The usual breakfast of cornflakes with warm milk made its way to my starving stomach, and even after eating , me being half stomach (rather half soul )made me realise how badly I missed home cooked food. Mornings are no more the same for me. Each morning these days of mine in the office guest house starts with a lie, a small but a significant one. Small, because for others it may appear just few words, but for me those are the words that define my life till now. Every morning before I leave for office, a ring on the phone is there without fail….. And I know that I would be hearing the voice that can take away every pain from my heart, soothe any injury, remove those lines of tension from my forehead and leave just a smile on my face, the same smile that used to be there when she used to wet my forehead with a kiss everyday I went to school. She is no other than maa. The first question would be did I have my breakfast, and from this side of the line I would be ready, by daily practice ,to lie to her, “Yes maa, of course”.
While I was thinking about all this standing before the mirror and adjusting my tie, my phone vibrated. “Sir your car is here”, the driver said on the line. Although office had provided me with a car but it can never match those days when Baba used to drop me to school on his scooter. My laughter and his sarcasm that it was the best scooter in the colony, it being an antique….. Everything seems so fresh!
On my way to office I saw a truck carrying caged animals. There was a chained monkey jumping inside the cage, and I could not stop laughing. It caught sight of me and started laughing at me too. I was a bit confused, but then it became clear to me that it was laughing at me because of the same reason I was laughing at it. The monkey and its chain, me and my tie ……..these have restricted us inside a cage, the only difference being that the monkey was put into it forcefully but I jumped into it by my will. Rather I have invested almost one fourth of my life to get into this cage. From childhood on, Baba saying every other person that one day he wants his son to do what he could not, endless offerings to God by Maa so that I grow up to become a successful engineer, my elder brother taunting me,”Go do something productive rather than sleeping all day long”, every sharma jii, agrawal jii on my doorsteps to know my board marks the very same day, the results are declared and comparing it with their kids, some distant relative of mine, whom I have not seen or even heard about in years, suddenly showing extreme enthusiasm in my career related issues just the day before my college entrances…….all these were the steps which made me land into this invisible cage.
This whole world is a cage and every goal that had been set for me played the role of chains, which got added each time to my miseries. Locked up my emotions and the loud laughter faded away under the clutches of the chains. But at some points of time the child in me peeped out to live its life to the fullest, as if no one is around to see him, to judge him, to stop him from being nothing but just him. I still remember my college days which brought about a huge change in me, people may say that I was going out of my tracks, but for me it was redefining myself……….finding a new ‘me’. And what is a track? Which would have led me to my goal…. I would say those days were the building blocks of my personality, not the distraction for me. I remember those 3 A.M talks in my hostel room with some of the best people of my life. Be it discussing every random topic of college and having a hearty laughter, or be it our career related serious conversations which never ended on a solution, or be it our heartbreak stories we used to mock at. After those four years I don’t remember myself actually talking to anyone. I have spent hours in a meeting, discussing business goals of companies, taking the charge and doing endless talking, I have been with my office circle in the parties during nights being the center of gravity of any discussion, but after those four years of college I don’t remember myself ‘actually talking’ to someone. Endless cuisines don’t tempt me anymore, I long for the rajma-chawal Maa used to cook. Whenever I used to be home for holidays,Baba used to come back home from office a bit early, spent time with me for hours, watching our favorite T.V show, talking about politics and the present scenario of India….. you know, he had a different way of showing his affection, unlike Maa, who used to pamper me like a 5 year old. Sitting there, stirring my coffee with the small spoon and adding sugar to it in solitude, I always remember those 7 P.M ‘chai’ at the tapri with some of the best people I have ever known. I have become a robot, sitting in this 4X4 cubicle, staring at my laptop screen, removing bugs and endless sleepless nights with a mug of coffee by my side. Sometimes I try to find myself back while looking at the mirror. But I realise that I have long lost myself in the mist of so called success and ambitions. The clumsy, sleepers and faded jeans wearing, carefree boy was much more full of life than the man with clean shaved corporate look. The talkative person was much more fun to be with than this serious looking man. I long to hear those slangs from me which I have left behind years ago. Those days when we used to fight over each rupee while paying our bills were much more peaceful than today, when we fight to pay the whole bill all by ourselves. Sharing a bowl of maggi and deep conversations over it at night cannot be matched by anything today. Weird surprises from friends and a call from home, at my birthday brought a wider curve on my lips than the expensive gifts from colleagues today. I still long for a walk with the best of the lot, and share every thing with him, every insane ideas I had in my mind, every small achievement, every mistake made…and what not.
Success made me walk two inches taller, but those two inches have been earned by me at the cost of miles of distance from my parents. I curse myself for those words of mine to them,” Maa- Baba! Don’t worry I am just a call away.” Why can’t I be with them at every stage of life? Why can’t I see them growing older in front of me? Why can’t I take baba to morning walks every day? Why can’t I accompany maa to shopping anymore? Why can’t I fall asleep while maa is caressing my forehead? Why can’t I dig into those parathas every Sunday which are best in the world? Why can’t I be with them to look after them the same way they did for me?
I want to be free…… go back to those days when paper boats were enough to make me smile, molten ice cream smeared face, jump into those puddles with a splash, get excited over a family get together, horror movies with friends and still laughing out hard at every scene, college classes were bunked for first day first show, endless banter with friends, messed up rooms but sorted lives. I feel like breaking all bondage and running away from this cage, but this cage has been built up around me gradually, over the years,with lots of efforts from my side. I now don’t have a choice but to reside inside this till the ultimate.