The whisper of immortality rang true in these streets. Crowded and rich with the smell of sweat, flowers and temples. A challenge to the stories that dream of the apocalypse.
I walk in the streets and I am welcome in their indifference. I am only a pilgrim, a customer, a passerby. My presence is lived and forgotten in a eyebat.
In their carelessness, I felt immortal.
I caressed the scent of marigold and basil garlands as I walk. The gopuram shined in gold. The majestic form of Lord Shiva, the undertaker who rose to immortality, towers over my vision.
Today, intoxicated by these garlands and incense, I smile.
I feel you Lord. I feel immortal. I could challenge you and survive.
I stood there trembling until a passerby stood next to me. He stood watching the form, unmindful of my presence. In his eyes, I saw.. humility.
The eyes that see, the thoughts that whisper, in its ideals and vision, we each stood immortal.
I shrugged and continued my walk. Today, I meant to dig and guard skeletons of my own.
I took a turn opposite the temple doors. I walked for a while and turned left again. I reached my destination and looked around.
This is where we parted last time. She said you remembered her. You know each other, only, I don't know how.
Never mind that, today is the day I challenged the undertaker. I shall unearth your secrets.
The street is filled in two rows of at least 9 houses each. All the houses share a boundary wall. I walk along the street willing my heart to beat harder at familiarity.
The houses as I walked were at least 25 years old and almost all felt ancient and worn down. Like my grandfathers.
I heard a shout from behind and I continue walking. The shout got louder, oy, oy girl, I am calling you.
I turned and saw an old man, who would fit into any Hindu old aged person stereotype. I smile, and walk to him.
Oy, I called you many times, are you lost? he asked me. No, I said, I was looking for a boy of ten maybe, with a sacred thread and visits temple every day. I ask him if he could help me find his house. Um, no boy here lady, he tells me, I know every one of this household and no, no boy here. Are you sure you have the right street? Do you know his name? he asked me. Yes and no, I replied.
I stay silent knowing that there was a secret I was keeping. How would he react if I told him I know a young girl who knows him and they are probably in love? That the boy is wise beyond his years?
He looks at me and details every household in the street. He says most of the residents have moved out and have rented the place for tourists. But no, no long term residents and no boy anyways. Which young boys want to visit temples these days, he asked me, they are content in their little tv boxes and jeans. No, no boys here lady.
I smile and acknowledge to him that he has been helpful. I look back at the street and yet, something in me does not accept defeat.
Why, in this issue, I can trust no one. I must keep my own counsel.
I sigh and tell him I will walk the length of the street anyways. He volunteers to walk with me.
We walked together on that street. He had difficulty breathing and was slow in his steps. Lucky for him, today I covered seas and mountains with my every step. So I was glad to keep his pace.
I look at each house in the array and felt their stories. Old, preserved and forgotten. Like a beckoning that is dying to be heard.
He catches my hand and settles on a veranda. I sit next to him and ask how long he has lived here. I am a tourist myself, I tell him.
Too long, he told me. I smile because he felt that way. Like life was an unrelenting burden he carried for years without relief.
As I turned, his next words, shook the earth from my feet. Too long, lady, to see a young one die.
I shook, trembled, and watched as the old man fought against hope to ease his burden. His face, wrought with lines, left no sign of acceptance.
As my eyes blurred, I could see the majestic form of the God beyond him.
Lord, I could challenge you today. For you are stone and water. For our eyes see, our thoughts whisper ideals and vision. We are each immortal. It is our curse.
I could challenge you today and outlive.
For I know I survived a young wise boy. Now I share this man's burden.
Is this my purpose?
I look at the old man, who grips my hand to stand again. Today, I could ease his burden.
But I thank him, and walk away. For like him, today, I defy acceptance.