And as he walks he puts a hand on his cap covered head, out of sheer habit, lest the smoke from the steam engine throw the cap off from its ground. The cap is striped like that of a school boy’s. It is indeed out of sheer habit that the ice-cream seller puts his hand on his cap, because he had never let it be whenever the train passed and so he does not know if the smoke can displace the cap. But habit is routine. His ice-cream cart is pushed leisurely by the owner’s force; this too is out of sheer habit, a somnambulist. He walks, the ice-cream seller, and watches as the train, a steam engine powered train, passes by.
And no one hates the ice-cream seller. Well, some do envy the life of ease that the seller lives, but given a choice no one would live a life like his.
The train emits and releases huge amount of smoke, blinding the entire town in its hue and that precisely is what makes it what it is. Through the smog none can say what the thing is, that is passing by; no one can tell for sure that the thing that crawls and shouts has life; all that they know is that it’s a train. But the ice-cream seller can tell you what it is, but he chooses not to reveal its identity to anyone. He is happy selling ice-creams and he thinks that may be someday in life the train will pay back what it owes to the ice-cream seller, what it owes for the burden of secret being lifted by the ice-cream seller day in and day out. Somewhere, deep within himself he knows he will never be paid back, but still he waits and sells; this is not clinging on to the fragile and brittle glass rope of hope, but it is out of sheer habit. The world would love to see the thoughts playing in his brain, feel the thoughts between the fingers as if checking the quality of a cloth, the world would love to taste the words his thoughts made on their tongue and lick it up from their lips.
And the ice-cream seller let things pass by and he crawls, slow and unhappy.
And here we haven’t talked about the wares of the ice-cream seller. May be they do not really matter, or perhaps everyone knows what he sells, or perhaps his wares don’t graduate to demand serious inquisitiveness. We are happy the way he is. He is like a pet snake whose fork tongue is cut, like a toothless and clawless tiger, or perhaps he is a tiger who does not know he has a set of sharp teeth and has claws that can harm. Well, what he thinks of himself is of no concern to us.
And today he wants to shout, he wants to see if the cap will fly with the smoke. He wants to show the world the skeletons inside the cupboard of the train, the steam engine powered train; like time and tide it waits for none. The train has all that the ice-cream seller doesn’t have- force, strength, individuality and most important of all, existence.
He never wanted that, he wanted to sell ice-creams. And he sells. But why does he want to be the train today, why does he secretly sin to be what he is not? It has always been in his nature to be lost and dazed and walk besides a steam engine powered train.
And he knows that if he wants to be what he wants to be, he has to leave being what he actually is not. And it is not the drama of the unknown heart but the scheme of an afraid head.
And the somnambulist ice-cream seller will wake up today to the new sun, he will wait through the dawn to catch and soak in the first rays of the new star, but he does not know that today is the very day he will die. The sleepwalker is in extremis and the train will never stop, it will go on. The train does not know the ice-cream seller is dying, it does not even know that he exists.
And earlier in the morning as the ice-cream seller looked down from the blinds of the window, he saw death. Amputee hands, death of respect. Limping legs, death of desire. Broken heart, death of life. Rome wasn’t built in a day, the dust on his desk did not gather in a day; the disturbing pain, the throbbing pain in his heart wasn’t sudden. He did not want to die every moment any more; he did not want to see death when he looked out of the window. Now, he wanted to sleep sound and walk when awake. He did not want to see a heart between the teeth of a dog, whomever the heart belonged to, belonged to where it should have been, even long after his death.
The above extract is taken from Kashiv’s diary, which now lies open under the window, soaking in the sun.