The monsoon of cafes

The formula is basic. Appeal to the starved , dangle the choicest cut in front of them, lead them to the lair and charge them the bill, no more given with sugar coated saunf but in weird contraptions.

The monsoon of cafes in Hyderabad is ushered in. Some minimalist and sadly, very jarringly minimalist. Some, confused between modernity and Victorian royalty. And all of them, trying and succeeding to fit into the bracket of “classy”.

Class sells. While fights wage on for equality everyday here, a new divide emerges. The divide between the people who have morphed completely into a super urban crowd and the people who started out on the route and found the route too taxing and settled comfortably with a cheaper alternative. The cafes specifically cater to the former crowd.

The ankles, tattooed in the later fad, boringly go over their flavoured waxed legs. The clothes show the effort they put it to make it look effortless. The makeup is perfected and the scents, subtle. The talk is various, stemming from their respective corporate jobs or NGO woes. And to cater to all this, comes the cafe with ridiculously comfortable seating and confusing menus.

The coffees are very particular. The cheese, sadly isn’t. One lesson to learn, is that cheese makes everything saleable. Even cottage cheese. The drink menu is rarely touched. Everyone knows what they want. Desserts, are exceptional and exceptionally single dimensional. No spices with sugar, playing it safe.

This lull, is the meditation we pay for. Not the food, not the music. It’s the love for oneself and for people like oneself, that drives us to celebrate ourselves in quiet, but Instagram boisterous ways.

Anyway, if you are here, welcome. Drown this city that doesn’t tolerate even sub standard biryani in cheese coma.

The corpse knitted in

My mother attended a funeral.

My mother spoke of the reluctance to give away one's mother's dead body to the dead. You can't bear to see her taken away, shrouded. You can't bear to part. You can't stop it. She spoke of the cries of the eldest daughter beseeching her mother's corpse. The cruel silence.

She spoke of the husband, softly sobbing, whispering under his breath, bending over the corpse, pleading it to stay.

The silence hardened.

The pallbearers took the corpse away. Silence crystallised like a tether between the house and the graveyard.

She spoke, as I knit, sitting window side of a train heading towards the coast. I quickened and tightened my stitches as heavy tears fell onto my lap, I weaved a corpse's tale into my work. The light from the misty monsoon sun fell in patches on the black yarn and danced as the needle dipped and rose.

"I am glad I didn't come" , I said to my mother.

Streets of Secunderabad 

Low lying houses with large airy verandahs, behind low iron gates. A burst of bougainvillea against the whitewashed walls, spilling. The colour of crushed Indian  rose. The colour of blood mixed in gold. In tufts, in bunches, in surprises. The yards lie swept, resting under the shade of Gulmohar trees. The trees are in full bloom.  Against the overcast sky of the city, the warm red petals seem to house the sun in their tendril like veins. Now and then, a breeze rustles the calm and sends a few red petals flying into the wind, to fall lightly in the swept yards, beginning the day’s decay. 

” Look!!!”, I said, pointing out of the car’s window. 

He looks out and without turning back to face me, asks what I was pointing at. 

” That. Looks good” I say, pointing at the rows and rows of trees and vines bursting with blossoms against the monsoon sky, as if to asset summer one last time. 

” I used to live here” , he says and his face takes on an expression between the happiness of revisiting old homes and the pain of knowing it’s only a visit. 

We reach our destination. We were meeting my friends for coffee and breakfast and we were the first to arrive. I look up to see the   cozy place tucked into an old house. It looked inviting. I take a step in that direction when he stops me.

” Take a walk with me” , he says, pointing to the other direction. 

” why? “, I ask. 

” Look”, he says. 

I see a wide Secunderabad street, lonely and lovely, running brown and quiet, it was perfect to walk on it’s banks. We walk, in the shade of bougainvillea, Gulmohar trees, and the dark clouds that promised an evening rain. 

The ashes from his cigarette fall crumbling onto the piles of leaves raked in, to the sides of the street. One cigarette later, we climbed the stairs to the coffee place, picking the seat farthest from the morning crowd, beside a window that overlooked the street. We didn’t look out of the window.     Time just ripened to a comfortable lull from there on, with a game of cards and three sandwiches thrown in the mix. 

Aside

Road no 12, Banjara Hills

It was this road that ran a good length into Banjara Hills, flanked protectively by luxury brands on either sides. Amrapali, the store read and an elevated cobblestoned driveway led to the side door. I walked in, step matching with Jigi. The first thing I noticed was some girl’s bleached hair, coloured rainbow, falling dry and limp on her shoulders. I turn away to look at Jigi.

” What are we doing here?” , I ask. We don’t normally just walk into a high end store without first drawing gigantic sketches that always concluded on, ” We’ll probably regret it, but lets do it”.

Standing a good foot tall above me, he barely looks at me and says, ” We are buying you a nosepin.”

“Here?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah, No”

” Okay, I will buy a nosepin. You do whatever you want to do”

I sigh and maze my way to the bathrooms. When I was out, I could hear the lovely Indian classical music pouring right out of the papered walls onto the perfumed air. I could see the china, whose trims were writhed in pink roses and gold leaves. The world was a better place.

Jigi is waiting.

We climb up the stairs and reach our section of the store, that supposedly has nosepins. Well, not the kind my dear boyfriend envisioned. They were the size of a lemon. We laughed and looked around petty towels and perfumes until we got bored and out we went.

The first bubble of laughter from my lips escaped as fast as his first drag of cigarette that he blew at the setting sun. We walked, our backs against the sun, under a velvety blue sky.

Balcony blues 

The light of now isn’t the light that sweeps clean, the remnants of night from the farthest and the darkest corner of your room. No, the light of now, waiting behind the tallest apartment building, morning but barely, awaits the west side of the sky, to try its luck again. 
It escapes, sometimes, filtered, in patches, and pastes itself on my marble floor. What can I do? I am as helpless as you. I tread upon it, dipping my foot in a puddle of morning, and forget about it just as soon as it complains.
It’s time now, it is now waiting, the west windows of my home are painted red in their veins. It again slips through gaps between buildings, snaking its way through gullies, because the night is chasing, and it must hurry. Gasping, stumbling and reddening, it alights on my walls, breathing.
It changes colours, and dies a content death, fading into the fresh paint of my wall. No traces left, but a moist eye here and there, looking out of balconies, mourning.

Locked away in midnight hour 

Only the moist finger tips of a pregnant sky, irritatingly tingling my spine, running down along it, in rivulets, disappearing, but staining my cotton dresses, has the power to keep me awake after a tiring day.

The tiredness stays and stretches as I move about, it’s there, it’s slowly taking over my movements, slowing them down to a slumber. But, the summer keeps sleep locked away in some midnight hour. Till then, I move, as if wading a sea of mud, making my way to the midnight hour, to collapse, body and soul into the arms of sleep. 

And there I’ll lay dead till the hazy morning sun rises above the hills, and etches my curtain’s lace flowers on me, marking its territory. 

On the other side of a waiting stance

The thing about waiting, is that the wait becomes a way of life. Slowly, it erodes into your days, like Wednesday, like Friday, and one day, you don’t notice anymore. If only it stayed that way. But all waits end, if it doesn’t, the watch ends. But, an end is always lurking around, to jerk the monotony off of the wait.

And it becomes unbearable those last few days before you know your wait will end. He will come, you’ll see and there will be no ceremony to the death of your long, nurtured wait and your loyalty to your wait dies a shameless death, as you skip from one foot to another, waiting your turn to be kissed after years or maybe months. 

And, this wait, this slightly impure wait, soiled by the surety of its death, becomes a most annoying thing when you know, you wait was someone else’s time with him, ripening to fruition, someone else’s eyes singing him to attention, someone else’s love blooming into something sort of a dedication for him and you are left, waiting.
This wait, when it ends, ends that ripening and the blooming of her heart and I do not one bit feel happy about it. Who says it feels good when your prayers are answered? It feels like you made the wrong prayer. 

Happenings, listed 

I always loved the idea of a house left locked for a few hours. All the life is still in its walls, no dust will gather on the coffee table, nothing will change by the time you come back to it.

But won’t anything happen to a locked house? Happenings, listed :

  • leftover tea in cups, gets darker and stronger
  • cupboards closed in a hurry will creak open, awaiting your arrival
  • clothes on the line will dry and bleach in the Indian summer
  • A forgotten night lamp will stand a stupid vigil to your house
  • Your house changes colour from a transparent white to a translucent orange by the end of the day

Things happen in a locked house.

Mirrors on ceiling 

I stood, my baby weight bearing down on my bread roll resembling feet, gaping lazily at my mother. Her lithe body, the sunrise colour of her skin and I burst up into flames of joy when she picked me up in her long thin arms. My mother, who has loved me that way since, is now no more lithe, her skin is now more red of a sunset than the bright yellow of a sunrise. 

Sometimes, when I tilt my curly head from a chair, letting the hair fall loose and a ceiling mirror reflects my face, with the hair pushed to the ground, I catch a misty glimpse of her in me. Nowhere near that beautiful or pure, but in my own curropt way, sometimes, mirrors on ceilings play my mother’s shadow of youth on my face. 

Lay low 

Lay low and let them wash over you, oh no

You are of no notice or nothing new 

Just lay low, cause it’s easier on your back 

To watch them blow over you, and relax
As stations come and go

As the time goes slow 

As the train heaves ho!

As the eyes in slumber roll 
Lay low, let no destination soil your peace

Lay low, till on the platform you put your feet

Lay low, time though slow, is sweet and sweet 

Lay low, be a dead fish on a blue railway berth, go with the flow