Monday, April 9, 2007

Chrome Dust

“Finally!” I sighed,” Finally he got what he wanted!”

My eyes were still where he used to be.” Death! He really earned it!”


Life! So many days in it with so many things. So many moments, so many events, so many people, so many faces. Not every face is remembered for long. In fact most of them are not. But some faces stay with you. Most of them because they are beautiful. Some of them because they are ugly! This is the story of an Ugly face.

There must have been more than a thousand people within the span of my sight. There were rich people in shiny cars and beautiful girls in attractive outfits. But for some reason which I could never find out, my eyes remained fixed on him. So much so that I dint even hear the first couple of horns that blared at me as the signal turned green. He was writing something. I found it most amusing because never before had I seen a beggar writing!

That was the first time I saw him but the second time wasn’t much later. Just a couple of hours later while returning from the coaching class I saw him again. He was still holding the pen in his hands albeit not writing anything. He was busy playing with the children around. Perhaps they were the kids of those women who were selling gajras nearby. The children seemed to be enjoying with him, not terrified at all with is half burnt face and stump like legs. One of them played with his bald head while the other found his lone ear amusing. I could not help but wonder what made that ugly black face with a couple of crooked hands attached to something that remotely resembled a human body attract those little hearts. I stopped and observed them for about a minute from across the road and then cycled my way to home as the twilight merged into night.

24 hours later, the day had changed but his place had not. In fact I am pretty sure that this had been the case for years now. He couldn’t move and no one moved him. That day the children weren’t there. He was alone. I then suddenly realized that he wasn’t begging. Now looking at his state I was pretty sure that he was a beggar but to my amazement he wasn’t begging. He had a box alright. And a few coins gave it company too. But somewhere, somehow, something was different. Now had it not been Chennai and had tamil not been an alien language to me I would have started on a conversation with him already. But then what would I have asked him? Why he wasn’t begging? Or that why he looked so happy with life when people like him should carry the pain of their life on their faces? May be all I wanted to ask him was,”Whats it that you have?” And just as these thoughts were floating through my mind, he looked at me and smiled.

For three months, we went through the same process everyday. I used to stop near him irrespective of the signal. We used to share smiles. He used to say a few things I could hardly understand but my smile satisfied him. I don’t know whether he ever realized it or not but he never treated me as a stranger to tamil. And during all these days, never, not even once did I drop him a single coin. I never gave him anything but but soon he started giving me something everyday. He started to bless me. But the thing that used to amaze me most was that often I found him writing something with a refill on tattered sheets.

That day before I left for the coaching class I was thinking about him. I wondered what he writes and why is he so different from all other beggars. I decided to ask him about it that day. So I sped towards adyar signal only to find his seat vacant. It had been the only instance since I first saw him when he wasn’t there. But his belongings were. I asked the gajra sellers about him but what they replied was beyond me. All I could make out, and that too vaguely that he was gone before they came to the place.

“Where could he have gone? He couldn’t have gone anywhere without help. And if these ‘gajra-sellers’ didn’t help him then who would have done it? Did he have relatives?” All sorts of questions flashed across my mind. I moved on.

A week passed by but I never saw him again. Though his belongings at that corner, under the fly over remained untouched. Someone expected him to be back.

I couldn’t resist longer. It was 12 o’ clock midnight and I picked my cycle and left for adyar. I reached the signal and went under the fly over where he used to sit. Without caring of being seen by one of the passing cars I picked up his bag. It had nothing but just a few tattered clothes, a broken pair of glasses, a tumbler,a religious book in tamil, a few empty refills accompanying a single filled one and a few pages. Other than that a couple of coins were lying under the bag. I took those pages and kept the bag back where I had picked it from. The pages had lots of things scribbled on them in tamil. I put them in my pocket and rode back home.

The next day I asked my roommate Kartik to translate the scripture. He couldn’t believe me when I told him where I had got them from. The beggar had written poems. Lots of them on a variety of things. When kartik translated them for me, I could realize what it was that he had. I realized why he was so different. He was proud of what he had and it was that pride which he radiated. And now I realized why that day of all the faces my eyes had fell upon this ugly one.

One of his poems, perhaps one of the earliest ones went like this :

I have no heart for guilt or shame

For it was broken long ago,

By a world moving fast,

For which I was too slow.

Everyday while you walk this way,

With a derelict body and open hands,

With a face most repulsive,

This beggar brazenly stands!

No! I don’t ask of you,

To sympathise my indigence,

Whether or not you drop a coin,

I won’t take offence,

For there is but no choice for me

Than begging and yearning,

For I failed in all attempts,

Of an honorable earning,

As time depletes my body,

With afflictions of the soul,

I continue to beg my way,

Out of this rigmarole.

But God hates me a lot,

Not letting me to join,

Each time I beg for death,

He drops in a coin.

And I take it as his wish

Of keeping me in this role

As a prisoner of life,

And a sentence without parole.

It answered all my questions. I now knew where he had gone. He couldn’t have left the place even if someone was there to help him. Except if that someone was GOD! Finally god too needed some ugliness with him.

“Finally!” I sighed,” Finally he got what he wanted!”

My eyes were still where he used to be.” Death! He really earned it!”

Things will be forgotten, and so will be people and faces. But the ugliness of that face shall remain with me forever.


  1. Did such a thing really happen with you? In any case, the story sounds very metaphorical. It has your touch from the start(a mix of philosophy and storytelling) for sure. Though I am impressed by any poem that rhymes, I must say that the poem in your story stirred some thoughts by the message it was trying to convey. Besides, yaar thodi khushi waali kahaniyan likh diya kar, mein waise hi senti ho raha hoon(my last few days in college).

  2. The correlated poem is excellent ...Beauty and Ugliness are the one and the same thing at some point down the pipe because both of these have the capacity of making a long lasting effect on the cerebrum...
    Good work dude....!!!
    But i dont understand what is ur tension in life...??? why is ur mind filled with such thoughts...???

  3. ha ha ha! dont worry guys, i was testing how good i m at expressing sentiments....the next one is surely gonna be a different genre!

  4. hey well i can afford to say that the verse made the prose look i getting punny :)..hehe btw jokes apart ignoring the rough edges the prose was smooth and did succeed in touching the emotional chords...

    ( "stump like legs." "12 o’ clock midnight" "few coins gave it company" phewhh!! spare me for my nitpicking effort...but i felt these phrases needed to be smoothed out..)

    n talking abt the embedded poem..nobody can get more professional than that..!! i mean it!! Now as u have promised of venturing into a diff genre..we wait with bated breath..! :)

  5. Awesome!! A genuine effort and thanks to you I have read a nicely written story after a long time. I appreciate the thought process that you could see something different in a beggar scribbling on a paper which a normal person would easily run through in a fast paced life. Hope you never fell short of a subject and keep writting something as thought provoking as the "Chrome Dust".

    As an honest reader here are some constructive criticism that came obvious in your writting - you can improve upon some of the sentence formation techniques, as some of the sentences give a feel that they are thought in Hindi and then translated in English. A few mistakes in grammar can be avoided with a few review. Couple of places the sentence sounds incomplete like 'I couldn’t resist longer...' the dots could be filled with the feelings and the questions lingering in your mind; ofcourse it can be termed as style of writting but to me it is lack of expression.

    Some of the places you are simple classy ” Death! He really earned it!”, its the thought that this sentence prokes in the mind makes this story really worthy of a read. Cheers!!

  6. ab agli post agle saal karega kya?

  7. Much has been told by yr frds.. abt the quality n grammar n suggestions.. so u dont need any more i suppose.
    well the story was heart touching n you have been successful in transfering the emotions from yr ownself to yr writing n to the readers. well individuals may have varied comments on the type.
    But i wud always ignore the minor loops which have negligible importance where expression of feelings is thr. well done !!!! keep it up.

  8. Just read your story. Nice!