Tuesday, November 23, 2010


With now the rainy month stood close at hand,
To fresh Kutaja blooms he adds his plea
And asks most courteously the cloud bring news 
Of welfare to his loved-one — words that she, 
Revived to hear of him, will understand...”
She looked up from the pages of the book she was reading. It was titled ‘My Rain Song’, her first novel inspired much by the yearnings of Kalidasa’s Meghdootam. Her kohl-smudged eyes were intense with literary passion and her voice trembled at the chords her soul struck with each verse of the magical narrative. The late afternoon sun sieved its way through the branches and leaves of a tall tree and fell on her beautiful face, leaving little beads of glistening sweat on her forehead. In that mystical tone of light and shade, even in that modest setting, she looked like a poem, he thought. The realisation left a little tug at some of the forgotten emotions deeply buried in his heart. Time hasn’t really changed the way he felt by just looking at her...even if on a television screen from a distance.
He hated weekends like these when he was left alone to fend for himself. On other days, Shankar, his Man Friday since the years of his youth would clean the cars, water the garden, prepare lunch, and do all the household chores. But of late, Shankar had suddenly taken to spiritualism and left him all alone to attend a guru’s religious discourse in another part of the town. In other times, he would have assumed it was some woman or a C-grade X-rated film that kept him off the hook for a whole day, but like him, Shankar too was ageing and perhaps the likelihood of a metaphysical inclination was more than physical hunger, he rationalised.  
He looked at the watch, reached for the phone and dialled a number.  It was already quite late. The modest restaurant around the corner of the road, the only one in the neighbourhood, served good Chinese food. He ordered a plate of Hakka noodles and Chicken Manchurian. The boy who took the order said he knew the address. He had been delivering take-away parcels for many years.
Beautifully ambushed in a green canopy of tall trees and tucked amidst the dense floral abundance of scarlet-red clusters of the Forest Flame and white orchids, far far away from the pandemonium and speed of urban life was his softly- lit timeless little acre of landhe called it Heeya, the sanctuary of love, as she had wanted. It outlined and encapsulated the soul of the land on it which the colonial-styled house was built. On a little plaque, beside the wooden gate (she hated large iron doors) the name was inscribed and it shone under the light of a yellow lamp carved out of the bark of a tree. The dimly-lit garden lights created an interesting pattern on the dark foliage.
His was the last cottage on this boulevard separated from the national park by a stretch of empty land and a little feral brook. The red brick-walled porch overlooking the garden that rolled down to the forest had been converted into a warm and cozy sitting area, by strategically hanging glass lamps and placing potted palms in ceramic and terracotta basins. This is where he lazed on late winter afternoons such as today, on a huge bean bag sketching, taking a nap or simply observing the activities and movements of the plants and animals.
The delivery boy was not late. To satiate the overwhelming hunger, he slowly walked up to the porch with his plate and sat down. The dying sunlight was playing on the leaves of grass, teasingly hiding behind the swaying branches of the Forest Flames.  Evenings fell early in the forests and especially in the winters, the cold mist started to rise from the moist earth, looming like a mysterious dream over the landscape as soon as the sun went down.
His eyes fell on the odd- sized bean bag he had especially ordered for this space. “Why should bean bags be always single-seaters? Can’t two people share a moment of complete careless comfort together?” she had once asked.  Biting into the late lunch, he thought of her again. Perhaps if she were here, they would be cuddled up in a warm shawl, eating out of the same plate, watching the slow movements of nature, comprehending the language of the cricket appearing and then disappearing from the bracken ferns and wild rose shrubs. “When our minds are uncluttered, we seek for visions of our own lives by observing others,” she would have said.
They had met by chance at the local tea stall one summer afternoon just after the semester exams were over, when the campus was a little less crowded with enthusiastic freshmen and overwhelming senior students. She was alone, he had noticed; simply dressed in a pair of faded denims and a white cotton shirt, with very little make up and completely oblivious to the attention she commanded.  Sitting across an old bench opposite him, she had ordered a glass of tea and opened a book. She must have been a fresher on the campus, yet so much at ease with the surroundings as if she always belonged here. There was something about that selective indifference that attracted him.
Their eyes met when a few of his friends dropped by to exchange pleasantries with him breaking into the trance.  From his demeanour and especially that of his comrades, she could gauge he was popular. Probably, a student leader of sort, she thought and dismissed the idea of looking any further.
A few weeks later, he saw her again standing at the library porch, waiting for an untimely drizzle to stop. Her hands were full of thick hard bound books that she clutched close to her breasts, the long and curly auburn locks with droplets of rain stuck on them fell on her anxious face as she looked up at the thunderous clouds. 
When the rain didn’t stop for over an hour and both of them stood helplessly looking at the tempestuous sky, a casual conversation began.
“Doesn’t look like it will ever stop,” he said.
“I have been waiting for almost an hour now,” she replied with a smile and added, “had it not been for the books, I would have walked out in the rain.”
“I have a plastic bag here, if that can help,” he took out a sheet of polythene from a pile of art material he was carrying.
They walked a few blocks together, letting the rain wash away the hesitance of unfamiliarity and doubts, and began discovering each other, and from that started an era of love, friendship, comradeship and commitment. He could never see life beyond her.
Geographies, boundaries, relationships, emotions and expectations hadn’t remained the same. Yet, nothing had changed. He still felt her presence in his system, stronger than ever before. To distract his thoughts from the overpowering sense of loneliness, he decided to go out for a long drive.
The road to the town was not peculiarly empty, as was common on winter evenings, especially on weekends. He sped up, slicing through the cold breeze in his high powered jeep. Age has had little restrictions on his intrinsic bohemian nature. He still thought rage and a furious speed could stop the unwanted pain cringing in his heart. He was nearing the city outskirts, and traffic signals began to appear one after the other. As he pulled the brake at the junction, he looked around the growing suburban townships. He could somehow never connect to this new look and feel of his once-favourite city in the world. The peripheral small towns were reeking with self-proclaimed bouts of modernism, the me-too syndrome of mushrooming middle class mufassils,...all of which seemed to only conceal the city’s true identity and blended it with any another metro in the world. This was the primary reason he chose to find his Heeya about 40 kms away from the city din.          
05, 04, 03, 02, 01....the traffic light blinked and turned green. His wheels roared and he was just about to press the accelerator when a woman jumped out of a taxi parked on the road side tugging along a heavy trolley suitcase and landed right in front of his speeding jeep. He pulled the handbrakes as quickly and instinctively as he could and managed to halt just in the nick of time.
“Are you blind?” he screamed at her.
Completely shaken and horrified by a near to death experience with her fair face turned white, she managed to hold herself on her feet and looked up.
“Goodness Gracious! Is that how you drive?”
The voice was too familiar to be mistaken; even the overflowing sweetness hidden in the reprimand was way too known. He jumped out of the jeep.
Yes, those large floating eyes with the kohl slightly smudged—the ones that glistened during sunshine and made the imperfect crow’s feet look like a childish error by the divine craftsman, the ones that gleamed when she smiled and lit up his world.
“Hop in, let me give you a life,” he took the suitcase from her and opened the jeep’s door.
“You were killing me a moment ago. Thank you, I’ll take another taxi home.”
“Trust me, I’ll drop you there faster than any other mode of transport. And you won’t find too many taxis plying from here to where you need to go. Why did you leave that one?”
“He had a problem with some driving permission. Not allowed to go beyond the city area or something to that effect,” she replied, settling on the co-driver’s seat.
He rolled up his sleeves, and started the engine. “I saw you on television, looking wise and reading out excerpts from My Rain Song.”
“Thanks, I am flattered,” she smiled.
“Do you want something to drink..ah, if you have time for coffee, maybe?”
“No, thanks.  I want to go home. I am tired.” He sensed reluctance in her voice.
“Sure, no worries,” he said and sped up.  
There was a nip in the air as they drove through the dark empty highway only intermittently lit by halogen lamps. He turned on his favourite “Buddha Bar” on the car stereo and she looked away at the distant trees flying past them.   
“Stop there on the left, you nearly missed the turn. That’s where I stay if you remember.”
“Me too,” he said sheepishly, a little embarrassed at having being inattentive and missed the turn.
He parked the jeep and opened the door for her, pulling down the trolley suitcase from the rear seat.
“Aren’t you coming home?” she looked at him, surprised.
“If you don’t scold me anymore. I am sorry...” he said biting his nails.
“Stop that,” she snapped and broke into a smile immediately. “You can get away with murder with me,” she said looking straight into his eyes.
“Then what is making you stop here in the middle of the road, Mrs Stubborn Blockhead?”
“You, Mr Stubborn Blockhead. Open the door. I left without the keys....”
“Trust you, and I couldn’t find mine since you left home that night...”
“What do you mean? Where’s Shankar? You left home for a drive without locking the door?
“No I found them later under the window pane. “
“What crap! But the door is locked. Now where are the keys?”
“I gave them to you.”
“Liar..when did that happen?”
“Sorry...no! Oh shit, I left them in the jeep and locked the door with the keys inside.”
“Trust you....grrrrrrr. Now help me jump over the gate and wait at the porch for dearest Shankar to return from his spiritual actualisation session. ” 
The night was windy and as they stopped at the patio door, the Japanese glass bell swaying over their heads chimed in a rather discordant but sweet jingle. The argument continued, the abuses and accusations followed only to be wrapped up by an overflowing spirit of forgiveness and love, as the two found their place in the odd-shaped bean bag—perhaps the only one in the world that wasn’t created to be a single-seater. It housed their carefree comfort of being imperfect, yet together.


  1. 'It housed their carefree comfort of being imperfect, yet together'...love the lines. True, home is where the heart is , where the heart is free to be itself, where we do not have to be perfect.....

  2. beautiful ... you must have loved intensely and fruitfully to have created such touching melodies .....