The seasons of a tragedy

This is an image of eerie woods. I've chosen this piece because it complements my bone-chilling piece about the cycle of violence and abuse.

The conditional lover

Her laughter is gentle and naïve; not wild and capricious. It isn’t prone to vengeful quirks or caustic idiosyncrasies and doesn’t inundate the room like a swarm of buzzing bees. She hides her sorrow when she smiles. Beauty knows her deeply, but she doesn’t realize it as she laughs with jaded eyes. She laughs softly and slowly in a slightly nonchalant way, but underneath it all, there is a wealth of emotion like the richness of classical music. I’ve caused her pain, and don’t deserve her, but the light crescendo of her laughter moves even a hard-hearted man like me to tears.

The murderer

The winter is a season of intemperate red,
The blades of grass are frozen; stumps of trees subdued,
Through bouts of cough and phlegm, I yell, ‘You whore! You bitch!’
Forgetting all about her laughter that was spring.

The almost penitent

Forgive me, Father, for I’ve sinned against you,
Change me, Lord, from a man possessed by hate to a prophet of love,
I hate the man I’ve become, this man of rage and sin,
I knew you once, but I forsook you,
Let me not seek repentance like Esau, but never find it,
Let me be one of your elect,
Keep me, preserve me, love me,
Bless her Lord. She really loved me.
Bless her Lord.

The self-pity soaked mourner

All she wanted was love. All she wanted was her voice to be heard. All she wanted was acceptance. O wretched man who I am! Now, she’s gone! Left me to wander scarred roads with lifeless trees circumscribing them, and the miasma of death emanating from the potholes. Now I’m alone and have no one to turn to, and grief is my only companion, stabbing me when he sees fit.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Requiem

Funerals are difficult but delivering a sermon at a murderer’s wake is excruciating. I see just five of you seated here. His mother, his three sisters and one friend who could bring himself to come. Now, I don’t mean to insult the bereaved in any way, but if I didn’t speak my mind, even if it’s for an audience of five who knew this man better than me, I might as well resign from shepherding my church and find another vocation.

What this man did was heinous. He was a teacher in a school, a man meant to educate, and facilitate intellectual and moral growth, but he broke bad and losing his grip on sanity, murdered thirteen precious young lives before taking his own. His wife has denounced him and isn’t here and that’s her prerogative, but the one person I wanted to see was his father.

When I spoke to you, I realized that he came from a troubled home and had a tortured past. His father took discipline to extremes which slowly deteriorated into both physical and verbal abuse. He never once said that he was proud of him, and rarely said that he loved him and when he did, it was in a flat, emotionless tone. His father asked him to ‘man up’ when he was severely bullied in school and disregarded every cry for solace. And now the man has the audacity to say that he took a ‘dark path’ and ‘chose’ to destroy himself. So, I’d like to address that man even though he’s not present and is busy giving interviews on news channels to purge himself of his guilt.

What you did sir, is just as heinous because you emotionally starved someone until his soul died. You’re guilty of murder too. In this age, we either don’t talk about feelings at all or we talk too much about them. But to live healthily is to feel healthily. And I don’t mean cheap thrills or ephemeral highs that drugs give you, which this man struggled with, before quitting completely, and tragically did what he did before he could celebrate his redemption. I mean a deeper, more profound connection to someone or something noble and dignified. Emotion is always two-dimensional. There is the object and the protagonist. Now this man was a protagonist when he was young. He was a young man, full of ambitions and dreams. Today, and as long as this world lives he’ll be denounced and degraded, and treated like a vile antagonist, but there was a time when he longed for something of quality and substance. If only you’d just nourished that need, my dear sir, instead of quenching it and indoctrinating him. A dogma becomes a snake in the mind which bites, poisons, and eventually devours, unless it’s given and received with love. You exasperated your child and today you aren’t even here. It’s tragic that you didn’t stop what you could have.

Having said that, I’d also like to address society. If we continue allowing our children – especially in this millennial or post-millennial age when technology which isn’t inherently bad but used abominably by men, spews all sorts of venomous ideas into their already addled heads – to emulate what we see or hear, in schools, to create cliques and enforce stereotypes at a young age because that’s how drama presents adolescence, then we’ll have to reap such consequences. There is more to life than a click-bait carousel on which digital avatars revolve. It’s a box within a box within a box. That’s how shallow and superficial we’ve become. That’s how bland and tasteless we’ve become and I’m just as guilty as everyone else. So, let’s make a change and get a hold of our broken, disjointed lives by knowing how to live in solitude, by finding simple pleasures, or by just taking a stroll in the park.

Returning to the deceased, God is merciful, but He is also just. And sadly, we’ve lost him forever if you believe in the Christian faith. He will suffer for his crimes and I can only hope it’s in the fires of an intense purgatory which enables him to finally know everlasting love.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

All my father’s songs

The songs my father sang infused me with –
the deepest pain and I lay broken, not –
perceiving its height, length, scope, range or width –
the shrill shrieks echoing those battles fought –

The songs my father sang diffused me and –
I tried, on my knees, praying, Please! Help me!
But waves of silence washed away that sand –
of hope I fancied were rocks braving sea –

The songs my father sang refused me though –
I wanted to love them, make them my own –
and then, away to lands unknown, I’d row –
with broken boats and a deep dirge, a mourn –

I listen to songs my father didn’t sing now –
but in me, the pain questions, Why? Where? How?

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

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Crossroads

He grew up in a semi-urban, hot and humid neighborhood in India, and prided himself more in his caste than his ethnicity. He believed that the term, ‘Brahmin’, brought with it a plethora of intelligence that fate denied men of other castes. He feasted on his social status, and the wisdom that the gods bestowed on the ‘chosen few’ or to use an Anglicized term, the ‘elect’ because his parents taught him exactly that: His father, an archetypal ruler of the household, erect and stiff-necked, and his mother, immersed in making sure prayers with bells ringing, and honey and milk were attended to with intricate detail. Both his parents believed in omens and the right alignment of the stars, and said that it’s ‘science’. As he grew, he lived his dream of making money, and making his parents proud, and giving them something to boast about, which in essence was his father’s dream, and which in turn will be his son’s dream. He got the grades necessary, applying his acute intelligence, and won a scholarship abroad. He landed in the Bible belt, and lived there with a Southern Baptist family for the duration of his MBA. He found them odd at first, and could never reconcile with their religious beliefs, but their conservatism appealed to him, and like most Indian men who study abroad and then return, he came home with an accent that’s put on, and a façade of Americanism, while fundamentally clinging to his tradition. He got a high paying job as a management consultant, and soon traveled, sticking to his vegetarian roots, burps after each meal, and the loud, boisterous fart in public, while wearing an Armani suit, a Christian Dior watch, and fashionable leather shoes. He gave his talks in his fake accent, while CEOs nodded in approval, secretaries gave him the look, although he wasn’t great looking, and women bosses found him alluring, despite the idiosyncratic fart. He returned to India later; spoke to the crème de la crème only, and soon owned a pristine white Contessa, because he preferred it to the Ambassador, and those were the only two elite vehicles then, owned by politicians in white and powerful men. Sure, there were the Fiats, and the small Marutis, but he jettisoned the very thought of them, like the thought of chicken curry that the ‘uncultured’ cooked. His parents soon decided on finding him a cousin he’d marry, and she was a squint-eyed Brahmin girl, who’d be her mother-in-law’s devout assistant, and the bearer of his son. But, he was a man of untamed lust, and couldn’t picture himself settling down with his cousin. He’d after all seen the most beautiful women, and struggled to keep chastity. He’d furiously masturbate, in posh hotel rooms for hours. Now it was too much to handle, and he needed a beauty. And so, he befriended a middle class Christian family, and set his sights on their daughter who was fourteen years younger than him. He was nearing forty, while she had just graduated from college. And her beauty captivated him; despite him holding the thought that Indian Christian women were ‘immoral’. He went against his parent’s wishes, seduced her, pulling the strings of her naïvety, and married her. He didn’t want a Church wedding and so it was a secular affair of sorts that his parents refused to attend. Until he got home after the ceremony – the urge to bed her, pulsating within him – he spoke to her kindly. His voice possessed a deceitful charm, a soft tenor that made her blush. But he then couldn’t find the keys to the Bungalow he’d built, and suddenly yelled at her. “Where did you keep the bloody keys?” he bellowed. She stood flabbergasted, and shaken to the core, until he realized that it was in his pocket. “Now, don’t tell me it’s my fault!” He raged, and she stood mute, not knowing what to say. Years of this transcended to physical violence, and since she couldn’t give him a child, he disregarded her as a barren woman. Adopting a child was beneath his dignity. He’d take her to parties though, where she’d smile though she wept inside, and he talked boisterously and farted. He imposed vegetarianism and Brahmin beliefs on her. Soon decades passed, and porn had arrived in its resplendent glory. His CEO friends gave him the CDs, and he got away with pretty much anything by gifting policemen bottles of champagne, or bribing them when the neighbors complained of a wife mistreated. One day, after one too many blows, finding catharsis in a group sex video, he strolled in his expensive, rich neighborhood, greeting influential men walking their dogs with their own trophy wives, and stood at a crossroads, when a thought occurred. “If I went back, I’ll continue abusing her, and somewhere it gives me no peace, but the roads to the right and the left eventually go back home too. So change is futile. And if I let her go, I’ll give her freedom and be frowned upon by society.” And so, making his choice, he went back to his bungalow with its red roof, white luxurious bathtubs, a new Mercedes parked in the garage, and a puppy that was her only consolation.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

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Survival

As she sits on the veranda, the chirping of
the crickets, the cool breeze complementing
the fragrance of the flowers in the garden,
don’t usher in eventide, no, she waits at
the end of her make-believe aisle, waiting
for his roses, as red as the bruises and
welts on her skin, hoping they’ll mean
something this time, it’s his way of
saying the umpteenth, “I’m sorry,
I love you,” and her only confidant, the
son running on the lawn, escaping
his theatrics with his own inner
drama, listens, but is too young to
play the Knight, too weak to defend,
he only cries and hides himself,
and she stays for him, because there
isn’t any other choice in a land
of misconstrued justice and laws
bendable, rules that accompany the
choir of communal hierarchies,
she made a mistake all those years ago
by saying, ‘yes’, but I think it’s common
sense now that demons masquerade
as angels, and Gollum does find redemption,
but that’s another story. He makes his
way with his flowers, and a voice soaking
with feigned melancholia, so believable,
yet so pitiable, and she gives in,
her will completely his, her story now
written in his novella, because too
many pages will give him a depth
that he never possessed, and she shrugs off
her fears for today, and calls it a day.

(Inspired by Pearl Jam’s Better Man)

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

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