“… and the flood carried away the land..”, said Paatti (grandmother).
“But what happened to Kamala, Vani, Paramu, Neelu and everyone..”? I asked her, scandalised.
“Gone. Or, not. May be. Perhaps they moved, just in time.. But the land is gone! Vanished”, remarked Paatti, with a sigh.
For a 11 year old, engrossed in a tale of ansolute wonder, rendered by a fabulous story-teller in the form of a grandmother, it was a surreal experience to listen to a story which had no end. Every story comes to an end. I remember pestering my Paatti to atleast fabricate an end to her facinating story of magic, mystery, love and deceit! She refused.
“It’s truth. And there is no better way to end a story than with a truth..”, she claimed.
It’s been many years since this incident. I still remember the story, the way she narrated. It could’ve very well been the most amazing story ever told. But it ended without an end, when the land of Dhanushkoti, was washed away by the sea when a cyclone hit the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu in the year 1964. I visited the place twice. And both times, the place had a mystical aura around it- as though there were whispers of untold stories waiting to be heard. The abandoned railway station and the passengers who never returned. The old church pregnant with muted prayers.
It is said that a ritual performed in Dhanushkoti, brings peace to the departed souls. As I looked around the many who performed these rituals, I only saw rituals, but no souls. I remember asking my Appa (father), if he felt that it was important to finish a story? He said, he did not feel the necessity.
One of my worst nightmares was that I start reading a book and die before finishing it!
“It would really not matter if you’re dead, would it”, said a friend to whom I shared about this nightmare.
Perhaps. “But what if I become a ghost and wander the earth in search of an end to the story”? I said. “Well, may be get to me and let me know you’re a ghost and I’ll make sure you get the end of the story”, she said. It’s been almost 12 years since I met her!
I look back in my life, and there are so many people, whose story I have not bothered with finishing. Friends who moved on, acquaintances who stopped calling..
Dhanushkoti, if it has taught me anything, it’s that- life, is uncertain. When a story ends, sure a new one begins. But the traces of the unwritten tales would remain as long as there is someone looking for them.
We live a version of life we choose to live.
I never got to ask my Paatti if the story was true or a fable. It did not matter, I suppose. All my *Paatti’*s stories were true, for me. And just like Dhanushkoti, all our stories too, are a quest towards finding an end, that is true…