The short piece titled ‘broken rice,’ set in Dehradun, India, is packed with talking colours and walking spices. It opens in the first paragraphs with a social consciousness, which is more broadened in today’s world than in the disturbing past of its host society. It is the socio-economic classes of; low, lower middle, middle-middle, upper middle, high, VIP and VVIP. The fine piece progresses in layers of development; as a kid, teenager and adult, with all of life evolving before him.
However, as a still growing kid, the narrator is confronted by the challenges of the aforementioned middle class his family was stapled to. It is more typified in his family scooter, a scooter he hated to ride on. With much uneasiness associated with it-the onrushing wind, hands that would not tie around his father, eyes that would not look beyond his father’s shoulders, in-fact, comfortability in the scooter seemed far-fetched. His family class is always dotted about the piece, it is once more made explicit when his school-teacher mother (Ma), while basking in the somewhat characteristics of a school-teacher; strict and non-budging especially, is frugal with her hard earned rupees at the store. In the meantime, their class which stuck to them like flesh is more glaring when Ma wanted to buy washing soap. But was confused whether to go for Rin, neither would she attempt Nirma, which was less costly. She would not buy even a dozen of it for a cheap cost; apparently, it was not on account of the cost, instead, it was because the Kamkarnewali bai, the maid, used Nirma. Supposedly, the overly advertised 10 rupee Ariel would be her decision if the store man was not as hell bent because of the inflation, as they haggled.
Into the story, one would relish the subtlety with which the narrator bares his kind of family, the man his father was and what was obtainable in a market setting as theirs. In one of those moments; “my father looked left, then right and walked slap-happily. I looked only at his chappals-the blue and white rubber, water-proof slippers that were meant to be worn at home and for bathroom trips. But my father was a man of torn vests and half pants.” Even as the narrator’s eyes would not keep off his spontaneous comparisons, he would now know that he was better than someone, a skinny tea-seller-boy, who fell drastically below his seeming posh look. But, it would not be for long, his hotspotin the family scooter is claimed by his younger sister, while he stays at home.
Akshat is his name. Moreso, he was old enough equally to answer some of those annoying names Ma spurted on him when she was angry. The responsibility that beholds coming of age is not deprived him as he grows. Ma was at ease dishing her punitive measures in variations as often as they came on.
Importantly too, he draws us into their sacred room to show the religious underlining of his family. Well versed and active in Indian religious practise, as each year, new pictures of gods are added to the 33 crore Hindu gods and goddesses in the four by four prayer room. However, “at the end of the year, there was a dilemma: how could we trash the gods? So Ma would cut the pictures and paste them on the walls of the prayer room. Despite, the father’s reckless life, he still had bits of life lessons.
Nevertheless, with just a year in college and the first year out of home, Akshat jumps into college life. Having stayed reserved all through at home, there was no telling how badly he wanted and had friends and made away often with them. Just like he jumped into the vibe of life, he jumped out of chemistry honors to settle for philosophy. Seeking for some reason in the plenty of madness, he was seeing civilization and approached the world civilized. He comes back home to make a strange discovery as a consequence of his vibe of life. He gets better only to pour Ma’s sins before her. It took a little effort of chipping in some Nietzsche and some Chomsky and the tale was turned around. Disappointed, it seemed all her effort went unappreciated; talk less, her mother role. It all boils down to the note of suicide.
It was after many years, Akshat (unbroken rice) is gifted a Nokia mobile phone from someone who looked more like a stranger. It was to augment his civilization and at same time a taunt on his long found civilization. But he would continue to live like an ingrown hair. Bas ainveyi. Unsprouted. Now, Akshat is thoroughly reserved never to jump out to bite the fingers that cared.
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