The night is ablaze again. The sky burns with unsteady flickers of turquoise and emerald. It seems like the heavens are awaiting a sorcerer’s spectacle. Down on the earth, one million LED Boards, shaped like peacocks and flowers and women holding flowers, sparkle brilliantly. In the shadows echo the blissful laughters of small, rugged children….
Welcome to the Disneyland, the small travelling funfair that is set up every year in my hometown. The preparations begin a month before and a century of trucks get parked in the Rangbhoomi maidan. Workers start setting the poles and gradually we see giant swings rising up, part by part, till they are ready to launch your soul up in the sky.
When I was a kid, I’d clutch my mother’s fingers and hop for the next 20 minutes till we reached Disneyland. It was my dream to enter the place and never leave. I so wanted to hide beneath those counters and sneak out when everybody left. I’d go on from stalls to stalls, eat everything and sneak everything and maybe even take the taking parrot home. No I won’t go home. It was a dreamy world, my own spectacle, the Disneyland.
Then, as it happens, I grew up. The sparkles don’t attract me anymore. I stay outside, licking Ice Golas with my friends, discussing the outrageous pricing policies of Samosa Vendors in the fair.
“The same Ice Gola would cost double inside that little tent. “Atif says as he crushes the ice to make a solution.
“They wouldn’t call it Ice Gola inside that little tent. It’d be a Ferrero Ice or something. ”
We laugh at this silly joke and carry on.
Last night, my friends desperately wanted some cigarettes. I accompanied them to the kiosk in front of the Disneyland and they made a face and said,
“Ravish. You never gave us a treat. ”
I knew those bastards were asking me to pay for their cigarettes. I could have refused but it wouldn’t have changed anything. So they bought two goldflakes and vanished into the distant shadows to blow up giant smoke rings, feel weightless and heavenly as their souls floated and their lungs rotted.
I meandered about, watching those lightboards, and how those lit the empty sky but left the crumbling earth with a sad silent bleakness.
The world above my chest was a world of light. The kids in front of my eyes, however, weren’t tall enough. They hid behind the cars, chasing each other, playing hide and seek, running with unrestrained shrieks of laughter. They collided with light occasionally, exposing their boney frames, their tattered clothes, their immortal smile, but the next moment they disappeared again. When you stared hard you could make out their existence. There was a time my eyes would follow the lights, but age changes your perspective. Now shadows attract me more. I followed those happy little kids and all those people who lived in the mini slum at the periphery of Rangbhoomi, all of them enjoying their own picnic on the carpets of grass, talking amongst themselves sitting in the dark and watching the lighted sky.
I wished I could listen to them, the things they talk, the jokes they crack. But no matter how close I went, the posh roar of Disneyland buried their feeble whispers. The crackles and the joy, everything seemed muted, yet unwavering. The delight was pure. But the dazzling lights exposed their misery. I could see their wounds, the gradual, persistent erosions that had washed away their layers, but not the souls. Perhaps they were the lives of the shadows, it was the light that made them look ugly.
The world of light is actually darker. Full of shadows sneaking about, wearing a million faces, sneering, jabbing, lying, squabbling.
The people in front of me were the fireflies of dark.
“Do you have more money, we got to have chewing gums? “My friends asked.
“Fuck off. “I said and we moved.
The kid inside me jerked to life again. But this time, I didn’t want to stay in Disneyland all my life. I wanted to stay in the shadows, with those fireflies…