* THE ADVENTURES OF WAIWAI *
Finding himself a corner in the long queue at the fair’s ticket counter, Waiwai kept himself occupied adjusting his clothes restlessly. His attire made him slightly fidgety though nothing – neither the clothing nor the queue could deter his enthusiasm of attending the fair at the maidan. The maidan is a place that Waiwai had been to and has seen it before in its bare form. While he waited patiently, he kept thinking about how Ma had spent the entire afternoon trying different options to make sure that Waiwai was well dressed. He disliked this bit about going to a new place the most. He wondered why in a place that he was visiting in the late evening, after dusk, that he needed to look all glamorous. As he stood amused, wondering if he was going to visit the fair or the fair was coming to see him, he chuckled to himself, “Today the maidan looks just like me – shiny! We are both dressed up”
“Come on Waiwai, we have got the tickets!” exclaimed Daadu. Waiwai tried hard to get a glimpse of the fair in the bustling crowd. As Waiwai started to linger on his feet, he couldn’t take his eyes away from the large entrance gateway of the fair right next to the ticket counter. It somehow stood awkwardly in the centre of the fair, demanding more attention than guiding the crowd. With raised eyebrows he glared at the innumerable people trying to click family pictures and selfies and trying to capture the perfect frame in front of the huge gateway.
Waiwai shook off the distraction and walked behind Daadu, trying to carve a path for himself amidst the crowd, that appeared like a giant creature moving and swaying in all directions. Waiwai was slightly tempted to climb on Daadu’s shoulders, he for once looked up towards Daadu but hesitated and decided not to. He made his own vision – in between legs, between the hand and the waist of the women and in between the cracks formed between giant masses stampeding through the fair.
Waiwai wondered if there were smaller worlds within this one large world. He couldn’t see very clearly but wanted to. So, he shoved his hands in his pockets and took out his spectacles. Daadu could sense what Waiwai was up to. He gently took the spectacles and cleaned them with his handkerchief before adjusting it perfectly across Waiwai’s nose.
Waiwai started to see now - a lot beyond the apparent glimpses. He carefully observed each fragment that lay beyond the immediate larger mass. He could perceive different planes and dimensions to this single space. Far beyond where he stood he could see a large Ferris wheel which rotated in the sky – reached its peak vertically at one time and the next moment almost slicing the sky hugged the ground below horizontally. Focussing on the little jerks on each seat of the Ferris wheel, he kept his eyes fixed on the rotation of the wheel till it made him delusional as the bright lights coupled with circular rotation; soon they turned into hypnotizing spiral. Waiwai took off his glasses - shook his head, stood still, closed his eyes, held his posture and wore them back again.
What he witnessed in front of him were multiple discontinuous frames one after another. At one point he could smell the burnt sugar of the candy floss; at the next people waiting in a queue impatiently to enter the next popular roller coaster ride; somewhere a group of people satisfying their gastronomical greed; while in the farthest frame were hands juggling shopping bags at the flea market. As he moved his eyes beyond the horizontal frame upwards, the lanterns hovering above seemed like stars and the Ferris wheel now appeared more like the moon. For Waiwai, the experience was starting to turn delusional until Ma pulled him closer and said, “Waiwai stay close to Daadu till Papa and I go and get something to eat. Don’t wander!”
Looking at the fair, through his limitation, Waiwai perceived smaller fragments of temporary essences that were being weaved subconsciously in his mind to take a final form. He stood, holding onto Daadu tightly, astonished by the several layers he could sense at a moment. The fair was turning into a lively spectacle – like an animated painting.
“Come Waiwai, let’s walk” said Daadu. Waiwai softly held Daadu’s finger and walked behind him like his shadow. From far across he could see large array of posters of food menu with Ma and Papa in the foreground pondering over what they must buy from the different variety of food vendors. Daadu and Waiwai kept walking as they neared the play zone that included several games testing one’s abilities of balance and power. Dotted within that were swings, merry-go-rounds, roller coaster rides, the juggler in motion and boisterous participants trying very hard not to miss any single joyride that was in offer. Passing through these entertainments, not once did Waiwai make the gesture of wanting to be a part of anyone and neither did Daadu prompt the courteous question. Waiwai kept himself entertained in his own world of observation and Daadu just let him be.
Daadu finally broke the silence and said, ‘Waiwai, pick a balloon of your choice”. Waiwai still so delusional with the essences around him, picked up the most imperfect balloon of the lot - two balloons in one - almost conjoint. Nothing now, could distract Waiwai from the painting that he was unfurling in his mind, of the fair.
With the balloon in one hand and holding Daadu’s finger in another Waiwai hopped towards Ma and Papa as they approached with a mountain full of eatables. Munching on the food, as they all made their way back to the car, Waiwai moved sluggishly, swaying his head to match his footsteps.
Daadu, understood Waiwai and asked, “How was the fair, Waiwai?”
‘It was like my dreams, he uttered, still continuing to sway his head looking elsewhere.”
“You fell asleep is it?”, laughed Papa from behind.
Ignoring the sentence Waiwai replied “My dreams are elaborate and exquisite Daadu – they take me into a completely new world. In my dreams I enter a world that is entirely my own, even if I am a part of the crowd. While I am in the dream all my senses are activated at once and many things are happening simultaneously, but I can feel and experience every bit of it. In the fair, there was a continuous series of lights, activities, emotions and sensations that were not controlled- just like my dreams. It was all a blur. And do you remember the part where that amusement ride was going upside down? It felt like there were no ground – suddenly there was no dimension. Did you also see people upside down Daadu?”, giggled Waiwai.
Daadu, kept silent, only his eyes sparkling with joy, and a smile across his face. Waiwai this time understood Daadu. It was, Daadu saying, 'keep talking'.
“When I wake up from my dreams I cannot recollect the entire story Daadu – similarly I was only able to witness the entire fair in scattered pieces of memories. And just like the dreams, the fair will be gone tomorrow. But the maidan will always remain a maidan, Daadu.’
“Will you miss the fair then?”, asked Ma.
“Yes, Ma, I will, but I am slightly confused. Ma, you know I also like the maidan where we can run around and play without these large gateways and lights. Just like you made me wear these clothes for these few hours, even these lights and gateways are going to be here only for a while and then it will become just the maidan – like how I will go back and wear my normal clothes. Remember, you made me wear that specific clothing when we went shopping, even the maidan was wearing something different few months back called ‘Annual Book Show’.
“So, from now onwards we will call you ‘maidan’, Waiwai”, said Papa as he opened the door of the car.
Waiwai didn’t quite mind the comparison, though Daadu felt slightly uncomfortable and remarked “You know Waiwai, you are right!” The maidan is just like you and many of us – it knows how to accommodate depending on the needs. Its appearance is temporary – just like Ma, Papa, You and me” but the form always remains the same. And like all of us, the maidan can dream as well.”
“Not like Papa! He always appears the same!”, laughed out Waiwai.
Waiwai turned to look at the fair, one last time. He slowly glanced through the entire panorama of the space. Ma realised that this was his silent way to say goodbye.
Waiwai knew that just because something did not last for a long time does not take away its essence; rather sometimes, things that seem momentary always open the door to a new world. Waiwai was going to relive this experience time and again in his surreal world and wait eagerly and diligently for the fair to return, and at the same time for the maidan to be bare once again.
Also, just because it is happening inside your head does not mean it is not happening for real.