Saturday, August 6, 2011

Searching for a Firefly in FB..

It seemed like a swarm of fireflies had descended like locusts on the valley. I looked outside the window of the Volvo, straining my eyes as I realised that the fireflies were circling around in unusually perfect circles. A whole valley full of them, dancing to the directions of a strange opera.

I looked down and pressed the indiglo button in my trusted TIMEX, a companion of more than 12 years on all my travels. It was past 2 AM, a good five hours into my journey to Mumbai from Bangalore. The faint sound coming from my earphones reminded me that I had drifted off listening to songs on my iPhone. The fireflies were crowding my mind now. I looked ahead and to the side. The bus was sound asleep.

Nikita- that was her name. The whole incident started with fireflies. The rubber plantation behind my grandpa’s house had thousands of fireflies that floated through the trees. The train of events of that day started with this brainwave to catch a hundred fireflies and fashion a lamp out of them. That would put an end to the scary darkness of the load shedding* hour.

She was the next door girl- a tomboyish child, whose parents worked in my grandpa’s rubber plantation. Every summer when I would visit my grandpa she would come down to play with me. She was always different from me. In the mid summers when I would start getting tensed about the marks of the final exams, which my mom would check and write to me in her weekly letter from the town. Nik would always be cool and assure me that I would do well. I never asked her how she scored in her exams.When the letter would come she would eagerly wait with me for the postman to arrive and then my grandpa would open it and read it out. She was always happier than even I would be to hear that I had done well.

Summer after summer at the rubber estate had made me and Niki the best of friends. The wiry little rat could climb to the top of the mango tree as if she was climbing stairs and could swim across the Meenachil River in the monsoon torrent just as easily.

That evening after Niki had gone to her home to clean up the trays which her dad used to make sheets of the rubber sap, I went firefly hunting with a transparent polythene bag and a butterfly net in my hand. I roamed around the estate for two hour and collected a hundred of those sparkling insects in my bag. I waited for the power to go off at the usual hour of the load shedding, I ran, excited as only twelve year olds can be, to Niki’s little hut to show her the spoils of my day. The bag of fireflies wasn’t much of a lamp but the feeling of invention, of triumph over darkness filled up my heart. I skipped over the broken fence and crossed knocked over the pan of cattle feed as I ran across the cow shed and knocked at her doors.
Niki’s face replaced her ever present eager smile with a never before seen rage as she realised what was in the greenish glowing bag that I held up in her face. Like a tigress she pounced on me bringing me crashing down on my back. My head hit violently against the floor, the bag still clutched to my left hand. When the ensuing melee ended I had bruises in my elbow where it hit the floor and countless scratches on my face. For all her boyishness when it came to fighting she fought like a girl- a spirited girl though.

Before I could get to my feet, Niki grabbed the plastic bag, tore it open and had set all the fireflies free. It was shame mixed with anger and in the fit I grabbed the first thing that came to my hands which unfortunately was the Rubber Tapper’s knife that her dad used to extract the sap from the tree. I remember the next moments as in a slow motion scene that you see in movies. I remember she raising her hands to her face as the knife came down straight to her head. The yellow flickering light from the kerosene lamp mixed with the blood and it was a deep dark red everywhere after that.

I ran away as I heard Niki’s mom coming from inside the hut, hearing her scream. I didn’t know what to do, just that I had to hide. Somewhere no one could find me. I ran into the night towards my house and saw the one place that nobody would catch me. Up the mango tree in the backyard. The only person who could get me on top that tree was Niki and she wasn’t going to come after me that night. Images of police men in their khaki uniforms chasing me and police dogs biting me and dragging me came flooding in my head. I climbed the tree as high as I could and hung on for dear life. I knew they would come searching for me..soon.

I don’t remember how long I stood up there in that position, with my eyes closed tight. But strangely nobody seemed to have noticed that I was missing. No police men no police dogs came. Not even my grandpa or grand mom seemed to be missing me. After what seemed like an eternity, I slowly opened my eyes and looked down at the house far below. The power seemed to have gone out for the entire night. I couldn’t see any light in the house and it was pitch darkness everywhere except for a sprinkling of fireflies hovering over the rubber trees. The image was haunting. The fireflies all seemed to be flying in slow round circles. The glow from their lights was red not green.

Earlier today, before I took the bus to Mumbai from Bangalore, my Mom was talking about Niki to my Dad. It’s going to be really difficult to find a boy for her, you know. That scar that she got on her face when she was little only seems to have got more prominent as she grew.

Niki had never told anyone that it was me who had caused the injury. She somehow convinced everyone that she had caused it herself. I didn’t know that for years afterwards. The guilt and the fear had made me stay away from my grandpa’s place for several summers afterwards. And when I went there year’s later for my grand mom’s funeral my eyes kept searching eagerly for her, but in vain.

The circling fireflies I saw out from the bus window had brought all the thoughts that I had somehow shut deep down below to my head. As the bus descended further into the valley the fireflies came closer. Those weren’t fireflies really. The bus was crossing the town of Chitradurga and I realised that the fireflies that I saw were actually lights on the windmills that dotted the mountain side on either side of the highway.

I took out my iPhone and took a couple of pictures out the window and tagged the location. I had an album in facebook titled “One for the road” for pictures that I would take while on my travels. After I had uploaded the pictures on the album my finger almost as if on autopilot went to the search tab on FB and typed “Nikita George”


*Load Shedding - For those who don’t know, most parts of Kerala had an hour’s power cut during the mid 90s everyday which was called load shedding. Load Shedding, strange it was called so for what reason, I didn’t find out till a long time later

PS: This is entirely a work of fiction. I don't know of a Nikita George to the best of my remembrance. Apologies if there's anyone who I should have remembered!!

7 comments:

Sunil Joseph said...

hmmmm...
We got to talk about these fantasies of yours.... :P

Rachna said...

Quite a vivid fantasy.....

Rajesh Rajagopal said...

Rubber vettukarandey moley facebookil nokkiyal enganey kittana !! oru jeevitham kodukkunno Nee-key-tha Georginu ?

VMJ said...

@Sunil: Fantasies?? Arent they better left unspoken??

@Rachna: Thanks..Ive got to get that treated :)

@Rajesh: Da kaalam maari. .rubber vettu pays much more than working in a UK petrol pump.:)

Disney James said...

Good...

Pash said...

I had practiced catching fireflies at my grandmas place, never knew someone fantasized FIREFLIES:), Nice

Durga Nandan said...

100 fireflies. would have been a sight...
Nice work. :)

DN