the morning sky was just beginning to clear. Little shapes huddled together in the fading darkness were starting to form their own outlines against the grey that stretched far and wide. One could slowly distinguish the trees drenched in soft golden hues, standing tall and proud. The younger saplings swayed in the damp cold breeze. The wind swept across the valleys, through the pine trees, in between the green saplings and crept down towards the dingy settlements gathered at the foot of the hills. As it lashed upon the shut glass windows repeatedly, it grew colder, harsher. Left out in the open, it circled the settlements impatiently and wailed in complain, seeking for a hole or gap to burst in through. The morning lay cloaked in silence, except for the occasional moaning of the wind scraping at the wooden doors and slipping off the window panes. As the sun tried to emerge, in the distance, smoke went up from tiny chimneys here and there. Long dark serpents of fumes coiled together remained motionless in the air, almost meditative. Then, gradually they dispersed with the clouds in the sky. Sunlight washed all over the village. Another new day began.
She was sitting down on the raised edge of the pavement in broad daylight, squinting at nowhere in particular. It was a hot afternoon. She sat there quietly, lost and absentminded. A car honked past, breaking her reveries. What was it that she was thinking about?
She got up suddenly and adjusted the huge bag on her shoulder and started walking away at a brisk pace, unlike the calm that she had personified only moments ago. There was a mysterious pattern in the way she placed one foot in front of the other and walked with a purposeful gait. Her bag swinging at her side with each step she took. It looked bulky and heavy for her slender figure but there was no sign of struggle in her movements. She walked effortlessly with a flow of her own, uninhibited by the burden she carried. With two quick glances on either sides of the street to check for oncoming vehicles, she deftly started walking across. Clap clap echoed aloud, her boots on the empty road. The sound gradually receded in the distance and finally got muffled by other noises. Just like that, her silhouette merged with those of other people amidst the crowd. She faded away into thin air like mist in the sunlight.
While she lay in bed wide awake, suddenly the darkness cracked for a split second as the lightening bolt snaked into her room through the open window. Coiled up inside, wrenching apart parts of the darkness and then merged away into the shadows once again.
The thunder roared like an angry beast expressing it’s thirst. Nature was raging. It was pouring. The sky was sobbing. The trees shook their heads in silent consolation.
But she wasn’t afraid. It thrilled her. The sounds of thunder and the flashes of lightening jolted her out of the monotonous life.
It was a refreshing unpredictability. She loved the uncertainty, the suddenness of it. Her eyes twinkled in the dark, reflecting the luminiscent wet street lamps outside. A small smile played on her face. She didn’t have dimples on her cheeks. Just one soft dent in her chin where the darkness settled down and refused to leave. She looked out blindly at the chaos of wind sound and confused raindrops. One soul alone wide awake amidst the storm.
The sunlight mellowed as it rested on the metal head of the lamp post. It was a late winter afternoon. Sitting alongside the glass wall of the cafe that overlooked the busy street across, she sat stirring a cup of coffee lost in her own thoughts.
She was thinking about her mother and wondering how to pay the rent due at the end of this month. Her mother had suddenly called up to inform her that she will be coming to visit her. She had been reluctant in showing her happiness, on the phone. She knew her apartment was a mess. It worried her to have to put things in order again. She had become quite comfortable in her lazy routined life alone. Living in this regular dishabille had started seeming strangely pleasant to her. It reminded her of freedom.
That independence she had always yearned for. Her little actions of keeping a lock on the cupboard, shutting the computer every time her parents or cousins walked into the room and closing her door at night. They were just hints to her greater desire for some solitude, some privacy. She liked to stay out of the limelight, to remain unobserved. And finally, here in this big city, she had found a small room of her own where she could spend hours unnoticed and oblivious to the rest of the world outside.
She will have to put away the clothes for wash as soon as she gets home tonight, she thought to herself. Maybe she would also change the bedsheets. She had forgotten when was the last time she had replaced them. Looking up from her cup of coffee, she glanced outside the glass absently.
People were passing by in groups of two or three and some by themselves. The tired ones walking with a slow and heavy gait, while others walked briskly as if in a hurry. A few elementary-school kids in uniforms ran about from one corner of the street to the other screaming out each other’s names, laughing loudly.
She smiled as she watched a particular child among them. It was a girl who had tripped and fallen down. Instead of dusting herself when she got up, she was busy chasing and shouting at the two other boys who had by then disappeared around the bend. Her one ribbon had come off her plait and it dangled precariously at the edge of her hair, her jacket one size too big for her, flapped about her thighs as she shot through the road at her highest speed.
She hadn’t got this month’s payment yet. It was stressful to handle everything without enough money in the bank. And now even her mother was coming all of a sudden. The thought kept circling back to her. How will she pay the rent? Will she borrow some cash from her mother for now?
She took a sip of coffee from her cup. It was her favorite type, an Americano. The whole place was filled with various aromas but as she savoured the flavour on her tongue, it’s subtle scent stood out from the rest. She closed her eyes and tried to enjoy the aftertaste.
This was one of her usual haunts. She would often saunter in and sit for awhile in silent contemplation, figure out problems or just cherish her free time. But today that relative peace and meditative calm was being hard to come by, because her head was bubbling with unresolved thoughts and do what she could, she just couldn’t think of a way out of that loop. She sighed in defeat, as she kept the cup back down on the table. She felt like a rat running in a wheel. An endless race against time.
Instead of answers, today her mind was exploding with a multitude of questions. The sun was quickly going down. Winter days are shorter and the streets darken faster. Outside, the once busy avenue was now looking quite desolate. She looked at her phone, it was getting late. Time was running out.
She could talk to the landlord and convince him to extend the due date. She was sure her salary would be deposited in her account by next week at the latest. But would he be willing to consider her request? Will he agree to her proposal? What else could she do anyway? She didn’t want to borrow from her mother. This was just the fifth month since she left home and had decided to live by her own terms. She couldn’t possibly go back on her words of so-called freedom and independence now.
If push came to shove she would take a loan. Her eyes shone as she mentally recalled the events of the day she had left home. She felt the adrenaline rush through her once more. Her fingers trembled slightly around the handle of the cup as she lifted it and brought it up to her lips. She relived the sense of liberation each time she thought of that day. She had decided on the spur of the moment to leave her city of origins and move here, a strange land with an unfamiliar tongue and unknown people all around. She knew she would find solace amongst the different, the ‘other’.
She believed if she wanted to live like a free soul, she had to let go of all her attachments. If she let go of what tied her down, she could fly. And then she had soared.
In the past few months, she had become another immigrant in this huge city where so many people from so many different places come together and try to find an identity of their own, within this mad bazaar. It’s a gypsy fair of brilliantly coloured individual stories and ever-changing histories. And amidst them all, she is yet another person with a story. In the yellow lit cafe, somewhere on the wall a clock chimed softly, marking the hour. She shook herself out of the reverie and scanned the walls in search of the clock.
The melancholy note was still pouring out of the wooden clock as she stared at it’s pendulum. It was in the shape of a little red robin floating in mid-air. The robin was in suspension, flitting from one end to the other with the movement of the pendulum. As she watched it, she felt like that robin, moving on the waves of time, living in an infinite state of oscillation.
I have sex in a dark room without fans. A room filled with cigarette smoke and the smell of tobacco mixed with the rank stench of beer and vomit, heavy in the air, waiting to settle down on our bare bodies like dust in an old storeroom. I lie there on the hard plank thinking about nothing, just hearing the rhythmic squeaking of the rusted iron springs. I am sore. I can’t get used to the pain searing through me, ripping apart my insides. I have lost count of the number of times they come and go. I only register the pain hitting my limp body like endless waves of the sea crashing ashore. I’m painfully numb. But now and then I can feel it. Sudden excrutiating pains bright against a dim backdrop. Like the cigarette stub burning an angry hot scar on my neck. After he has finished with me, he pulls his pants up, I can hear the zipper’s slight protest, then he picks his shirt and leaves. I lie there awhile longer staring at nothing in the black darkness. The dark comforts me, like a warm blanket it envelops me in it’s loving caress. I hesitate to get out of the bed. I feel the sheets with my palm and it’s damp; damp with blood. My blood. Thick, warm and sticky under my prodding fingers. I waddle out of the bed and drag myself sluggishly towards the bathroom; the broken tub inside it is half filled with water left over from the afternoon. That should do. I shout for a bucket of hot water to be fetched from downstairs. It costs me a few coins. That’s the cost of my new life after the break of dawn. A little girl in two long plaits brings in my hot water and pours it noisily into the tub. Water spills on the floor. I hear it splash and I stare at the ripples before putting my feet inside it, and slowly sinking in. The warmth bites into my flesh, the cigarette burn stings at the touch of hot water. But it’s nice. I close my eyes to absorb the heat with all my senses. It makes me feel alive. I breathe in the musty smell of hot water and blood while the steam rises up to meet the cloud of tobacco smoke left by the day’s visitors. The darkness is gradually dispersing, soft sunlight creeping in through the window shades. And finally, I am freefalling into the realm of sleep.
It’s been raining since three days incessantly. It poured heavily, throughout the whole night. Then as the dawn appeared, the sky slowly cleared. The dark clouds grew pale and lighter. Blown by the air, they scattered across the vast ocean of blue like flakes of cotton afloat.
And like tiny damp petals, it drizzled. Standing by the window, as he stretched his arms outside, he could feel the moist drops in the silent breeze caress him softly. So tender, almost lulling him to sleep.
At that very moment, he knew the joy of the green leaves that were now dancing in the wind. Wet and gleeful, glistening brightly. Their thirst had been quenched and their dust had been washed away. They seemed to be grinning toothlessly at him like little children at play.
You feel static, existing in a void. Some kind of a claustrophobic emptiness. So grey. Almost noiseless, like dry yellow leaves falling on soggy mud. Like snow. Little snowflakes descending silently on everything, the trees, the land, the roofs, the empty wooden benches in the park, the top of the street lamps. Enshrouding the whole landscape in a stillness. A thin layer of soft snow melting the sharp edges into white. Just white. You can almost touch it. Prod it with your fingers and feel it reduced to drops of water. To drops of nothingness on the tips of your cold numb fingers.
Like troops of soldiers, the dark deep clouds keep gathering in the sky silently. There was not a breeze blowing, not a single leaf on the branch moved. Everything was still, except the low voices of people speaking in soft whispers, expressing their anxiety. They stared at the grey sky outside and talked to each other with worried faces, pointing towards the clouds.
The train had stopped on its tracks, and the people had begun to feel restless. The voices rose, the gestures became more animated. Some birds flew away at random directions apparently lost just like the sun. The younger people were the most nervous. Already late for schools and colleges, they wondered if they would still make it in time. They remembered with remorse how they had refused to carry the umbrellas. The prospect of getting wet though exciting at other times, was a little daunting now.
And then it happened.
A few sparse drops at first, one two three falling hesitantly, like a light drizzle and then suddenly the leaves shook, the thunder roared, the wind blowed and the distant features were all merged into a big white mess of pouring rain and fog.
The speakers came alive and they announced something over the static on the microphone. Though barely comprehensible, the message over the speakers seemed to bring some relief to the passengers on board. Some of them started laughing at their own ridiculous predicament. Stranded in a train in the middle of nowhere, unknown to one another, people found companions and were assured by this.
We share this feeling within us. No matter where, or in what situation, we find ourselves hopeful even in the direst of circumstances if we have some other fellow humans around us. It is a thin thread that bonds us all to one another, known and unknown people related by an invisible source of common fate.
While the rain battled with the wind outside, the people waited patiently, some talking amongst themselves and others sitting quietly watching it. They waited together for the cycle of life to continue, for the train to start moving again.
Early morning when she picked up her bagpack and left the house, it was still dark outside. The wind had stopped blowing, every sound was holding its breath, waiting for the dawn to break. As she walked down the empty street, she felt like the only person awake in the whole sleeping neighbourhood.
On her way, she had to stop at a few places. Once to have some coffee and snacks, a little way up, she sat down at a roadside shop. She removed her bagpack and put it down beside her. Rubbing her stiff shoulders, she tried to ease the pain.
An old man with a jolly greeting offered her breakfast on a wooden tray. The coffee spilled a little as he placed the tray on the sloped table. She smiled and thanked him. Noticing the spilt coffee, she looked down and checked the legs of the table. Yes, one of it was slightly shorter than the rest. She smiled at its disbalanced gait and picking up the cup to her mouth, she took a sip. The hot liquid scorched the tip of her tongue but as it went down her throat, it warmed her from within and she felt quite happy.
She loved wandering alone. When she went out with her friends, it was as a part of that group. But when she was solivagant, she felt she was a part of the whole world inspite of being just herself.
You have flaws,
Some little things amiss,
Just a wee bit misfit;
In this world of clumsy people,
You are one more klutz.
Walking down the busy street
You are one more bobbing head,
Bustling through the afternoon traffic
Just another pair of legs,
In the sea of crowd
You are but a tiny drop.
In the infinite stretch of years passed
Your life is just a speck,
In the story of the planet
You are but one word, or even less.
You are, you.
Even if a little crooked,
With a few parts missing, here and there
Riddled with imperfections,
Tearing at the edges,
Maybe a wee bit misfit.
Inspite of that all,
You are, you.
And that’s all you need to be.