The poet put down his pen.
He then tore the page from his notebook, crumpled it and threw it out of the window. He had been trying to write this poem for the past couple of weeks. The thoughts had been coming to his mind but he was unable to express them. He sighed and got up. “What is this life? What is this life?” he mumbled to himself. He was exhausted. His head felt like it weighed a thousand kilos. He looked at himself in the mirror. His long hair fell on his shoulders in tangles. His eyes were bloodshot. He realized that he had not slept at all for the last few days. He threw himself on his bed and wondered if he could sleep forever. This life was a burden that weighed more than his thousand-kilo head. What would it be like to shrug off the burden and fly in the sky? He fell asleep and dreamt of a green field where cows were grazing. A group of children were laughing and flying their kites. In his dream, he was flying over this field. Suddenly one of his wings broke. He fell.
It was a beautiful day for flying kites. A girl with a pink kite under her arms, skipped merrily towards the marigold field. She smiled as she saw her friends. She ran to them and excitedly displayed her beautiful kite. As she flew her kite, the wind took it higher and higher. It was almost as if the kite had touched the clouds. The girl laughed a hearty laugh which echoed through the whole field. Marigolds danced everywhere.
The poet, fresh after a short nap sat beside the window, drinking his coffee. He thought about the strange dream he had in the afternoon. He knew he felt amazing while flying in his dream. But somehow he felt happier when his wing broke and he fell in that field full of orange marigolds. Where was that? Was that heaven? There were no angels around. But wait, wasn’t the place a bit too familiar? He sighed. Putting his head in his hands, he sobbed.
A month later, the poet, frustrated with the agony of city life travelled to his ancestral house in the countryside. He hadn’t been here since his mother died twelve years back. He remembered how much he loved it here when he was young. Life here was carefree, wild and adventurous. Life here was free from the burden that weighed him down.
“What is this life? What is the meaning of this life?” he thought.
“Have you heard the poet is here?” the woman asked her daughter
“What poet?” her daughter asked.
“Oh! You know nothing. How would you know? You are busy flying kites all day long,” she scolded her child.
“What is it about Mum?”
“He’s a poet. He writes poems. He is very famous.”
“So what are we supposed to do about that?” the girl asked.
“We should at least go and greet him some day. Yesterday Kamala and her husband went to his house with sweets. Kamala said he’s a great man. Gave them one of his poems.”
“What would Kamala aunty do with poems? She can’t read. Can she?”
“Oh! Shut up! We’re going tomorrow.”
The next day the girl and her mother went to the poet’s house with ripe mangoes from their orchard. The poet thanked them with a poem of his. The girl found the poet weird. He had a face of a child and yet he looked so old and tired.
“Do you fly kites? If you do, then you can always come with me…” the girl started to say.
Her mother pinched her. She stopped.
“Interesting. Kites, eh?” the poet smiled a little.
“No, no. She doesn’t fly kites. I mean she flies them once in a while–not always,” the woman said.
The girl rolled her eyes.
Later that night lying on her bed, she read the poem the poet had given them.
“I live in a gray room
Full of smoke…
Everything burns in blood red fumes.
Life is a bird with broken wings,
In a field of blazing marigold strings”
What sort of a poem was that? The girl didn’t like it much. It was not that she understood a lot about poetry, but this poem seemed to be full of sadness and melancholy. What did the bird with broken wings signify? Why was everything burning in fumes? Strange. Really strange.
A week later she again visited the poet with a bunch of flowers. It was not that she wanted to, her mother forced her to it.
“Heard that you’re going away the day after tomorrow. Mum sent these,” the girl said and handed him a box of sweetmeats.
“Oh thanks. What are those?” he said pointing to the flowers.
“These are for you. I got them from the field.”
“Marigolds?” he asked.
“You’re the girl who flies kites right?” the poet wanted to know.
“Will you teach me?”
“Teach you what?”
“To fly kites?” The poet looked at the girl.
“You’re a poet. You don’t fly kites. Mum said poets only think. Kites are for airheads like me.”
“I used to fly kites when I was a boy,” he confessed.
“Come with me.”
The girl took the poet to the marigold field. The field was filled with little golden flowers. Children flew kites. Ancient banyan trees surrounded the field. Cows grazed in the shades of the trees. A group of urchins sat on the branches of the trees, pretending to be monkeys. The poet looked in amazement. Was this heaven? The heaven he had dreamt of? But he was alive, wasn’t he? For the first time, he wanted to be alive. “This is life. This is life,” he said to himself.
“What? What did you say?” the girl asked.
“Tell me. What is life? What is the meaning of life?”
The girl smiled. “Life is a gift.”
The girl extended her hand towards the poet. The poet took it, grasped them tightly. They ran though the soft grass. The poet felt like he was flying. He laughed with joy. Never did he feel so happy. When they were out of breath after running, they sat down in the shade of a tall tree.
“Why do you write sad poems?” the girl asked.
“My life is full of sadness,” the poet answered.
“That’s not true. You just don’t look at the bright side of life.”
“Bright side? What is that? I don’t know a bright side of life.”
“And I don’t know a dark side of it,” the girl laughed.
“It’s easy for you to say such things. You have never seen the real world. Living in this peaceful countryside, how would you know the evils of city? You have not encountered betrayal, greed, envy, competition, and failure.”
“My father died when I was in my mother’s womb. My mother was thrown out by her in-laws when dad died. I was born and brought up in a tiny shack, where I learned to cook at the age of five. I worked in people’s houses and earned a living. With the money I earned I went to a school to learn how to read. We struggled for years until we made a new home for ourselves. We never gave up. I felt fortunate to live. Life was never a burden for me. I accepted all that came with open arms. Pain, suffering, betrayal — I knew these wouldn’t last for long. I knew these were just a part of life and that life wasn’t a curse. Life is a gift,” the girl said, smiling.
“From where do you get the strength?” the poet asked.
“From my faith. I have faith in life.”
“Would you teach me how to?”
“How to do what?”
The girl laughed. She ran to the kids flying kites and borrowed a kite from them. She threw it in the air and made it fly.
“Come here,” she called to the poet.
She held out the string of the kite to him.
The poet took it. The kite rose up, carried by the gentle breeze.
That evening the poet wrote the poem he had given up on, months back.
“I walk through the unknown alleys alone
Drops of rain kiss my skin
“What is this life?” I wonder out loud
Life extends her arm to me
I take it, grasp it tightly. I run…
Run to the land of bondage
Which gifts freedom that a poet craves.
A smile that offers love,
A field of golden flora and
Kites that fly to the unknown.”
Two days later the poet looked out through the barred window of the train. The station was empty, almost. The train would leave in five minutes. He was happy to be going back. There was so much to do, once he returned. The first thing he intended to do was to get a haircut. He knew why his head felt heavy all the time. Unkempt, shaggy, dirty hair was the reason. He laughed thinking how weird that sounded. Suddenly a familiar figure caught his sight. She ran to the train, barefoot. Within a minute she was before the poet’s window with a string of marigolds and a box of fried rice.
“Don’t go,” she said.
“I’ll come back,” the poet promised.
The girl stood before the window, with a hollow look. She stared at the marigold flowers on the poet’s lap. The poet touched her face and slowly she looked up. She gazed at the poet for a split second.
“I’ll wait for you.”
The train started to move. The girl walked along with the moving train.
The train gained speed and she was left waving from the platform. The poet found a new rhythm in the chugging of the train. Perhaps, this reflected the new rhythm of his life. The train sped on towards the gray city which the poet intended to color with bright shades of life…
The meaning of life is what a person makes of it.
For some, going through a tough time, it’s a burden. But one thing I have realized is that tough times don’t last forever. They do make us cry, suffer, want to surrender. But giving up is not the only way out. Death is easy. Life is hard. And yet it is wonderful, for the magic in it. This magic is not the conjurer’s trick that makes colored ribbons come out of his sleeves. This magic is the way new leaves grow on dry branches. This magic promises spring after every harsh winter. This magic enables a mother to love her child. This magic grows marigolds in unknown fields and flies kites in the blue sky. This magic grows hope in the hearts of frustrated poets. This magic gives people the power to strive. This magic creates love that binds people together forever. This magic makes life ever beautiful and worth living for every single individual…
Prerna Chatterjee lives in the city of Calcutta, India. She is a 10th grader at South Point High School, Calcutta. She loves reading, cooking and writing. Her favorite subjects are literature, biology and history.
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