkard. She did not like drunkards. Her father was one and she recalls how he used to beat her after the drinking sessions. Moreover, he had many bad companies and they would come at wrong times to call her father and he will go with them and never bothered about the family. this was a major grievance in her childhood and her father died at an early age leaving her mother alone with her. She was not given good grooming and her father’s vanguard was that women need not study much and studying more will make the ladies proud and a proud wife is not suitable for a family’s peace. strange notion, Stephanie thought to cover up his lapses. So Stephanie thought she will better remain a spinster than marrying a drunkard.So years passed and she became older and the grooms started to take little interest in her and her hairs started to gray, one, two, many more. but Stephanie was hopeful. She thought she could still do something for the society. she once toured a nursing home. She went to the ward of pediatrics and saw the crying children and felt sorry for them. It was rainy season and the roofs were leaking and some of the water went to the beds of the children who were already sick. The hospital staff was a matter of fact people. she barely saw a soul who stay together in the hospital after the assigned time. When their time is over, they cracked some jokes with their friends and left the hall. Stephanie found it quite bad and she went to the hospital many days and helped the parents of the children to give bottled milk or wash their small linen.She did it as a good way of action that will bring some peace to her mind.
3
The maid did not like those people who stood at the Plaza and passed comments on her while she went out and came from work. the main reason was that they had a habit of gazing She did not want to be a stuff for mere entertainment, and she always thought of the honor of a woman. Sometimes she met her teacher who was a great salutatorian into philosophical subjects and was a topper in the university band, a rich and influential man’s son and who went into a mountain cave for three years in the prime of his youth when all many good parents were thinking of getting their daughter married to him. But he was a nice man and the only difficulty was that he had no time to spare for her. The maid was happy with him. He took her very earnestly and also taught her to read and write English in his additional time.the maid was smart.She made timely ripostes. She was a good matchmaker. This quality came to her by accident. As she was good at keeping secrets of the families she worked, many ladies told her many secrets which they even did not tell their husbands and children, she was good at it. keeping secrets. So she did not tell any family’s tearjerker to another family. And the ladies trusted her and also gave her some private fortunes they saved from their work to deposit in the bank. She also had gnomish savings which she hoped will be good sum when she is past middle age. Then she may want wampum to medical expenses. She may need a money to keep a nurse for herself, as she has no immediate kith and kin. She needed money to travel to some pilgrim centers which act she had postponed till then. Now she is not getting much time. She goes from work to work, scarcely rests for six hours a day, on a regular basis. On Sundays, she will not go to any house for work. In the morning, she would attend the shrine nearby and hear the speech of the speakers. It is an open garden at the entrance of the town, where all sorts of meetings are conducted, political, cultural., religious, even some theatre and folk dances and orchestra. she went to that open park on Sundays. there is a pool nearby and it has a facility for ladies to take bath. a closed enclave very private, to take bath . It was in the early periods used by princesses of a particular dynasty, that ruled these areas and there were beautiful granite marbles and brick stone walls and the granite boulders will lead to the tarn where fishes will be playing. Anabas testudineus of umteen colours and sizes. The fishes, will touch the bottom of her feet while she took bath and it will tickle her and she will laugh thinking of the vagaries of these creatures.
4
Though she is a good matchmaker, she did not herself get wedded. Once she had associated somebody very close, it was a truck driver who went on driving trips taking cargos from a different state and she liked him. He also liked her she wanted to marry her but knew from some reliable sources that he is a big drunkard. Stephanie did not like drunkards. Because she remembers how her mother suffered because of her father who was a hard tippler. And an irresponsible man. But he bought her ‘vada” whenever he came from work, and she liked ‘vada’ very much, and it was from a good South Indian restaurant, and she ate four or five at a stretch because of its taste. Later she knew that too much consumption is not good for arteries, as it contained oil. This is made in coconut oil; boil the oil in a curved pan and you mix the flour in a good round, disc-like small configuration and put it in the boiling oil. You have to be very cautious lest the hot oil would splash and injure your body she liked this snack. And about his other habits, she was not otherwise happy with him, especially his treating his puerpera, and his card games and his friends who came to the house at odd hours to call him for the game of cards and they played for kale. Though the game with money was banned by law they gathered clandestinely in a house or shed or the enclave of the public amphitheater and played.So Stephanie did not like drunkards and she took a private oath that she will remain a spinster than mating such a sponge and destroy the calm of her life.

5

The maid was now moving in a fast space passing the fields and creeks and she was about to enter the marketplace and suddenly it poured. She was in a way flabberghasted by the swift invasion of drizzles and somehow managed to enter the front lobby of a textile shop. She had come to this place a few times, but not in the time of rain. what a glorious earth to receive sudden showers so that the brambles and trees and berries and the plants and shrubs will get water to keep them nourished. Moreover, the torrent when it pours down and hits the roof made a sound quite similar to the trumpets and she remembered her visit to the festival with her friend Kutty amma and she was crazy of bangles in that season. She had bangles of various colors, red, purplish and violet and golden and claret and black and she loved the splattering sound it made on her body. they were practically giggling all their way when she went to market and housework. that was only a few seasons. Later she became fed up with that. Now she wears bangles, only a few ones to decorate her hands in a minimal way.
Now as she was watching, the rain fell profoundly and many people struggled to enter the shop and in a short time, there was a big crowd at the entrance. The shopkeeper, in fact, did not like this, still, he did not tell anything, and he showed the irritable grimace on his face. After all, these are not the clients to purchase his goods, but characters, vulnerable and drifting in the rain, who hoped too much on the weather that it would not rain. This is the rainy season. Any time it will rain. Stephanie was not interested in the new changes, and she kept on gazing at the rainfall. Let it pour more heavily. Now the water in small puddles seeps into the spaces where she was standing. But it did not touch her. It was so close. it became vehement and it had a special music and coolness and a beauty that cannot be compared. Stephanie saw the heavens still expecting for further showers. It was visibly opaque and a small lightning sound was heard somewhere in the distance. Not near her. It was plumb far. It was goodly. The rain fell stupendously and she grooved on every drop of it.
….[From a work of FICTION in progress]