It was a shop of nightmares, as unavoidable and haunting. They sold white-green pumpkins that grew drunk in water and greased with whiter pesticide. But no one came to buy the pumpkins to make their stew. They came to buy what the artists made on the pregnant giants that housed within them the seeds to a good thousand brothers of water; faces that scared little noisy kids in their pajamas at night, that stared so fiercely at the one staring at it until it forced the seer away, that made many a bad-gened boy greenly jealous to sport a handle-bar that the pumpkin did, that displayed emotions by the uncounted number on its onlookers; happy, sad, angry, fierce, loathsome, tired, latent, serene, hungry, sate, stupid and smart, that waited with invisible limbs that would sprout out of nowhere at the evil eyes staring at what or who or which he was guarding and gouge them out till they pleaded to be spared! They were the pumpkin watchmen.
“The evil eyed one would vomit blood and die!”, said the owner who turned believer after a cousin died of diphtheria, unluckily. And business soared new heights, as civilization made room for more people that had more to protect and preserve, or so they thought. The ones with deeper pockets paid for them and took them away to be placed strategically; easier for the dear old pumpkin watchman to act on instinct and impulse; bang at the gate or iron railings or double doors of imitation teak or ply, as the ones with shallow pockets had to settle for the majestic pumpkin’s sad cousin, the braid of repulsively dirty hair from everyday mornings at nearby barber shops, knotted around a chipped chunk of alum that was to be tied strategically and dangle in the air and expected to adsorb evil eyes. But the pumpkins sold better; for they were better watchmen; they had eggish eyes and a peppery nose and a handlebar moustache with frayed ends and painted bull horns and evil mouthfuls of canines and invisible limbs and discuses and swords and axes and hammers and knives and daggers and guns and flamethrowers and nukes; all invisible! He never slept like Pappiah, the old, for his untiring eyes of enamel paint stared into the horizon like permanence. He never wept like Kannan on a killed cobra that the cat brought home, that lay at the gate in the misty morning one December; his fierce cheeks wet from braving the morning dew and not tears. He never bawled to be fed or paid; he was born enrolled and died enrolled a faithful comrade. He never bled to death; he just thinned like magic! He wasn’t messy unless a nosey kid pushed him off his seat. He wasn’t annoyingly funny or wily and paan-stained. He wasn’t interested in supple kids or suppler things that they grew into. He stood as still as that man in VGP Golden Beach; unfettered and still, unblinking and true.
But he aged quickly; almost as quickly as he sprouted his fierceness and moustache and horns and canines. A month was all that he would live for. And the end of the month saw him all shriveled and punctured, the goodness and juice in him transpired from the month long vigil and life. And he died a friendly death; they just threw him in the garden to feed the world around him. And he died brave; with an ungrayed moustache and still sharp canines. He was a brave one, the pumpkin watchman.
But he died too, taking with him the many good seeds he was pregnant with. And another generation of pumpkins lost a war like brave fetuses; the war for survival in a world of harm.
Oh they died, my pumpkin watchmen.
And I sit naked to the worldly eyes that stare into me from corner and nook, as more watchmen sprout from the soil that ate all; like brave babies that grew into men. Lions. Metaphors.