I know you are surprised to find a letter from me after all these years. I am choosing a letter over all the other means available to me because I am convinced I need to feel my pen on paper to convey all that I feel. Something has been tugging at my heart these past few days. The incident itself in retrospect does not seem spectacular. (Alas memories though sweet do not hold the vibrance of the moment lived!) Nevertheless it took possession of me at that time and I had to let you know.
It was a lazy Sunday. I overslept and woke up around noon. I decided to have a bath to rid myself of any further notions of going back to sleep and missing my lunch. I was heading for the bathroom when I saw her – a cat.
A stray with brown patches on her white fur coat, crouching beside the door of one of the rooms still under construction. She was so still, so focussed, she hardly seemed to draw breath. My approaching footsteps did not have any effect on her. Indeed, I should think I would have been frightened if she were then suddenly to turn around. Passing the room, I peeped in to see what was holding her attention.
A pigeon. Perched on the window frame – oblivious to the cat.
I passed the room, but paused.
Should I shoo the cat away or maybe the pigeon?
Suddenly, a torpedo of memories overwhelmed me. It struck with fury and amid the confusion it flung me into; A memory floated to me – clear.
It was our childhood, an evening, many years ago.
We are in the backyard.
Sitting on the step – daydreaming – something catches my eye. It was glistening. A huge spider web – spread all the way from a branch of the mango tree to the old shed where we kept firewood. The weave shone in the sunlight. I was fascinated. How did a spider make so huge a web in a day? (I am sure the web was not there yesterday)
Engrossed in your play, you did not see me. I broke a twig from the mango tree and poked a hole, right at the centre, of the web. It had been my experience (I had tried out this theory many a times before) that the moment something touched a spider web, the spider would arrive to the source of the disturbance. But this spider, whom I wished to see (although a little scared that anything that made this big a web must be huge) did not show up.
I do not know what made me do it. Maybe I was angry that I could not discover the spider or maybe, I just loved the way the web quivered and made the sunlight dance. I cannot remember which or whether there even was a reason for that little girl to do what she fancied.
I started making the hole bigger and bigger.
Oh! What fun I thought. I was delighted!
Then, you came and stopped me.
I was furious. You do not include me in your games and when I finally find something to play with, you stop me. Why? What do you care? It is a spider web, probably going to trap some poor butterfly. I was raging against you.
You shut me up with just a shrug of your shoulders and a remark:
“Is not the spider poor too?”
A question. A plain, ordinary question.
(Oh brother! Do you remember? I am sure you do not)
It shook me – hit me like cold water. That one question plunged me into deep internal monologues.
I know you must be laughing now. You might not have meant anything by the question. Indeed, now, I believe you said those words without thought, just to stop me. Do not laugh brother, for you do not know how impressionable little girls are.
For that little girl that day, it put everything into perspective. Everyone wants to survive. Who was I to hold the colourful over the brown and fuzzy? The spider was just trying to live – like us all – and I broke its web.
Do you realize into what turmoil your words flung me? You might not have realized this then. I wonder if the spider, returning to find its web destroyed and a bewildered girl standing next to it, had any notion of the waves of emotions the girl was undergoing or the role it played in teaching her an important lesson – perspective. (I am breathless just writing about it)
Perspective determines the good and the evil, the hero and the villain, the enlightened and the downtrodden. You taught me that, one evening, with one little question.
And here I am years later, far away from you, clutching at that memory. Seeing the memory played out once again by different actors.
What should I do?
You know I am not fond of cats (and I do not think I will ever be). With regard to pigeons though, I harbour no particular feelings.
I stood there with my back to the room, the cat and the pigeon – reliving and weighing what I was to do. To be honest, it did take me a moment to decide.
I gripped my bucket and clothes tighter and walked away without disturbing the scene I was trespassing. Coming back from the shower I could not but help peep into the room again. There was no sign of the cat or the bird, and I was glad.
The day went by.
But leaving for dinner, I saw bloodspots on the staircase along with a few black and grey feathers. The blood rattled me. An image of the cat biting into the pigeon’s neck flashed to my mind. I felt uneasy.
Oh I know what you must be thinking brother! You think I wrote this long letter to make myself feel at ease, to have your opinion of my decision. But you are wrong.
Did I do the right thing?
Maybe, maybe not. I did what I thought at that moment to be right. (For only that can be expected of humans)That is enough for me. The particular thing that made me write to you was not to defend my decision.
I kept revisiting this memory, again and again and again.
I was not surprised that I had recalled this memory. I remember it in such vivid detail. The only thing that surprised me, was that with thousands of kilometres between us and an ocean standing testimony to this – you still influence my life more than anyone.
(And this I believe is a happy thought)
Always your sister,
Indian Review | Anjita Sreekumar, in her own words, “I am currently pursuing my Masters in English from University of Hyderabad, India. I am an introvert who thinks of herself as an extrovert. Born and brought up in Kerala, I love taking long walks, travelling and spicy cuisine. A passionate bibliophile and an avid day dreamer, I write when real life becomes too real. I also enjoy photography, binge watching ‘Sherlock’ and ‘Doctor Who’ and star gazing.”
Genre: Short Story