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Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Ravine by Jim Wungramyao Kasom

The Ravine (A Story) by Jim Wungramyao Kasom

There was silence everywhere except for the clattering door, left ajar and wind hustling on it. The room had a dingy smell of urine. The shutters were closed and the wind was playing on it. Dust-smeared panes would have reflected the sunbeams from entering the room, but there was no sun and it made it darker. The room was stuffy and had not been aerated for days but that didn’t bother the old woman in her death bed. Every short interval, she coughed her lungs out and her voice echoed empty beyond the walls of her shabby room.

“I hate this moody weather”, she squirmed, peering out through the dark, dust-stained glasses.’ “I’ve lived enough….,” she mumbled to herself. Of pain, of joy or for unknown reasons, she mustered enough irony for a short smile. She piled a hump out of her saliva-stained pillows and sat up; her back to the wall. She groped for her walking staff as her memory flashed back in pieces. A sense of urgency crept into her. She melted down and wept.

She stood on her feet tremulously and fumbled the knob of the door. The door flunked open with another dry creaking noise and fresh air whooshed into the room, flapping among some books and creating waves over the frames on the wall. She saw few familiar faces among those pictures but she had too little memory left for sound judgment. The light beaming in from the door was of little help for her eyes were failing her. For reason no other than age, tears burst down her shriveled cheeks and blurred her vision for worst.

She scooped some water over her face and splattered unintentionally over her grayed hair. She swooped over the wilted creeper and sloshed some water and murmured, “o poor, did I forget you”. She spat on the floor missing the spittoon. Her room was all but a mess.

“Breakfast grandma” a boy came in with a cup of milk and some biscuit on a server. Slamming the door behind him he rushed out into the corridor adjoining the verandah.

“Hey! You, Come back over here” quaked the old woman in her shrunken- short breathe voice. “A stranger in my house! Abomination!” she mumbled ruminatively, sipping over the cup of milk. “Ah! I’ve not tasted milk for a while now. Living on other diet?” she asked herself. Fumbling the handle, she took a sip wishfully. “Good milk. Good fellow. That boy, a lovely child” she thought over, but she had forgotten his look.

The sun had come up by the time she’d had her breakfast. Putting another shirt over the other and flinging a cloak over another, she was bulged as a hen. Dressed heavy as she was, she moved slowly, and with just enough energy in her to slam the door behind. “O’ what a lovely day!” she said, watching the sun from her backyard.

“Boy, Which way is the ravine?” she asked the same boy mistaken for another boy. “Lovely boy” she mumbled again. A wisp of dust trailed along her tramping footsteps. “Lady you got chickens to look after. Feed well”, she walked past, kindly responding with a smile for a smile.

“How do you feel today?” the young lady enquired with great concern.

“I’m fine! But do I happen to know you?” she enquired, with no tint of arrogance in her voice. There was no reply.

The sun had broken the misty veils when she walked up the slanting road. The sun was hot on her. Undressing a shawl from her neck she complained, “I’ve never seen such a hot day.” She would stop occasionally for breath as she climbed up the sloppy trail. “O, God! Isn’t there any concession for my age?” she complained again. Hunching over her stick she strike a quaint figure of an actor hunching over a golden stilts or lamp post; unbalanced and odd in every way. Her socks were of different colors, shoes never cared. She spoke in voice audible to herself but too loud to others. Her opinion on many matters could not be left secret or unknown.

“Lazy hooligans, don’t they have anything to do?” she had said of those young fathers standing on the pavement for some chat. When they stared back at her she would hurry away as if she had not spoken a word. And she would say, “Haven’t you seen an old woman before?” in a more boisterous tone.

The sun was high up when she forged further beyond the last house. The silence was broken by the children’s voices, churning of rice mills, every bucolic activity… and the wind was dashing hard on her insensitive face but she felt so little. She felt as if she had been cocooned in somnambulant dizziness.

Walking over the knee deep grasses she felt something mushy beneath her feet. After few mushy steps she realized that she had abandoned a shoe at her last stop. As she disappeared into the pine groove she further slowed down. With slippery needled leaf strewn everywhere it had became harder for her to balance. The smell of pine was familiar to her. Leaning her weight over a disfigured branch she choked a young sprout- tuft of needled leaves and snuffed over and over. “Old pine… You are a true friend” She said with an old smile.

Few meters from the ravine, she came to a halt. Sitting flat with her leg stretched, she watched the beauty -unfolding in her eye deep down the valley; and old trails of memories came flashing in. She saw the spiraling red-muddy road she had walked thousand times, the oak trails, the mango grooves, the corn field she had sweated all her life and the wild apple tree where she first fell in love with a man she later married. The mountains where she had watched the sun go down every evening. The valley where she had looked after her father’s loitering all came rushing in like many breath of fresh air.

“O’ where have I been all these years…how could I be…” she wept.

“Martha…my beloved daughter…o…my grandchildren… aw...”

“Grandma it’s time for lunch,” came a boy’s pitchy voice.

She arched back and recognized her grandson, standing right behind her; almost grown out of boyhood.

“Such pompous growth… you’ve grown too much.” She said. The boy just grinned stupidly.

“How long have I been here,” she asked, reaching out her hand to the boy offering help.

“Long enough… it’s time for lunch,” said the boy.

“It seems like years to me,” she said.

Too many thought came rushing in and clogged her mind and gagged her mouth. She gaped and warm tears ran down her cheeks. She stood to her feet, dried her tears and brushing off those dangling dry leaves, she lifted her eyes to the topmost firmament and only said, Thank you my Lord for the old ravine.

Author’s Bio: Jim Wungramyao Kasom has an MA Mass communication from AJK, MCRC, Jamia is a photographer by profession. He’s passionate about writing and one of his stories has appeared in Reading Hour.

This story explores the ordeal of the daily life of an alzheimer patient, who loses her memory. Jim thinks that it is but memory that makes a man meaningful and worth living.

Jim is a writer and photographer. He writes short fiction, lyrics and screenplays; is passionate about photography, travelling and getting to know places and cultures. Two of his short stories have already appeared in Reading Hour Magazine.


  1. A great and prolific writer at such a young age. The picturesque description shakes your inner soul. Indeed, the writer steals the breath away with his write-up. Bravo Jim!


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