The Dead Man's Eyes- Chapter 6
by Geetashree Chatterjee
Back to Chapter 5
The rambling premises beckoned the boy - its extensive grounds, its partly renovated and well maintained and partly dilapidated structures; its manicured front lawn and unkempt back garden. The straggling crawlers and climbers, the moss ridden slippery exteriors, the building's high roofs and vast, winding terrace with railings broken in parts, here and there. The slanting rays of the pale afternoon sun kissed the attic. Yes, the attic, he wanted to visit the attic the most. His childhood was imprisoned in that lonely room where he used to play hide and seek with his mother when he was just a toddler. Hiding in the dark, cobwebbed recesses, he could make out his mother approaching by the jingle of her bangles and chime of her anklets. Now, he wanted to revisit his childhood, look around with his new found eyesight and if possible once again feel the agog wonderment of a kid.
He was not interested in the modern appendage to the building. He was bored by the new wing added to the old quarters. Unfortunately, the family i.e. he and his grandpa inhabited the latter. "Dadu (Grandpa)"!
He called out in the darkness and woke up. The bed felt wet. He was sweating profusely. Why did his ancestral house beckon him in his dreams again and again? He tried to find out a scientific explanation. Perhaps, because it was ancestral where he had grown up, his parents had resided and before that their parents! He smiled to himself in the dark. Easy that was. The attic, he thought, was deeply ingrained in his mind, most probably because it was the place which he frequented the most when he was a child, especially with his mother. "Maa!" He stretched out his hand in the empty room as though to clutch her saree pallu swishing in the air. Finding none, the hand dropped involuntarily by his side. In this state of half asleep and half awakening everything seemed surreal.
He was connected to the attic. His remembrances of childhood loitered in the four walls of the attic. This was the reason why he never wanted to go back home during vacations. The mansion with its old world charm had a magnetic attraction for him. He always got lost in its spell and feared he would never be able to return to the hostel or to his studies if he ever went back. God knew what mysteries were hidden in its dwindling facade, cracked walls and bricks laid bare. To him it seemed as though every inch of that crumbling edifice told stories in hushed whispers and stifled tones. Especially the attic; he must visit the attic once again someday. Some day when he returned!!! His heart thudded with suppressed excitement and strange anticipation of the unknown. But an inner voice pulled him back to reality "to the present" to now. A lot of work still remained. A lot many questions still to be answered. A lot many queries still to be satiated. Until then!!
He turned to his side and fell asleep again.
Someshwar could have easily done away with the shambles which was left just like that not because of lack of funds or resources but because his age failed to rekindle the vigour and zeal required for such massive renovation work , it's planning if not execution but then definitely supervision.
He could have easily shifted base. But Someshwar, the aristocrat, could not afford to give away his ancestral property, wherein his blue blooded predecessors had lived for generations in the lap of lavish luxury. A few years later, most probably, when the boy returned, he would hand over the property and the responsibility of rejuvenating the by-gone grandeur of the mansion to him.
But Someshwar had his moments of doubt. Thinking about the boy he wondered. The boy in his teens looked, behaved and carried himself way past his age. Now that he was in his early twenties, he must be more mature, reserved, dignified. He always had that air of quiet aloofness about him. Congenital, thought Someshwar, inherited from his mother. In addition, there was some thing more, some thing indefinable. Sometimes, the boy reminded Someshwar of a bottle of aerated drink without the fizz. Sometimes, the way he looked at him made him uneasy. Sometimes, Someshwar doubted whether there was something wrong with him. He was so different, more so after the operation.
Someshwar climbed up the serpentine staircase. He held on to the banister for support as he took one step after the other. His movements had become slow. Age was catching up with him at last. As he stepped on the first floor corridor leading to his bed room, he came face to face with the boy. As usual, he was hovering aimlessly. Next month he would be going to college. Till then he was free to explore the mansion. But at times, Someshwar could not make out whether it was merely an exploration! It appeared something more than that. The boy would suddenly appear just like Jack in a box and accost Someshwar for a few insufferable minutes and walk away with a slight shake of his head or a monosyllabic retort. And at others, the boy just stared penetratingly at his face as though searching for an answer to some insoluble problem. Someshwar had come to terms with the boy's grave quietude but under his fathomless gaze, he felt deeply disturbed, oddly awkward and in the gathering dusk of this day, suddenly a chill ran down his spine.
Someshwar tried to quickly shrug off the unpleasant feeling. "Hullo beta! How was the day?" He asked softly. The boy tilted his head to the right a wee bit which Someshwar now knew meant an okay. And then he was gone as quickly as he had appeared like a wisp of breeze.
The door bell rang. Someshwar started out of his reverie. It was not only painful but dangerous to delve into the past. Past was best laid to rest. He would look forward to the future. He would wait for the boy to return.
......To be continued....