Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Treasure

I walk quickly through the dense crowd, almost running, my hands held close to my chest, clutching the treasure that I have discovered only a short while ago. I am anxious to reach my home as soon as possible. I know that I have, in my hands, a treasure so rare that any museum or antique dealer will pay a huge sum to obtain it. If anybody gets the least suspicion that I have in my possession such a treasure, I know I will not be safe.

The sun assaults me, burning deep into my gritty scalp, and raising a quick sweat in my rumpled shirt; it strikes blinding glints off the chrome work of parked cars and motorcycles and makes sickly blue vapours of exhaust rise up against the pink buildings; it plays garishly among the swarms of tourists and locals who jostle me, showing me all their pores, all the tension of the store-new sports clothes, their clutched bags and slung cameras, all the anxiety of their smiling, shouting mouths.

As I hurry through this grey city which is my home, this busy metropolis which grandmother sometimes calls a monstrous, metallic anthill, I glance nervously at everybody I pass. They all seem to be giving me suspicious stares, their glances penetrating through my hands to see the secret they clutch, exposing my treasure. I hold my hands closer to my chest and increase my speed.

It was by pure accident that I had stumbled upon my treasure. I had been returning home from a friend’s house when I had come across it, in a small – very small – piece of land between two apartment blocks, looking very incongruous in its stark, grey surroundings. In spite of its rarity, I had no difficulty in recognizing it – grandmother had seen to that. Grandmother has often shown me old photographs of treasures like this, though they were not as valuable – or rare – in her time as they are now, and has talked to me a lot about them. It seems to me that grandmother lives a lot in the past – too much, my father says – and I sometimes do not understand the look of pain that comes into her eyes when she talks to me of the present. Anyway, I know that she will be very pleased when she sees the treasure that I am bringing her.

Finally, after what seems like a lifetime, I enter the familiar side street that leads to my home. Almost falling in my haste, I stumble through the front door and, ignoring my mother’s surprised look, rush to my grandmother’s room.

Grandmother is sitting at the other end of her room, in her favourite rocking- chair, going through one of her many photograph albums – her only remaining link with the past. She looks up, surprised, when I rush in, but seeing who it is, gives me a smile of welcome. Before she can say anything, I am by her side. I open my hands – and the treasure falls into her lap.

For a few minutes, the world seems to stand still. Grandmother stares disbelievingly at the treasure on her lap, too moved to speak. Slowly, hesitantly, her old wrinkled hands reach out to touch it. For a few seconds, they hover over it, and then, slowly, lovingly, they pick it up, and grandmother raises the “flower” – for that is what she calls it – to her eyes.