Illustration - Pranav Vashisht
It happened quite often that wherever I may be, I would find my mind far away from my
surroundings and the sound of my guitar would fill my ears – the very tune I would have played
the previous night- all six strings vibrating together, reverberating in my mind, entering me
through the tips of my fingers, instead of my ears. Indeed, my life had made me dance on several
tunes, till I learnt to take control of the music, and play the one I liked.
As a child I had often been compared – compared to all the children of my age, some even
younger than me, in fact all those who were ever known to those who knew me. In our joint
family, the merit of the children would often become a topic of boast for the parents or to insult
other parents in the house. Being the eldest child in the house, and lazy, and not bright enough,
and somewhat “paralyzed in my mind” (as once my aunt called me), my grandmother soon began
to pity me instead of reproving me. But her pity stung worse than insult; it was a pity felt for those
one knows can never help or support themselves.
My class X result came out and what I had feared became reality. I managed to get just enough
marks to get admission in science stream. If only I could get a few less marks, my world could
have been different. Protest was out of question, my father’s sister’s sons had studied science,
one was then studying dentistry, other engineering. I could have done nothing different without
sinking my parent’s pride and dignity.
I had severe difficulty in making friends. Whoever I turned to appeared like a competitor and I had
to struggle to beat them or sometimes to equal them. It was around this time that I read about a
musician, who being very shy and introvert had picked up guitar to be his companion. I started to
fancy a similar life. I wasn’t a total stranger to guitar. I had played it as a child, when I was around
10. It was mere beginning – a short tryst with the strings, simply to fill my little innocent world with
delightful music. Now it meant something else for me, something I had to learn to survive on. It
was then that I bought a guitar, gave it my own name and a part of my identity too.
My parents got me to join coaching classes to prepare for entrance tests for B.Tech and tuitions
for Board examinations. My day would begin early in the morning and end late at night, around
10 pm when my home tutor would leave. I had reduced words spoken by me to bare minimum
– slowly my guitar became my voice. I would strum the strings with all my might, making them
writhe in my pain, while everybody in the house would fall asleep after cursing me for making
noise. But for me, the night was the only time when I seemed to have some control over my
I did badly in my entrance test, and it was expected. So my father had already laid provisions for
me. He got me into a private engineering college in Delhi. The night before leaving for Delhi, I
sat down to play my guitar; the fragile lowest string got broken with a stunning sound. It took me
time to recover and understand what had happened as I was lost in the link that was about to be
broken, my delicate link to my hometown – for which I had harboured an affection deep beneath
the layers of hatred I felt for the society I belonged to.
My life changed drastically and yet very smoothly, like the most natural consequence of coming
to Delhi. Sometimes, I could, like a passive observer, see myself undergoing changes. In the
absence of the heavy presence of my parents and my relatives, I tried to forge a new identity for
myself. I wanted to again feel important, responsible, to be somebody’s leaning staff, and hence
earn some dignity.
And then I fell in love. The girl was the most clear-eyed and charming person I had ever seen.
She rarely took part in classroom politics and seemed to get along well with everybody. Though
my classmates had declared me a loner, she took interest in me, and more than me, in my guitar
that I often carried with me to my college. But my guitar and I were one, when she would caress
my guitar I would feel – loved. Of late a feeling that some or the other harm would befall me
anytime was following me every moment, but by extending my protective cover over her, I felt
secure and equipped to handle danger.
I suddenly seemed to know what I wanted in my life to make it complete – my guitar, my girl and
my own self. I started to lay claim on her, started to ask her questions about what she did all day.
Even in college I began to keep account of all that she did; I had a mental list of all the people she
knew and talked to, and also the nature of relationship she shared with them. I would also lovingly
chastise her if she ever went anywhere without telling me about it and I found it impossible to find
out the same by myself.
She began to withdraw from me; I followed her with more perseverance. The more she ignored
me, the more I rebuked her and stuck to her. She was my responsibility, and slowly everyone
realized this truth. Her friends, in fact all the people who knew her, would ask me about her
whereabouts, whether she would go to a certain place or attend a particular event, or just
anything regarding her.
I could not be happier, and yet something kept rankling in my head. The more I drew her towards
myself the more I felt the need to do so. However I had begun to feel important. I was the
caretaker of this lovely angel who seemed to me completely subsumed in my being. I began to
worship her like divinity inside myself.
One day she spoke to me quite bluntly, so much against her usual joyful nature. That day she
behaved in a most unnatural fashion. What she spoke did not seem to be coming from her. She
told me very plain-facedly that she wanted to get rid of me from her life, and that I had eaten up
her identity and pasted mine on her. What she meant by that I could not understand. I knew that
my guitar and I shared a common identity, it was like an extension of my being, but it made me
happy. I seemed to have control over it, my identity would become stable. She told me that I was
unable to see things from the other perspective; it had something to do with seeing things from
her viewpoint. But I could not understand how she, one who was completely absorbed within me,
could feel anything that did not exist in me.
Another day, I requested her to listen to me. I made up my mind to make her understand. After
all if she erred it was my duty to correct her. I started to explain to her how she had made me
transcend my painful life, but then I found my thoughts trailing off in a completely different
direction. How it happened I know not, but I found myself telling her about the hole in one of my
socks and the maggots I found near my half-eaten guava in the morning.
That was the last time we sat together or talked to each other. Love was denied to me. I turned
inward. I found a gnawing void in me. Appetite for food was lost. But I seemed to absorb
darkness every moment. It was then that I got in touch with a group of young men, some of whom
claimed to have a past just like me, others who were better. But all of them brought a common
change in their lives and then the meaning of life for them changed altogether.
It was LSD, no, sunshine – we called it sunshine – it made me quite forget my loneliness. Earlier
it picked at my heart but now I was happiest when alone – my guitar would ring loudly in my ears,
whether I played it or not. I would sometimes feel an intense burst of pleasure in my heart that
seemed to take me up in air – a sort of divine call would resound in my ears.
One night I was lying on my bed, my guitar on me. The window was open right in front of me and
I could see the dark sky. There was no moon, at least not visible to me. Slowly sunshine had its
effect. I closed my eyes, my hands strumming the six strings without any voluntary action; at least
I seemed to hear the strings trembling with great passion.
I started to see various colours, the colours divided to form various patterns. Amid the bright
hues, I saw the image of my dear pet smiling, as she did when we began our acquaintance in
corridor outside our classroom; then the tree in my hometown which I would often run around
holding a balloon in my hand in my childhood; lastly I saw myself, some five or six years old
delightfully selecting the brightest balloon, jumping and pointing at the one that took my heart.
It was yellow, I had it in my hand, I turned to run towards the tree, but it got released in air, I ran
after it, but it was too fast for me. Nevertheless I pursued, but it kept on going farther, a bright
spot of yellow. The colour began to diffuse and turned into a large white glow in sky.
I know not whether I opened my eyes or not, but the light was still there, calling me towards it. I
had to capture it, I knew if I didn’t I would lose something precious. I was like a child, unaware
of what adversary could befall me. I ran; ready to cross any obstacle that could come. The light
glowed piercingly, and then – blackout.
It was after several months of stay in hospital that I recovered enough to move about. The
watchman of my hostel had found me lying below my window on the dry muddy ground
interspersed with small stones, surrounded by a pool of blood.
I was sitting on my hospital bed, facing the window. It was afternoon time and everything outside
seemed to be bathed in milky sunlight. Just then I heard a thud sound at my back, followed by a
sweet ringing sound. I turned to see. My mother stood behind me, smiling to see me able to sit up
straight on my own. She had dropped my guitar on the bed and two of the strings had vibrated to
produce this delightful sound. The time had come for me to play a new tune.
About the Author - Shefali is a contestant of Quilled Words Writing Contest and ' Sunshine' bagged the second prize.
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