Ghanashyam Bista after lockdown"Isolated, I reflected on the harsh realities of life during lockdown. I realised that I was living in a fool's paradise."
The iron door was unbolted and as it swung open, a figure sailed into the park. Chewing gum between his teeth with great pleasure, the figure ambled swiftly towards a seat in the middle of the park.
The birds, as they flew above the park, regarded him with a kindly eye. The sweet, tender and loving sun stroked the flowers of Naxal park lovingly with its golden fingers.
The dew upon the grass gleamed, as though smiling. Drinking in the air that felt as sweet as milk, Ghanashyam Bista marched gallantly towards the seat. Like a lonely traveler on a camel in a desert looking for a pool of refreshing water, he scanned the park for a noble companion to exchange pleasantries with. After spotting no one, Mr Bista was about to sink into the seat when a round head bobbing behind the bushes emerged into the scene, and with an airy swiftness approached the noble frame of Mr Bista.
“What ho, Ghanashyam!” he waved his hands cheerily.
Mr Bista waved back, “What's the matter, old chap? Haven’t seen you in a long time.”
The man who reared his friendly, familiar head was the genial gentleman Mr Prajapati, one of the few old chums from Mr Bista’s dissolving friend circle.
“Frightfully sorry, old chap. This horrid coronavirus. Seems like it's taken the world by storm lately. You see, it took me a long time to gather the courage to come to the park. And…”
“I say, dear fellow," interrupted Mr Bista, "What is that thing bulging in your forehead? We warned you, old chum, not to read those thick leather-bound books. A small human brain can only process so much before it bulges for extra space. Too much of reading can be dangerous to the head, laddie. Soon your neck will break under the strain of your oversized head.”
Mr Prajapati stood there, stunned. He had always regarded Mr Bista as a man who liked to explore uncharted waters, but this struck him with deepest wonder.
“Oh this," managed Mr Prajapati, “I, ummm, I hurt myself. I was in bed for weeks. Today, I feel fit and powerful. So I pottered out into this place.”
Mr Bista’s face lit up with interest and sympathy.
“Pray sit down.” He pointed towards the seat. And they both sat down.
“Make abreast of all the facts, my dear fellow. Let it out.”
The liquid words of encouragement seemed to moisten Mr Prajapati's stiff tongue. With wild hand gestures and low tone, he recounted the whole story.
“It happened to me last Saturday. You see, I was sound asleep in my bed when an earthquake began shaking the house. My heart jumped to my throat as I jumped at my feet. The wooden walls began to move to and fro. The earth rumbled. The windows rattled. The floorboard creaked. The pictures began to swing side by side like a pendulum. Quivering with terror, I strained my brain to escape this predicament harmlessly but to no avail. In the breeze of anxiety I leaped from the window and landed with a thud upon the parched earth. A lump appeared in my forehead and the nape of my neck has been aching terribly ever since. Turns out there had been no earthquake. A truck had passed by the house."
Mr Bista’s mouth gaped open in amazement. He rubbed his eyes, unable to reply back.
“Forget this thing, Ghanashyam. Say, what’ve you been doing lately?" Mr Prajapati said, with curiosity in his eyes.
Mr Bista sank deeper into the seat, and drank it all in in thoughtful silence. The tide of thoughts began to roar and splash against the walls of his mind.
“Well,” said Mr Bista, his lips pursed, looking upwards to the heavens in dreamy silence. To encourage words from him, Mr Prajapati patted him sharply between the shoulder blades and Mr Bista went leaping into the air, like a dolphin jumping to touch the moon with its nose. It was with a bruised and twisted back that Mr Bista slumped back into the seat.
Mr Prajapati cocked an inquiring eye at him.
With supreme effort he gathered his thoughts and poured his story with words like molten gold.
“Well," began Mr Bista, as his eyes looked faraway into the low hills cloaked in clouds, "Isolated, I reflected on the harsh realities of life during lockdown. I realised that I was living in a fool's paradise. Soon the solitude grew too much for me to bear that I almost drove myself to the brink of insanity. I believed that my shadow had parted ways with me. I stuffed socks in my ears and ran wildly around the room. Damp shadowy waters floated on the walls. A thick darkness hung over everything and suffocated every object,every vibrating cell. There were flashes of memories of my darkest times. Sometimes I would find myself alone in a narrow street, where gloomy steam of smoke swam past me. The place had a ghostly, prisonlike appearance. The overhanging smoke stretched its long ghostly arms and tried to swallow me when I dashed past. My knees paralysed and I collapsed on the floor, while I kept flinging my arms and trying to crawl away from the ghastly smoke. Seized by mortal terror, I used to tremble on every limb and even after I woke up from my overrun imagination, I found myself trembling like a jelly. I gripped my trembling mouth to stifle the cry. Sometimes, I dreamed a yellow mossy scroll rolled over me making a road where holy men walked. I tried to scream but they kept trampling me underneath the scroll. I could feel wriggly worms gobbling my body greedily underneath the carpet. I was twisting when I came to waking life."
Mr Bista's story made Mr Prajapati gape in horror. He put a sympathetic hand on his shoulder and consoled: “The lockdown has eaten your very soul, old chap. Come now, we’ll take a sip of tea and pour our deepest sorrows and share our darkest secrets. My dear chap, you need healing.”
With these words, the two good friends walked out the park with their hands behind their backs. Mr Bista stroked his bruised back and Mr Prajapati rubbed his hand. They entered a narrow, empty street. A divine peace stole over Naxal park.