Author’s Note: This article has been inspired by Friday Fiction Films’ short film, MartBaan
I wake up to the blaring of the alarm I had set on my phone last night. I see a small boy holding an open jar near my phone for a couple of seconds before closing it. Though I freaked out a little, I consoled myself that it is probably last night’s hangover and dozed off again.
The alarm rings again. This time a little longer before I snooze it off.
I finally wake up after the collective noise of my roommate’s alarm, and mine, tearing my eardrums, forcing me to get up and put an end to this constant struggle between sleeping and tolerating a noisy alarm. And guess what? That boy is there again, holding the open jar, only this time near both the phones till they stop ringing.
I am ready with my track pants, t-shirt, and shoes. I plug in my earphones, their volume high enough for a passerby to hear the music too and leave the house for a run. The boy with the jar, I sense him again. I shrug the feeling away.
I am trying to get ready for work. I could do it only if my phone stops ringing with Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram notifications every other minute. In a corner of the room is that boy with his jar, sitting, glaring, never uttering a word.
I am on my way to work riding my bike. My earphones are in, the volume is high, but I can still hear the noise of people honking at the red light and the speakers of the car next to me. I look across the road and find the same boy with his jar, looking distressed, holding that jar in the air and then closing its lid.
I reach the office, being greeted by the same sound of people chattering away without anyone listening to them.
Phones ringing, printers printing, notifications popping, bosses shouting.
Amidst all of this, I find that familiar young face again, going with his magic jar from desk to desk, phone to phone. He even entered the boss’ cabin without knocking at the door. I almost jumped. But he came out with the same expression with which he went in.
I sit on a table at the cafeteria, order my lunch and sit alone, munching and looking around, clueless at the incoherent gibbering around me. The noise of spoons and forks, tables and glasses, and people of course. But nobody is talking. Strange, eh? And then my eyes fell on the table in the center, the same boy standing on top of it, rotating with that damn jar held high in the air. So now, there are two possibilities, either I am drunk as hell that I can see this boy nobody else seems to notice, or there is really something wrong.
I switch off the computer, pack my things, and leave my desk. There was nothing in the world better than the feeling of finally going back home to my beloved bed where I could sleep till the next morning. This time I left the earphones in my pocket.
It has been an hour since I left work and I am still just half way home. That is the thing I hate the most about these software hubs: too much traffic. Here, you do not measure distances in term of kilometers, but in terms of time. Since most of the offices close at the same time, traffic jams and red lights are good places to catch up with family members and friends on phones and also to have a little chat with friends.
Still stuck in traffic, I spot the boy again. Now I am becoming restless. I have to find out who he is. Within five minutes, the traffic is cleared and I follow the boy. Though I was on my bike and the boy barefoot, he was quite fast. I followed him till we reached a barren piece of land.
He didn’t see me. I didn’t say anything. I saw two rows of similar jars placed on the ground. One row of jars had red lids and the other had yellow lids. The jar that he was carrying that day had a red lid. He put the jar on the ground and stared at the night sky for some time.
He opened the jar that he had just added to the row. Out came from the jar my alarm’s ringing, not once, not twice, but thrice. Out came from the jar the loud music from my earphones, the phone ringing, the notifications constantly popping, the car’s blaring speakers, the honking of vehicles, the printers printing, the bosses shouting, the utensils in the cafeteria clattering, the incoherent chatter of people and the vehicles honking again. The intensity of all these noises was so high that both of us had to shut our ears.
He opened a jar with a yellow lid. From it came the sound of a baby laughing, an old woman chanting. From the same jar came the sound of a violin playing, of wind chimes swaying in the breeze, of a mother singing a lullaby to put her child to sleep.
He opened another jar with a yellow lid, and the air was soon filled with the sounds of children playing, of the blowing wind, of the pouring rain, of two people softly humming, of grandpa’s chair creaking.
I sit on the ground, the boy unaware of my existence. I realize that the noise around me decreased whenever he was near me. Now I understand why. Because he was collecting all of them in his jar. He was absorbing all the bad and unwanted noises from my surroundings. Not just my surroundings, he was doing that all over the city. Not just the bad sounds, he was also collecting all those sounds that are worth listening. I got up, with a determination that one day I’ll make sure that all the jars this boy has, have yellow lids. This world and the boy could do without red jars in their lives.
“The Boy with the Jar” has been edited by Nidhi Shah