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Conan Karchang Doley

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Chapter 5 :



Kaising was not the man that emerged out from the dozens of letters that Pongkir had read, he was an unusually angry man. It would be reasonable to say, looking at his life and conduct, that he had mistaken anger as a sign of virtue. This personality trait may perhaps be traced back to that last moment of his father’s demise: his father had died an angry man spitting at him. One might say that he felt obliged to be an angry person, felt that it was his legacy. In moments of calmness he admitted even to himself that his sudden fits of anger was not doing any good to anyone. To him, living was being angry. Silence was death. He feared silence and could rarely tolerate it. His philosophy was that either a man was busy working or busy shouting at his existence or else he was already a dead man. And therefore he did not sit around silently. From the moment he woke up it was just: ‘No Time I have no time to talk to you, No Time I have no time to listen to you. Work I have work to do. Work upon Work.’ And this one was directed especially to his wife: Tell me, is human life just this: work upon work and then Exit? IS HUMAN LIFE JUST THIS?’ (I know my father, he sure had some inner pleasure and satisfaction when he shouted this.)

Another obsession in his life was to give his wife proof that he was a hardworking man whom she should dote upon. He just wanted her to think that he was a wonderful man, that he lived a wonderful life. Nothing gave him more satisfaction than someone saying, “Mr. Kaising is such a hardworking man! You Mrs. Pongkir are a most lucky woman.” Listening to a praise like that, his mood would instantly lift up and he would start telling some funny anecdotes that he had heard from others or had himself participated in. Then like a yelping dog and a sawing leopard, displaying an array of The-most-flawless-teeth-in-Gold Island, he would laugh, shaking uncontrollably, tears rolling down his beady eyes, and those around him were moved to laugh with him. And when he was not trying to impress his wife he was busy trying to impress other people. Kaising showed others, at home and elsewhere, how hard he was always working for the benefit of everyone. If there was any small furniture to be made, he never made it indoors but made it by the side of the road where everyone could see what an expert he was. If he was given a public responsibility, he first of all would whine and complain very dramatically, emphasizing what a busy man he was. Then he would explain meticulously, with the right tone and argument, how unworthy and unnecessary the position he had been honored with was. And then he would go ahead anyway and do the work, so that people would see what a sacrifice he was making, what a load of trouble he was putting up with, just for the good and happiness of everyone. Thus he was the marvelous man of the public, and also a person with a double-life: he was always acting his best in social gatherings and events, but at home he was the living torture to his wife. It was especially embarrassing for Mrs. Pongkir during public meetings where, as the president of the Women's Committee of Gold Island, she was invited to deliver a speech. Her husband would go up on stage instead of her and start singing a song, or talk things out of context, and she would always have to swallow her pride and dignity.


But as a father there could not be a more loving and caring man than Mr. Kaising. He had two sons and had unbounded enthusiasm regarding his fatherly duties. And he constantly worried that they might die in an accident. “Look, just look at those little motherfuckers. Oi! Don’t you know any other way to die!?” he would shout angrily at Lobo and Rokpo, catching them in the act of trying to walk across a fence standing on top of long bamboo stilts. When he was not worried of their dying in an accident, he played with them. On the bed he became their elephant and carried them around, or he would make them sit one by one on his feet after lying down on his back and then become their see-saw, he built bows and arrows for them and also played cricket with them on the courtyard, and sometimes he took them out to swim on the river and made them frightened by staying underwater for impossible stretches of time. The kids grew up daily. He glowed with pride when Rokpo (his eldest son) sent a piece of stone flying from his hand and hit a snake that was swimming away in the distant; he laughed forgivingly when Lobo left behind the bicycle, in some place he had rode to, because of his forgetfulness. 

Rokpo was much loved in the neighborhood. The married women in the neighborhood often joked about his eyes, “Don’t you know, your son can not just cry with his eyes, he can laugh with his eyes as well.” Lobo, his youngest, on the other hand was gauche. He had the face of his mother—although his nails were exactly like his own—and was too emotional. He did not know how to get along well with the society. He only loved his Pa. When Kaising went out of the island and could not return home for a few days, Lobo fell ill automatically on such occasions. Kaising fell ill too, when he did not see his youngest son for more than a day. He would rush back home with toys, comic books, and all kinds of eatable and drinkable items for his children. Kaising loved to fish them out from his bag and see the glitter in his children’s eyes. For him, there was no other better feeling in this world than this. Like all fathers he was a good father.