It stands hard, jutting out of the earth like an after-thought. Buried under grass and smothered by sun, the earth bakes. It stands in the middle of a carpet that is supposed to be green but has patches of beige – dead yellow, actually – in places. With a minty personality, the petrichor from the past days’ heavy rains – or is it the dampness from withered attempts at watering the grass? – is tangible. Almost.
Half a pace, three paces and nine others from it are three hexagonal bricks. They seem scattered until I cannot ignore the near-straightness of the line they make. The bricks. The calculated accident, the look of it, the meagre semblance of life – the airs of it all – make for a bleak wonder, a bland feast for the eyes. Mine, at least. Here are others like it, others made of solid stone and man-made mould.
Scattered others. Standing it.
It stands still, sporting a lace of spirogyra gone black and flaky with sun and its cohort elements. Four iron rods of varying lengths poke out of its top surface. It stands in the midst of green blades and beige pins. Like a phantom hood, a shadow trails its tangible reality. It is fringed with dripping concrete that will never fall. A straight crease of concrete stretches in the middle of its length. It stands, stuck in a cuboid. At its edges, stones – a black one there, a red stone there, a bland one here and there – stray out of the mould.
Maybe, just maybe it would not have struck me as something to write about, if two mops are not splayed on it. The mops’ bulky, heavy heads weigh them down. And the sun pours heat and crack into their shriveled wood pores, the sun showers wear-upon-tear into their generous locks of cotton hair,
It stands low. Standing much higher beside it is a boy holding a notebook, and flicking a pencil. He is wearing grey trousers and short-sleeved white shirt. He is also wearing a sage, searching look. And he is there, beside it, to eke an inspiration, force a muse out of it. When he is not jotting down fragments and chunks of thought which must have yielded themselves to him, the boy stands frozen, caught up in the clamp of creating-by-rigourous thinking.
I sit on one of the four lovers’ bench under a brick aisle draped with bougainvillea in bloom. A few students share this space with me. Like them, and the boy, and others I cannot see as yet, I lift and tilt my head, look and think, and then scratch my notepad with a pencil. I will do this over and again, it turns out, but in no particular order. And in this, I know, I am not alone
The minutes slip and shuffle and slide past.
One last time, I let my eyes scan and drink in all around me. I return them on the paper on my laps, with pencil held in readiness between fingers. I quickly string the scratches on my paper with lines and numbers and asterisks. I knot it all up, in my mind. Then I get up. From the lover’s bench.
Careful not to rudely rouse him from his thought-world, I call the boy and tell him it is about time to return to the classroom.
I go to gather the other students.
Two are tucked in the school bus nearby. They could be writing about anything inside and outside of the bus. I tell them what I told the boy.
On the block at the far end of the premises, three or four students variously gaze at a dustbin, Ghana’s flag, a flowerbed, a high and wide doodle-like mural and anything but and in between these. I take no more than three crisp strides towards them.
One notices me. We lock eyes, briefly. In between that time, I stop and signal the message.
Soon, word is going round.
On my way past the bus, back to my seat, I spot more students.
A few students sit on the benches in front of the block at the far left end. These could be intently looking at anything from the football pitch and basket ball court and their poles; through the air and trees filling the huge empty middle of premises; to the college block on the other end. Everything around, it seems to these and the other students, slowly sheds off its mundane self. And in the light of imagination and with the help of inspiration, everything in and of the campus puts on life and insight and character, layer after texture and again.
One student, a girl in velvet-framed eyeglasses, seemed happily wrapped in solitude. Through a bar of metal and concrete and another spread of bougainvillea, she gazes at the street in front of the premises. The street. It is bustling and buzzing with a cocktail of activities and sounds from mostly humans and machines, the pace of all which is dictated by a long green pole with three lights for eyes.
Then there goes the bell. The first of the two periods for First Language English is gone.
Before this, we had all come out.
After I had explained the instruction and told them when we are to return to the class, they had gone their many chosen ways to hunt what or who to write about.
Picture: Some of the students in a ‘Freeze Frame’ of Act 3 Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Here, Mercutio and Tybalt fight, the latter getting hurt (killed) under Romeo’s arm. Circa April 2016.
They know to file back into the class, where they will glean a Composition, a Description, from all the seeing and thinking and jotting and drafting they have been doing many minutes ago. And they long know that I cherish their Imagination and Discretion more than I do the Subject Matter they would have settled on.
I follow the file, towards the classroom on the first floor of one of three blocks, the college block.
I look forward to the worlds now shut up in their notebooks, worlds on their way to the sheltered box-ness of a classroom, worlds on their way to knowing the chipping and chiseling and polishing and finally, painting of re-writing.
I look forward to the grande unveiling too. The Sharing-via-Reading session. And more.
Oh, how eager I am to see the grace, the riches, the glories with which they paint those worlds. With imagination, wild and free. With worlds on the wheels of words.
I do not know if any of them know that I ended up taking part in the exercise, that I too wrote something:
This piece you are about to finish reading.
Meanwhile, it remains standing, hard and low and still, till who-knows-when. This stub of pillar. And the mops remain on it.