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October 2016, vol 12 no 3

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Paresh Tiwari

Empty Spaces

‘It's like playing only the ebony keys of a piano,’ she says ‘you may punch out a tune once in a while, but it's unnatural and woefully inadequate.’

‘Besides it's too high pitched with virtually no bass to talk of,’ I add before realizing that I may have lost the plot again.

Unmindful of both my sister and me, Dad has broken into a tuneless song. I remember listening to the singing greats on an old 78 rpm record player. Dad’s voice today, comes from the abyss of that time – a time when mother fussed over the parting of our hair and the cut of bread in our tiffin boxes.

Mother left us before the record player. Both swallowed by the leaking sands of life. And Dad was never the same again. He would no longer arm-wrestle me, or pick up my sister to twirl her around the room – her skirt billowing to the tune of our carefree laughter.

But he did learn to cook an acceptable meal.

My sister reaches out to pat his blotchy rice-paper arthritic hands. ‘You should stop worrying about us now. I think it's time you started playing all the keys.’

He slips off his chair and shuffles to the kitchen. ’I think, it's time we get some dinner. Chicken curry anyone?’

ghats of Benaras . . .
an oil lamp floats into
the night sky