Am I the Assassin or the Undertaker


Am I the Assassin
        or the Undertaker
 
                   For Palani
 
                                I
 
He stopped coming our way again
He was no where in sight at school
Then, after a long absence
In the pit of the Chan Ah Tong padang
He came and stood at one corner of the field
 
He looked resigned grave
A stoic smile hovering over his lips
Over his virgin gossamer moustache
 
His voice a calm breeze
Of vowels constrained by crisp consonants
We saw less of his teeth
He was dressed in silk shirts
Well-ironed without creases
Trouser pleats showing strictness
Shoes shiny and sleek
The sheen of his hair obedient under cream
His gait measured strained
As though grim hands clawed at him
Through gaps in the ground
 
At first, we didn’t know
What to make of him
His new tutored appearance
And detached forbearing looks
 
He watched us play
Close on hours
Aloof far away
He never so much as waved
We turned to look
He was gone
Leaving the dusk to fall behind him
 
 
I called to see anyway at his place
His father frowned at me
Gruff undertones accompanied him inside
I saw a curtain ever so slightly tremble
After a while his mother
Came out to say
He had gone for good
 
I wasn’t sure what she meant
I stood there looking dazed
Then tears licked her cheeks
Her drained and stricken face
 
She went in dabbing her eyes
With her sari's loose end 
 
I never called on them again
I just couldn’t understand
The father’s anger and pain
At this world on which we stand
 
I was just a playing pal of his son’s
He was older than I was then
Yet he came just once
Out of who knows what inner command
Just to talk or stroll around
 
Now I am older and his elder
 
But is it I who laid him low
 
 
                       II
 
A date with fate
He came one morning to my place
All decked in his glad rags
Fingering a shiny white billiard ball
Twirling it between bony fingers
Like the natural leg-spinner he was
Just for fun he would let it lick the dust
And it swished near ninety-degree turns
 
I said: What about some quick nets
The day aged in labour and with forceps
He hesitated but on the spur
Said: Yes, why not
 
The rest of the morning I batted
Saw the wickets tumble uprooted
 
His spirits surged
Sweat sweet and sour
Sprinkled his shirt
And ran down his collar and spine
 
We laughed at every googly
Which missed the stumps by inches
We were back in olden Ali Baba times
Truants lost in a cave of our own
Diamonds refracted from his eyes
 
He said: We should do this more often
 
His heart must have caved in that very night
Or was it when he barely made it home

 
 
© T. Wignesan – Paris,   February 3-4, 2013
 

Leave a comment