The story unlike any story starts from the death and not birth, it is a tale of a shadow, as only a shadow could compliment Tamas’s darkness. “I was lost and stranded in this vast sea of busyness. One week was over yet I was alone and separated. I had some money in my pocket and a roadside dhabha became my saviour” Tamas said. He took a sip and sighed while telling his story to Ved. It was hard for Tamas to talk about his problems but when with Ved, he could take his heart out. He never questioned or judged, just listened and understood. He was the only one Tamas had.
Tamas continued with a pale face, “I stepped in the Dhabha and there he was, standing right in front of me. Things had changed between us. My guilt rose seeing him. All the feelings of the world had gathered in my stomach and were having a wheelie inside me. I didn’t know whether to be happy, sad, frustrated or relieved. March 4 changed my and my twin brother’s life completely. Not because we were born that day but because my shadow master died that day-“Tamas hated interruption. “Shadow?” asked Ved. The questioned darkened Tamas even more, his sound as dark as his skin continued, “I was ridiculed by everyone in this world. Only my mother and my brother, Shaz, understood me.”
I was born dyslexic and my skin colour was just an icing. I never did well in my studies whereas Shaz progressed. Shaz’s progress was never an issue; it was people’s comparisons and judgements on my failures which became an issue for me. Shaz was gifted with a fair colour and a fair heart.’
Shaz and Tamas were identical twins but there skin colour was not the same. Tamas was the only dark skinned in his entire community. His failures in academics or sports were reasoned to be because of his complexion. How sometimes even reasons can be unreasonable but that’s how a society works where societal is normal and anything beyond it is queer. Tamas continued, “my teachers and friends considered me as a bad omen. They thought I was mentally retarded and I soon became an untouchable. I wished to be Shaz. I pretended to be Shaz.”
“And the mighty ruler conquered the world-“Tamas was a remarkable story teller but his colour was always judged before his story telling talent. “I taught Shaz how to narrate a story, though he didn’t do it as well as I did, yet he won them all” Tamas sighed saying the last few lines. Ved felt a disappointment but it was changed as Tamas’s eyes brightened to tell further,” He won them all as Tamas Johnson and not Shaz Johnson. I don’t know how he convinced everyone about the sudden colour change. The ostensible change brought a real change in my life. Since our class timings were different, he even attended my classes and taught me later. We were keeping a little secret from the world. I loved being a shadow because the discrimination had subjugated me enough to not have my own identity. Shaz was an angel to me. He made my life stable and more likable”
White darkens more easily and prominently than black. Tamas maintained a journal with him which described the events of the unforgettable day, March 4.
March 4 was our birthday. Shaz and I planned to go on a picnic together. Away from the eyes of the world. Away from where we were not miscegenated. We packed everything and went to a lake side park. On the way to the park, we saw a bright heavy semi-precious stone and stuffed it in our bag for mother. The picnic didn’t turn out to be the way planned. I told Shaz that I was tired of not having any identity and that it was time to reveal the secret. Shaz was not ready for it; according to him things had gone too far to be revealed. In rage I left him and the bag and rode back to home. A few hours passed, Shaz was not back home and it was now bothering our mother. A man drenched with water came running to our house and asked us to follow him. My footsteps got heavy, I knew I wasn’t ready for what was coming. My mom reached the picnic spot first and screamed. There laid Shaz bloated and numbed.
While coming back home, Shaz’s cycle slipped and he fell in the lake. The weight of the backpack drowned him. My master shadow died. He deserved a greater and a better death.”
Tamas had never lost Shaz. Even after the accident, Tamas could see and feel Shaz like the other day at the Dhabha. Ved was bewildered and overwhelmed by this loss in Tamas’s narration. He took some time to get back to his senses and after reviving asked Tamas if out of guilt he left his place. Tamas, the great story teller, slyly said,” the reason I was here alone is not because I left my home but because I got lost. I left my mom’s hand in this new city. After a few days, I saw my mother standing at the other side of the road. I ran towards her and got hit by the car. Instead of uniting with mother, I united with Shaz.”
Written by: Medha K
Editing: Samiksha Batra
Illustrator: Aditi Verma