The boy who stopped looking like his face

By Snehal Vadher

(Snehal taught English at Shishuvan. He now works with The Pomegranate Workshop and teaches Creative Writing at St Xavier’s College.)

There once lived a little boy in The Land of No Mirrors who wandered day and night, from the dense coniferous forest in the north to the icy riverbed in the south, and if you chanced on meeting him while you were passing that region by, but never entering, you would want to ask, “What are you looking for, friend?” or “Have you lost something, son?” And as soon as you asked the question the boy would disappear—you would hear clearly the gurgling of the river, which in the outskirts becomes a slick stream of silvery fluid sucked by the sea—you would see the swaying of the pine tops in the wind (they would look like a giant, invisible hand caressing dog’s fur) and some tiny creature—a fox or a beaver—would come out of the forest, appearing to you nothing more than a black spot in the distance. But the boy would have gone. You continue your journey northwards, to The Town of Voices, where you search for a place to spend the night and with that heavy rucksack you lugged all the way, almost without stopping to take rest, you hardly realise it is night until a kind lady has offered you bed and warm onion soup by the fire, which is now and then showing vestiges of its former life in the coals. You tell this woman—whose age you cannot fathom: it could be anywhere between twenty five to fifty years—about the boy you met on your way and she would listen with her large glistening eyes and believe every word you utter until your spoon clinked with the china bowl, when she would politely excuse herself and wish you goodnight. You would toss and turn inside the blankets—their freshly-laundered smell too strong in the quiet of the room—where the light from the half moon, streaming through a window just above your head, would let you keep your eyes open and fall in and out of your thoughts until they became part of a dream. In the dream, you meet the boy once more, but this time you have journeyed into The Land of So Many Mirrors and this time, it is the boy who asks you a question, “Why have you come back?” he asks, in a manner that conveys his indifference to your answer, which you try to formulate in different ways, beginning sentences and letting them trail off into incomprehensible phrases like ‘o deer rain’ or ‘running off…the blue’s stone.’ You would soon awake to the meowing of cat inside your room and outside there would be bright sunshine and a clear sky, making you want start on your journey soon, a feeling that the delightful breakfast the kind lady would serve you would only strengthen, especially the raspberry compote which she made herself using wild berries. A song or a tune that went with the rhythm of your walking would quicken your pace and birds of various kinds, none of which you would have seen before, would keep drawing your sight further into the trees, sky or rooftops, as you approached The Town of Celebrations, where you would be surrounded by people awaiting your arrival and laughter and kisses would make you forget to give one or two gifts, which would lie at the bottom of your rucksack, and someone would have made your favourite curry.

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