Nature bewilders, mind astonishes, body frails, soul reincarnates
This story is about something we tell to ourselves each day. The conditions of the not so milky, but very colourful galaxy of ours make living on this speck of land a privilege, yet taken for granted. Everyday we prepare ourselves to fight the disappointments that come our way, believe that the day begins with the end of night, clouds clear to a bright sunny day, life evolves, belief strengthens.
The small city of Marshallow was a place well knit, closely connected, deeply rooted within the residents who with all their passion and hard work strove towards creating better futures for them and the city as a whole. The majority of the population was involved in the centuries old tradition of weaving which was the trademark of the city. The weavers were demanded everywhere, the places of the excess and the places of paucity. Tomes of praises were written about them, they were celebrated with utmost gratitude, respected immensely, craved for their art. Their huge stature undermined the other arts that tried flourishing under the not so nutritious, not so encouraging administration of the city. One of these arts was pottery.
Pottery that once stood well above weaving was marred due to the advancement that proved to be a boon for the weavers who could meet the demands but wreathed havoc for pottery whose supply didn’t catch up. Earthen utensils were replaced by more fashionable steel, potters by pressing machines.
The Mayor of the city once said,” The city of Marshallow amalgamates art with tradition, history with the present, people with culture.” This statement had lost its relevance with the passing time, written in the annals of history, gathered dust, lost, unheard.
The current trend of surveys and let me tell you surveys are something that we avoid most of our lives but whenever something flashy, something gathering eyeballs breaks the news our cognitive system listens to it with the concentration of a saint that has joined the other world, escaped the decay, to analyze the results of the surveys that the surveyors claim to have been conducted by ‘reliable sources’ . The same surveys had termed pottery as a thing of the past and suggested the already minimal expenditure of the government on the art to end. A widespread debate was started, people started drinking coffee along with the hot, crispy news, media generated hue and cry, processions were held, administration was targeted with jibes, the government overthrown, elections started, manifestoes were made, weavers won, art perished.
In the aftermath of all this, an expert committee was set up to look into the matters as proposed by the survey. The committee was quick in its judgment, termed pottery as repugnant, declared weaving a National Heritage. Actions were followed by reactions and the schemes providing incentives to the weavers of clay were taken away, left to fend for themselves.
The artists of the earth now were faced with a situation of survival- fight or perish. They tried everything right from organizing processions, talking with the administration, to more grave acts of suicide that could just reach the page 4 of the newspapers.
Gossip became more important than art, Breakups more important than deaths.
Determination holds onto you until the realities of the world do not creep in. The potters lost all hope, the wheels of meals stopped, earth was no longer dear to them, their hands no longer created joy, starvation pulled hands, fear of losing out seemed more legit. Potters broke from all determination started looking for jobs out of their comfort zones. The few among them decided to meet for one last time, meeting was fixed with the administration, hopes created, prayers conducted, belief strengthened.
A representative group of 10 were selected to put up their cause. Each of them was dressed in their finest attires, fed up the entire conversations into their mind, hair was combed, perfume sprayed, belief strengthened.
They arrived right on time to the place where even their dreams did not allow to go. The entrance to the secretariat itself indicated that something special, untouched by common hands resided in the magnanimous structure that was festooned by a garden rich of all exotic plants and bore fruits that could fulfill all temptations. “Are you here to see the Mayor?”, a voice as soulful, as serene as the garden asked the group. “Yes, we are here to see the Mayor”, unanimously the group declared its intentions. ‘Follow me”, the lady dressed better than the best of the group told them and just like a magnet all of them were attracted to the lady whose walk reminded one of a peacock who was burdened by the beauty of its assets. “Please have a seat, the Mayor will see you soon”, the lady told the group and directed them to the benches laid for the petitioners, for the needy, for the commons to wait, to wish, to believe. With the obedience of a child the entire group sat, barely uttering a word. The hall where they sat seemed like infinity. The drapes, the carvings on the wall, the bookshelf that stretched the entire hall, the smell of the wood, the chandeliers, the carpet, everything was perfect, made for the hall, to be experienced by few. All of them were so lost in noticing the nitty gritties of the hall that time flew away and the same lady called them to meet the Mayor. Goosebumps, pumping blood, vibrating body were natural when a task so great was to be accomplished. The group saw each other and went inside the room where the Mayor sat on a chair far too big and at a far great height than his own body. His room was decorated with the collection of items foreign to the city, his table rather small compared to the greatness of the room, but had no chairs for the group. They all stood humbly, waited for the Mayor to finish his donut that appeared to be made of white gold, decorated with jewels, soft like a feather, tasted divine. “So, are you here for charity?”, the Mayor asked, indulged in his meal. “No sir we are here to claim what belongs to us.” The leader of the pack, Sean cleared the air. This itched the Mayor, he stopped eating, looked at them and said,” What belongs to you?” they were surprised by this question, perplexed, they poked Sean, but Sean calm and composed like a priest said something unimaginable yet commendable, ”For years we have been making whatever people demanded with the efforts that are put by a mother to create the son she wants from a baby innocent yet unknown, with the religiousness of a bird that builds her nest in spite of failing, with the love that a father swings his child onto a sky of dreams. We took our profession as a gift of God, tried breathing in life into the earth, tried bringing joy through horses of clay, imagined new creatures, burned hands, scorched the body, defied the lines of luck, forgot where we belonged, enjoyed what we did. We never demanded any monetary help as we thought we could self-sustain. All that we ever demanded from the people was Recognition of what we did and how we did it. But, alas this was rejected to us simply because we could not deliver. The punishment was too severe. We have been casted into oblivion by this hypocrisy of that has born from intentions cruel, unjust. Sir, with due regards and faith in our administration I want you to give us back our respect, our art, our hands, our lives.”
The Mayor put away the donut he was eating, pushed back his chair, stood up and took something out from the drawer of his huge desk. It was a photo frame that looked to have origins in the past. The Mayor came close to the group and held the photo frame up high. To their surprise the photo frame was empty. Confused by what just happened, the Mayor told what he intended to show. “My father gave me this frame. He told me whenever I did something that would make me believe that I have done something that fills me with the feelings of joy and ecstasy, click a picture and remember it forever.” The group thought that the Mayor did not understand what he was saying. The Mayor continued, “Your art is something that you need not claim, it is your birthright. I will give you an opportunity to bring back the glory to your profession and by bringing glory to your profession I will fill this frame. But what steps you want to take you have to decide them yourselves, right here, right now.” The group was taken aback. Their aim was to talk with the Mayor, not to draw up a stratagem. The group looked upto Sean who was already devising the battle plan. Sean quickly called everybody and arranged them in a circle. He uttered the following,” My friends this opportunity that Our Mayor has given us should not go in vain. Let us challenge our other counterparts to a competition.” The group nodded and everything was told to the Mayor. “Very well then, you could have your competition on the first of the coming month. All the best.” the Mayor said and directed them to leave.
The group never had such an experience in their life, walked with heavy foot, thought about the ways in which they would explain what just happened, feared for the future but believed in their decision. They were confronted by their peers when they came out of the secretariat. Curiosity knew no bounds and questions started flooding in. What did he say? Are we going to get back the incentives? Why you are not telling anything? What happened? Why are you numb? The group waited for them to finish, then said what was being cooked in their minds. “ We have asked the Mayor for a competition between us and the others and we hope to win it.” There was complete silence, nobody moved, no lips bend, no eyes blinked. They continued,” forever we have been living under this threat that our only source of income would fade away and we would be left helpless. We never worked to see ourselves play a bigger role. So, here is our chance. Let us show the world what we can do.” There were tears in eyes, determination took over, belief strengthened.
The evening news was rather very encouraging.
Battle of arts. Prepare to be dazzled.
A marketing campaign was launched by the weavers in view of the competition. Sponsors bid their money on the stronger, people stayed with the glamour of the battle, media highlighted the strategies of the parties, armies of weavers and potters were prepared and the battle started.
A previously decided condition of the competition was that only a single piece of art would qualify for judgment.
The Day of Judgment arrived, the parade ground was dressed up for the competition, huge tents, enormous stage, variety of stalls, fence, VIP lounges, lighting, microphones, speakers, everything was arranged with precision. The judges were some of the eminent dignitaries from the fields of science, art and the Mayor himself. People started coming In through the great doors shaped in the form of castle doors, entry fees was charged, people enjoyed the food on the stalls, magicians lured the kids, swings rose high enough to scare the adults, joyous cars bumped into one another, cotton tasted better than candy, photographs were clicked, memories preserved, laughter spread, happiness grew. There were two camps created for the battling teams, one for the weavers, one for the potters. Nothing was known about the preparations of both the teams. The huge speakers installed in the premises declared the initiation of the event and asked the state of jittery to stable down. People occupied seats so as to get a clear view. The host for the event was a famous TV actor John Mimmings. The actor smiled in a way that his entire set of dentures , well maintained and shiny like a full Moon was visible, his voice stronger than a rusty wind, his stature bigger than reality. He was dressed in a black suit. People became ecstatic the moment he climbed on the dais. The heavily built men used their strength to stop the females from creating an uncontrolled situation. John announced the beginning of the event and asked the first team, i.e., the weavers to display what they had made. The crowd cheered them with an applause that had a sound greater than the sound of all the battle tanks combined, they screamed –
WE LOVE YOU, WE ADORE YOU, YOU ARE OUR NATIONAL HERITAGE
Then came their masterpiece. A piece of cloth that turned into a display of art. The vibrant colours, the stitching, the heavy embroidery work, the amount of work that was put, clearly made its mark. The cloth that was yellow in colour, had alienated its identity owing to the work of the weavers. They had made a scene of a Sunny day, flowers, bees nectating on flowers, birds nesting, trees cooling the ground, water running across the length, insects, twigs, every detail was so perfectly put that it made many cry, the scenes were so beautifully portrayed that mouths remained open, hearts were filled with joy, nothing seemed beautiful, nothing seemed so divine. Nobody believed that anything better than this can exist.
The weavers cleared the stage and made way for the crew that started preparing the stage for the other team. The crowd settled down and the host John declared the entry of the potters. Their entry was rather sober as compared to the welcome received by the weavers, there was an occasional applause. Nothing was expected from them, people had already decided their winner, judgment was just a formality. But, then something happened that made people stand on their heels to witness a fine example of art, a fine example of determination, a fine example of belief. The potters showcased the History of the city of Marshallow with a means never ever used to describe a story-earth. They made a scene wherein everything was made of clay, houses, carts, mountains, water, people, animals, flowers, rays of Sun, so serene, immaculate, unending, deeply intriguing. The scale that they used was perfect, details unlimited, colours taken from the rainbow, but the element, the very own soil. They started with the creation of universe, showed the wheels of time revolving and brought the scene to a standstill when the city was formed. People had become restless, they wanted to see more, wanted to feel the earth, wanted to see history unfurl. The potters again started but this time their intent was something different. They showed the development of the art of weavers as a National Heritage, told the tale of its magnanimity and forecasted its future in a way that aroused sentiments of every soul that witnessed the entire display of something that was nothing short of a miracle. The act was coming to an end and then it ended. The potters came on the stage and destroyed all that they had made. People were astonished, taken aback, Why would one destroy such a piece of art? Somebody stop them, Wait! Wait !!! Before anything could be done there was a complete mess on the stage. The potters had lined up on the stage all holding hands, breathing heavily, some even crying, but determined, their belief strengthened.
Sean came up at the front and said the following words,” World has always been a place where the fittest has survived. It has always been cruel to the one that could not mould itself in the changing designs of the world. Nobody has the power to determine the design of survival as design is something that has been left to the almighty. But, human tendency has evolved, managed its surroundings, tried to survive, tried to live, tried to exist. We have been trying to exist among you for the time immemorial, tried telling you that we have gone nowhere, soil still needs to be cured, it still can be shaped, it still can bring joy to many. But Alas, I think that we were wrong in our thinking. All that we want from you people is to give us a second and for years of toiling hard in the soil we think we do deserve a second chance. Our art may seem repugnant, it may not be colourful, it may not decorate beings, it may not be wearable, it may not sustain for long. But let me remind you that land is of utmost importance to us, without land there is no life, and we play with land, and the one who plays with land is someone to be respected.
RESPECT THE ART, RESPECT THE WORK, RESPECT THE ARTIST.
Thank you” Sean stopped.
There was a silence of a cold, midnight, nobody moved, tears rolled down cheeks, suddenly a clap was heard. This initiated a chain reaction and the entire gathering was standing and clapping like crazy. They were cheering the potters.
LONG LIVE THE ART, LONG LIVE THE ARTIST.
The judges stopped the crowd and the Mayor addressed the gathering.
In life there are moments that test our endurance, they test the very fabric of what we are made up of, they challenge the ideals that function us, they interrogate the soul. These moments sometimes very difficult to pass are something that need to be cherished as they bring out the best in you, prepare you for a future that could be even worse. Everybody lives their life, pass these moments and then leave the world with nothing but the memories of the time spent. This time spent itself is a journey, a journey where we form new relationships, break inhibitions, experience pain, enjoy rejuvenation, laugh till it hurts, learn new things, work, earn, sleep, eat. Everyday we leave our homes in order to earn the bread that satisfies hunger of all our loved ones. This could be different for different people. A clown in a fair, a waiter in a restaurant, a driver of a bus, your teacher, your Mayor. But, when this job is jeopardized we focus all our energies to save it. The potter today have done a commendable job in claiming what they sought. They had asked for respect and I believe after what they have done here on this stage none of us needs any proof of what they are capable of. Am I right people of Marshallow?
The entire ground rose in a thundering Yes!!
WE LOVE YOU, WE ADORE YOU
The Mayor had found the perfect picture for his photo frame, a picture wherein all the artists of all art forms were performing on the same stage without any personal vendettas, just for the sake of art. The potters were recognised for their art and were now a part of bigger things.
For every disappointment we face, every failure we generate, every opportunity missed, there lies a belief that there will be a tomorrow, there will be sunshine at the end of tunnel, life will regenerate, people will move on, time will pace forward. Whatever we do it is our belief that keeps us going, keeps us energized to work for long, help us bear the pain, make us break records.
Down went a frog, couldn’t get up
Down went a frog, couldn’t see up
Down went a frog, wanted to go up
Down went a frog, believed to go up
Down went a frog, saw the sunlight go up
Down went a frog, climbed a rope go up
Down went a frog, found a way up
Keep believing, keep working.