Memoir in a Matchbox
When I sat to write this piece, I was pen-tied (as in tongue-tied). Words eluded me. Expressions were slack. I tried talking aloud to dissolve any possible knots. Language slurred. I knocked the doors of my mother-tongue, hoping the lingo in which I was born would bail me out. I stared blankly at the white page for an hour, two, three…till after three days when I managed to pump my limp mind to generate something, at least a thread to ponder on.
I don’t know when this journey of life began or how it commenced. I was told that the Earth revolved around the Sun in a defined pathway. That was it! Did I dig deeper as to the veracity of the information? Did I travel to the fringes of the Earth to see if I plummeted down the cliff? No. Instead I stored all the gimmicks of survival, like several others, in my brain, pea-sized I guess.
Never did I miss the lady bird’s visit – the beetle dressed in a red skirt with black polka dots. She called on us when the grass was green. At times she strutted about like she were an Empress; and at times she ambled at a pace I had not known existed – one step at a time – a leisurely walk as if savoring the smells and looks of the ambience. Probably she was relieved about the extant primitiveness.
Then again, she took a sudden low flight, her wings were as tiny as her, buzzing with defiance against the raucous winds or gliding delightfully with the gentle zephyr. It was indeed pure joy to follow her movements. She inspected every verdant square; most likely taking notes. Notes! Yes, of invaders and strategies – the category of invading bugs and ways to wipe them off.
I vividly remember the miniature, naughty fellow, my classmate, dressed in a light blue shirt and navy blue knickers. He captured her in a purple colored matchbox and brought her to school. The other knickers joined in the fun, all swarming around as they slowly opened the matchbox and watched her perambulate in the box. Each time she reached a dead end there were air-piercing whistles and childish guffaws.
It was a triumph filled moment. The little men were consumed in a spell of conquering the gargantuan world in their condensed palms. Not once did it occur to the innocent kids, if the perimeter of the matchbox was large enough to hold her magnificence. Little did the brats know of her abilities. She crawled out, out of the matchbox, out of his pocket, out into the open, into the free space where she rightfully belonged.
Today, I feel much the same. Locked like the lady bird in a confined, contained zone. The Pandemic handcuffed my way of life. These long months seem not to end. Destinies, goals, ambitions, wishes and even sorrows, all stuffed in bags of plastic and fastened with sealing clips that seem hard to break open.
I read a wise saying we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors but borrow it from our children. How true? I am both the hunter and the prey. Why didn’t I think of other life forms with whom I shared space? How reckless were my assumptions when I considered them (beetles, bugs, flies and the like) to be small, invisible, inconsequential, inept…
This, this microcosm was the superior truth that I never searched for. In fact, it was beyond the purview of my calculative, analytical, scientific, critical, methodical…mind and ahead of all logistics. In a stretch of fifty years or say, by 2050, will I become anathema?
Right now I live here, on this beautiful Earth. In future, I don’t know what might happen to me or to the others. Will I become a dust in this enormous evolutionary process of the universe? When a bug dared to invade my integrity, my perseverance, my logic…what do my children have in store?
Issue 93 (Sep-Oct 2020)