Poetry: Pilgrims by John Sheldon Dias
Sheldon John Dias was born and raised in Kolkata. The city, with all its chaotic grandeur and unyielding magic, has left an indelible mark on him. He acknowledges its shortcomings, yet celebrates its chaos. He has been teaching in Dubai since 2016. Sheldon began his career as a journalist before moving to the Education industry. He was associated with Trinity College, London before taking the leap to Dubai. Sheldon has dabbled in the creative Arts and has worked as an Assistant Director in a few plays in Kolkata before writing and directing his first play at The Short and Sweet Theatre Festival in Dubai. He is currently working on his first book where he attempts to experiment with various forms of literary expression.
The damp air parleys with my face as the last dregs of the morning rain trickle down the windshield of Kolkata’s peeli taxis. The sky is overcast. The rain Gods haven’t quite finished yet.
The hubbub on the streets seems antithetical, almost in defiance, to the all-pervading gloom.
I notice People brandishing their party colours, oblivious to the insignificance of it all.
As my Taxi creeps into a by lane to avoid the discomfort of navigating through the unforgiving Kolkata traffic, I realise that it stands as an objective correlative of my life. Like Charles Lamb, I, too, prefer by-ways to highways!
It allows me to reflect. It helps me unravel the mysteries of the universe.
The chaiwala seems content. An intellectual discourse on politics, religion, cricket and the neighborhood boudi ensues over tea and the baker-man’s cookies. His shop, nay stall, is the Ibadat Khana of that area. My mind wanders to countless such hubs scattered across this leaky city.
I notice two street urchins frolicking on a pavement. The City passes them by.
I see an old couple, arm-in-arm, wading through the floods, albeit with a smile on their weathered lips. The Romantic overtures of their past has been thrust upon them once more. The City was not weeping.
My taxi driver attempts to engage in a conversation with me. He tells me of his family; his wife who governed his household, his children who refused to study. “I don’t want them to drive taxis,” he said. He reminisces about the frugal time he spent with his parents, his life as a village child who frolicked in the rain quite like the aforementioned urchins. The weather stirred this man. It stirred me.
The taxi stops at a signal. I peer into the car that pulls up beside me. Children on their way to school. They seem excited. Their teachers will probably use the weather as an excuse to skip school.
I smile to myself. This surprises me. I am, by nature, cynical. I’m an unmitigated pessimist. But I smile.
I wind down the taxi windows. I want to feel the drops of rain on my face. I want the monsoon breeze to unravel my carefully combed hair in unabashed, reckless abandon.
Life is a tale told by an idiot.
The car comes to an abrupt halt. I pay the man his fare.
Why? I still ask myself.
I walk up the stairs. My heart pounding. I knock on the door.
“Mom, Dad! I’m Home!”
Then it dawned on me.
It started as a journey, it ends as a pilgrimage.
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