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.

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.

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.

Mockery of the gods.

Starlight, they say lights novels up like a gaudy wedding celebration. I have to agree. Sunlight is too tame and moonlight, too overdone. So starlight, fits the description perfectly. It has magic, it has mystery and we somehow, think stars are pretty, cause they glitter, which they don’t. Even if they do, god alone knows, why we have this fairytale crow complex of picking up shiny spoons and diamonds. Even if there is any sense for a crow to do it, why would you find a star, which is, by the way, not giving you light and is just a mocking little dot, I cannot tell you, how far away!  So far away,  we limit our romances to going just to “the moon and back”.

In such a delirious state, I speak to jigi and I tell him why starlight is not light and he agrees. Then he tells me,

“Adi, likes to look at the moon”

I don’t know Adi, so he shall be spared. But, I do know the moon and we sort of had an affair a few months ago. The steamy details, follow.

 

Bangalore , 2016, February

All I could think of, was how extinct moonlight was in cities. Standing on the terrace in the dead of the night, while my two friends confessed love in the background, I heard myself breathe and I looked up, there hung the moon. I didn’t care. It was pretty much how it always is, a white illuminated wasteland, kind of like a religious fundamentalist’s head.

 Tired, I look down from the terrace.I tried to make out how many graves there were, don’t judge me, we were staying adjacent to a graveyard and counting graves is a tough job (How do you know, that’s just one grave? Who is to say, Mr Ram wasn’t buried 100 years later on the remains of Mr Balram) and I wasn’t wearing my spectacles so I lost count soon.

I was back to staring at the sky, lit red, blue and green, like the city was a giant vat of colorful flames reflecting skywards. Where does the moonlight stand its chance in such a carnival?

Moonlight, which was celebrated through moth ridden pages, through reels and reels of cinema, through verses shamelessly redundant now cast shadows, barely discernible, of one brick structure on another, as my friends proceeded to share a cigarette.

I proceeded to taunt the moonlight more. It filtered unnoticed through window panes throughout the night, a suspended gloom, an insistence bordering on audacity!  The courage!  Just how does it plan to retreat when one switches on a light to check on a sleeping baby? Just how fast, would be the merciless killing of it? It stays, as if in defiance of my thoughts, like a wife in denial.

I turn to look at my friends, they were still drinking and smoking, grey smoke wafted up as an answer, when one of them smoked towards the sky, and for one split second, it caught the moonlight and my eyes widened. Just as it materialized, it vanished, like those stories of apparitions, leaving me once again, in confrontation with the protesting moonlight., but leaving me weak kneed, slack jawed and rose cheeked.

It still stayed, hanging like a forgotten proposal, indifferent to the terrible beauty it still possessed for the little romantic in everyone, indifferent to the sudden change of my heart and I realize, I’ll die and it will cast light on my tombstone, every night, after the lights are out. Mockery of the gods.

Look at the moon, Adi. Maybe, It’ll be kinder , softer, bluer on your grave.

Immersion Therapy : 10,000 steps.

I walked 10,000 steps yesterday. My health app vouches for it.  I am calling walking at nights in cold, busy cities, ” Immersion therapy”.  The night is deliciously cold here and the wind whips. Braving it or going along with it, I walk, making conversation with Keerthana. Keerthana likes to walk, she also can talk and walk at the same time. I like that.

The talk is frivolous but the experience is definitely immersive. Immersion therapy feels good. With each minute into it, your heart rate is in harmony with the pulse of the city, your eyes adjust to the night, your sense of smell is brilliant. You’ll lock eyes with dogs and babies alike and it will all become a postcard that will be irrelevant the next day. But the little jolt of memory at the mention of the place, sounds or sights is what I am here for. This is my souvenir.

We enter brilliantly lit malls. We scout for monsoon sales, we check tags before we check sizes. We buy nothing but hand and nail creams, scented with magnolia.

We are out on the street again, immersion resumes. The walk continues, until we spot a row of lantern lit autos fashioned into stalls. The dosa there, has a reputation.  We have three different kinds of fast food. Permutations and combinations of fat and carbs. We burp, we pay with a smile to the fastest bandiwala I ever saw. Kiran, apparently has been running the bandi since 10 years. 10 years of waking up, getting supplies and waiting for the day to get dimmer. Ten years of skill. We pay kiran, leaving him in peace with his tea.

Our walk resumes. We scan the surroundings. There is more to be done. Reluctantly we take our tickets for the metro. Beloved , beloved metro. We get off, relieved, the little pink train dissapeared the next second.The exhaustion was kicking in. The high was taking a backseat. But, not so soon. We had more walking to do and this wasnt necessarily a choice. We had to get to the hotel.We trekked for another two kilometers and breathlessly arrived at our narrow and pretty hotel. The wifi wasnt working, the pepsi was sold out and there was a power cut.

End of the day, coulnt have been more literal.