The portrait had been waiting for many years now. Through biting winter rain and sun that scorched the very sands, it waited. Standing on tiptoe, it peered down into the sprawling multicoloured city where overloaded buses trundled along and thin streams of people kept trickling in and out of many crevices at all hours of day and night. And it waited for a clue. Any odd inkling thrown its way.
Paid hands wiped the fresh mask of dust off the portrait every day. Smell of wilting marigold garlands. Taut fluttering of the green and white flag above its head. Almost every other day a uniformed gaurd would bring up a party of tourists, the adults fanning themselves with yesterday's newpaper, the kids with their mouths glued to ice lollies. They would take pictures, laboriously decipher the inscriptions etched in black on the granite wall, and finally stare at the portrait with self-righteous pride before going down the stairs. The same expression in thousands of eyes.
The portrait screamed as best it could. Through the salaams and the independence day speeches and the 21-gun salute, it screamed. For sixty years it had been subjected to blank looks of reverence on countless faces, adulation and honours and ceremony for it knew not what. Sixty years, and it still did not know its own identity, did not know what meaning it could possibly hold for so many humans. Vanity had seeped away, and all that remained was a desperate doubt as to its own integrity, growing like a cancer bite. If you looked closely you could have seen the frustration rippling behind the smiling canvas.