- [SHORT FICTION]
The Jockey. Who does not know him in the city? He was behind every cultural activity, the organisation of music programs, fairs, and pageantry in the town… The jockey was seen at those free polio vaccine campaigns and cholera awareness crusades and children’s book fair and art classes under Rotary club. He presented the key oration at functions when the chief guest was late or cancelled the trip due to unforeseen reasons. When celebrities are available for the inauguration, he made the welcome talk or thanksgiving speech. This was in fact towards the end part of his career when I saw him amidst my eighth standard class in the Mission school (Founded by Basel Missionaries). Earlier in life, he used to liberally fund these shows or events but now he is somewhat in dire straits and cannot do so. Still, his presence was honoured. He had a gracious grin and a way with ladies. He could speak daintily, which many women preferred to imposing appearance or some other qualities- He was a good company in general……
Now he recollects in the special ward of the Meradosa Hospital where his better half was admitted, due to arthritis. and colon predicaments and he is here to help get the medicines or the food for his darling wife when the clinic canteen is not working. The hospital is the major branch in the town for serious patients and sometimes the delivery cases. The main establishment is in another state and it has been noted in the last fifty years or so, for risky cancer operations. The interesting part is that the head doctor of the earlier epoch is himself smarting under the same malady he had healed for decades and is in Europe for a special treatment connected with heat levels to curb the malignant cells and oxygen analeptics,which is said to have cured the President of a country…..
The old professor had left the hospital. He is replaced by his own student. It must be said to the credit of this student that he was lucky to treat his own teacher, which is sometimes a fascinating fact, using the same techniques one has learned from the master on the master himself. This is an ironical situation in life and I have found the repetition of such a thing in some later scenes.
So this in fact, is a simple tale of ironies. Quite similar to the bard in our state who was fortunate enough to study his own volume of poetry at the B.A. Honors class [Changampuzha Krishna Pillai, the Malayalam poet – 10 October 1911 – 17 June 1948). I don’t know whether the ingenious teachers catechized the romantic lyricist, the nitty-gritty of his verses while trying to teach him the very poetry he created… In my life too, some ironies of a similar sort are seen echoed…
I had , several years ago, one such occurrence while vacationing in the fraternity of my extended household that consisted of my wife, many cousins, nephews and nieces and some aged aunties and uncles. It was a trip that went on for many weeks and once we landed up at a theme park that was modelled on Rajasthani oral lore and archetypes. Some visages and cantons, that have deep connotations to the subconscious psyche of that particular populace. For example, certain words, images or themes that were self-evident and eloquent within the cultural group, but quite alien or even, blasphemous to another passel.
We enjoyed the experience and the group consisted of twelve or thirteen members. We were jet-setting sometimes in the style of Romany or didicoi. Once the group chanced to be on elephant, and many ladies in the troop were overjoyed at that ‘jolly’ ride and among them were my wife and sister-in-law. My brother-in-law was in steering position, however not replacing the mahout.. I was asked to join but I denied outright knowing that the transport will not be a jolly one, at least from my point of view . In case the cushions are not quite soft , you will have a hell of a time .Having come from a place with elephants all around, in the festivals and elsewhere, I had known these creatures perhaps, well… For me, the elephant was more like a member of everyday life and there was practically not a single day in my boyhood, that I had gone to school by walking, and not bumped into an elephant….
The elephant in the present story, after a few paces moved awkwardly and my sister-in-law was unco scared, but not my wife, for she was ebullient and had always preferred such adventures and her favourite was ‘Tora Tora’ which I had never ridden in life. Finally, the group landed safely.
Then we reached a swimming pool. I thought it was my turn now. When I saw water, I jumped into it headlong,in minimal clothes and started swimming the pool to and fro and the young folks in our family were watching and in a way admiring, along with other people around who were also viewing the scene. I had a sort of ‘special’ feeling while being the cynosure of so many eyes.. When I came out of the pool, two onlookers who were young asked me the tips to be in such an activity for long. I gave them some sort of clues and marched confidently out of the pool. My brother-in-law, meanwhile was scared to see the water and was just standing by the side of the pool, where children go, not knowing how to swim. He avoided my eyes in such a pathetic moment, because all the time during the trip he was wearing the shades and talking the Mughal talks and I thought now that millions have no use in deep waters and smiled at heart about the false emphasis of people. When I came out of the pool, Shirley auntie, a very distant relative of our extended family, whom I meet only at nuptials or obsequies, reached to me and complimented me in a warm mode. I was fairly pleased or pretty elevated before the thin old lady.
Then my wife beckoned me to a distance and told with a mischievous smile that this auntie was a great swimmer in her twenties and her visiting salon in the country residence is embellished with a multitude of gold and silver commemorations she hoarded at the interstate and global tournaments. That was, in fact, a great lesson of wonderment in my life in that season, and I reminisced that event quite often even years after that, in various stages whenever people expose their petty egos or act oddly at the so-called achievements of life…..I had almost the same downcast air of my brother-in-law when I faced him in the still waters of the tarn. But instead of dodging, I aspired to speak to her that evening, coming to know that old ladies carry mystery…..