I was asking myself why Stillness.

May be the agitated souls of artists and writers crave for this respite.

We have the stillness in cemeteries. We have stillness before the tempests. We have the stillness of deep seas. I find all of them unsettling.

Also, stillness simply means you don’t move. And I am an advocate of motion. Not just that I love to travel. The movement is not necessarily a frenetic run. It is the river flowing, it is the caress by a breeze, it is a graceful dance to a rhythm and music.

Still is stagnancy. Still is death.

Not that I couldn’t relate to the peace and calmness your parents deeply felt in those mornings when they just sat together and watched the streaks of sunlight falling on the plants in the pond. But I wonder, if it is the creative streak your whole family is blessed or cursed with, which involves certain churning and turmoil somewhere within, which make you earn for stillness.

May be there is more to it beyond the analytical prowess of a layman engineer.

I have always been a confused soul. When I mention blessing and curse, or stillness and unsettlement in one breath, I don’t know if they are really contradictions. Are pain and pleasure opposites or partners? I will ask your mother.

I know there are things beyond. But I don’t know what they are.

I try to simplify matters. Sometimes childishly. Like, friendship could be categorised as the first group subjects of pre degree; maths, physics and chemistry. Relationships could be ‘cultivated’ by dispassionate calculation. Also it could just happen by a conspiracy of circumstances, or physical attractions. And chemistry, we know.

I am trying to understand why I feel close to your family. The total time I spent with your brother could be compressed to within a day. The times I spent with your mother could be counted by the fingers of one hand. I have not met you at all, if saying hello in a crowd does not amount to meeting. I think the rapport is beyond the first group subjects, because the time and space components were not there in enough measure. Then what is it? If it is not chemistry, is it the poetry of your grand mother I grew upon? I stop looking for reasons.

The imprint we carry in our minds has got nothing to do with the length of time we know a person. I will end this write up telling you about a young lady whom I met just for a day and who has made me look at the world in a different way. May be relevant here as she somehow symbolises the attitude and philosophy, I believe, you are trying to inculcate through your project. Forgive the elaboration, brevity had never been my virtue.

Along with an ex minister’s son, I had met this gentleman IAS officer who was heading the town planning, for exemption from rules for a certain project by their family, which had violations as dictated by their principals. The officer calmly told the client. ” I have worked as secretary to your father. I respect and and adore him to this day. And it is the first time his family is asking for a favour. But I won’t do it because then I will have to do it for everyone nullifying the genuine benefits for which the rules are framed”

Then he turned to me and said ” Your job is to draw plans as per the rules of the state. It is not to ask us to change the rules to accommodate your design”

We returned. But the client managed the exemption from the ministries bypassing him.

I felt quite bad about it and went to this officer. He just smiled and consoled me saying that it happened all the time.

Few months later I got a call from him asking me to design the house in Tellicherry for his daughter. She is an artist and lives in Geneva. Later I came to know about her exhibitions. Some one showed me her painting of purdah clad Muslim women of Tellicherry. I am not an art connoisseur, but I could see distinctly different personalities through the eyes framed in black veil.

While I was driving with her from Calicut to Tellicherry, she told me about the speech and hearing problem she had as a child and how her parents taught her painting as a medium of expression.

When we reached her beautiful piece of land on top of a hill with a view of the sea, little children were playing football there.

She exclaimed in anguish. ” Ayyo”

Having been tuned to think in terms of the virtue of ownership and possession, I interpreted her exclamation as her displeasure against the trespassing into her space and the intrusion into her privacy.

Therefore I was floored when she asked me “Where will these children play if I build my house here.”

I told her they would find some other ground. I couldn’t show her where. She said she wouldn’t be happy living there, and we returned deciding not to build any thing there.

I had felt small in front of her father. I felt even smaller before the daughter. I am not mentioning names for the sole reason that I don’t remember them. May be the impact was too much on me that the names became insignificant.

I visualise a beautiful house on the hill with large windows and patios opening to the sea. I also visualise the little children playing football in happy abandon. When I find myself tempted to lean towards the former, I realise, my goodness quotient is way down. And certain guilt and shame gnaw at me.

I wish that you succeed in taking the children to where they will be happy with themselves and the world.

 

Abdul Hameed