She is walking, escutcheoned under Darkness- dark, silent, soothing, unpretentious but overwhelming. I see a white skirt, bare feet and large, luminous eyes. Does she know that the skies are plotting to burst asunder to echo her tumultuous thoughts? The wind has become her ally as it moans her indignation. The milky white orb that hangs latent on the sky that you people rave so much about, is eyeing her with pity. The waves, blissfully oblivious to her agony play with her. Tenderly caressing her ankles and daintily retreating and then, as if on an afterthought thoroughly drenching her with their sticky, salty spray.
I – emotionless, impartial, detached and infinite. I- Time, stand and watch her as she ignores my enormity and walks aimless, goalless, a void in her eyes and heart. If she were to relate this, she would not be able to. She would get emotion into the picture. She’d bring in the mystical, she might even get in romance. I, I will not mince words, will not underplay the horrendous or overplay sheer luck. Its better you get to hear all this from me.
The last argument between her parents was more than clear in her mind. The shouts, the bickering, the fights, the insults, the accusations had built into a crescendo that evening, the zenith being reached when the beating began. She had stood and watched- willing herself to feel emotion, desperately trying to force away her obdurate numbness but giving up halfway in the attempt.
It had been six months since she last saw him. The acknowledgment- crippling and stultifying, that He was never there when she needed him the most. The intransigent and abhorrent truth was that He would Never be there. She was slotted in between his rehearsals, his drunken brawls, his vehement soliloquies against fate, his barren, thin lipped, dull eyed wife and his plays which died a silent death in his leather bound diary. She felt alienated from the love that he had never given her but the illusion of which, had offered her at least a temporary solace. The thought hung heavy that love was within her but she could not bring it to life in any form.
She hadn’t touched her pen for as long as she could remember. She started at paper and saw emptiness. Then, there was the problem of money. There was never any money. NEVER ANY MONEY. The house seemed to echo it late at night, when its inhabitants were wrapped in a soundproof dormancy that did not scream, “Bills, debts and ration”. A dormancy that did not bring with it, the horror of an uncertain future. Never Any Money…..
The curtains, the plants on the window sill, the trees in the garden, the dilapidated, teetering mansion all seemed to whisper conspiringly, “Never any money”. The creditors seemed to say it although they never mentioned it audibly. Her clothes seemed to reek of its scarcity; her eyes seemed to illuminate its paucity. Her nicotine stained lips seemed to mouth it continuously. Never any money. Never any money.
There had to be more money. There had to be but there never was. So she sat with fissiparous thoughts, the high tide and a gentle breeze till….
“Shit! The true meaning of population explosion never really hit me until now. A man can’t even find a place to shed tears alone! People like vermin- ubiquitous. Welcome to Mumbai, gotta love its guts!” She turned around sharply and caught a stitch on her neck. Cursing, she turned around sharply but not sharply enough to face a lighted cigarette, wind blown hair resting on an angular face, which was resting on a lean body. She did not grace his statement with a reply and started steadily ahead.
He didn’t leave the place. He didn’t ask her to. He didn’t say anything. He just sat there, like a bump on a log, which did not disturb you but yet unsettled you because of its quiet, unobtrusive but unrelenting presence. She wanted him to go away. However, she reasoned, she could do with a smoke.
‘Can I borrow a smoke?’ she asked. ‘Sigh! I don’t do Marlboro Lights….’
‘I’ll take it!!!’ she reacted immediately as she saw him pocketing the four sole survivors in a packet that is meant to house 17.
For a while both were content just tracing the path of the smoke as it rose up, spread and mingled with the air till nothing remained of its existence.
‘What happened? I ask you again…..’
‘He left you.’
‘He is married.
‘Tragedy O Tragedy!! You are with child!’
‘Oh wait….. You are a lesbian! Vow! Cooool! So where did you meet her??’
‘Look mister I trained in karate. Do not. DO NOT f**k my brains.’
‘Good for you. I trained in picking up the nearest stone and aiming it in the eye of the Bastard, fisticuffs and verbal abuse. Has worked for me so far……”
She got up to leave. Left. Walked back and sat again.
‘And what’s with you? She doesn’t love you anymore? Awww. Caught her in bed with your colleague and came to this filth ridden beach to vent out your murderous misogynistic frustration?’
‘SHE is an angel actually. She is in bed right now, blissfully sleeping with my wedding ring on her finger.’
‘Tcchh! Damn. You robbed me of my perverse pleasure.’ She smiled.
‘Just look at it. It is so incredibly true that it is too incredible to be real. I am good looking, charming, dashing, intelligent, actually brilliant (she raised her eyes heavenward), currently employed with a salary quoting astronomical figures, have the luxury of giving it up for rediscovering myself, finding meaning in life, parents who dote on me, a sibling who idolizes me, the worlds most beautiful woman by my side and……
and…… Im dying.’
‘What?! I am so so sorry.’
‘No I am Sorry. I was just kidding.’
‘Oh! Thank God!’
‘I am dead serious. I AM dying. Just a few months and it will be au revoir world. Do you not understand sarcasm?!”
She didn’t know whether to bolt or to sit still or to slap the impossibly impossible man sitting beside her.
‘What’s your name?’ she asked
‘What’s making you die?’
‘Are you scared of me?’
‘Do you think I am a psycho?’
‘Good. What is your name?’
‘What happened? I ask you again.’
‘Oh my problems are not like yours- a Hindi tearjerker in Technicolor. They are the usual- parents splitting up, indifferent boyfriend, depleted pocket…. You get the picture right.’
‘Ah! Vanitatas Vanitatum. Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire or having it is satisfied? Come, children let us shut up the box and the puppets for our play is played out…..’
‘Its William Makepeace Thackeray, Mr original, Vanity Fair. But still, me is impressed.’
‘Twas worth the try, Violet.’
It happened that night. Maybe because it was night and the improbable is made welcome at night, whom the stark light of the day shuns away. Maybe the soothing zephyr had drugged them or maybe it was plain desperation on both parts but it happened. Two complete strangers, alien to each other’s lives, shed the façade and bared their souls. Tears mingled with laughter as they shared joys and sorrows. Tribulations, triumphs, apprehensions and premonitions mingled with smoke, entwining together, touching each other and then dissipating, celebrating their release. They cried for what they had lost, they swore on things they did not cherish, they celebrated the apocalyptic turning points of their lives, they shared memories good and bad and welcomed the future with pure and unadulterated ignorance and hope. (He maintained that future would encompass the journey after crossing the final frontier as well. She just humored him)
They shared their love for the city as well. Amidst the multitudes, the debris, the struggle, the extremes, the high rises and the chawls, the dance bars and the discos, the Louise Philippe’s and the Koli Lungis, Hindutva and Mafia, fire temples and synagogues, local trains and BMW’s, humidity induced sweat and rain influenced disease, lies an insignia of reticence, stubborn hope and an obstinate will to just move on come what may.
‘Do you believe in Him?’ she asked looking up.
‘God, You know Bhagwan…’ she elaborated looking at the deadpan expression on his face.
He remained silent.
‘If we meet no Gods, it is because we harbor none.’
‘Ha Ha nice try….. But no’
Both were silent. I suppose, then, at that time, they were content. Dawn was walking in.
‘So, I’ll see you tomorrow, Ms Never Mind?’
‘Oh Come on, a dying man’s last few wishes.”
‘Why do you address them in plural? A dying man is granted one sole wish.’
‘What, are you my psychiatrist that I need to tell you EVERYTHING? Just consider your luck, there are hordes of women vying for the attentions of Yours Truly….’
‘Oh yeah and do Blue Whales walk in this Peter Pan world of yours?’
‘Nope, But Pigs do fly!’
She laughed. Threw back her head and laughed. She laughed till she wanted to pee. Laughed because she had finally found catharsis. Catharsis, that had been playing hide and seek for far too long.
‘It’s a date,’ she said.
‘It’s a date then, 12:00 am, Versova Beach. Ill meet you at the place where the pissy shitty smell stops assailing your nostrils.’
It’s a long road. A long road to the end. One strewn with ugliness, you would want to assume. What is waiting for you at the end? Where is the end, you wonder? Is it really worth your tears, pain and disappointment, you’d want to question as you move forward. Childhood, adolescence, love, acceptance, success, intellect, old age, withdrawal where do all these lead to? On this long road with hedges and pitfalls, elevations and depressions, labyrinthine mazes, ruts and puddles do you ever stop? Do you ever hand in the towel? No. No because this IS life. This IS how you live it. It sure isn’t a straight walk through a valley. It cannot be, there has to be some demarcation between Earth and Heaven, Heaven and Earth. Standing at the end, you’d realize that the road was ephmeral, life wasn’t.
They are getting up to go. I’ll have you hear their last words.
‘So what happens next Ms Know It All?’
‘I don’t know. What happens next?’
‘Yeah, how earth shatteringly illuminating. What happens next?’
‘It will all start to make sense….. between them.’
‘Aaaah Sublime! Where did you pass out from….?’
‘Yours truly is a college drop out….’
‘Is that why you are dying…..? Don’t worry its still not too late to get your B School pedigree…”
‘Tut, tut my child. Worked upon humor never turns out to be funny. I AM dying beautiful.
‘So you ARE dying…… I mean DYING…..’
‘I am sorry.’
‘Why? I am not dying. I was joking. You have had too much of Ektaa Kapouer..’
‘Oh! Thank God! Psychoes like you deserve to tread on the earth as well!’
‘I am dead serious. I AM dying. Just a few months and it will be au revoir world. Do you not understand sarcasm?!’
‘Oh for God’s sake are you dying or not???’
‘What do you think???’