Nightmares from the past, perhaps?
Trrrrriiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnnnn…………..a shrill siren tore through the five a.m. dawn. But, it was not shrill enough to stop the x-files episode from playing on to it’s inconclusive end. "X-files at five am?", you may ask. Perhaps it was a recording. No, this was not a t.v. show, but a real life nightmare which would not stop, inspite of the really shrill siren.
I guess reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez leads to this state of mind. And that is one reason why it has taken me years to read his short stories. One story in a year is enough for a year long of nightmares.
Or was it really a nightmare? I wonder. What do you think? And for that, you will have to read through impressions that I have from that morning.
No, I did not see the shooting or the knife wounds or the sword marks. A sword in the night kills swiftly and silently, but it still leaves a trail of blood. And the child giggled with incomprhension, as it miscievously touched the feet of the body wrapped in white. A ‘mummifed’ shroud of white gave no clue, as to the identity of the body being carried out of the cave like darkness. A body being towed out with the feet tightly tied with a jute thread. Yes, a jute thread- which could be tugged at , but was probably too tight. And the child who sat there simply laughed and pulled at the threads, or perhaps the paper stuck between the toes. A piece of paper with name tags and numbers, which often identify bodies in a morgue. However, bodies from morgues are not covered with blood. Bodies stop bleeding by the time they reach the morgue or at any rate, by the time that they come out of it. Or perhaps it was the red of the ‘gulal’ they throw on married, hindu women, who die while their husband is still alive. But, why would a dead body be wrapped from head to toe in a white shroud and why would this body have its feet tied? Unless, it was alive. Perhaps it was the body of a ‘would-be sati’ who could not escape the pyre, if she were to be burnt alive.
But then why the dark cave, or was it an ambulance or a railway bogie in the yard? The eerie slience, the hushed voices , the men who carried the body and the inappropriate laughter of the child were all parts of a scene, which replays itself over and over again in my head. And behind this, I could glimpse the scared face of an older child, who saw this and ran. Was it just a vivid nightmare? Or are these someone’s memories? Or someone’s nightmares? Someone, who is able to communicate these nightmares to others?
Or perhaps these were the threads of a story which Marquez forgot to ‘put to paper’? Or perhaps they were the horrors, that the children of the partition once witnessed. A history of undead souls, which still haunts the wheat fields of Punjab.