Monday, March 22, 2010

A five-year-old sailor

A long time ago, someone had pried open a floor tile and slipped in a Will. And what an impressive Will it was! It curled perfectly, was brilliantly yellowed, and bequeathed to those near and dear, a yellow feather duster, bits of emerald wrapping paper, a magician’s hat and of course, what else but tin soldiers? Ah. Here was another child who thought death was near. But near because of what? Just a green ball of chewing gum.

Turns out, a few days ago his father- much averse to the constant chomp-chomp-chomp- had remarked, Boy! What is it that you are chewing so eagerly? If it is, what I think it is, beware. I knew a child who had swallowed chewing gum, and do you know what happened to him? Ah, may God bless his soul, the little chap died. It binds together the insides of your stomach. Keep that in mind. His eyes twinkled with mischief, but his voice was grim. The boy spat out a wad of chewing gum and ran inside to wash his mouth.

It was a dire enough warning for a five year old, enough to supply him with nightmares for a week. This child however, a brave one for sure, dared to resist his father, and decided to give it another go. This time however, before he could spit it out, he swallowed the innocuous ball of green gum. He sat and thought for a few minutes about what he had done, and in another hour or so, had completed his Will, made provisions in it for his young sister and his best friend, and then set out on his bicycle to fulfill within a day, his life’s earnest desire.


He was seen cycling towards the local church. His tiny feet pedaled fast, his heart beat like a drum against his chest, and the miniature flute that hung around his neck swayed to and fro. He had run away from home, without saying goodbye to anyone, and he was in a rush. He had no time for trifles, he knew. Time was of highest importance, the only bit he could spare would be for God himself.

God, he knew, was listening. So down he went on his knees, and touched the wooden floor with his fingers. What could he say today? I wanted to be a sailor dear Lord, a smart one all dressed in blue. Can I, just for a day, because that’s all I have, be a sailor in blue? He closed his eyes tightly and repeated one or two prayers he had learnt by heart, jumbling up a few lines here and there, while his tiny heart pounded- out of breath. He shivered a little, looked at the benign face on the Cross, so kind and in such torture. Was there something he had forgotten? Oh, yes.

I am ready, you know. I have heard things about death- it is like this endless tunnel and Mum says, those who have faith, like those who keep talking to you each day, find light. Now I talk, don’t I? Make me a sailor, and I will be all yours.

Off he went again, towards the port. Sweat dripped from his face, his eyes burnt but they remained focused on the narrow stretch of road. Just to make his short life meaningful, he must get aboard a ship, a real ship- not those tiny fishing boats, but a proper, majestic, black and white ship. He had seen it in the harbour just a few days ago. His sailor’s cap was tucked carefully into his waistband.


The harbour was empty. Fishermen spread soiled pieces of cloth on the ground and left little mounds of salted fishes on them. They’d keep them like that for a day or two, until they were completely dry. Our boy sat and wept for hours. The port master had told him in a gentle voice: The ship’s gone my lad. And what a beauty it was! Now it’s sailing like a queen I believe. You wanted to see it one last time?

The stench was unbearable, but where else could he go? If only he had cycled faster. He sat until evening hung around his shoulders. By this time, his tears had dried up; his heart sank along with the orb of glowing orange, right across the sea. Well, time to go home, he supposed. He had missed the ship, and perhaps, death had missed him. He wiped his face, carefully checked his navy blue cap, and returned home.


When he crept into his bed late that night, still alive, he knew he had learnt a few important things. It was not his father’s lie that troubled him. Like only a child can, he had erased the fear of impending death and had forgotten his father’s cautionary tale. What niggled at the back of his mind was perhaps a larger question. Did his prayer go completely unheard? So, was this God, just another practical man wearing an ironed suit? Are prayers supposed to stem from the mind and not from the heart? Ask for what’s possible, and it might be granted. Think, but not with your heart. Whoever heard of a five year old sailor, I say?



AUROBOROS banerjee said...

five year-old soldier/
just a season bolder/
mouth still colder/
from waiting for the frost/
to settle; and he lost/
his childhood in lies,
at what cost/
a dream-a-penny, a dream-a-penny/
cried the tin dream-peddling man/
blue ferris wheel of an innocent day spins past/
in a tired loop, in a fan/
of grey-sepia haze, of shared dreams/
dusty child/
growing up in the dusty wild/
of thorns; come up to me/
be a bit bolder/
and I would buy your innocent wonder away from you/
and pay you with a toy tin soldier.

Anurima. said...

i love your poem more than i like my story :)

Arse Poetica. said...

The five year old sailor
a precocious child
was rather wild
in imagination-
could be the mascot of a nation
the hope of a forgotten generation.

A lost generation could derive
knowledge from the little boy
how to live, how to thrive
and how to pray.

AUROBOROS banerjee said...

hello, I am Arnab. I am generaly a porosrikaator person, who constantly needs to hijack other people's blogs to write my own poetry. and make other people read them. and then ask them about my poetry, completely ignoring the person I write it for in the first place. i am a schizophrenic, and have attention-craving disorders. henceforth, people, dont let me comment on your posts. :)

Bhooter Raja said...

amar golpo ta khub bhalo laglo, jodio it seems incomplete. the end of the story seems to be not there.

Riya Das said...

loved the story.

Anurima. said...

@Bhooter Raja: I agree with you on that one... I wanted a concrete, tangible ending too. But the end I had in mind would have spoon-fed the reader. I wanted one to draw various conclusions, it could be about failed communication between man and God, about the rarity of miracles, and finally, what would one choose? A day that would make one's entire life worth living, followed by death- or a continuance of the kind of life one is used to lead/ supposed to lead?

Inam said...

See, each time you outdo yourself. Thats is why I love your writings so much :)