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A conflicted mind

Growing up, and letting the forest of his mind to consume him

Lately, he has begun to sit at the front of the school bus, with the younger students, in favour of the decrepit back seat and his garrulous seniors. Conversing with these children, he cannot help but think: it was only a few years ago that his eighth-grade class was in this phase of life – like tender buds, eager to bloom, each with its own brilliant colour. How can some wilt away, overwhelmed, while others struggle to bloom, desperately trying to shine in different shades of the same colour? It makes no sense, yet this is the way society has crafted lives for many years now.

He starts to question his own identity. The thought suddenly begins to gnaw him that he is known by most in his neighbourhood courtesy his younger brother’s exploits. One morning, as he is rushing to catch the bus, a little girl’s mom stops him and asks if he could please look after her daughter on the ride to school. She’s not feeling very well. He quickly nods in affirmation, yet there is a problem. The girl’s mother has addressed him not by his name, but by his brother’s. It is probably just a slip of the tongue; however, he cannot bring himself to accept this.

Ms. Chimney no longer baffles him nowadays. Ms. Chimney is the middle-aged woman who lives just opposite his house. She acquires her peculiar title from her unflinching daily night-time routine — at the stroke of midnight, she surreptitiously opens her front door, lights a cigarette, and walks a few paces to her car. She then leans back, gently puffing out rings of smoke into the black sky, her white car gleaming against her body. This is the only time she is seen outdoors. He used to find this woman quite aberrant, sticking out from the rest in her solitude and loneliness. She seems perfectly normal to him now, leading her life just like any other human being.

Once again, that fleeting thought enters his mind. It wasn’t always like this. He wasn’t this kind of a person. He had previously maintained a perceptible identity, right from his days as a chubby, temperamental three-year-old. To this day he vividly remembers imploring his parents to gift him a dollhouse for Christmas, while most other boys his age were zealously pursuing the latest car set. His mom tells him that the week before Christmas he gave their old sofa such a beating with his obstreperous jumps, it was forced into premature retirement.

Eventually, his obstinacy prevailed. Every Tuesday for the next few months, he would gulp down his dinner, not let his mom finish hers, and drag her to the car, so they could drive down to the local toy store and choose the next piece of furniture for his house. Not to forget his favourite colour, purple.

This atypical choice of his had triggered countless debates with his friends, him insisting that there was nothing wrong with boys liking purple, while periodically pushing up his purple glasses and clutching his purple teddy bear against his chest. He rarely finds that zest and passion with which he made that primitive yet progressive argument in him today.

As he mulls over it further, this mental conflict begins to consume a part of him. He lies wide awake in bed at night, blankly staring at the rotating blades of the fan above. The blades of the fan move on and on, however, he can’t seem to do so. His mind wanders back to the days in elementary school, when sleep was his closest companion. When his dad would have to literally lift him out of bed, haul him to the bathroom, place him on a stool and brush his teeth for him.

He hasn’t shaved in weeks. His sister tells him it looks as though he’s lost in a forest. She’s right. He has allowed the forest of his mind to consume him. He stares at his painful reflection in the mirror, and that day in seventh grade flashes before his eyes — when he bizarrely spent a full ten minutes laughing at the first signs of his adolescent moustache.

He turns to look at his sister, as she adds the final touches to her painting. A bright purple kite flies into the sky, into the heaven of freedom. In that moment, he decides to make sure that the string will never snap. In the awakening of one soul lies the rebirth of another, he hopes. 

tridib.b5@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jul 1, 2020 8:38:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/a-conflicted-mind/article23710009.ece

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