Not a lot had happened. It was never a lot. Like always, it was always the few, little things that mattered that had him see this day. There was a lake at a stone’s throw from where he stood, steeper down along the curve. “Deep” they had said; it was quite a few feet deep to gobble up at least a man or two of his size with ease. Hands in pockets, he drifted all alone steeper down along the curve. An eery calm had seemingly descended upon him. He felt nothing but void reverberating with every step in his breath. Standing at the lake’s edge, he stared hard in the water in sun’s glaring ire of a reflection. He took the keys out from his pocket. There also was a chewing gum wrapper he had neatly folded earlier that day – he always did that – he hated littering the earth with plastic filth like the others; although he never bothered much with the same filth accrued in his pockets over days & weeks. Refolding the wrapper, he flicked his fingers & sent the wrapper flying today. He rested his wallet & keys on earth and slowly, he stepped in the lake.
He held on to his nerves & breath for as long as he could. He had gotten pretty good at it of late. Closing his eyes, he tried to float. Swim he couldn’t – he had learnt just enough to keep kicking and stay alive. He felt the water reach for his lungs as he let out a gasp in a desperate attempt to breathe. It could be easy he thought. No more breathing and peace would be eternal. But hope is a stupid thing. “One day at a time” they had said in therapy. Take one day at a time. And why wouldn’t he not follow it today? Trying to make a dash at the shore, he struggled to find his piece of earth he could stand on. With all things forgotten, he now had his eyes nervously fixated to the shore and with more struggle, he found himself kneeling on the shore coughing water out his lungs.
He lay on his back with arms and legs stretched facing the sky. This, he thought was the moment he had truly felt alive in a long long time. This moment, he thought was it, which was his & he would never share with a soul ever. With only his own breath to hear, he smiled in peace & let his eyes shut.
There was a sense of belonging here that he missed.
It was a mad frenzy of the cabs whooshing past, the hawkers howling their wares, hustle and bustle of the maddening crowd, the uncaring pace of people going about their lives and then it was him. Being lost in the middle of nowhere, he felt most at home. Only if home meant this much of solitude. It was yesterday he had received the news.
He was struggling, jumping with a shoe on one of his legs trying to find out where the other pair of his sock was. The tea was almost done and had he not hopped his way in the kitchen, he would have had to come back later in the evening to the task of clearing the stove of the brown filth that would have overflown. He glanced quickly into the window to check if his pick up had arrived. The cabbie had always been on time, if not before. Having one eye on the clock ticking morning minutes, he crouched under the sofa to find luck with the missing sock. “Fuck fuckety fuckin fucker!!” he winced as a blank floor stared back at him. He again hopped into the kitchen and filtered the tea in a mug. Before he could take a sip out of it, his cell rang. “Fuck!!” he cursed and thought how crazy that the cab had to come at that very instant. He reached for the cell in his pocket and took it out only to see his boss on the line. This meant bad news. “I am sorry kid. They have pulled the plug. It’s a no go.” The line was silent for almost a minute. “Umm hmm..I understand. Thanks for sticking out for me sir” he muttered. “Sure. Take care kid”. Click.
He walked his way in the kitchen. He emptied the mug in the sink and took out a glass. There was some Blenders remaining from a few days back. He poured all of it in a lone glass and sunk some ice cubes in it. He removed his shoe with his other toe and angrily threw it off in the kitchen itself. He took a quick sip and sat the glass down on the window sill. He removed his pants and tossed them carelessly on the floor. Reaching for his laptop on the table, he went in the Pink Floyd folder and queued a song after cranking the volume to the full. He sat in his boxers and fresh white ironed shirt and tie with a sock on one leg on the window sill holding the glass in his hand. As Roger Waters began with “Remember when you were young…”, he stared out the window.
An urchin was shouting loudly selling his toy phones. Frail body, a torn and a muddy vest, khaki half pant and disheveled hair only gave an appearance that undermined his salesman skills in a humongous manner. With the sun heaving its wrath at 43 degrees, the kid stood barefoot with only the largest of smiles on his face. They had evicted him a thousand times, may be more. But he always came back. With that same smile. Going by the marks on his face and his back, one could easily make out that the kid had been beaten hard and beaten blue not a long time from now. And yet here he was. Making an honest buck selling toy phones on the street while the ‘other’ kids his age squabbled over which smart phone app was best to do the nothing which never mattered to nobody. And yet this rusty little gem of a kid would fight his pain to come sell toy phones.
As the last of the few drops of Blenders fired his throat, he took a hard look at the kid. He made it up in his mind to go buy a toy phone. But it had to wait for today. He wouldn’t step out for a minute nor would he lower the volume in spite of what the ‘family’ crowd of the ‘society’ would say today. Pink Floyd marooned him and he fell in a slumber to only be awake the whole of that night.
Come next morning, and he was on the street, searching for his savior – the urchin. He, who defied pain, who smiled when beaten, who only knew to smile and earn his honest buck. Who fought for his survival and who inspired him to believe. To believe and to live. He went today to go buy that toy phone. There was a sense of belonging here he missed.
It was a chapel that one would have drove by on a usual summer day. Unnoticed, hidden in the whirlwind of sands painting it rusty and gold, giving it a look of barren and yet, richness – rich in memories perhaps. It stood through times one would care to remember. The wedding had been a joyous one. The chapel wasn’t rusty then. Washed it was rather. Washed with the most unusual thunderstorm it had received in a long time. They had joked that the roof would come down once they said those two words which were to be said when they had to be said – “I do”. “Imagine the horror if it indeed happens. I wouldn’t mind, I am a delight in the bath” had giggled the maid of honor and winked at the bride. “My sweet slutty sis. Ain’t you a delightful bitch” sighed the bride. Delightful she was. Amd so was she cheerful, full of life, vibrant in thoughts and actions and expressions. Yet that wasn’t the best of her. The best of her was her infectious smile. It eased one’s heart to see her smile. It gave hope.
And he had said all of it, to her, that wedding day, in that chapel. “Achcha?” she said and smiled. She eluded him for the entire evening. His eyes searched for hers as he talked to the ones he wasn’t willing to talk to. He courteously obliged the ladies with the dances they demanded of him yet he ached to have her in his arms to dance with. He smiled all the smiles effortlessly and charmed all those who he didn’t wish to charm. Having had enough of her elusiveness, he approached her at the altar and requested to have her borrowed. She obliged with grace and gave her hand in his to be taken. To her surprise, he didn’t take her dancing, he didn’t offer her wine, he didn’t even offer her the sinfully soft cake dipped in cream. Instead he took her in the adjoining verandah, closed the door behind her, looked her straight in the eyes and said “Achcha?”
The kiss lasted real long. Long enough to the day they were back together, hand in hand standing in the verandah staring at the rusty old chapel thinking of all the times betwenn then and now. “You were a clever bastard” she said with a smile. He clasped her waist by his hands, brought her closer, looked deep in the eyes he had looked all his life and said “I still am”. The kiss lasted real long.
He found it amusing for the rains to fall from the skies in the middle of May. Cold, damp winds sweeping the wet little leaves off the roads and pavements in a whirlwind, almost immediately were followed by the sudden brashness of the heavy drops of rain. He had a presentation due the next day. On finally giving up on finding a cab to reach his place, he ran for cover under a tarpaulin strapped to two bamboo sticks and the edges of an empty bhelpuri cart. He tried feeling for the ciggerate in his pockets and out came the cancer stick soaked in water, drooping at its end & hanging its white flag of defeat to the wrath of mother earth. He reached for the lighter, and angrily rolled his thumb over its wheel to strike a light. It just wouldn’t light !! Nothing seemed to have been going right lately. Had it not been for the mind numbing banter of the intern post meeting, he could have just caught a cab in the nick of time. And if only had he met the VP instead of the intern, he might as well would have still been in the meeting, running him through the ideas he had worked on all night. The tarpaulin started sacking with the water being accumulated on the top and he could feel it touching him on his head. He punched it in fury as the water flowed effortlessly from the edges only to bounce back on his leather shoes. Beaten and defeated, he just sighed out loud, leaned against the cart and let his head sink in his palms.
It was only the laptop in her bag which made her look for cover. She had almost started enjoying getting drenched in the rains when it dawned on her that the water could seep in to her bag. Seeing a guy punch some water out from over a tarpaulin to keep it from touching his head, she ran straight towards him to seek cover. Stepping in gently as if entering his private space, she tried not to attract his attention. He heard her step in the makeshift shed and took his head out of his palms to restore his own perceived dignity in appearing manly. He could only see her from the backside. White little transparent pearls of water rolled down her nape into the sweet confines of sin factory. She had her hair tied up in a pony tail and he could faintly see her right cheek just enough to know that she was smiling. She wore a bright yellow kurti, the kind which had a deep cut in the back, and yet, what rather drew his attention was her nape and the faint sign of a smile on her cheeks, however vague it looked from where he stood. He took a few steps sideways, removed his backpack and leaned again on the cart hoping to catch a glimpse of her face. Just when had he thought he had made up his mind on being an atheist as opposed to an agnostic, he saw her face. She couldn’t resist feeling the rains in the cup of her palms. Simple, fair and ordinary arms just as anyone else’s, it was the red thread on one of them which dripped water from its knot that made it extraordinary for him. She noticed him looking at her from the corner of her eye. She turned her face towards him and smiled.
“You dont enjoy getting drenched in the rains, do you?” she said.
“Not alone, No.” He said with a humble smile and penetrating eyes.
“Cheesy not work for you?”
It rained for 3 hours that day. They married a year later.
He woke up to the sweat beads on his forehead gleaming in the heat of sun shining bright through the windows. This summer had been unrelentingly hot. It was 07:30 am on the clock and the alarm was yet to go off. He made another attempt at sleeping till the next 15 minutes but his joints ached and cracked echoing the tattered & hollow remains of aspirations he had once had of himself. These days, he would try to avoid the robotic rugtug of routine disappointment that was his day by being in denial of all things real. Real in itself was misnomer of a word, it seemed. He would dress up in formals, succumbing to the corporate drudgery that was more fluff and less substance – day after day after day. He smiled less often and the less often he smiled was a smile so artificial, he could feel cracks surface at the edge of his lips – just like the very moment in time a glass would stand held together by an assemblage of pieces before disintegrating into meaningless waste.
A moment of clarity lasts long enough, each day, every day, to numb the lack of any aim. He smiles, puts on his face for the world and walks on. Perhaps, only perhaps, may he one day find a reason to walk, and walk with hope.
Of the many things keeping me away from jumping off a cliff in a fit of rage and helplessness is the desire to not give the pleasure of watching this to others. Or worse, pity me for that. No, seriously. Things have been very, very convoluted over the last few weeks and they continue being so ever since. Its a vast expanse of emptiness after emptiness. Hollow, dark and dreary only to continue getting worse. Yet I must smile. Social conduct dictates so. Fuck that. Its I versus them. Happy Birthday to me.
Motionless and exhausted, they sat next to each other, watching the dark waves of the ocean sway to the moon’s charm. Of course a lot could have been said; both had been holding back on saying what could have been said for the fear of becoming someone else. Or worse, making the other someone else. Amidst the accustomed cacophony of the vehicles zooming past the swarm of ‘Sunday’ tourists thronging Queen’s necklace, unspoken words only enchanted the calm they had longed. Chin balanced delicately on her knees with her arms wrapped around them, her eyes seemed fixated on the moonlit waves swaying like fluid, gentle desires. He leaned backwards on an arm he stretched behind where she sat, just enough to be more close to her. The wind carried a mild chill in it which made her like him in coming close enough to let his intentions know in keeping her warm. She could have chuckled at the subtle sexual innuendo in her own thoughts, but a slim smile sufficed. A smile so feeble and tender, only he could read to blush secretly thinking it as her way of acknowledging his coming close.
They had had a good evening. No music had played. No flowers were bought. No black ties were seen. No reservation was made to share that chocolate fondue they had almost always had when they met. Instead, they’d licked on the kulfi sticks an urchin passing by had to offer in exchange for a few rupees. Walking close enough to only overwhelm at the thought of being distant like the two ends of a sea, no words were spoken. “It was a mutual, conscious decision…And it had to be taken.” was what they would tell their friends ; so had they thought. Strolling the promenade, their hands did brush against each other at occasions more than once though. And yet, no one clasped the other’s hand in their own like always.
He still remembered that smile on her face when he had clasped her hand the very first time. A smile so feeble and tender, only he could read to blush secretly thinking it as her way of acknowledging his coming close. Close they had had been for years since. Close enough for him to gently move that strand of hair on her face just so as to look at her. And yet…and yet it was a mutual, conscious decision which they had taken. That was that. The skies descended darkness on them and motionless they sat, staring into oblivion. The strand of hair remained unmoved that day.