Ascent and Descent

The house was silent late in the night and she lay on her back, frail and tired in her room which had been made into a small hospital room for her. She looked up to see the fan rotating constantly the purr of the blades moving the air. Who said “air made no noise “? “ Cant you hear the dull grey sound the fan makes – like the insipid taste of yoghurt ?” she asked herself . She lay on her back, it was the end of the ‘diwali’ season, the day that is supposed to be a day of celebration in India , the day when the whole country was lit up with decorative lights . She had celebrated Diwali for 94 years she thought to herself “and this would be the 95th “

The only other sound she could hear was the sound of the lift go up and down, up and down…… all five floors. “They called a ‘lift’ an elevator in America”, she thought to herself “ that’s where I had studied in the 40’s in Michigan Ann Arbor” . Her memories were rambling – the years in between had no chronology, no value ! Every time the lift came up she could feel her weakened intestines constrict supporting the ascent of the lift and the weight of the passengers and every time the lift went down she felt her guts relax. This constant contraction and release reminded her of so many things in her life which she had faced .
She imagined the wizened lift man Aziz going up and down in the lift. She had seen him for the first time almost 40 years ago, when he was a young man fresh from his distant village. Through the years she saw a young man metamorphise kafka-esque into an old man with a stoop and a toothless grin! . Did he also have to bear the load of each passenger that he transported up ? She smiled knowingly that he would shortly tell everyone, that, he was finally going to retire and go back to his village and therefore collect money from all the residents as a baksheesh for good service and as his “goodwill pension”. Over the last ten years he had done this thrice before and everyone humored him because he knew the comings and goings and the deep secrets into each of the tenants families. She knew he would return again ! She always associated him with the colour of brown , his dark tanned skin , his brown teeth , his brown uniform.

Lying down in bed bored, restless with the tubes of the life support machine entering her emaciated body she was strangely at peace. The crescendo of the lift as it went up and the waning sound at its descent and the constant purring of the fan gave her the answer. Life would still go on …”up and down, ….up and down” . She knew that she had only a few more days to live …. It was a relief, soon the silence that would surround her would have no purring and no up and down ……only silence !


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