‘What does paradise look like?’ the little boy wondered.
‘Nothing like this,’ his older brother promised. They both looked down their noses to soak up the surroundings. A land that lay flat as a torn roti on a bed of soggy spinach. It didn’t matter much to them.
‘It’s a magical place,’ the older boy continued, his audience rapt. ‘The stairways rise by themselves, you only have to step in front of a door and it slides opens…’
‘Like Star Trek.’
‘Like in Star Trek. And the fruits are so plentiful and juicy. Apples and apricots and strawberries…’
‘Strawberries,’ the little boy echoed, eyeing the scratchy bit of mango in his hand with disdain.
‘When you slice them in half they look like love hearts.’
The small boy pictured fields upon fields of blazing red love hearts, like poppies, only without the men standing guard with machine guns.
‘I’ll take you down there one day,’ he said and they both lived in that dream, with eyes closed.
‘Nothing is real,’ the older one finally said, ruffling his brother’s hair. The boy wondered about that for years to come. Did he mean to have nothing was their reality? Or that it meant that the opposite was true and everything was make-believe?
The memory had started to crackle. He couldn’t tune in anymore but it was all right. It was finally getting easier to be someone. It all works out.
He read the advert one last time: ‘Easy pickings and high earnings! All fruit covered by tunnels – stay dry! All fruit is grown on table tops… no more bad backs! Excellent training provided!’
He wondered what his brother back home would make of this field of dreams, whether he’d think any of it worth getting hung about.
‘Paradise Pickers’, he smiled aloud, clocking in. The day ahead would feel like it went on forever, but it was something. And it was real.
‘It’s all right,’ he reminded himself, shrugging off the uncertainty.
‘That is I think it’s not too bad.’
For Bhaiya (born 23rd June). By Shihab S Joi
Hat-doff: John Lennon/ Paul McCartney