My Chair

 Padmavathy Vatsala

It was a time when my purse was very small and I had to purchase a
chair urgently to accommodate my writing table which naturally was as
narrow as a table could be. It had been in use ever since my husband
was a student at the primary level later appointed as a government
servant, appointed at an office at the beginning of his career. It was
dotted with black ink, blue ink and a variety of meaningful words in
several languages he had came upon his sojourn in his job hunting
days. He was not a good job hunter as usual as in these days. Now the
career sky is strewn with many stars different in size and value. It
could be a large morning star in the early morning sky or could be a
dull one not to show you a clear path to pursue. As a matter of fact
he had not been able to purchase a single drawer table for me as I
happen to be a story writer. Being a lady it was never considered that
I would need a table of mine exclusively to write on.  Did not or
could not complain of the poor facilities provided for a girl writer.
,I was not rich, at least not able to accommodate my writing
facilities with my poor earnings. I had a beautiful Pilot Pen,
Japanese made of course! I had a red pen too because it is the most
important tool for a school teacher which came on due time .And I used
it well in correcting notes and compositions of my dear children who
were not at all concerned about the underscores, rewritings and the
correction on the spelling of the words, for those things were mere
useless exercises according to them. They, the whole pack of jolly
girls came to school to get a relief from the domestic cores they were
put in at home. . They did not want to nurse the younger children, who
were more in number produced by their parents. They lived in
deprecated dwellings threatening to fall down or fly away in the
Monsoon winds which demolished the swept away the whole settlements
within a couple of hours. Still they did their home work well in
advance at home and came into the best accommodated classrooms
maintained by the government authorities. Their chatting in leisure
time, their un-bookish stories of the real life they  led and the
satire they enjoyed framed by themselves made them real teenage girls
full of mirth and dreams boundless and the description of the sea
shore in the monsoon months. Whenever the winter set in they were a
little annoyed by the sickbeds at home and the wage-less days they
merged in and the forthcoming hungry days which were to follow. I felt
very unhappy when Madhuri, the eldest of the tenth standard asked me
to write a story of her life of just fifteen years. It was she who
said that there is a second hand furniture shop on the beach road,
very fine indeed, ethnic and strong made of black wood, teak etc. on
sale. You will get it at a low beautiful price, madam, go for a walk
in the beach and select, what is fit for you to write on and I will
present you with a new pen which has been presented to me by my uncle
when he returned from the Gulf! Actually he has brought two numbers
one for me and the other for my brother, who had already went away
from home seeking a job, which is a better thing than a useless
certificate which says nothing .I  was awed.  Wanted to kiss her on
her head, which already is taller than me. Thence starts the story of
my writing chair.

I was very happy when I got the precious thing without much difficulty
in bargaining. Actually there was no bargaining at all. The shop
keeper said, it was from the well to do gentleman, whose son being
richer than his father had replaced almost all the furniture in the
house with new ones, French, imported and good ones, which would
sustain any irksome climate.
 We were very happy, my husband and me. I spread out a good flowered
table cloth on the old table honourig the ethnic chair which seemed
befitting to the dressed up table. I walked around the set several
times and sat on the ancient chair, with carved timber legs. The
circular, triangular and square embedded designs were coquettish and
the tiny groves and corners were anointed with fresh wood polish. How
careful of them! Perhaps the old and rich owner might have suggested
to the shopper keeper to freshen the piece and make it presentable and
valuable befitting the indoors of a school teacher’s household!
Sitting on the comfortable chair I was enveloped with a range of
dreams.  Thought of the virgin owner, who might have sat, on the new
chair. The chair was high-backed and there was the dim shade of the
old man, who had left a cloud-like sign on the head-rest. I found that
my head would never reach out up to the level line he had left on. Yet
I could sit back and reach out to the writing material on the table.
One night as I was engrossed in writing a story for the coming special
issue of the weekly, I usually contribute to, I felt the scent of a
feminine spray and I looked around three times. THERE WAS NONE IN . I
HAD SAT DOWN LATE INTO THE NIGHT TO FINISH THE STORY.I heard the
ruffling of silk dress. The perfume was old fashioned. The window
curtains flew up the pleats. And I heard the man’s voice. What are you
writing my child? Is it my story? No, it is not. Nobody is interested
in reading an old man story. Their taste and feelings are youngish. I
would rather write a story of rape! Never, I tell you never do it,
after reading it I might come in and what do you think , What shall
not be done! I laughed at him.
Dear, write about my young man’s life.
Was not it glorious?
Might be. Yet I cannot remember it any more in detail!
I had no time to live. I spent my youthful days, like an engine oiled,
ready to be used in precisely measured cut to pieces shape and never
had I remembered my birth-days until my precious wife put a cup of
payasam in front of me on a table, while I sat on this very chair, now
you are enjoying. I feel envious of you after all these dead years. I
shook my head to throw away the peculiar thoughts and feelings. I
remembered that the night was withering away, the luster already spent
up. I should stop working and looking straight forward toward the open
door to my bed-room which was half-lit and the baby sleeping on his
bed calm and enjoying a sweet dream. I forgot the old gentleman, wise
and shrewd. He has not been satiated with his life and rarely enjoys
his new life. What a pity, to live long and bequeath four generations
behind and leave not a single remembrance akin to his real desires
.His life if ninety long and virile years are now floating in the dark
like some huge dead fish swept among the waves of the ocean of life.
So sad indeed! What are you murmuring? Nothing, of importance, sir!  I
saw him today as he was visiting us! Who was it? , The sweet old man.
Which man? It is our past house-owner, who is on tour, of the livid
night. See what a beautiful night he has chosen to! Gradually I could
not converse with him anymore .He is a stray visitor of sorts. I
thought he wants his presence, even after several years of shifting
from this world and his love for life has not yet withered away. Yet
how long could he above the veritable existence here? He does not
belong to this world. Actually he has no right to remain on the
premises they had already leased out for a complete year to us..
Sometimes I was angry at his unnaturally coming in and going out,
whenever he felt to do so. One day he asked me to write his story. I
replied no, I shall write the story of my experiences only, nit of
yours! There is insincerity in it.
You are free to do as you please. His voice fell into a soft murmur.
Then he asked me, are you pleased with your accommodation you have got
in this old house? I am comfortable enough. Anyhow we would have to
shift, sooner or later. O .K. My writing table and chair was totally
forgotten. Two weeks passed away and I was busy with my tours with my
schoolchildren. My table and chair were covered with the autumn dust
coming in with the north wind. I took off the covers and put them in a
basket. I myself have to wash in the coming leisure time on the week
end.
!t was the beginning of summer and the cool breeze from the sea began
sweeping ashore with its kindness and generosity. It brings softness
to shroud one. The winter dryness is done away with. Whenever I got
leisure time on a week-end day I stopped writing indoors at the table
and took my file and writing board to the open air at the back of our
moderate house and to my delight there stood a compound full of
arrayed coconut trees, a well planted garden off light and spotted
thick and rounded shadows. The coolest wind I could dream for in a
seashore place though sandy but no dust to spoil the air. The sunlit
spots in between the trees are strewn with beautiful patches of
lovesome green grass a lawn of natural gift. I was so enthralled .The
cool breeze played on my countenance and the birds of black and white
colours imprinted the earth and sky. I began to write more speedily
and white papers were covered with my hand writing in black. I even
tried to beautify each page with a sketch of my selection. Thus I
spent two weeks at a stretch and I was enjoying my leave from school
and also filling my each minute with joyful writing. I had not even
known a large double-storied building had been let off on hire to a
party that the leftovers of vegetables and food packets seen on the
garbage in the compound by the deserted house up to yester day. They
were a pack of bachelors teaching in the nearby college, who might be
the new tenants. Thereby my recluse at the backyard of our dwelling
lost its privacy. I had to go back around I found that I had tot leave
my seat under the palm tree. Hence I chose to stick to the old man s
chair; and found it comfortable enough; yet the more space on the
caned seat allowed air to seep in and soothed me. There is a way for
everything. I started seriously for my leave is going to finish and I
had to succumb to its command tt and work.
The night was still and beautiful. A slight wind had chosen to enter
the already sultry atmosphere. The slit in a window pain was
struggling to come in and I threw it wide open on its one remaining
hinges. T could hold on the panel againt the surprising entry of a
shower, There were wooden bars in the window, once beautifully carved
yet old and stammering in the consistent lash of the wind. The old man
s voice stammered a little. Are you writing still? Ya, of course! I
suppose today we can talk a little.
Come in please friend. You had been writing for a long time?
I have not enough extra time to choose only comfortable hours. being a
woman and writing is a secondary thing for women they say! Nonsense:
There are much more girls entering this field nowadays. Everyone does
not get the chance. Be brave to work up to your capacity. Anybody can
cook for you. However nobody could do your own writing. Do you hear it
is not mere scribbling!
In my das, women could not read anything than the old scriptures. They
were not sent out to learn things. Now are educated and free to convey
thoughts and feelings your experiences in life in your writings. He
said as authoritatively as he could. No, I said, Our spirits are shut
out from our daily cores. That makes the difference! We are writing as
we would write a list of domestic grocery items! We want to be free of
the everlasting kitchen. We the So called Malayalis are a dirty pack
of conservatives who do not want to change for centuries. They would
like to build kitchens at the back of a beautiful residential house as
if the food we eat is a dirty unholy thing. The women think they are
to toil in the kitchen for even after they are fed up with food and
all fineries of life and their precious and holy self and soul, for
working within the same kitchen forever and ever. And you understand
me, my good friend? Sure. And he disappeared and the night wind heaved
a sad say. The window panes shivered in the cold outside. Somewhere a
night-bird took up the old man’s sigh and I  shut down my file with a
thud. And I could not rub away the clear-cut picture of an apartment
which I have visited not long ago with large kitchen tucked to the
deepest dark corner of the boasting apartment complex. I also knew
that the building was the fulfillment of the dream of some Malayali
families and contractor himself was an orthodox born in Kerala! Shame
for them! They think the highly learned Malayali girls working in the
world of the Information Technology are still more kitchen machines of
the past!
That night I could not sleep and the sad wind whimpered in the tree
tops. I had not tidied up my writing table and the old chair stood
there as if a good soothing lap of my mother. I Could not write for
weeks following. One good morning as I had no work in my kitchen, I
sat for minutes thinking of my unfinished work on the table .I thought
that someone would find it out after my death when tidying up the
unused things and would feel for me. Yet some other person would say,
it was a dream that she could write so much, being a caring mother of
a family.
One day I began to read a book, written by my college mate of  the
past. The same was sent to me as a complement by him I had not found
time even to open the parcel and see what it was! Where is he now!
What would he had thought of my passiveness. With what goodness would
he had sent one autographed copy to me! With a shudder, I remembered
that he is no more and thought why his suicide leaving beloved family
had!
Then the old man came and knocked on the shut panels of my window. The
chair and table were still there. I was reading a new book.
You reading? Why don’t you write instead of reading? Write about
yourself self! There is no need. Several thousands are writing on
their experiences. They have not yet lost their soul for it. What do
you want for yourself?
Freedom to get liberated from the grip of my endless daily core;. From
greed for food, from want of all kinds of luxuries and to free mu self
for going places. Actually I want I want to sit Quite and think. Like
the Buddha? No Not like Him ,but like human being, a woman of action,
not for the sake of eating and enjoying on the thought of it. By the
by why did you marry? Marriage is a bond.
It is the license of the society to live with a man, where women are
always the loser and man loses his wandering nature which he enjoys
always. He wants the ultimate freedom from all responsibilities and
enjoys everything he comes across. Do you understand my words my dear
child?  Then no use for a marriage in the world of freedom! Not at
all. It is only a bond between man and woman.  For the sake of the
society? It is almost!
Again I was put in a dilemma. I turned to my table, to finish that
off. This is a difficult position, I am put in. Perhaps I may not
write any more. That matters to me alone. That evening my husband
called me to go out. To the beach? No! To a film? Not at all. You are
not writing! Then why should you sit in and brood? I want to. Leave me
alone. He left for a walk. I did not see the old man for a long period
of a couple of months. He might be dead again. Someone e enjoys or
suffers more than one life and die at the end of each. I began to push
my pen again, for the tenth or more time. It is easier now. Everything
is easier when one tries repeatedly one’s attempt. One day we my
husband said we have to attend a ceremony at our house owners! Are you
in a mood to come? O.K. .We went in a hired auto. There were very many
people in the bungalow. Cars were parked on the side of the road on
spots available around. We met only three who were from the other
house, they had hired out. They are our neighbors, who we had met
before but not closed as far as friendship, They smiled at us and we
returned the greeting fairly well. I am Sreejith Narayan one of them
stepped a foot forward and smiled closely. Thank you .Then he turned
to me and said, have you stopped your writing? I was abashed. No. My
husband looked at me curiously. Oh! He said, she is not a steady
writer. It is only a hobby, which she leaves whenever she pleases!
 He again looked at me assure his words. I kept quiet .We were led to
indoors.It was a wide hall to accommodate the burial bed of seven fee
feet long, wher the old man lay majestically with a countenance
stubbornly open and looking steadily at one large piece of photograph,
digitalized, and gloriously set I turned to look around to find out
which one is the real and which is a picture ?  This is his death
anniversary. My husband said. After a cup of tea we went out with the
leaving people and did not speak. His, the old man’s seven feet body
was laying there with an unabashed smile and his big strong feet
were protruding out of the sheets of red silk. I thought he might
stand up at any moment and walk away to the other world. It seems he
do not want the ceremonies of this pretentious world. That I returned
home straight into my writing and finished my work. My husband went
out and brought back two parcels of food from the nearest hotel which
was famous for its dinner packets. It was fine yet it was the first
time we had eaten food prepared outside home! He ate it well and fine
and after washing hands announced that , anyhow hotel food is not good
for health!

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