I love crescent moon!
The figure, created by overlapping of two circles, bounded by a half-ellipse and a half-circle which depicts its nature of waxing and waning, reminds us about ups and downs in our life. I often concentrate on the crescent and try to imagine the center of the moon which is always overlapped and hidden like human emotions which are there but not always visible!
Spotting it after a gap of fifteen pitch dark nights has always been a curiosity for me. And subsequent night to night watch, observation of rays and their changing intensities with the shape and size of the moon! Watching the rays penetrating darkness and gradually diluting and then wiping it! Thus giving birth to new hopes synchronising with my desires and nourishing my revolutionary optimistic thinking! Perhaps it is even more than a mere curiosity!
It has always remained and will remain an ecstatic experience. But when I see full moon, despite the magnanimous brightness spread all around, I feel scared because I have known it for certain that the moon is soon going to dive in to a dreadful walled chamber of opaque darkness! Thus giving birth to doubts, apprehensions and reactionary pessimistic thoughts!
That has always been an unpleasant and agonising experience!!
I loved Poorni. Maybe that is the reason for my obsession to watch the crescent moon!
I had spotted Poorni and then watched her appearance as if she too was a crescent moon! And that used to make my evenings pleasant, nourish my hopes and shape my desires! Her appearance and disappearance again and again used to be a lasting pleasure for many days! But when Poornima Sharma was face to face with me the result was a disaster!
Memories of that sad incident keep me haunting even after nearly three decades!
I had joined my new posting in a beautiful hilly town. Since there was no college in the vicinity of the project area shifting my family was not advisable, I had to live alone in my official quarters.. Initially, except for a few officers, everybody was a total stranger but being the senior most officer I was supposed to be the custodian of the housing colony where I had to reside and expected to know everybody. It felt strange then but within a short time every face was familiar to me. It was a rejoicing experience of exchanging feelings of coexistence with warmth and affection.
It was a wonderful but a strange experience for two main reasons. First, I was just forty then and it used be an amazing situation for me because every female or male resident even ten years older than I would address me as ‘Father’! And the second was the strange human relationship which I had never experienced earlier. No employees, whether senior and junior, had rank or cadre complex. They lived in a congenial atmosphere. It was a privilege to live with such wonderful human beings. Living all alone could have made my personal life difficult, but destiny had kept something very good in store for me.
The town was a night stop for road passengers on their way to a health resort. So I usually enjoyed the company of some friends or unknown people connected to different branches of Fine Arts. Discussions on current affairs or fine arts used to be refreshing. Some very close friends, despite their reservation in our Departmental Rest House, preferred to spend pleasant evenings with me. They would drop in in the evening and generally leave early morning.
Memories of one such evening are fresh in my mind even today.
I had the privilege to have a very well-known folk singer as my guest. The guest had some more singers in his team. All of them were fabulous entertainers. All of us enjoyed singing, mimicking and very loud laughing. Many often, the programme extended till mid night.
When my guests would leave, it was a very refreshing morning. But when I heard the piercing sound of the call bell, I became conscious about the sound pollution our music programme had created the previous night. Some residents of the colony had come in group as if to express their displeasure. My servant Bishan opened the door while I quietly listened to Bishan’s conversation with the visitors. It was a big relief for me to know that they had not come to complain. In fact all of them had enjoyed the catchy music and songs which had echoed in the colony for most of the night. They appreciated the singing programme and had come to see and meet the performers, but were disappointed to learn that the artists had already left.
When they left I overheard a female voice which sounded musical but instead of appreciating the songs sung by the performers, she wanted to confirm the names of the singers. Besides that she was very keen to know if I was one of the three singers?
I was shocked to notice that Bishan, who was always courteous to everybody who came to meet me, was not interested to tell anything to that lady. Bishan’s very cold response had perhaps put her off. I could guess it from her gestures before she suddenly disappeared. Obviously doubts bogged my mind. But I had my own limitations and therefore could not interrogate or investigate why he did it.
But my curiosity compelled me to find out who she was! Pretending that I love a bare footed walk on the grasses wet with morning dew I kept looking around.
I had not to wait for long because I noticed a very beautiful lady dressed in white in the flat next to mine.
My curiosity turned into hopes when she overtly sought attention. She gave a magical smile with her hands folded. I could read her lips conveying ‘Namaskaar’. But when Bishan came closer to me she suddenly disappeared again.
Her mysterious appearance and disappearance was a breath-taking happening for about a fortnight. I knew that one of my office clerks, Niranjan Sharma lived in that flat with his wife. Had she been a member of his family she would have been introduced to me as per the precedence, soon after I moved in the colony, I was expected to knock every door of the colony to introduce myself and thus know every member of the families. But I never saw her at that time. Was she a relative or a guest of Sharma Ji? It would have been inappropriate to ask Bishan or anybody else for obvious reasons. Therefore I had no choice but to keep on guessing about the lady who had become an attraction for me!
But just two days before Holi the festival of colour when I was personally supervising arrangements Gautam, my personal assistan, gave me a great surprise!
Gautam gave me an application and told that Niranjan Sharma’s daughter Poornima has requested for a meeting. He said Poornima is known to every family living in the colony but close to none, not even to her parents. Her interest in music was the only link with the residents of the colony, and that too when she wanted to participate! She would never oblige when asked or requested to sing. That sounded strange but the thought of meeting her in person was certainly a memorable moment at that time.
I was thrilled to see a typed application enclosed with her bio-data. She had requested for a meeting with me in my capacity as custodian of the colony. So without perusing her bio-data or even reading the application I quickly wrote ‘Welcome any time!’ on her application.
During Holi celebrations Poorni kept herself away from the colours but did join the get-together of the residents organised by me in the open lawn in front of my quarter. She sang a folk song too but stopped at that. And then disappeared. Except for me no one was surprised.
In view of my official limitations I could neither enquire nor investigate why she behaved the way she did. But when everybody had left and I entered my flat . Bishan informed me that Poorni has been waiting for me for more than three hours and that he could not stop her. He wanted to tell me something more but I just ignored him and entered my drawing room.
There she was!
I was face to face with her in my drawing room. Her voluptuous body in loose white dress was seeking attention, particularly when she was raising her arms up the way a sailor sets right the direction of the sail!
When she spoke I felt I was hearing the soothing sound of a stream cascading from a hill, much like the beats of gushing water.
I wanted to tell her about my obsession about crescent moon since I was teenage! And her being the only one as charming as a crescent moon!
I wanted to know from her why she kept herself away from mixing with people? But how she was taking interest in me?
She did not give me a chance to speak but I kept on listening what she said!
I felt as if a glacier had melted and the water was flowing!
She was disciplined, precise and cool. Surprisingly she raised some mature and pertinent questions and then she herself explained some of the responses to these questions logically or symbolically.
Initially I enjoyed her flow of thoughts regarding life as it is! I was convinced that all of us are born with destined life and thus was convinced that it is a sin to call a person a sinner and give punishment. During our three-hour discussion she referred to symbolic and allegoric interpretations in the Hindu mythology.
She convinced me that Shiva is Matter and Shakti is Energy! Hanumaan is symbolic interpretation of Air and Wind, and thus immortal!
She kept on impressing me with her general knowledge and her flair for fine arts. She also expressed her critical involvement in socio-economic and cultural topics!
I was convinced that she is in search of a person and a society which resonates similar frequency, in search of a person with identical feelings and thoughts! Was she trying to know if that person could be me!!
Then suddenly she started criticising the creator of the Universe! With reference to a Greek thinker she said “While giving shape to Universe if God did not take the help of Geometry, then what could have been the shape of Sun, Moon, Stars, Planets and Earth! Perhaps oceans would not have separated continents, and countries with bays! Just earth on one side and water on the other side!"
Since too many of her thoughts had found a single outlet, I was convinced that the flow has become turbulent. As such I kept on listening without registering anything.
It was midnight and Bishan was getting impatient. He kept on giving me signals to wind up!
Suddenly, while suggesting the new shapes and human forms, Poorni raised her hand up. Concentrating on her finger she said, “God should have put an eye on this fingertip. Just watch. Height is increased. Area of visibility is increased. Height can be reduced for close zoom in. Thus no head moment is required, just a rotation of finger will serve the purpose!’’
Bishan could not stop an instantaneous laughter at this. Poorni got offended and jumped to catch him. Poorni’s father, who was perhaps standing outside my drawing room and anticipating this moment, rushed in to control her daughter and forcibly took her away!
I was utterly shocked to watch this anti-climax. Much before I could get back to my feet, Bishan screamed and said, “Sir ! This was expected. That is why I was hinting to close this discussion. If not now may be an hour later! That is why all of us avoid facing her. She keeps on narrating the unseen glamour of Heaven but drags the listener towards Hell. Pity her unfortunate father who has been controlling her from the day she got married. Poorni had spent only one night with her husband. That too ten years ago!"
Full moon had again dived in to the darkness!
Gradually I overcame my apprehensive anxiety and optimistic curiosity about Poorni. For nearly two years I never heard anything about her. I had realised that expressing any further curiosity or an enquiry about her would attract suspicion from the residents. Therefore I closed the chapter. But I must confess that my desire to see the moon once again was hidden between too many lines narrating life as it is and as it should have been according to Poornima.
Upon my transfer and during my handing over of charge I found her application and bio-data tagged in my personal file. For the first time I tried to read through her bio-data.
Her bio-data triggered many surprises for me!
Poornima Sharma, age 35 years, M A (Eng, Mus History}, resigned as Lecturer and the reason given was suffocation caused by the surroundings. Her hobbies included listening to soothing music and rich poetry, and reading books with symbolic and allegoric matter. Favourite books- Tales from Panchtantra and Razor’s Edge. Besides these details a quotation also figured at the bottom of the page- “Destiny dictates its own unwritten laws and verdicts. Have to accept it! But then why punish a sinner and a criminal for a sin or a crime they are destined to do? Why punish me for my doings which I am destined to do!”
I cried. Even condemned myself for not reading her bio-data before taking a hasty decision when I met her in person, unaware and unprepared!. Could I have saved her if I had known this?
I keep on thinking and watching crescent moon which remains my obsession even now!
Veerindar Patwari is a Civil Engineer currently enjoying retired life in Egypt. He is a well-known Urdu short story writer besides a playwright and an acknowledged scriptwriter for TV and films. He has so far published 14 compilations of his short stories and dramas in Urdu. Delhi and Bihar Urdu academies have awarded him for his literary contribution.
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