It was pushing 6 AM in his watch’s granite face when Nataraj found out that his sixth attempt at qualifying for the N.C.C
exams had also, regrettably, and with a shoulder shrug from his contact inside the place, failed. The
contact looked at him and wondered if he would ever see the face he was seeing again. Nataraj looked at him and wondered at
the same thing.
Nataraj did not check to see which part of the exam he had failed. Not that he didn’t want to know, but because it did not
matter in the least. Tomorrow would come the application for re-evaluation, and then the job. His landowner wanted to kick
him out, so that would follow. Tomorrow the parchment he held in his hands would matter, but right now Nataraj was walking in
the early monsoon rains and all that had mattered was the ‘P’ on the envelope. There was no P on the envelope.
Nataraj had decided this was to be his last attempt. He liked the idea of the army, in some cloudy parts of his brain that
looked forward it looked good as an extension to his universe. From Nataraj, to Nataraj, Soldier. It looked natural enough.
It had potential. He was sure he did not like the idea so much. It was time to find some other phrase which would look
alright next to his name. He was glad it had taken 6 years for him to come to this decision. It had taken him fifteen before
deciding Nataraj was actually okay.
What was in the envelope is actually a pretty good story, one which ought to be narrated and written and then digested. This
is another story, about stories. A singular thing about stories is that they are not actually life, not in the realest sense.
Think about it. We are all twigs that move this way and that in a liquid made up of the utterly mundane. At its most perfect,
the twig does not move at all. There are a few currents that move, nevertheless, in this ocean of the utterly soporific. They
are allowed to remain, because… well, because heck, it doesn’t matter anyway. And these currents, deviations from the norm,
are exciting not because they offer the unpredicatable but because they offer the break.
This is all true, or maybe the sea is wracked by terrible storms and etc.
Nataraj sipped his cutting chai outside Dadar station while staring at the sky. It wasn’t raining now, but in Mumbai the
rain, if not exulting in orgasmic glory is always on the precipice, always waiting, arranged on the sky as the sun’s
attendants, when he chose to make an appearance.
Nataraj thought the clouds, and the sky behind them looked like his life. Instead of asking him to stop being so arrogant as
to compare himself with the Sun, his brain agreed with his judgement, and immediately sent out some images. He couldn’t see
what awaited him. Did he want to see?
He finished his tea and began walking to the tracks. On the overbridge a Mystery Event took place. It seemed to him that a
coin had just come down from the heavens to repose, like an accident, in front of his legs. He bent and looked at it. It was
a vague golden in colour, and if it had something engraved on it he couldn’t decipher it. Then he saw another coin, lying
feet away from him. He shuffled and bent over to it. It was the same coin. He kept walking, crouching and bending for more
coins. If he dallied anymore he would miss his train, but Nataraj knew he was in the midst of a Story. It behooved on that he
do whatever he was to do, and not let anything interrupt. The coins left the overbridge and led him into the city. He
continued behind them until they led him to the sea. He stared at the waves for a minute in despair before it seemed to him
that something golden hid behind the waves where he had found the last coin. Slowly he crept into the waves and then gasped.
huge hoard of these golden coins lay behind a seemingly wrecked boat. He wondered about the coins for a little bit. Where
were they from? Which stories had touched these coins and how many would touch these after him? Why was something out of the
14th century happening to him now? His friend Ajay had once found a wrecked boat too, but inside it there had only been
underwear, and sea weed. He gasped again, because he was out of breath and swam rapidly to the surface. His mind fashioned a
heroic escape against spirits that would not let go, but he swam back the perhaps 10 meters relatively easily and then wondered what to do.
Where would he go from here? The sea battered winds into his questions.
And like everything else, to wind even the water crumbles. The coin falls to the ground, seemingly from the sky near Nataraj’s limbs. Too tired and dejected to consider looking at it, he steps on the coin and onwards, to his local train that would leave him near his job. He leaves, and his likely humdrum existence continues, no longer to be plundered for a selfish man’s needs. He probably gets up the next morning and applies for re-evaluation. I wonder if he really doesn’t apply again.
Maybe I shall see him another time, his hands poking into his trouser pockets, head a little bent, lost in stories. I bet he regularly thinks he holds the world on his shoulders. He doesn’t. He is not the sun.
And as for the coin, it has different stories to tell now.