"A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life"
- R.K. Narayan




They were a family that lived and dreamed like most Indians. An entire life spent in the filthy bylanes of a morally-degrading metropolis had made somewhat bounty hunters out of them. They chased dreams like crazy, ran after all openings wherever they saw even a glimmer of light. The air in the city was very heavy, yet they managed to build and rebuild their castles in it. Life in the city is comparable to a concentration camp sometimes, where the whole camp is only concentrating on making quick bucks.

They were a small family - the parents, untalented as they were, managed only an utterly modest way of life. Their elder son, Makki, had towed their line, dropped out of school, did menial jobs of labor and brought in daily wages. The younger son, Lakva, was a handicap, deformed in body and slightly disabled in the mind. Lakva, a name given to him by the neighbours, in local parlance meant a paralyzed person, as his body was twisted in eight places. It was with his birth that the parents had believed their fate had been twisted beyond repair.

Every day, as the family went out labouring for their daily bread, Lakva would helplessly lie on his bug-infested cot, feeling itchy-bitchy, staring at the floating clouds, wishing he could wander like them someday. (Uncounsciously, he would very nearly recite Wordsworth's 'Daffodils' in his mind). He was tired of being in bed and urinating upon himself; As a cloud he could rather pour down upon others. The thought would tickle him into an ironic smile.

At night, when his cot was shifted inside, he would listen to his parents' mourning. Makki normally sat in the porch and smoked his lungs away, while the parents smoked rotis at the hearth. Lakva felt a compelling need to help his family, though he could never even help himself. Every night as he slept, Lakva dreamt of being a knight in shining armour that rode to rescue his family from the dungeon of poverty. Whenever he reached the castle in his fine steed, a fire-breathing dragon would stop him and invariably in the middle of the fight, he would wake up from the dream, only to realize that he had already lost the battle to a dragon of bad fate. He would breathe a fire of muted agony and spend the rest of the night with a moat of tears around his eyes.

The parents catered to Lakva's basic needs, but they couldn't afford to give him any special care. The fight for survival constantly ravaged the family and sometimes nobody would even speak to Lakva for days. Whenever someone did sit at his cot, they would just sit and weep, with part-empathy part-frustration. The family loved him, as one would love the hairs or nails on the body. The parents kept fighting an inner battle to give Lakva his share of love inspite of a raging contempt to look upon him as a needless burden. They pinned their hopes on Makki and went out of their way to create chances for him, while he inevitably remained a beast of burden.

It was a situation where none was to blame, yet where none found an absolution too.

One night, in his sleep, Lakva passed away. He had died with his eyes open, cloudy and looking towards the sky. It had been a clear night and some stars had appeared to twinkle more brightly than the rest. The next morning, as the family prepared to carry him away for burial, an old man appeared at their door. He was a recluse from Benares, who had read a lot about the great Indian sage Ashtavakra, and had been delighted to hear that a boy with same deformities had been born. He had believed  Ashtavakra was reborn as Lakva and had reached their door-step after years of frantic search, but to his sadness his Ashtavakra had defied him. The old man was devastated and in a moment of bereavement decided to give away all his life's savings, which was a sizeable amount, to the soul whom he believed was the reincarnation of his great guru. He didn't utter a word to anyone, placed his bag at Lakva's dead feet, prostrated and walked away.

In a great twist of fate, a forgotten sage had probably died a second time, to give life to the dreams of a family tormented by the vagaries of a fateful life, just like how he had died the first time, to breathe a whiff of divine philosophy into the lungs of a fateful nation.

PS: As a residual effect of this imaginary story, My mind calls a personal appeal to all families with  disabled children. Please don't discriminate with such kids, it doesn't take a fit body or a healthy mind to bring about a twist of fate or fortunes.
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