Accepted. I am an inmate of a secondary school on house arrest. No, hostel arrest. My warden is watching me; she says she knows me nerves and all. through the blind camera hole she keeps me updated in her azure blue register, on the left hand corner where I sit, writing me in words rubbing her fist against the surface right to left, right to left straightening the line with the nib of her fountain pen.

My roommate too keeps an eye, not on me but on my wall. my wall shies away in its veil from these eyes, bare green and white, my wall staring back at him, they play dare-the wall and my roommate. I between them, transfixed, forlone, inexistent. So you see! My roommate is as much a friend to me as my wall or my warden is. We three- I, my roommate and my wall share a communion of sorts. But I’m much closer to my wall.

The wall beside my bed is full of multicolored papers. At one end there is a long list of dos and dont’s, my school time table at the other corner. Recently one of my friends gifted me a graffiti board on my birthday. What am I to do with it? I asked them unthankfully. It’s just a way to remind you what we think of you. Paste it on your wall and we will scribble on it everyday. This is our friendship board they went on and on not paying heed to my relent.

So here’s another thing to be hung. There’s a clock hanging on a nail pierced into my wall. Mamma says it is there to help me keep track of time, so that I do not keep moving towards past or get stuck in present. But this clock is very apathetic to me, very unlike my wall. A poor piece of plastic, Doesn’t it know when to stop? There are so many of the kind everywhere. One with a cuckoo that peeps out and sings every time as the clock strikes, eight, nine, ten. “What shame!” I tell mama, a plastic immortal cuckoo mocking at us, cuckooing us to our graves. And then there is another with a white pigeon hatching the time keeper underneath. Now, this one is still better, this pigeon, a true mother, an epitome of motherhood. Russians must me going crazy opening the pigeon boxes. Rest are all geometrical figures; square, circle, reciting, triangle, pentagon. But none of the enclosed figures are found successful in capturing time. They are all useless. Some of them don’t even agree. They are either a few minutes fast or lagging. The one on my wall never assists me. It dictates me. They have hung it there, my mom and dad. But I don’t like it. It’s not there for me, I’m here for it I explain mamma when she scolds me for using her sofa to put the batteries off. Then I would go out and play to return without having wasted a minute. I move a quick 180 and here ends my tuition. Someday I would live my life like that and I will call it a quicky and may be sometime I will hold it there for all my breaths. But mamma insists it doesn’t happen like that. She would show me all other watches id forgotten to stop. What I don’t understand is why should I be bothering about others, am I not only accountable to mine?

So my friends keep scribbling on the graffiti board they have hung on my wall. They claim they know me, more than, they say, I know myself, but nothing they write is the real me. Everyday it brings me closer to the mask; I never knew I was wearing.

My wall too wears a mask. Doesn’t it writhe underneath? ‘My wall’s suffocated, my wall’s suffocated’ I keep telling my warden when she enters my room with a pin and paper to be stuck onto my reminder board. She mercilessly thumbs the pin into the heart of my wall mumbling walls don’t breathe my boy!

My reminder board is getting crowded every passing day. The most basic of daily chores are listed here. The list starts with a long breath at 5 am to close your eyes at 10 pm. I practice them without fail, because the camera hole through which my warden watches me stares at me without a blink.

The mosaic on my wall hides under it something my warden is unaware of. If you someday clean up all the mess that suffocates my wall you will see a window whose curtains are folded in a knot, beyond the window there is a sea, a sun, a sailor roaring his boat towards the lighthouse that shines brighter than the sun. There are birds in flocks heading homeward into the light blue sky.

But then she would come with a list of dos and dont’s wiping the camera hole with a hand-me-down T-shirt, sticking another reminder that reminds me of sun outside. My friends would come scribbling on my wall, the masked I.

I asked my warden the other day for a pack of crayons to paint my wall. She dismissed it with a smile directing me to the classroom where she taught us for a good one hour how to paint a wall. My palette, now, is full of transparent colors.

People have visitors here. Visitors, black, white, colorless .visitors who come to see someone over, see someone off, see someone through. They come and go all the time and makes for a busy day for my wall. I too have many visitors to attend to. These visitors narrate me their stories- their life in hotel, homes, prisons, streets, bedrooms and where not. The warden’s sure not watching them.

No. i cannot do what they do. The wardens not watching them or how else can they dare do what i fear doing. How do they escape the camera hole? I want to ask them but the warden is watching me and writing me in her azure blue register- how indelible my life is becoming. How can I dare what they dare- the delible lives. She has but one register, she never reads it though, She never rewrites it either. She will not write my life again, She will not scrap, edit, revise- she will sell my soul in the cheap market of Sahisra, the Wednesday market, the black market, the transparent market; naked.

My visitors too see me with a naked eye. They see my skin- it’s a colored skin and i can change it- sometimes pink. Sometime yellow and other time dull beige or brown. But they only see my color. The colorless people, they envy me. oh, I have got colors and I play with them. I make the colorless people colored too but they do not wish to wear. I asked Crux, the other day the color she loves and she said” White. white as snow, white as paper, white as background of your eyes, white as your teeth, white as the clouds, white as the gown of fairies, so many colors beneath the white but i love the layer, the layer white.” what a rhyme I said that my wall could have danced to it. So here’s a rhyming song for her I just hope it rhymes. “She wears the layer, the layer White and feels so black underneath I wear the color black but feel so white underneath. Sometimes I mix the two and wear a shaded hue, can her colorless eye see she has one but I have two?”

*****

© Copyright, Tina Rathore.

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