Dying Into the Infinite
Chotu did not dream about stars, but cycles, vanishing into his verdant village.
The problem was that Papa would not agree to his soul mate. Too dangerous for an 11-year-old, he said. Serpentine thunder, vexed wildlife, and Indian monsoons, but still, a bicycle is more dangerous for an 11-year-old?
Chotu was angry and rebelled against his father. But then one night, Maa told him that Papa was short on money. Half of his crops had been destroyed last year, and the monsoon gods seemed not pleased this year. Chotu decided to quell his bad feelings for Papa and silently carry his sadness and desire.
He watched on the sidelines as his mates ravaged the uneven dirt with their bicycles. The heavenly winds before sunrise, which blew against their metal beasts and their child bodies, made them feel like they were dying into the infinite. Although they often allowed Chotu to ride their bicycles, he always felt like he was watering others’ fields—like he didn’t belong.
Papa worked in the sun, making his brown back the color of coal. Farming required letting your body go to the cruel shadows of nature, at least it did in India. Tilling and planting and cultivating.
This year, it looked like the shadows were not dark enough. Maa told Chotu that Devs were in a good mood. By a prayer’s grace, Papa would make some money and would probably buy him his beast. Chotu was not happy or thrilled; he exploded. He dreamed about cycling his own bike. He could already smell the tires, hear his yells as the chain rubbed over his gentle skin, cutting it while blood drowned into the air. He and his mates felt nothing but the present moment.
But before it was time to harvest the crops, the Devs had a mood swing. The rains invaded, and the snakes of lightning from the sky shouted the gods’ orders. Each drop, a bullet.
As the water rose, Papa’s blood froze. The bodies of children that he had raised for months were lying dead. The black back, the sweat, the sun, the watering, the pesticides, all for what?
Chotu cried quietly. His tears whispered fear that his cheeks did not comfort. He wept, not over the two wheels, but his father. He cried because his father did not.
While Chotu sat weeping, Papa came to him and asked, “Hey, do you still want your bicycle?” Chotu sat staring, not saying a word. Then, with crimson red eyes, Papa said weakly, “I will get you one, don’t worry.”
Maybe, Papa was so full of wrath that he really did go to the stars and ask the gods. At least that’s what Maa told Chotu, for he could not live another day seeing his land and his son dry up. Hanging was a better escape: his throat had an only bit left, because most of his life went with the water.
The government, worried about the effects of farmer suicide on votes, decided to give ten lakhs to each victim’s family. Maa used to say that the money smelled like rotten flesh.
Still, after a while, Chotu got his bicycle. He rode and rode to bald lands and his badlands. He raged toward the sunset and shifted into the infinite, but he never found Papa.
Now, Chotu doesn’t dream about cycles, but stars.