CREATIVE NON-FICTION : The four-lettered friend by Swapna S 

The little sister of mine while at times annoying, acts with a mature mind most of the time and does lend a comforting shoulder.
“Akka,why don’t you give it a shot” is all she said as she shared an Instagram-link. I wasn’t surprised-she knows me just too well. A platform that encourages and welcomes those wanting to write, with open arms and most importantly, is non-judgemental. I instantly fell in love with the page- the idea behind the e-magazine, in particular. I was thrilled and spent the next few days reading the profound, touching, sensible, engaging (and what not) stories, poems, articles that found a place in the earlier issues of the magazine.
INKSPIRE, it is- what better name than this?!. Take a bow, Ms. S! The current theme for the magazine, am sure, struck a chord with you, just as it did, with moi. We cling on to it every now and then or rather ALWAYS , if I may say so-HOPE.
I start off trying to convince myself I can get away with a poem on ‘Hope’ (cough,cough).
Ok, let me call it a stanza.

A friend in you is all I yearn.
The trust, will I earn?
Please come inside,
In you, I’ve a person to confide.

I gaze at the sun, even as children run,
I sit by the shore, with memories galore.
As I prepare to brave the tide,
All I need is, you , by my side.

The steadfast everyday run is not always fun,
And I don’t mind the scorching sun.
In my darkness, you still glitter,
Giving me my bread and butter.

I wither, I wander,
I stumble, yet I don’t falter
I get back to you my honey,
When all I need is, not just money.
But, only HOPE.

I failed miserably not knowing how to proceed. The mind wanted to give it a push, whilst the heart chose the easy, less risky option – ‘to give up poetry’. And thus, you’re spared. Time to thank your lucky stars!

Thoughts did flood my mind , but to act upon it, is the key. Days turned into weeks even as I told myself “Feb 29 (the last date for entries ) is nowhere around the corner and there’s ample time to write”.
It was not until the last day of the month that defines a leap year, did I take to writing this piece. I always fancied thoughts getting transpired into words on a paper /laptop, in a jiffy. Well, that’s too much to wish for.

Stories ( read as real-life-struggles) on hope,are a plenty. It moves you from within, even as you visit a home for the mentally challenged and abandoned women. The men in their lives/families ditched them for reasons, unknown. It’s a kilometre away from where I reside. I’d visited the place to commemorate the great life of my dear grandfather, I fondly called “thatha”. I met the person-in-charge and once done with, I was prepared to leave while,the security guard at the gate insisted I fill in the out-time in the visitor’s register. A gentle hand tapped my right shoulder. I turned back to look at her. Her face was smeared with turmeric and vermilion was eased into a round-shaped-bindi at the center of her forehead. She asks for my name, I reply with a smile. When it was my turn, she introduced herself as Fathima. Her eyes in total sorrow, even as she uttered the next few lines, holding my wrist.

“I have a mother and also a younger sister named Rajeshwari. My husband abandoned me. Will you help me look out for a job?- any household job should do. These people don’t give me tea”.
I pacified her telling tea would be served (I look around and find almost everyone around, sipping tea, served in paper cups). She clearly didn’t buy whatever I said. I was done with the formalities at the gate when Fathima held my hand tight and a million things in her longing eyes.
“Please don’t go ma ,else, take me along”. 

The security guard called out to her, to let me go. She patted my cheek and smiling painfully said, “Alright, you leave now”.

 I left – I realized how cold-hearted a person, I was. Trust me – I wept even as I drove back home – at how dumb I was for not paying heed or rather not acting upon whatever Fathima was telling me. My heart ached.
“I should have picked up at least a packet of bread or biscuits from a nearby store and handed it over to her”, I told myself. The least I could’ve done was, get her cup of tea . Her face and words keep playing in my head , till date. Fathima lives in the same premises, with her best buddy, HOPE.

The fear the Big C has instilled in the mother of a toddler sends a chill down my spine. I detest to recall a post of hers when words failed to make justice to what she was even going through- sleepless nights haunted her, threatening her very survival on this planet. Yet , the hope with which she functions day in and day out, managing her home and work effectively, leaves me awestruck. Instagram has for sure opened doors and helped me connect with people known and unknown and this fighter woman, is one such. Take a bow, dear lady. Your hope and positive attitude towards life is a larger than life inspiration to me and many. She’s won many a battle and still continues to and hearts too.

A ten minute auto-drive saw an engaging conversation with the man who drove me to the destination I intended to go to. The hope with which he took to the city I call home, is unbelievable. He hails from Tanjore or Tanjavur and moved to Chennai in the early '90s.
Penniless, he took to carrying heavy weights to earn his bread and butter. He turned a bit emotional on recollecting his initial days in the city when he slept on the pavements of MRC Nagar. In five years, he turned into an auto driver and started life from scratch. He set up his family and proudly reveals details about his children -the son who took to Engineering and the daughter who chose to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce degree. I was amused when he shared the quote that was until recently imprinted on the thick, black rubber sheet at back of his auto which read “உங்கள் வழிச்செலவு என் வாழ்க்கைச்செலவு” (when translated literally : your travel expenditure is my life’s expenditure). He fondly introduces his best companion (thus far) to me- “Hope”. I shake hands with Hope and carry a part of him with me.

There’s always light at the end of the tunnel. 
Signing off , with my four-letter-friend. 
Ah ok!, Yours too.

About the Writer :

Swapna loves to pen down thoughts as and when she gets time off from her toddler. 
She finds it quite interesting to be observant of whatever catches her fancy and to express it to the best of her abilities. She thanks her Editor-Friends( from the print media) for continuing to inspire her with their creative juices. 


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