(What song shall we sing next?)
It was the case most of the time. During power cuts , when the lights go out for an hour or two , at times pre announced , at times out of the blue.
We drag a few chairs to the garden . Under the clear inky black sky, we sat. And sang . Us young ones more interested in repeating the lyrics , while my father gently nudged a young boy’s shrill on the correct path of the beat and the tune. No music, just sharp young voices and the silence of the night , making sense of it all.
While the Petromax lantern lit brightly on the dinner table, the sapphire shade of kerozine through the see through lamp base glistened like a jewel. As the candles’ flames salsa in the gentle breeze to seduce their moth boyfriends, the songs of Amaradeva , Nanda Malini , Milton & Anton Jones are sung aloud amidst the Wathu Suddha shrubs.
In the balmy night, a father sat in his arm chair tapping on to a improvised drum , while the last song of the night , “Sri lanka mahatha” , a 5 years old’s own lyrical twist on the national anthem , is sung out loud.
While a young mother stood in the shadows , enjoying her son’s vocal skills , a grandmother with her nava guna vala in her hand, her ears to the performances outside, sat on the front step, gently smiling.
(But can you prove it ? )
By now, few years have passed , and the singing has given way to conversations .
Yet, the tender weather, clear skies and the power cuts , they are all still there.
At the same set, sits the same man. His disposition seem to have grown more tolerant , he is trying to get grasp of how to step in to the role of father to a man , out of his previous role of father to a boy. He is trying to get to the correct way to answer the life’s questions.
In front him sit’s a young man with the enthusiasm of a camel caravan across a sandy desert , that is usual for that age . Yet confident , within the 17 years he has lived, he HAS figured out life.
Through the smell of burning tobacco in a corner of my mind and wafts of smoke patterns against the night sky , I remember the nonchalant manner , how my father held a cigarette between his fingers as he draw in long for smoke to fill his lungs. It was sans any style, machismo, guilt or shame . It was smoking for the sake of smoking . And sometimes an excuse to buy thinking time , while we spoke of aliens and God , Of life and death & everything else in between.
My father was a reserved man for the most part , his responses were unhurried and thought over.
Thus, between my queries and his responses existed a gap of silence . Resulting in the slow , lethargic rhythm of the conversation , complete with the necessary pauses , that made sense and added depth to the spoken .
Through my late teen years, the tone of these chats altered a little, as the rebellious counter-arguments crept in.
I was living by my life’s motto: question everything, accept nothing . And faced with my queries raining down on him, my father sometimes would just glance at the empty space, taking refuge in a smile and `a long sigh, sharing his thoughts only with the night, for the words he felt, were too heavy for the moment.
Sometimes , when I close my eyes , from somewhere in my memory , feelings of frustration for denied wisdom and the anticipation of the day I fathom the unsaid , spread a net over my mind. I see the smoke creep out through his nostrils and form rings against the somber sky.
(How to be a father , how to be a son?)
Deep in to some nights, I slip in to a familiar dream. It is of the third act, the one that completes the circle .
We sit in the garden. By now the landscape has changed. The skies are less darker, and the garden is smaller , 6 perches of it has been measured and sold years ago. The Wathu suddha shrubs are no more. A descendent, blooms white in a flower pot .
In the backdrop I could hear a Grandmother trying her grandmotherly best to answer a curious little girl’s million and one questions. A mother’s stern voice seem to keep the youthful zest at bay . Then silence . Giggles . Laughter .
It is the present me, a father myself, who sits in. My father seem to have shrunk in size
The conversations run in a sort of hushed tones. For, men of a certain age know of their wives’ ways of gathering information from even the ghost whispers. And what is heard will definitely be used to their spouse’s disadvantage at some stage
We know such things, hence we are precautious.
The actual words spoken would be few and spaced. Silence will inhabit the ambience most of the time , along with “hmm”s ,the long glances and agreeing nods.
Some times the wisdom is in the words unsaid.
The calling in for dinner is loud . As we get up to go back in , I look at him, his eyes.. Expecting to see a tear , so I would wonder whether it is of pride , joy or affection .
As I try to catch a glimpse of his face, it dawns on me, that the chair in front of me is
empty. It has been for a very long time.
Wattu Suddha - A white flower
Nava guna Vala
Buddisht prayer beads