The End, Chapter 30, the Final chapter of Memory, a Novella

The End, Chapter 30, the Final chapter of Memory, a Novella
Written for Nanowrimo extended
Copyright (c) Soumya Mukherjee
This is one maxim that made life difficult for Boy. Long before it was macho and cool for men to be in touch with their emotions and not being afraid to show sensitivity, Boy had the unfortunate predicament of being ahead of times. He cried watching films.
Not all films mind you. He did not cry at Laurel and Hardy films. But Charlie Chaplin was another matter. Action films left him dry eyed. But not if they were action packed patriotic war movies. Ditto, action films to do with martyrs in the freedom struggle. These made Boy cry buckets. As did the first Hindi film he saw, ‘Haathi mere Saathi’. Anand left him cold, but Fiddler on the roof was a three hankie film, even before Boy had daughters of his own and identified with poor Topol.
This was his shameful secret. AND IT HAD TO STAY THIS WAY! If not quite his life, but his reputation and his young manhood depended on it.
Cinema halls being dark, it kept a veil on this Achilles heel and no one suspected that the snivelling could be coming from the irreverent comedian which was Boy’s public persona. Add the fact that his spectacles and frequent colds he pretended to suffer from hid the symptoms of his shame from the casual eye, and Boy was as successful in keeping this alter ego a dark secret as successfully as Dr Jekyll.
Books were another matter. Boy was addicted to the printed word and spent every bit of free time, in public transport and communal spaces as well, stuck in books. He would completely lose all sense of space time continuum when in the throes of this narcotic world, and would often laugh out loud or exclaim audibly. Giggles were frequent. Now, while laughing aloud while reading is tolerated as eccentricity, with mild censure, and even giggling attracted bearable amounts of hazing, snivelling would have spelled a death knell. Boy’s tastes did not run to soppy stuff, and tearjerkers made him laugh, so one would think that there was no danger of disclosure, but no, not quite. You see, what got Boy’s tear ducts running were stories of triumph against odds, the little guy winning, the new kid scoring the winning goal, the 1911 Mohanbgan victory in the IFA shield in a real life Lagaan scenario and similar stories of heroism and success. Boy used camouflage in the form of loud laughter or eye irritation as a cover up.
But you can go only so far in covering up an overactive lachrymal gland. Rumours regarding his manhood began to circulate. It was only the fact that Boy was an enthusiastic sportsperson, had the advantage of a scathing tongue, and a reputation as a scrappy fighter helped him survive those whispers. Not crying in physical pain helped salvage Boy’s name somewhat whenever he was beaten up defending his honour against any slur of emotionalism.
It was years later that Boy could openly cry with his daughters watching Lion King or Chak De India.
One would expect that this albatross around Boy’s neck would come to his rescue one day when he really needed the relief of letting the tears flow and the howls rise to wash away his anguish and unburden his soul when something actually affected him in real life.
But like Karna’s knowledge, the bitch deserted Boy at his moment of trial.
Boy was keeping vigil in the loneliest place in the world, the waiting room outside the ICCU. The one person Boy hero worshipped in childhood, confronted in the arrogance of youth, and grew distant from in the labyrinths of their own lives, the one person who always supported Boy and was there for him without expectations of reciprocity, who’s debt would forever remain unpaid, was inside, hooked up to a ventilator.
Boy was called inside and it was explained that there was nothing further to be done, and he had to take the final decision of flipping the switch. He was given a moment alone with the patient. Boy desperately waited for the welcome release of the warm flood that heals, but nothing came. He was dry eyed and stony faced. Boy went through the motions of bereavement in automation.
On the one occasion that boys can cry, Boy couldn’t.
That day, Boy finally grew up, and became a man.
Tamam Shudh.


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