Brake lights

The back attaches itself to the car seat, in anguish and boredom. It’s fine. It has resigned itself to the boring wind through  the pockmarked roads of my city. The arm extends, just as tense as it is bored to the steering wheel, fingers gripping the steering in a mix of lethargy and urgency. The kind of urgency boiling water has as soon as it reaches the boiling point. The kind of urgency, that will die out in vapours of resignation. 
And the eyes restless and vaguely registering everything, flick about, returning to the red light. Bathed in the brake lights red wash, that pours through windows and windshield, a temporary life breeds in the red concoction. A life which suspends itself on the impatient, yet resigned wait of a hundred tired eyes. A life which is red, has the temperament of the faintest mist and the personality of a weakly plotted murder scene from a B grade novel. The eyes flick back to the signal and the brake lights, emit their last fierce roar and the signal clears. The red vanishes like a lunatic’s days of lucidity. 

Cleanse the city of its gods.

The Tip off

“Did you look at the moon? It’s crazy”, texted Jigi.

I went into my balcony which faced east and looked up.  I couldn’t see the crazy moon. Crazy moon was on the other side, the side, I was not dressed for. I told him I couldn’t and went to sleep.

 

The sighting

I find it unfair that the light just before morning is no different from the light at midnight. The only indication of it being morning, were the huge, rumbling milk vans zooming past me as I braked.  Idiots.  I accelerate in anger; my car gives a jerk and effortlessly climbs the flyover.

As we go higher, it gets calmer. I am tempted to slow down, but I resist. When I reach the highest, I see the moon, now against a slightly lightened sky, which was at least a little indicative of the morning to come.

It was crazy. It stuck to the top right corner of my windshield, like a maniac. I take a turn, losing it for quite a few minutes. By the time it appeared again, it was pasted against a soft blue sky.

The sight

The wrappings of cold, desolate and far were ripped off of it, it shyly shone, like someone stretched a net of silver across a vessel of light. It was beautiful like I know it will never be after those three minutes I spent, with a glass partition between us.

It hung like an enchantment waiting to be cast upon Hyderabad.  If I touch it, will white dust light me up?  If I pray, will god grant my wishes? No.

The sun cleansed the city of the mist and the drunkenness.  Who will cleanse the city of the goddesses?

Killed in an encounter.

My day is a series of nonevents. Turning my car into the parking lot is one. But, since the last two days, it has become a delight. Hyderabad is recovering from the rain battery it received a week ago.

Monsoons are receding but every now and then, a spell of rain, still threatens us. After each threat, the boughs of the arched trees of my lane, usually arrogant enough to let even sunlight through, grudgingly, in patches, tremble. This quiver lets loose the tiny, white flowers they hold dear all summer. The nature wars with itself, as the flowers are strewn, white and tiny all across the lane, on either side.

Destruction of all orders, ritually complete each other as the night approaches, colder than yesterday. And, as my car takes the much wished for curve into the lane, it lights the lane up. The streetlights are too few and apart. Just when I take the turn to my parking lot, the flowers come into sight, like tiny apparitions. Oh look, a crime scene.

They are stark and sudden. In the glare of my headlamps, they look disturbed, a hundred eyes widened in wonder and fear. I brake slowly, and stare. The petals stand up straight and defiant against the light I inflict on them.

They have grown wiser since their fall from the lofty perch. By the time, the first petal touched Earth, their reality shifted. They don’t look at me like an intrusion. They know that by daylight, they would be raked in by the city municipality. They know that they would be crushed under the weight of plastic in another 14 hours. The imminence of their existence is their reality, which they never forget, never let me forget.

They know that I would, after getting over my childish infatuation, drive my car over them, in another two minutes, killing a few so mercilessly, not even the tragic image of a crushed petal would be left behind. They would die pressed flat to my tire or pressed hard into the ground and then, be trodden upon, again and again and again, until, they became one with the oppressor or the prison.

Flirtations, Listed.

Most of life’s mundanities unravel to me when I take a sharp left or when I go on an adventure of lazy lane switches. And, almost always, the Radio is blaring. I prefer the bad song sounds to my bad engine sound.

Today, while coming back from work, I was wondering if I could phase out and still drive and still reach safely?  I phased out for two seconds. At a red light. I love life, I am glutton about it. So I crank up the volume and refocus and the radio mulled over ” Two minute relationships”

What are those?  Like a silent pact between two strangers sharing standing space on a divider, waiting to cross the road? An agreement to not die or not push the other under a bus. Sounds like an important agreement to me. Then, I started thinking about all the two minute relationships I’ve had.

Flirtations Listed:

  • The never ending stranger meets in elevator. Who’ll push the buttons? Whats that perfume?
  • The red light romance. I see you, you see me. I turn away, because I have to pick my nose.
  • The co shopper. You and I, same aisle, same cereal? I walk away, muttering prayers for the oats in her cart and mine. Look at our waistlines, we don’t eat oats.
  • The book shop love.That one person who picks just the right book. So long, lover
  • The wait at the chemist’s. I know you are lactating, You know I am constipating. We share a bond beyond words.
  • The salesman at the jewelry store. Everything looks good on me? Can I model? No ? Why are you smiling?
  • The everyday guy gang at the end of my street. They hate me for my obnoxious honking, I hate them for the hoots.
  • My watchman, who is picked right out of a ghost story. We only stare, intensely.

And intensely staring, I get into my car, for another adventure. I lead the bug to the morning sunlight. Bathe, little bug. We have a lot more flirting to do.

 

 

 

Cars and Cameras

Moving cameras inside moving cars,  I pass by lights. Many lights. I click pictures. I check. 

Okay. 

Cars and cameras on phones fascinate me to no end. I am riding shotgun, I am jobless, I am thinking of how the ocean is a sink. I am thinking of how the time is 7:00 in the evening and the sun refuses to set. I am thinking of the noise from the backseat. I hope no one is choking. I am too absorbed to care. If they do, they’ll stop the car. I hope they don’t stop the car.

I turn sideways. I look at the steering. It looked so limiting. In front of me was the careless spread of the sky and the steering was taking me into it. How very un romantic. 

I realise, our days are such. We have a sensory ocean to jump into and ropes and technicians to make the jump easier. Easy, is the keyword. Take it easy. 

I ease off. I switch my camera off and drift to sleep.

Drift to a sensory ocean I so romantically hold dear, but hey, ropes and all. Can’t get too hurt,  can’t get a scare. Let’s control life. One inch lowered at a time. I wake up after five hours. 

Mockery of the heathen gods

There are a few things in life, deemed romantic by a majority of the population. And then there are, half asleep, groggy eyes, silently watching with a half smirk on their lips with the taste of bile at the back of their throat, this romance.  I was one of them.  I hated the romance woven around rains. It was like seeing the kid you hated in the finest pink gown at your birthday party. Who invited you?  No, I don’t want your gift.

 The splash wasn’t a good sound, it was a death knell. The thunder was undeniably the true death knell and the smell of earth when it rained was the equivalent of the elixir like voices of cannibalistic sea nymphs. Yes, I have no reservations when it comes to expressing just how much rain ruins my life and it has earned me a lover and a few enemies.

But, one day, I met rain not in the school hallway with her miniskirt too high to be ugly anymore. I spied her from a distance as she sat alone, on the steps, braiding her hair deliberately, reading the fine print at the back of a hand cream. I caught rain in its element and the story follows.

 

I look back upon that day like it’s from five years ago and not five days ago.  The feel good factor about that day is so strong, according to my memory, there has to be thick insulation of nostalgia to it.  So, I let it trick me into it.  Somehow, what I was wearing in a moment becomes an important part of how well I remember that day or through which lens I remember that day. I wore a luxurious silk dress and rightly so, a thin; but noticeable varnish of luxury taints the otherwise pure memory.

I sit down opposite to the man I have missed terribly in these two months and the delicious smell of baked cheese wafts up from the ground floor dominoes kitchen. First bite into the cheeseburst pizza, I turn into a very confusing audio file.  I moan, I yell, I chirp and I almost sing.  Molten cheese is a pain to eat, quite literally and I never had a cheese burst pizza before that.

The man in front of me shrugs and continues eating.

In all this cholesterol championship finals, it started raining outside.  We were sitting next to a ceiling to floor glass window on the first floor. It wasn’t a brightly lit street. The streetlights were perched too high to illuminate anything but the shops and the traffic compensated. So the rain fell in many colors on a background of black and when it hit concrete, the city resisted it, with a tiny splash. A hundred thousand resistances like that, made up a pretty war scene. I took a picture. 

We were done with the intense talk and the intense pizza love; the rain too, had taken a break. The plan was to hail different taxis from there to our respective sleeping alcoves. But the talk was far from over and we had already started walking. To stop a walk is one of the most tasteless things to do. So, we decided to walk till his college from where I would take a taxi back to my hotel.  Agreed. The walk slowed to a more romantic pace, knowing there was a distance to cover.

It started to rain. Both of us hated rain with a passion but, we still walked. He held my hand over wide puddles, I held on to him when traffic skidded. Our talk had reached a crescendo as we turned onto the very desolate stretch of road, by which his college loomed. Ancient trees arched the wide road and the buildings on either side were high and walled. 

Now, the rain was steady and strong and the road was deserted. It was 10 in the night, we were wet to the bone, and I still had to hail a taxi to get back to the hotel. Only one obnoxiously priced taxi was available in the area then, and reluctantly, I took it. The driver would take fifteen more minutes to reach our spot.

Fifteen minutes of waiting when no one dares speak, is an experience worth paying for. I paid for it with a week’s of ill health. The experience started with unrest and wonder at the inconvenience of rain and as the minutes deepened to a five minute wait, I resigned and lost my posture, swerving slightly to his side and hearing, actually listening to the roar of the rain. Seven minutes into the wait, I wrapped my thin, wrinkled fingers around his arm and widened my eyes to a much greater downpour. It was golden, it was alone and it did not care. 

Ten minutes into the wait, I felt my heart beat very loudly against my chest. The rain was getting under my nerves, It rained entirely too much and too loud for me to ignore it. I was forced to acknowledge it and it looked beautiful and sounded like a love song. My love song. Fourteenth minute into the wait, I was maddened with fear. The rain wasn’t stopping, the clock was ticking and my brain couldn’t stop noticing heavenly tinges around the edges of my madness in the rain. One more minute and I would be one of those romantics who weave romances around rain.  In time, two lifesaving lights pierce through the hypnosis and I wave a relieved goodbye and get into the car. The windows were appropriately fogged and restored a sense of normalcy towards rain in me, slowly. It still made lives dreadful.

There will always be a little part of me that will like rain. For those fifteen minutes, I was a slave to its beauty, in a way I will always bow to it a little, like a faithful servant to his queen, even after she is made to wear the scarlet letter.

The drunk drinks harder.

Two cups of diluted decoction, two long breaks, two times I felt the urge to look out of the window for a long long time and by the end of it, I was grabbing the keys off the table and making a run for the stairs. The day was over early and there were still a few minutes of twilight I could catch, filtered blue and big through my dusty windscreen.

Dusty, dotted and neglected, my windshield still did a great job at filtering the blue. I stopped at a red light and saw  stray bits of cloud making a slow, reluctant retreat, like the last ones to leave a funeral. The dots and the dust bothered me. It spoke of a drunkard.

The durnkard

She earned odd notes of 50s and 100s, she sometimes pushed him back, she at times, hit at him with all her might, she sometimes cried it out. All this I see in the short walk from the car door to the lift. Sometimes she stood adamant, arms crossed in front of my mother, she absolutely needed five thousand rupees to pay her bills and the drunkard woke up each day, cleaned all the cars in the parking lot, lazed, and the odd 50s and 100s broke down to just bouts of guileless drunken slumber, that I sometimes spied beyond oily curtains, barely hiding anything from view.

The she, is my watchman’s lawfully wedded and bedded wife and the he, is the drunk watchman.  The spots on my windshield  turn green around the edges and off I go, as the blue runs deeper into itself, I climb the flyover, still mulling about the drunk.

When I finally park the car in the parking lot, I stare at the dots and dust. He hasn’t been cleaning the car for three days now. He never misses a day.

I haven’t even seen his wife around for three days now, I haven’t seen his children.

Later, I come to know, I might never see one of his children again. His son is in the hospital battling fatal burns, that burnt as deep as his breathing vitals. Each breath must hurt, I think as I exhale, feeling privileged.

I try not to imagine the pain, as I stare at the ceiling, my mother is still talking. Does it matter?

Will it really matter if someone pointed out that there wasn’t anything to tie together between the boy’s burns and the father’s habit? Dots and dust on my windshield speak of a drunkard, who might never hear a kind word again.

How do you fight two battles at once? The loss and the lost.

The next day, I clean the dots and the dust myself, as the dots browned, they sang of the kid’s slow demise and I didn’t have the strength to pray for a half burnt life of nine years.

 

 

Mama!

You always have to get somewhere, somewhere important

Somewhere where there is maybe a steaming hot or a sedately cold pot of rice for you

But you have to get there

And I had a place like that to go to

At six in the evening, a winter evening, when everything and everyone likes to sleep earlier than usual

A warm bath for your feet, a soft mattress under your back and a ceiling with cracks that you have christened

Ram, Shyam, Peter, Cause why  not ? Peter too!

I was driving, shabbily, annoying other people.

A stream of vehicles, trying to live through the grind went past me as I did by them

By the half night, half day, confused light that lit my way

I saw on the side of the road, two brown spots from a distance

Mother and puppy when I got closer,

Waiting for the madness to pass, so they could cross

I looked, I loved the sight, it was tender and magical

I could have stopped, who am I kidding, the guy behind me wouldn’t and I would have been dead

But I would have stopped. A mother dog and a puppy crossing the road, in the headlights, not confused.

Very patiently waiting, protecting, all seeing, understanding. I wanted to stop to look at them or to let them cross

That little bit of a dilemma, I leave to the gods.