A Queen Without A Castle

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Illustration by Harry Clarke

The old do envy the young indeed! These budding blossoms primed for the adventures of life. Their first kisses, first heartbreak and first love thrills. Awakening to truth and clarity is not far behind. Some will embark on a futile search for the meaning of life. Then in frustrations will hurl infinite questions that have no answers. Oh the passions and the disillusionments that will oscillate their body and souls. Those were my thoughts as I gazed upon an elderly lady from across the flat who was watching wistfully the young girls playing in the park. Three generations of women, the past, present and future, we were like the circle of life representations.

Quite frequently in the afternoons I see her sitting elegantly in her balcony. Her dignified head titled slightly. I could see she must have been very beautiful once. Her features are regal. An arrogant nose softened by doe like eyes.

I often made up stories in my head about her past. Of how this aristocratic personage had fallen in deep destitution. Their flat was the shabbiest among the colony. Paint chipping off the wall. Undusted windows and lopsided walls.The abode is decorated with lonely ornaments of neglect. A stark contrast to her constant well heeled appearance. My imagination led me to a possibility that she maybe born into nobility. A princess who was dethroned in a bitter twist of fate. She eloped with a poor man, perhaps? I am always amused seeing her with royal bearing alighting from her beat up Maruti Suzuki as if she’s stepping out from a golden carriage. Lifting her shimmering floor length Shalwar Kameez gracefully, she would ascend the stairs as if on the top a throne was waiting for her.

She greeted me once when I bumped into her while walking my dog.

” Hello Babar.” I was taken aback when she called my dog’s name. She never acknowledge our existence before since we moved in the flat in front of them.

Babar hearing his name called, took it for an invitation and jumped at her ornately embroidered silk clad entity.

I shouted ” No!!!” too sharply and too loudly. My four legged friend had been carousing in the mud. Paw marks now decorated the once pristine apparel.

I apologized profusely but she dismissed it with an elegant wave of hand.

” It’s quite alright my dear. I like Babar.” she said patting his head. The grateful canine wagged his tail excitedly.

A nod and a faint smile she would give me every time I would see her after that. I imagined us being friends and her inviting me over for tea while she unravels for me her mysterious history.

I often laughed at myself for this silly fascination. And upon some deep reflection I came to a conclusion that her dreamy countenance resonates a vague feeling of loss in me as my youth slips rapidly through my fingertips.

©JMKhapra

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