PAPER BOAT The boy wanted to go for an ‘outing’ often, in company of his mother and other females of his neighbourhood. It was not an ‘outing’ in the usual sense of the word but the aim was to get away from the town with its houses of concrete monotony. He was four years old, just below the school entry age and had not yet realized the dreaded imprisonment one suffers during schooldays where one would lose one’s freedom under the collective social structures termed under ‘infant’s education’. In that land of imperialism where teachers would rule over little brains of infants with an iron rod in keeping with the colonial ethics of superiority. The headmaster being like the governor general of a colony and the children like some uncouth native of some backward land. He lived with his parents and their house was at the edge of the town and just by crossing the road behind the house you entered a gateway of green fields. A gateway to a land where everyone was free including the birds and the crops of the fields. Each stalk of the crop was happy to dance barefoot in the breezes and which embraced these in a whirling waltz. He felt at home in that environment. His father talked about the glamour and splendour of big cities with their grand buildings and about the exciting lives of its inhabitants but when he passed through one on a coach journey, he could not see any of those things so beloved to his father. Yes there were grand buildings but the people and the atmosphere lacked any emotional fervour. People were hustling around with their mechanical motions, each one trying to look happy outwardly but within them he saw a sterility and emptiness. * He found that his imagination had more ‘substance’ than common people’s idea of grandeur, which he found to be as timid as of one sheep following others instinctively and which he called ‘sheep gait’. When he expressed such view in public, people used to smile with an amused expression at his naive remarks and pitied him for his immaturity. ‘He will learn the good things of life one day.’ They said in their superior attitude but he knew they would never possess that sensibility which appreciated the hidden side of things, and which was so out of ‘ordinary’. Anyhow he had that capacity and his imagination became a gateway to a wider exploration of the universe around him. He discovered that nature contained many dimensions of being and unlike humans who reduced everything to one-dimensional reality of things around them. It was no use to convert them to his views, as they would not understand the meaning inherent in things. The child was pretty of face with curly long hair and had incorporated a bit of feminine grace within himself. The first day he went on his ‘outing’ accompanied by his mum and other females and when they met other neighbours, they stopped to say ‘hello’ to his mum. ‘You have a beautiful daughter with you with lovely long hair.’ And which annoyed him greatly. ‘She is not my daughter. He is my pretty son.’ His mum used to correct ‘Hum’. The enquirers said in embarrassment. His mother used to hug and kiss him for being such a beautiful son. * It was hot and humid weather with oppressive heat and people stayed mostly indoor during daytime and ventured out in the evening or early morning. Everyone felt sleepy after mid day and most indulged in a siesta during hot summer afternoons. You perspired a lot and when the heat took away your perspiration you felt a bit cool, the heat using energy from your body to evaporate the liquid accumulated on the skin. It was cooler on the cemented floor and he lay there for the whole of afternoon enjoying his siesta. The floor absorbed the heat from his f body and reflected it to the surroundings. Soon the pet dog would come in and seeing him there, sprawled himself too on the floor. He stretched its paws and laid his head on these. Few flies came to investigate the dozing dog and began to buzz and circled around it. The flies crawled over his body and then moved over the lobes of ear and to which he took offence, shaking vigorously to dislodge those nasty little creatures. The flies were not discouraged and came back to suck the gummy waste of his eyes accumulated around the corners but the dog shut his eyes and pushed these out. The flies next sought the cool of his nostrils and went to the opening and the dog was annoyed and sniffed them out. The pair of pigeons in the alcove was feeling sleepy too and wanted to doze off but their young made a racket of disturbing them with their chirping noise as they wanted the parents to fetch some food for their hungry stomach. The heat was too much for the parents to make an effort of flying out and ignored the taunts of youngsters. * Soon relief came in the guise of dark clouds laden with moistures of the seas. The cloud messengers came to sweep the oppressive heat off the tired plains. The winds picked up to drive them mad and then the clouds unburdened themselves of their excessive moisture. The wind began its play with the droplets of rain, pushing them into different directions and refreshing showers issued. Soon the stormy showers passed and a steady rain began to fall. Thirsty earth began to gulp all the moisture it could get hold of and when it had its fill, it began to accumulate extra water in nooks and corners of its fields where the children and birds descended to have their fun, bathing and frolicking in the muddy pools. The child lay down in its bed and listened to the falling rain against the window panes .He wondered how far the waters had come from to soak the earth of his town. They must have traveled a long distance, perhaps from the Arabian Sea. He wished he could travel around the world and see all its glories. He began to imagine things and soon found himself afloat in distant lands. He saw large continents and vast seas surrounding them, he wished he could have a boat to sail around those vast oceans. The following day he went on his ‘outing’ and was delighted to see so many pools of water collected across the fields and on the dirt roads. The pools were full of reflections- of the blue skies, white clouds and his own reflection would travel through those vast waters, only if he could have a boat to sail across them. At night he reflected upon it and in dreams sailed across some high oceans. In the morning he gathered sheets of paper and began the job of building some paper boats. His first attempts were crude but he soon learnt the craft of creating some superb pieces and in exalted mood told his mother about it. The following day he went to the water- logged fields and floated an armada of boats but kept the best pool for his favourite boat and when he floated it, it was out of this world. A gentle breeze sprang and made translucent waves across the transparent waters and lo he was on his way to a high adventure. He spent the night dreaming about those boats and sailing across high seas. It was an exciting time in his life. He had achieved his desire. He went again to see how his armada was doing but what he saw was awful. The sun had dried the pools of refinish water and the boats were clogged in mud and looked pitiful. He could not bear that sight. He came home in a saddened mood but suppressed his inner tumult in a smile. At night under the sheets he cried. It was his first lesson in the fragility of living. Durlabh Singh© 2015.