The House Of Many Doors
I try to catch them as they are but they are hard to tell apart without their clothes which they change as they pass from room to room in this house of many doors where each room has a two-way door that opens to a special key that locks letters and sounds in just-so strings. The name plaque on each door reads like a secret code unless you possess the exact combination of syllables and deep structure. Each door opens to only those people who know how to turn the key so that the right thought comes out to greet them dressed in proper words and sentences.
They love to change clothes from room to room, from person to person. Thus they get dressed in sonorous Konkani when my parents are on the telephone and also for my cats who are Canadian by birth but fish-loving Goans at heart. In the family room, they don a soft saree for my children who grew up on cotton quilted lullabies and loved tongue-twisters in Marathi for a mid-morning snack. The clever changelings remember to slip into their salwar-khameez-dupatta or their three piece suit of ‘too-tum-aap in Hindustani when my students come to visit, and never forget to carry the exact change in nickels and dimes of “Please and Thank-you” when outside.
They like to hide in the attic sometime and wear each other’s clothes and play a game of ‘peek-a-boo’. Each room has a different roster of the silent ones and the vocal ones tease them by sticking their tongue out as they pass them. At playtime both the vocal and the silent ones slide and swing and tumble in a heap in the noisy back-yard of my mind.
At the end of the day when they shed their soiled clothes and kneel at bedside just before turning in I hear them pray in silence and that is the right time to catch them as they are but sleep descends on my heavy eyelids and I give in to silence.