Kuttetan – a terrorist

Kuttetan was a terrorist. He terrorized me in the way a seven-year old can be terrorized – purely and entirely; cold terror flowed from the edge of my goosebumps to my dilated pupils whenever I saw him.

But before Kuttetan became a terrorist, he became a proud rooster. He strutted his red comb in front of a world that he could not understand because of his narrow rooster-like worldview and held his head high.

But unlike regular roosters who also sometimes hold their heads high (to monitor an eagle in the sky, for example) Kuttetan did it self-consciously. He had come to realize that he can remember his past all the more well when he did this.

This past isn’t his – not at a personal level. But then again, don’t we all identify with events and ideologies that are strictly speaking, not of our own making. So, Kuttetan walked around in this chicken-loving world, brooding and terrorizing me.

I could not step out of my house – my very own ancestral house without being chased by him. The angry Kuttetan was a sight to behold. Not that I had time to stop running and be overawed by this half-domesticated, half-monstrous creature that I lived with. But terror demonized his every movement, so much so that his light-footed scamper were repeated thuds beating against my anxious heart, his stare was “I see through your supposed child-like innocence”. I clung to my ideas of sapien superiority while trying to skirt the issue of Kuttetan’s past repeatedly.

Kuttetan had a gory past. Most rooster’s live out their lives in pens and farms seeing more blood of kith and kin than we ever see on our plates, but Kuttetan’s life experience was rather unique. He lived in a free home. When he was brought to this home, there had been expectations of nurture, freedom, happiness and fulfillment. But he lost two of his siblings within weeks of moving in to this new home.

I remember how the three of them were brought in. Bundled together with more chicks than I could count; in a small circular basket with a little hay to pad their claws. They looked scared. They were colorful too. The three children in the house picked out three chicks to own (read nourish, protect, etc). Kuttetan was yellow. Another was green and the third one was pink. We should have known then – Kuttetan was the named one. Names are important – It is through our identity that we negotiate with society.

We were children. We made mistakes. But since we were children, we were also open to learning from our mistakes. But some mistakes make wounds that fester for generations and leave scars. Kuttetan carried the scars of our collective mistakes and he brooded and terrorized.

My cousin built a house out of all the loose bricks that he could find for his lovely pink chick. Resources were scarce and his ideas of structural strength of buildings were weak. The roof of the house caved in on the pink chick before he could enjoy the ambiance of his hastily built home.

Kuttetan had probably heard the noise of the disaster. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I myself cannot claim to have had any such intentions. Nor did I have my cousin’s imagination or energy. I merely forgot to steer my little green chick into its pen in the evening – lethargy and books won over mundane duties. An industrious wild cat (wild because the green chick deserves at least that) made a meal of the tiny one that night.

Kuttetan stared at me that day when I went to inspect the green feather and paw prints on the ground.

Kuttetan brooded and as soon as he developed the red comb and wattle – his chief instruments of terror – he made it his life’s mission to chase me and my cousin around the house whenever he could. Afternoons were his favorite time. That was when we were most vulnerable. The adults would be taking their siesta. And by the time it was evening and they were up, his day’s work would be done.

No one believed our stories of traumatic afternoons. Kuttetan was merely chicken for the adults. Until one day! I stepped out of the backdoor of the house, looked ahead, left and right. I saw Kuttetan stand in the extreme end of the backyard gnawing with his lethal claws, the ground. I ran to the clothesline, managed to pick up one or two clothes before Kuttetan realized that there was a bigger prey in the ground. He charged. I ran back. The clothes mom had washed now lay in the puddles. But there were other things to worry about. With Kuttetan almost at my heels, I ran into the house. The fat, lethargic child that I was, I tripped and fell near the steps. Kuttetan, agile and breathing vehemently stood on a raised step. I looked at him through my chubby fingers that were covering my face and tried to judge his next step. Kuttetan stood there – years of pent up suffering forgotten. Anger and hatred now guided his actions. With all the might that his rooster body could muster, he pecked me.

Bleeding from my nose I ran to the adults. They believed me this time. The blood was my media; my hate-spewing advertiser. Maybe we could have dealt with the issue differently. But we killed Kuttetan. I ate him. Maybe I was pleased that day.
And that is the tale of Kuttetan, the terrorist.

*Disclaimer, explanations and the like : The story is real. The characters are and were real. The emotion and reasoning are of course imagined. Kuttetan is Kuttan + Chettan. Chettan means elder brother(Bade Bhaiya). Kuttan is an endearing name for a boy.


A nomad’s musings on home

Sitting in a room designed to shelter a wayfarer or two, I look around and think of the word – home. Why does that word comfort? Is it it’s sound – the way it closes a loop towards its end or is it the images that come up when I think about home – a distant house; a parrot that can recite my name like a mantra, but would not know me if I stood right before it, as if answering its call? What is it, that comforts?

The smile on my face reiterates what Pliny said a long time ago – Home is where the heart is. My home – my heart! This throbbing, inconsequential heart of mine – that detaches and feels, alternately. Could I trust my heart to know where my home is?

There are a few clues it gives – unsurprising responses to the slightest probing – mother, family, friends. That circle of love and warmth a parent holds witin his/her arms. That feeling of ownership and pride a sibling’s presence evokes. Those bonds of shared guilt, happiness and trust that make people friends.

But still, you move about leaving these little worlds of warmth you call home and make islands of shelter here and there. These islands become home quite soon. The heart finds attachments everywhere. And the heart detaches soon enough.

A cluttered table lies, bearing miscellaneous articles of everyday life, a few books that string time together, pictures of gods one believes in and don’t. The nomad in me knows, the next time I move, I will pack them all neatly into boxes and send them ahead. They will receive me like a home looking for its favorite occupant when I arrive, holding curiosity and loneliness in each arm.

I will find a friend or two, explore places and lives. I will find new homes to shelter my soul in. These objects would, in the meantime, create an air of familiarity that would displace some of the alienation I feel.

Are we then, really disassociated souls looking for an anchor wherever we go? Do we weave nostalgia into a place, onto some relationships so that we can call some place, some people, ours?

Is that all home is, then – a way to bind ourselves to the world, while time takes you on journeys – some planned, some unplanned?

Outside my room, through my window, I see – it is raining. There is a bit of home there too – in the smell of the earth, in the cold water falling into my palm.

I am a seasoned nomad. I carry a hope for home wherever I go.

Colored Homes, makeshift lives

The tent was blue, the floor – brown.
There was dirt. Dirt was the floor.
It used to be blue, the girl said
Pointing at the floor.
You don’t mind me looking? I asked, hesitant, prying.
The girl shrugged – It’s an open tent.
What is there to hide?
I drew her home in my black book.
She came and sat beside me
And offered to color it – a little help, she said, smiling.
Tell me about you, I urged
After a few pleasantries.
Her green eyes looked up from the book
And gazed at something far–
I couldn’t see.
It was a village in the slopes, by the woods.
She said there were chairs and fireplaces –
You could sit down. It was cold and it was warm.
That sounds enchanting, I said.
She smiled and colored some more.
There were bookshelves, bigger than the tent
In her school.
She had colored the cracks in them
While she waited
For someone to come rescue her –
That is how she had broken –
All the colors she had
in her rusted crayon box.

I asked her if she understood
Why she had to be there –
In the shelter, as they called it.
She said, she did – a little –
There were bombs being thrown,
people were dying.
It was important to live, she said.
I looked at her – young and wistful –
And asked – who was throwing bombs?
People, she said.
Why? Why do you think?
Because – when countries fight,
they did that, she reasoned.
Huh – I stopped.
So, countries – were fighting? I checked with her.
Yes, they disagreed on things –
Things like fences and gates – she explained
Drawing fences in the air.
They have ideas – of where those begin
And where they end.
They fight about those. She surmised.
Who are they? I asked.
People, she guessed.
So people of countries, fight over ideas? I quizzed again.
She shrugged and looked away.
That is vague, her eyes said;
Her loss was real.

There was a village. We may not see it anymore –
The loss is real – I summarized in my mind.

Last time, it was not like that – she tried to explain –
Her previous ordeal with tents like these;
They were fighting, but they were not countries.
Who was fighting, then? I asked, trying to see
How the coloring was coming along,
All around the facts – in my little black book.
People of religion, she said –
They had ideas too – of what was right and wrong –
So, they fought about that.

This is it – she said, handing over the book to me –
This is my home.
I looked at it,
She had not colored the tent
Instead, she had drawn her home.
It was green, like her eyes.
Blue and red adorned the walls.
It was warm and it was cold, like how she said it was.
It is bright, I said. It is beautiful.
She looked far away again.
I wrote beneath
That picture of home –
While we play, a surreal game
With our wits and guns,
She sits there – looking past
Dreary shelters and makeshift lives –
At a home that was untouched
By anything
but a clamor for life.

My lines, scribbled in haste
Looked nothing like
What was in her mind.