Many lifeless objects become part and parcel of our life. Our car, the TV, a favourite dress, the good pen and many more. For us these cease to be inanimate. When they are gone, we feel hollow. June had August. But August is missing from yesterday. Another lifeless object was responsible for the dissappearence. His name Bernard.
Back from work, I had an early dinner. June was getting a change. The morning had been bad. June's curiosity got the better of her. She spilt piping hot tea on herself. She calls it "Ta" but she would now stay away from it, alteast for while. Post the incidence, the ensuing chaos to find a scapegoat had shocked her even more. It was one chaotic morning.
The night in contrast was calm and cool, the "Tars" and the "Mun" were up there again. I was relaxing on the terrace. A terrace which we share with our neighbours. They live in a single room house. 3 adults and 2 grown up kids pack themselves in. An asbestos sheet covers their top. At most of times when the sun is down, they spill out of the house.
However Mashi was troubled. The previous day June's extreme care had dirtied August from head to toe. So Mashi had given him a nice wash and hung him like a scarecrow on the terrace to dry. But August was missing and so was another teddy named Mary.
I went up to our neighbours. No one was there except a lady who was deaf and dumb. She was trying to say something that I could'nt fathom. I went for a walk, upset. Sometime later when I went up with my landlord I found a man squatting on the floor, completely drunk. It was Mashi who deciphered the lady's speechless code. This man, who claimed to be a cousin brother of my neighbour, had stolen August. He sold him off for bottle of arrack. I was speechless.
My landlord tried his best to make him understand. They were speaking in Tamil and I felt even more speechless. I was as dumb as the other lady. Each of his words were accompanied by a gust of pungent stench. An hour down the line we were nowhere. He refused to admit and tell us where he had taken August.
Unfortunately the rest of the family was'nt there. How do I retrieve the situation I asked? I was already starting to miss August and June was yet to know. So I took over. I found that he understood English. I sat there for the long haul. I used all forms of techniques - threats, sympathy, kind words even the promise of another bottle if he took me where August was. But he held on, blank and hollow.
It was past 10. Mun had just arrived from office and threatened to take things in her own hands. I still tried to reason out. I probed him about himself. At the back of mind I was itching to know his story. He had 3 kids who stayed with their mother. All three fairly grown up and they refuse to recognise him on road. He meanders and sleeps on the terrace of this cousin brother. I could see some of his belongings scattered here and there.
He said his name was Bernard and he he made a living out of cleaning computers. What living I asked myself again? And then I realised he was not living. He was dead, lifeless, inanimate. My search for August was over.
After the family came, there was only tamasha. Everybody pitched in. Threats of police station. A brother hitting a brother. The deaf and dumb lady contradicting herself. A hostile Mun and mashi. And an amused landlord's son. In between a local Christian community leader, the Godfather to the family, pitched in with his brand of threats. But his agenda was different. He came to make an impression.
It was midnight and I lost interest by now. My landlord ensured the lifeless object be thrown out. That was duly done. But as he walked down the empty road a host of emotions overpowered me. I thought of the umpteen Bernards that stroll the roads every night. Each become dead every night only to spring to life in the morn. Living beings converted into lifeless objects. Objects that their near ones refuse to own anymore.
At that point in time I missed August even more. Its a world of lifeless Bernards and living Augusts. June would be a little more lonelier from now. But somewhere someone would be more happy today.