The Versatile Eye – Part I
Fried Eye notes– As a special gift this festival season, we bring before you a different offering – A psychological thriller, to be published as a series from none other than our talented Author Lasya Shashimohan.
He walked into class with a nagging sense of monotony; Claustrophobia even. If only his HOD was not so hidebound. Santosh Kumar, Psychology lecturer in his late twenties, who applauded himself for ‘thinking out of the box’, was really cheesed today. Ebullient suggestions that he begin the year’s syllabus with ‘Substance Related Disorders’ (a topic pertinent to today’s youth) were brusquely rejected by his senior.
The girls prattling on desks quietly slid on to their benches. There were no muted catcalls and coquettish drawls of ‘ Goood morninggggg, sir’( mostly made in naïve girlish spirit), today. Instead they opened their note books with a studied seriousness. Stress, coiled (and ready to spring at the slightest provocation) was detected in their free-spirited master today. And they knew how much like a pendulum SK could be when he was in one of his ‘moods’.
SK dutifully wrote- ‘The History of Psychopathology’ on the board; went on to trace its history from the primitive to modern era.
Dissent smothered him- ‘This is not what I want to teach today’ he fumed inwards but went on, nevertheless. A total critic of ‘Spoon –feeding’, he expected his students to jot down the primary points of his lectures, consult reference books, access material from the internet and use their discretion and make and study their own notes. ‘I could dictate every word, I daresay, it would save a lot of time… . Would help you from the examination point of view; but I won’t. Education is not only about passing exams and getting a degree. It is also meant to impart life-skills and my aim is to make you as independent as possible, girls.’ -Sermon invariably delivered to every batch of students since he had started his teaching career five years back.
Lofty ideas- from a young, good-looking teacher. The girls nodded their heads vigorously. Needless to say, they were impressed- much beyond themselves and the fledgling beliefs they held.
Sumana didn’t nod. She continued to sit very erect and pushed her branded glasses higher up on the nose. It wasn’t hard to imagine what she would look like at forty.
After working hours, the blues seized and choked SK. This was a feeling that came to him rarely, a mood that he hated. He tried to get familiar things out of his head-College, students, his formidable alligator of an HOD. He picked up what he called his favorite friend- his camera and ambled through the streets. Was there ever a dearth of sights for sore eyes?
He clicked rows of Casuarinas blowing gracefully in the breeze, a black and white bird with a swashbuckling tail, a bonny little boxer pup tugging playfully at a little girl’s braid, chic yuppies (quite unlike him) and well-heeled youngsters in a swank coffee shop. He soon got jaded and his heart yearned to capture something quaint. He drifted into a charming village within Bangalore city and clicked the vibrant market place with a small stall serving dal bhati churma, the dazzle of sequined saris, holy cows sitting in the middle of roads (this area was renowned for twenty-five temples in its vicinity). He also took photos of a temple with a glorious gigantic Lord Hanuman’s statue with a beautiful green and white mosque by its side, a little granthalaya (library) by the temple, straight out of R.K Narayan’s books, charming old derelict houses playing peek a boo amidst burgeoning sky scrapers.
He was returning home whistling when it first flashed at him. What was happening? SK was flummoxed. Was someone clicking his pictures? It was too dark to see…then he saw it- a man’s it seemed like- but it was all made up with blue and green liners and shadowed and mascara-ed very lavishly like Boy George’s or someone’s. Two rings were pierced near an untweezed brow. Imagine an eye flashing at him all by itself. He then saw certain things in the cornea that made him freeze.
It displayed images- Blood-chilling. Gut-wrenching. Realities that his subconscious knew existed but refrained from acknowledging. Pathos and misery existed in the world but it wasn’t SK’s style to imbibe it. What did things even fairly unpleasant or pathetic have anything to do with him? He was young, vivified, reasonably well off and that was enough. As much as SK would have hated admitting to himself, he was an escapist. That’s not crime enough, but he lacked core honesty which is essential for every being’s mental, social and spiritual growth. There was definitely a fault in the eye’s eye. So the eye camera showed him photographs of grim reality those were diametrically opposite of the ones that he had taken….a reality he had shielded himself from by avoiding newspapers and electronic media.
A bloody Golgotha
Blood and gore
Guns and grenades
War cripples- their arm or leg bestially blown off
A girl pretended to have a deathly disease to save her chastity from predatory soldiers
The ‘guilt’ on her face apparent for having prayed for her own deliverance when her best friend was getting raped.
Opportunistic murders. Mayhem
A sodomized monk, a soiled nun….
A hapless man begging for mercy in the face of riots.
An Afghan refugee girl with intense eyes. The same woman’s image years later, haggard and wasted – testimony to a trying life.
Grieving women- Desensitized newspapers labeling their heart-wrenching sorrow as ‘Wailing’. Wailing- what a cruel word to use in this context.
Man eat man.
Babies killed like Andromache and Hector’s. Their skulls smashed on rocks.
Faces distorted by acid, wounds or anxiety. Faces that didn’t look like faces anymore.
The punk eye turned lip-shaped like the audibles in ‘Yahoo Messenger’ and started speaking in a baritone, ‘SK, there’s more to come. Listen…..’ SK nearly collapsed. Then blindly ran home and splashed cold water over his face.
His class was only at 11:30 pm. He had already prepared for his lecture. To distract himself, he looked at photographs on his monitor- one of Sumana’s- tall, stern and nearly matronly-looking in her trademark khadi kurti, branded glasses (SK couldn’t recall the name of the brand), ill-fitting trousers and unflattering sandals. He assumed that her long black braid was sitting stoutly on her back as usual, its tassels brushing her calves. She as usual had of copy of Dostoevsky with her.
The picture seemed somewhat forbidding and failed to provide much sought for solace. He put it aside.
He gingerly took out a snap up to the waist of Toots sitting on a sofa. She looked gorgeous. He felt uneasy.
He couldn’t help looking at another he had downloaded a week ago and then had stashed away- another picture of the fine-boned Toots; lustrous haired and smiling sunnily into the lens. She was dressed in a simple dress with an English print, leaning rakishly on a lone crutch, standing beside her self-portrait.
He rushed to the system and opened his inbox. She had written-
What is the matter? Don’t you find me gorgeous anymore now that you know….
Never mind. Have a nice day!!
SK sat brooding over a drink. His memory did a backward jig- danced its way to the past.
To be contd.
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