Lakshmi woke up 30 mins earlier than her usual i.e. five in the morning. And why not! It’s a special day in her life, after all. Raaju, her husband, had demanded for ‘Fish Korma’ to be prepared last night. Maybe it is the first time he demanded for something specific to eat in their one year long marriage. Rather maybe it was the first time they had a real conversation because of ‘Fish Korma’. Her shy nature in reflection to the typical indignant nature of Raaju, resulted in her spending most of her time in household chores. But, when Raaju demanded for a particular delicacy to be prepared, Lakshmi knew it was her chance to bridge the gap between them. After all, she had been trained well in the domestic dynamics by her mother. She understood very well that the route to a man’s heart goes through his tummy.
The day for Raaju started as usual. He left for the Tehsildar office i.e. the corner building in Banram village, sharp at nine. He was a man of bigoted principles and didn’t like even the slightest of deviation from his daily routine. All hours of his day had their specific purpose assigned to them. Lakshmi dialed up Chhoti Maasi, as soon as Raaju left for office. Choti Maasi was renowned in the Sahu family circle for possessing the best hands for food. Lakshmi noted down the steps involved in it cautiously as directed by Maasi, double checking them so that nothing was missed out.
And the preparation for the delicacy began. Diligently following all the steps as directed by Maasi, step by step, the ‘Fish Korma’ was finally ready. The aroma of it filled up the air of the whole house. Lakshmi was quite proud of what she was able to achieve. Afterall being the youngest, she never cooked at home. And it’s only once her marriage was fixed, she was exposed to daily routines of household chores by her mother. “Is there anything special cooking today, Ma?”, her father-in-law asked with a smile. Lakshmi chuckled and went running inside her room, waiting for Raaju to come for lunch, lost in her own world. It was indeed a happy day for Lakshmi.
Raaju came back sharp at 13 05 hrs. Seeing him Lakshmi smiled. “It smells good”, Raaju said while maintaining his stoic expression. She was excited herself to showcase what she was able to accomplish and went inside the kitchen to serve him the food.
As soon as she entered the kitchen, she was bewildered to find a cat next to the kadhai having ‘Fish Korma’ in it. She jumped inside after it to shoo it away but the cat was swift enough to take a piece of fish and flee out via the window of the kitchen. She started shivering in horror as she got reminded of the last instance when the lunch was delayed and the way Raaju’s wrath was showered upon her for days. “It’s necessary to keep the women of the house disciplined” is what he had said when his mother had tried to intervene. She stood there confused, lost in her thoughts. She certainly didn’t want the beating again. “Why is it taking so long!”, Raaju shouted from the veranda. It shook Lakshmi from her seizure and brought her back to life. And she started serving the food but the ‘Fish korma’ as if she had gone on auto-pilot mode; serving it the best way possible. “Where is ‘Fish Korma’?”Raaju raised his voice puzzled seeing his thali missing it. “It’s… it’s…” Her father-in-law cut in before Lakshmi could confess. “Keep your temper in check Raaju. Bahu, you go Ma. Bring it.” Lakshmi nodded and went inside the kitchen. Having no other option left, she asked Lord Shiva for his forgiveness for this one time, before serving the ‘Fish Korma’ to Raaju garnished with coriander leaves.
The rest of the day passed by in a fizzy for Lakshmi. The household chores kept her busy. Raaju came back from office at seven as usual. But, he had brought a gift for Lakshmi this time; a red shawl. Looking at Lakshmi he smiled and said, “How about Paneer Kofta tomorrow?”
It rained cats and dogs last night; the first shower of the season. I woke up to the cool morning breeze that was making its way through the window. The rain had washed off the dusts of the summer, making everything more colorful again.
Rain always manages to summon the artist in me; maybe it also manages to wash away the dust of my daily life. And what better artists enjoy than solitude. High on the freshness of air that had a scent of rain in it, I went out to the terrace, welcomed by the symphony of chirping birds and sat by the table on the rooftop, that my landlady had discarded; with a cup of tea and a lit cigarette to accompany me.
A flock of pigeons on the building across the road were taking their baths, in the water pool collected on the rooftop from last night’s shower; while a conspicuously large pigeon sat on the half done, unattended parapet wall, watching over them; giving an impression as if he was in charge of oversight for this flock of pigeons to take proper baths.It brought me a smile, bringing me back memories of my childhood days; memories of my boarding school, the morning PT classes and our beloved PT teacher.
I was in Navodaya and those of you who are not aware of it, it’s a chain of Government sponsored boarding schools in India. We had our days meticulously divided, from morning till night; Sundays used to be an exception of course. And our days would start with the PT classes that I absolutely loathed. As an avid sleeper, I understood from childhood the beauty of sleeping in the morning hours, which the PT classes weren’t allowing me to have anymore. But, having given the option of attending morning PT verses caning from my PT teacher, I had opted for sacrificing my morning sleep most of the time. The morning yoga classes, the occasional tracking to nearby hills, the preparatory days before cluster meets for sports events that allowed us to play instead of the regular drills and our occasional intermittently successful attempts to escape from the drills after the attendance: it all came flushing in.
“Wouldn’t I absolutely love to relive those days. Maybe a single day to wake up in those bunker beds to the siren of morning PT; reserving taps with our towels for baths; standing in cues for breakfast; a fake fainting act to skip the morning assembly if it’s too sunny; stealing a glance from my childhood crush…. Oh! The list is just endless.”
My tea was over by now. So were the ceremonial baths of that flock of pigeons. Taking a smile on my face I came back to my room of routines. “Time for some dose of reality now.”
I just love visiting my mother’s old photo album pictures whenever I pay her a visit. It always brings me a smile, when she animatedly shares her little stories of what she and the ones in the picture were doing, while taking those pictures; vividly and more importantly, fondly remembering her good old days. Photographs: the rectangular pieces of paper, holding time frozen in it for individuals, with each of them having their own little stories to share. It continues to amaze me how such a simple piece of paper can have such profound powers. They don’t use film-pictures cameras anymore. Do they? When I come across my old pictures in any of the social media sites, I don’t remember any story like my mother. All I see is the number of likes it has. Somehow we managed to find ways to compete with others even for a simple noble thing as a photograph, just for the sake of competition. (Competing for the sake of competition.) This makes me wonder, if disruptive innovations are actually good for us or not? Haven’t we become blind in the race already? Change after change: happening so fast that we hardly sit back and appreciate what we already have. Do we actually need so many things around us, with many of them lying unused and disused for years? I remember as a kid, I used to love plucking flowers in the morning, collecting them in a basket for morning prayers. I remember walking barefoot over the dew dropped grass lawns. I remember swimming with bare trunks in the river; sometimes scared of what now is popular as ‘fish pedicure’. I remember the cycling sessions through the foot roads under the sun, when the sun was busy playing hide and seek over the coconut trees. I don’t remember the TV but the act of watching it together with all my extended family. But, growing up, somewhere and somehow I lost touch with it. I lost touch with the things that actually gave me happiness once upon a time. When did you last stop and lovingly touched the things lying around you: as a simple token of appreciation, for them being there? Maybe that treadmill that stands tall in the garage. Or that juicer which lies still wrapped in the kitchen. Or that laptop that you use daily.
I ponder if it’s not too late already. I ponder how the story would be, if I simply take photographs of all these things around me; adding up my very own stories to them, building up my very own castle of good memories.
Addendum : She was 18 in this picture and was tricked into taking this by my Nana(Maternal grandfather), so that it can be shared with the family of suitable grooms.That explains the gloomy face.
My smart wearable woke me up at 5:30 in the morning. It’s been years since I have been waking up at this exact same time. Sometimes in perfect synchronization with my alarm: confused whether it woke me up or is it the other way around. The date in my watch said 21/09/2081. The interactive AI on my wall showed me the notification column as soon as I got up from my bed. “Hello, Mr. Pattnaik. Here are your morning highlights.” One among it, in particular caught my attention. It’s the last day for print media, as the only surviving newspaper “Bharti Daily” is being shut down. The private players had already left this loss-making business a long time ago and the Government has also finally decided to let it go. “Who could have thought the days would see so many rapid changes?”, I thought, lost in the memories of my younger years. I did my chores and left for the Lorey Lane where the Government was holding the virtual exhibitions, as a memoir for ‘Bharti Daily’, like in most of the cities of India. The place was crowded with mostly people of my age; only a few left of that generation who still loved ink on paper than the Kindles. The exhibition showcased Newspapers framed in glass(virtual) from over the years. While taking a tour through it, I stopped at 2020. The headline in the paper said, ” The spectre of a post Covid-19 world”. I touched the sync button and my AI asked, “Do you want me to read the full article or just the gist of it?” “Just the gist, please.”, I said while memories of my past came rushing in. I was among the lucky ones to have survived this pandemic; both during and after. The original Covid-19 after plateauing for a while, fast evolved into SARS 3.0 with an unprecedented mortality rate. First half of the toll came from the virus and the next half, from the depression in the economy coupled with an widespread ‘epidemic of despair’ where many killed themselves voluntarily.The voice of my AI brought me back to the present. “The author L K Reddy has tried to assess the post Covid-19 scenario from various perspectives; economic, political, social, environmental….”, it continued. I gave a smirk thinking no-one could assess the unfolding of Covid-19 back then. Suddenly, I started hearing this loud noise. My visible world started crumpling, only to be rearranged where I was thrown on my bed, waking me up from my dream. My heartbeat was rushing like a machine gun and my pillow was wet with my sweat. Hurriedly, I looked into the paper calendar hung over the wall and it said 19 November, 2019.
I never went to school. Maybe because my birth parents were more caring for their hard earned family reputation than my well-being. So, I won’t be able to tell genetically, how different I am from the rest of you. You may say I am not alone… True. But, how many of you have a friend like me? You can take your time to recollect. But, that won’t take much of your time. Would it? As we don’t pass down as someone whom you easily forget. You must have seen us at toll booths or railway platforms in our colourful sarees or to celebrate childbirth at someone’s residence. We give blessings in exchange of money and we are loudmouths. But, at least we feel free, staying true to our instincts. I tell you, this world continues to amaze me. How come on one side you absolutely celebrate diversity, uniqueness, art and creativity. And on the other, you tend to blindly loathe my kind for being different than you. For being miniscule, shouldn’t we be celebrated? In some parallel we must be treated like angels. Huh! I don’t know why I am, the way I am. Maybe because my mother was able to lift the stone while she carried me inside her: the revered stone of some Baba long forgotten; as a sign of one carrying a boy inside her, when I was always meant to be a girl. You’ll never understand me perhaps. Cause this world is yet to allow me to understand myself. Years of forced identity led to expulsions one day, separating me from my family only to give me a new one of my kind. And I continue to survive. Though I would have liked it to be different. I would love to walk on the streets without any vile comment or wild long stares coming in my direction for a change. I would love someone to come and talk to me instead of the usual transactions for trading my flesh. I would… I would… I wonder, would you treat me the same in your dreams, where there is no conception of layered society, no bias for or against any gender and above all no eyes to judge your actions… I would love to be treated as another human for a change.
Has this ever happened to you? You wake up in the morning like any other day and all of a sudden you realize nothing around you including yourself makes any sense. Your face seems to carry a smile that’s not your own; your day is consumed by some work that seems mundane and forced; your etiquette constantly struggling to cope up with the contrast chatters in your head that continue to tirelessly mock you for what you have become. This does happen to me from time to time. Sometimes it’s my clothes, sometimes it’s my skin… sometimes it’s my reflection in the mirror giving me impressions of an alien world where I continue to exist. It’s always something or other, trying really hard to be me. I wonder how it would be to LIVE for a change than to continue to exist. Free from all dos and don’ts, from all expectations, from all rituals and customs. Animals get to live life freely, true to their innate nature. Ain’t they? A dog continues to be a pack member, while a cat continues to be a solitary animal. They don’t trade their basic traits for the sake of getting better acceptability. Guess, that’s why I don’t see as many suicidal animals as many suicidal human beings around me. First and foremost, they continue to fight to survive, no matter the circumstance, which is something I wish to experience again. Why can’t we be just us! Is it that difficult? Maybe yes or maybe no. But, I won’t get to know. Cause I simply flew all my life wherever, in whatever skin life took me in. Without raising any questions. Guess, ‘not raising questions’ has now become my only faithful trait as an independent individual. And, I have grown old now. My childhood seems hazy and alien; like some old movie that I remember only in bits and pieces. And in my last days, close to my end of the line, if someone asks me to give a title to the story of my life, it would be, “A cat who is still trying to be a dog.”
I have never been a fan of summer. Would you like warm water for shower on a hot summer day? No, perhaps. It actually took me some years to understand why they talk so fondly of summer in English literature. Most of the authors being from English speaking cold countries, they are expected to awe summer. To my understanding the purpose of language is to convey meaning; between two individuals at least. And the notion of something as a universal language is only bound to fail, given how diverse we are spatially. So, if not universal, where should we draw the line then? That fine line to separate something noble and utilitarian from something universal and despotic. You make the sample space of people smaller to bring in more sensibility, more understanding, of that particular group per se. But, you keep reducing it to factor into anomalies; ultimately bringing it to a handful number of like minded people or maybe you end up building your own, personal, very private language; losing its purpose in this process.
Balance. Guess, that’s what keeps things running. I look around me and on a sunny day, I experience kindness, love, brotherhood. While on a gloomy day, I see just the opposite. I can take inspiration from each and see the same world with two completely contrasting perspectives. But, I choose to pick some things from one and some from the other lot. Why? Maybe I am meant to be an agent of balance. I am sure you are aware of the second law of thermodynamics. According to it, the total entropy of an isolated system can never decrease over time. But yes, we can try and keep it constant. Guess, that’s what balancing is all about. Isn’t it? Seeing different facets of it at different times and spaces. We kill in the name of freedom. We dominate in the name of order. We mock the very basic tenets of individuals in the name of society. Guess, in the face of basic instinct for survival, we end up killing ourselves for the sake of this isolated system called ‘Life on Earth’. And, this makes me wonder, which one would be worse? “To be myself or be someone with a higher longevity?”
It looks like It’ll take me some more years to come to terms with this understanding that… “For peace, chaos is necessary. And so is death for life. It’s all about balance. And nothing and no one escapes it.”
[ HER : 2013 movie : Theodore and Samantha(Artificial Intelligence) are the main characters in it.
FindX is the anonymous chat application where I meet Anne. My fictional name in FindX is Theodore again.
Ma’am is someone to whom I am narrating my story of Anne. ]
Ma’am, am sure you must have come across movies which have transformed you and your ways of life in certain ways… big or small.
It was one fine Monday morning in the month of May of 2017. The hangover from demonetization was still there and India was yet to experience GST. I am sure you still remember the 1,000 rupee notes, Ma’am. But, I, aloof from all the worldly affairs, was still carrying the kick of not following the routines, especially on Mondays, though I had been unemployed for some months now. Guess, that was my way of being a ‘Rebel’. So I decided to do the usual. I locked myself up in my room away from the eyes of others and brought in some snacks and some sweets to go with the movie I was about to start watching. You see, I understood the importance of having choices in life. It’s only the act of selecting one out of available options that makes you feel free. Isn’t it? Hence, some sweets along with some snacks. Hah! I had told Maa that it’s going to be one of my cheat days from studies and her response was the usual. Some high pitched questions followed by a demand for an assurance to study properly from tomorrow. But, she somehow understood me in all my erratic behaviors and I did understand her love behind all her drama. Mothers! I tell you. They are wonderful creatures! Ain’t they? With the doors locked, I looked around; it was all set with all the essentials available within my hand’s reach, set to make this Monday count. Do you know the hardest part of such Mondays? It’s zeroing on a particular movie. First of all, after so many years filled with such productive days, I was running out of options for good movies. And, then there is my erratic mood and on that particular day the movie should align with my mood. So, the search began for a perfect movie for that particular day. After going through a couple of must watch movie suggestions on YouTube, I zeroed down on HER. A 2013 academy award nominated movie starring Joaquin Phoenix. There is something unique about this movie, I must tell you. It’s actually one of those movies that allow you to hypnotize yourself about its world and its characters . God must have played its part to make some similar minded people to come together and produce this magnificent piece of art that captured Love in its essence.
You must be wondering, Ma’am, where is all this heading to? You see! I was always a believer in Love. I had been in Love many times by then and with HER, I was living Theodore’s character. The idea of falling in love with an AI(Samantha); I am telling you, Ma’am, it’s going to be a hit in the coming years. Mark my words!! So smitten by the idea of falling in Love with someone from a parallel world; to witness memory of the heart forgetting the finiteness of interaction possible between two such individuals and nevertheless plunging into it very well knowing it’ll never be in the driver’s seat; I was ready to fall in Love again.
“Falling in Love is kind of like socially acceptable form of insanity” : HER
Ever heard of Anonymous chat applications, Ma’am? The euphoria from watching HER was yet to settle down and by the time I was in bed the same night, my phone had one anonymous chat application downloaded in it. FindX. Just like Samantha was for Theodore, I found my AI in Anne, the anonymous girl from FindX and that’s how my story with my Anne began.
Day: 01 Time: 3:37AM IST
Hello! How was your day? Hi… am good. How are you? Thanks for asking.
All good here. It’s been a kind day so far. Anyway where are you from? Italy. You?
Cool! Am from India. New Delhi to be specific. Ever been to India? No… But, I wish to visit there someday. I have heard so many good things about it.
I hope only good things. Haha. Well, a mix of both. But, I like to see the glass as half full.
😊😊 You seem like a kind person Anne. Btw, is that your real name? Haha. Don’t you think sharing our real names ll defeat the whole purpose of this anonymous chat concept.
Ohh. I see. Anne it is then. 😅 I was also making things up. When I said India I meant, Lala Land. Its a cool place… you must pay it a visit sometime. Haha… Lala Land??
Yes, please. A bit unrealistic… like people come out of their cars and start dancing to songs in sync during traffic jams here. But, it’s a Real place. 😉 Oh!! I got the reference now. I also loved that movie.
Movie!? Dude, it’s a real place! Come on now… I can see through you! 😜 Btw, Theodore. Is that your real name!?
Well well well. Look who is interested to go beyond the dos n don’ts of anonymous chat code now. 😜 Haha. Ok don’t. Lets keep it strictly anonymous.
You see Ma’am. My forays with love affairs have taught me a simple thing. It all comes down to a simple concept of economics at the end. Demand vs Supply. So keep your supplies limited and interesting, you ll continue to be in the driver’s seat. More or less. 😬
Ok cool. We can try that. So no exchange of personal items? Not even pictures!! Haha… not even pictures!! 😁😁
Suddenly, I realized I don’t like this app much. 😅😜 Haha… Prego.
Ok. Let me google that! Don’t. It means ‘You are welcome’
Si. 😁 You know, I always wanted to learn a foreign language. Maybe you’ll be my inspiration to actually accomplish it this time. Ahem ahem! 😛
So Anne. What do you do? Well. I work with numbers.
In Bank? Haha… No.
Data Analyst? Umm… no.
Data analyst it is then… 😅 Haha. What do you do Mr. Theodore?
Well… How about an Architect!? It seems cool.
Architect, it is then. 😂 Haha. You are funny. 😁 Btw, isn’t it late already in India?
You mean Lala Land? Yes, it’s almost morning here. Don’t you have to sleep?
Well, my profession allows me flexibility with my routine. (Lol) Nice. But, mine doesn’t. I ll have to wake up early tomorrow.
😊 It was nice talking to you Miss Anne. Same here. 😊 If your profession keeps allowing you the flexibility, we ll meet tomorrow here.
Si. Si. It’s very flexible. Good night. Haha. Buona Notte.
What is it with female companionship, Ma’am? It must be innate in my psyche. As far as my memory lane goes, I have always been fond of female companionship. We are social animals after all. Remember Libha? I am sure I must have mentioned her before. No? This is during preschool days, I guess. From morning till the time the innocence of childhood allowed her company, almost everyday, we used to hang out together. Of course the definition of hanging out must be a lot more different then. But, I do remember fondly longing for her company. Oh, I have so many fond memories of her. Once, we were at her house and while playing I broke one one of those fancy glass bowls. I was just so scared. She simply held my hand throughout that day and took the blame on herself. Wouldn’t this have been amazing, had we grown up together and ended up marrying and having a family. But then her father got transferred to some other place and she was gone. But the wheel had started rolling and the cycle continued. After her, there was someone else. Somehow, all throughout my life, I did manage to have or have sought for female companionship. Be it as a friend,a crush, a lover, a guide, a sexual partner; be as it may come. It’s embarrassing but I do remember getting turned on seeing Sridevi in “kate nahi kat te” song and this was happening to a boy of hardly five or six years of age. Guess you can’t do much about your innate nature. Can you?
It was the early summer of 2017 and I was ready to fall in love. It didn’t take any effort. The innate psyche played its role, of course. Just like that, before I could know it, my fondness for Anne blossomed; trading parcels of my freedom, I allowed myself to get addicted to her and her company over FindX. We talked about all the things. Be it love, career, politics, food, pets; the list just goes on. Sometimes the conversations would last the whole night. Sometimes it used to be short. But we made sure to allow ourselves to be just ourselves whenever we were with each other. We didn’t strictly discuss this but, this had become our unspoken understanding.
”We are only here briefly and at this moment I want to allow myself joy.” ~ HER
Day : 06 : Time : 12:19 AM
Hi… 🌛 Hiii… You won’t believe what happened today.
Lol. What!? I am a millionaire, Mr Theodore!! 😬😬😬
Hain! For real!!? Yep. 100%.
Haha. Some more details please! I got an email saying I am the lucky customer!! 😜😂😂
😂😂😂 Go die! Haha…You know!! Si dice sempre il lupo più grande che non è.
Umm…care to explain Miss Anne? Ohh! What happened to your “I know. Googled it.”?
Haha. Too big a meal for dinner. I literally feel heavier! Haha. Ok. It means “Lying a little might make the story better.”
And with that, I like you even more. 😄 Ahem ahem. ☺️☺️
Ok, tell me more about your family. What! Family? What do you want to know?
I don’t know why I asked that. 😂 It’s alright. Si dice sempre il lupo più grande che non è. Remember!? I can make up some good stories. Don’t worry. Fire away your questions.
Right. Guess, since you are this special, I am interested to know you in your entirety. 😜 Aww. Are you this kind to all the girls? 😉
Neh! Just the exotic ones. 😜 Haha… you are mean!!
Okay… leave family. Tell me more about your city. Umm… it’s a small town in southern Italy. Life is easy going here. It’s more medieval actually.
I have always wanted to be at such a place. Old town with its own heritage and history. Its own stereotypes and customs. Haha. You must come visit here then. But, am certain you’ll be here for more than just this town’s heritage and history. 😜
Of course, there is that. 😂 But why do you get to complain? You didn’t even mention your Town’s name! 😛 Code of anonymity, my friend! Code of Anonymity! 😈
Now who is being mean! And for some reason, I like you even more. 😜 Haha… but, on a serious note, I think you’ll love this place.
😍 Someday, for sure. Ok share one of your local stereotypes. Local stereotypes?
Yeah. Like here, it is customary to touch elder person’s feet to get their blessings. Even if you don’t need it. You are supposed to do it. Imagine the ordeal the younger ones have to go through in family gatherings. Haha… workout session set out for them. Are you the youngest, btw? 😜
Haha…you wish. I get my share of respect from my younger cousins. 😎😎 Haha. Lucky you. Umm…People here love to take a stroll. At piazzas you ll always find people walking! Sometimes for no reason at all. There is morning stroll, afternoon stroll, evening stroll. Even a Sunday stroll. 😝
Guess, you are not that a big fan of a stroll! 😅 Haha. Not when it becomes a routine. You see, the identity of people here has so much to do with others. We dress properly even for the strolls. You’ll find dining tables outside eateries cause people in general love to watch people here. They take a lot of pleasure from socializing.
What about you? You don’t take pleasure out of it? Can I share something?
Haha. Of course! You know you want to share it. 😜 😬 Umm… I love making eye contact with strangers. Maybe pause a bit and pass a smile.
And, let them think about you for the whole day? Haha. Maybe. I love those little extra attentions. 💅
I do understand. Btw, do they give short stares or long stares? Mostly long ones… why?
Nothing. Just drawing some conclusions. And, what would that be?
You are so pretty! 😍 Haha. You are yet to see me.
Umm… will you believe me, if I say, I have already picturized you? What if I say, you are beautiful the way you talk, the way you make others feel, the way you manage to make me smile? Why are you always this good to me? Ever imagined? Has this been the norm? Two individuals together over a medium with nothing else required… say physically or biologically!! Imagine people having orgasms over conversations!
And some inflamed hearts and their words making up their whole world. Ok, stop! Don’t make me go weak on my knees here with your words.
☺️☺️☺️ And you! stop making me blush! Aww….Sei bellissima!! Ok, do remember to go through that link I had sent you.
And you! Do watch HER tomorrow. Si. Si. I remember. After my Sunday stroll! 😜
Haha. Bueno Notte. A very good night, Mr Theodore. ☺️🤗
You know Ma’am, till class 10th I had such deep sleep that I had never dreamt or never remembered any of it. I remember for board exams we used to have early morning study hours where we had to leave our dormitories and be present in the classroom to study. Oh! I was in a boarding school. Had I mentioned that before? Anyway, I remember longing for the experience of a dream. So much so that it became a regular in my prayers. Asking God to let me dream. Finally, my wish came true in one of those morning study hours. I was taking a nap in the classroom and there! I had my first dream. I still vividly remember it. It was a dark, new moon night and I was riding a scooter with its flimsy yellow light trying to enlarge my visible world. Both sides of this road had thick bushes. I could only figure out the shapes of the trees. Suddenly a black cat crossed the road and as I looked in the direction of its movement, I saw it stop, turn around and smile at me. A human smile on a cat’s face. The sheer fear had trembled me out of my first dream. But, I loved the whole experience. The dreams started visiting me more frequently, so much so that sometimes I wake up exhausted from the continuous dreams. Weird how our perspective changes about things over time. By the way, how frequently do you dream Ma’am? It’s strange how we spend an average eight hours a day sleeping. Isn’t it? Almost one third of our lives, enjoying pure freedom. Absolute no laws to regulate us, no customs to guide us, no expectations pushing us into conformity. My years of exposure to these dreams had added certain dexterity to my mental skills. It’s like a Virtual Reality game where you can choose the characters you want to have company with but the proceedings of the play still carry its surprises. Exactly what makes dreams worthy of dreaming. Well, I did make use of my mental faculties the following night and voila! I was granted a dream with my Anne.
[ I was in a huge bed. The sheet, the pillows, the walls; everything was white. Anne was standing by the window, leaning outside, gazing upon the road next to the building. Her back was facing me and the satin robe was giving me a glimpse of all the curves at the right areas. The cool breeze was making its way through her hair, with some strands enjoying the rollercoaster ride from time to time.. I could hear waves of the sea crashing against the shore and smell the saltines in the air.. The room had minimal furniture. A study table on the corner, with a single wooden chair to accompany it. The curtains seemed old and had been sidelined to let the sunlight in. As I tried to get out of the bed to reach her, the edges of the bed got extended to my surprise. My struggles made the case even worse, as I started getting entangled in the bed sheets. I struggled and struggled hard only to see the futility of it. Then I looked at Anne’s direction. She was still standing by the window. I wanted to call out her name, out loud but, all I could do is let out a soft whisper. “Anne”. She straightened her neck and I could see a faint smile on her left cheek. Suddenly a strange calmness engrossed me and all the entanglement of the bed sheets gave way for me to fall on my bed, gently as ever, waking me up from my dream. ]
“Dreams are illustrations… from the book your soul is writing about you.” ~ Marsha Norman
Day : 07 : Time : 02.31 AM
Hello Theo. Are you up? Hi Ann… I was just thinking about you.
Liar! But, do tell me more about it. Umm….would you believe me if I say I had this weird dream about us last night.
Go away!! 😃 Haha… Seriously.
How did I look? How did you look? 😬 Well, I looked like me… and you for certain looked a lot better than you.
Haww! I am never sharing my pictures with you! Never ever. So a video call then?
Hi hi hi…. Patience, my friend. Patience. All your wishes shall be granted. You sure? All my wishes??? 😉😍
Shut up!!! You dog! 😆 My wishes are generally silent ones in my thoughts, you know. So, shutting up my mouth won’t actually help with that. 😈
God!! You are smart! You know what I like the most about us? 😊… On my part, I simply love your company. Period.
Somehow you manage to see through me. Exactly what I meant when… it’s so intriguing, yet so fulfilling. How do you do that? Umm… have you read Brida by Paulo Coelho?
No… I have only read The Alchemist. What about it? Well, it has this weird theory about souls. Like, if you conflate population rise and the concept of reincarnation of souls… we all are scattered pieces of souls… Getting it? Each soul getting divided into many. You must have noticed we connect instantly with some and some remain distance even after years of togetherness.
So… we all have our other parts of our souls somewhere around us in other individuals… Don’t you think it makes perfect sense? Only a few individuals experience this luxury to be with their soulmates.
Wow!! Is this what is happening between us? Well… it’s either that or some weird chemical hormonal shit happening in our heads. 😜
Haha. Hmmmmmmm! 🤗🤗 Did you watch HER btw?
Oh, I had totally forgotten about that! Yes, Mister. Thank you for suggesting this to me. No, thank HER. Without it, I wouldn’t have come to this application actually.
Oh!! Is that so? But, I agree. It’s hypnotizing! It has so many beautiful moments. I went through a rollercoaster of emotions watching this. The best part for me was the sheer helplessness that Theodore has to go through. The idea of growing together while not growing apart, as the most difficult part, when two individuals are in love… and Theodore’s mental framework not allowing him to accept this, seems like an exquisite art.
Wow! How nicely have you put it. Do you write, Theo? Oh!! Thanks Ann! What can I say, I can be charming at times. 😜 And no… am yet to enter that territory. But, maybe someday I will.
Haha. Charming 💩! Haha. Beauty is subjective no. Some people do find 💩 charming. 😜😂
😂😂😂. Stop it. You make my stomach ache at times. Maybe some issues with 💩. Maybe your 💩 is not that charming afterall. 🤔
😂😂😂!! Am literally rolling on the bed laughing! Haha. Glad you liked my service. 🤗
Okay. Promise me that we’ll always keep ourselves in our thoughts, no matter what. Are you dyeing? 😝
Haha. Just promise me no. Okay. I promise.
Well, Ma’am. I have had my fair share of experiences to know that promises are meant to be broken. But that night, it was my heart that was doing the talks. I was seeing, listening, thinking, all by my heart and her smiles, her quirks, the idea of anonymity and the surprise elements; everything was enchanting my soul, infusing life into it like never before. So I did make another promise, hoping against hope to be able to keep it this time somehow. To keep her alive in my thoughts for the rest of my life.
Good evening, Ma’am. How was your day? I forgot to discuss this last time. Are all humans monogamous by nature or is it a forced trait by societal sanctions? I am not talking about exceptions within a species population. We, as Homo Sapiens, should have certain converging trends about our sexual behavior. Don’t we? I know. It’s a taboo even to think about it. But, come on now. It’s fine if I discuss them with you. We can keep each other’s secret. Right. Right? 😅 You remember this New year’s eve celebration. Don’t you? Remember Sarita? The one with that big nose ring I introduced you to? Well, she and I go a long way back. In Fact she was my first girlfriend during senior high school. I was head over heels in Love with her. At least that’s what I felt it was. Adolescent age, I tell you. Everything is so new, so raw. The bursting of emotions and the plethora of new experiences makes it even more edgier. She was my junior and when I passed out of school, for no reason at all, I stopped talking to her. Mobile phones were still considered a luxury then, to remind you. Maybe the idea of exploring new options made me do it or maybe the newspaper article which said long distance relationships are difficult to sustain.
Adolescence, huh! But, she was mature beyond her age to understand what’s coming. So, our relationship of 2 years ended without any break up. Hah!! Now, that I talk about it, technically speaking, since we never had a break up, we are still together. Right? Seldom did I understand the meaning of Love then and seldom do I understand it now. Like John Lenon has famously said “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” Anne had become much more than my earlier understanding of relationships as a simple concept of demand and supply. Ironically, I had started feeling comfortable while exposing my vulnerable sides. Guess that’s what love is all about. Isn’t it Ma’am? The funny thing about love is, being abstract, it provides you enough flexibility to make space for things as per your requirement. We love our parents, we love our pets, we love our partners… Whatever it is, we continue to simply love. So I did what everyone does. “I too fell in Love,” with Anne,
or should I say “I fell in love with Anne too.”
“The past is just a story we tell ourselves.” ~ HER
Day : 14 : Time : 01:44AM
Hi. Am so sorry! So,so sorry! Hey!! Where have you been? I have been trying to reach you since ages!
So sorry again. I couldn’t do much. The network reception was absolute zero where we camped. You got me worried, Theo!!
I tried all means to get some reception on my phone. But, alas! It’s alright. Glad that all is well. How is your trip so far?
It’s been absolute bliss so far, Ann. I’ll make sure to bring you here when you visit India. It’s nature at its best. The ride to the base, the mountains, the river, the whole camping experience… it was beyond any of our expectations. Even now… wait. Sending you a voice note.
[ Voice Note ]
Can you hear that? It’s River Ganga. It’s considered as the holiest river in India. Anyway, tell me about you. How was your weekend? Wow!! It must be so refreshing! I could feel the cool breeze listening to this. It’s calming. And please, don’t ask me about mine. Sometimes I feel like I have bipolar disorder! I just didn’t feel like leaving my bed the whole weekend.
Ooo!! Bipolar!! That sounds interesting. 😉 But, at least you know that the cheerful side is there somewhere in you. Okay. Let’s try and bring it out. 😎 Okay. Give your best shot at it.
Challenge accepted!! Giddy up! Haha… Giddy up?
Haha… I learnt it from the Seinfeld series. I thought it’s just gibberish. But, Google is saying, it’s used as a command for horses to go ahead! 😅 Lol! Get, Set, Giddy up!
Okay! Why does the bank manager post a clip of himself sneezing? Umm…. Why?
Because he wanted to make a viral video! 🤓 What!!! 😂😂😂
Okay!! What is the difference between a snow-man and snow-woman? 😬… what?
Snow Balls. 😬 Lolzzzz!! Enough already. 😂😂😂
See, I told you it’s there somewhere. Welcome back Miss Anne 1.0. It’s good to see you laugh. ☺️ You know… I would love us to meet in person someday.
We can literally build a castle with the list of things that we have already planned to do. I know. 🤗 Isn’t it time we see each other?
Oh please! Stop teasing me with your words. I have been pitching this idea since eternity now! Ok ok… How about a video call tomorrow??
And I can literally hear my heart thumping against my ribs. Haha. I know. I feel so weirdly nervous thinking about it as well.
You sure, btw? I don’t want to mess up what we have here! I have grown used to it. 😑 Am having second thoughts about it. Why? Are you that ugly? 😜
Aww! My Anne 1.0. Where have you been! It’s so good to have you back. You know, I had read it somewhere. “You shouldn’t be afraid to dive within. Your soul ll catch you anyway.”
Wow! Such a beautiful way to put it. And as per our fragmented soul theory. If you can’t, I ll catch you anyway. 🤗
I so wanted to tell her at this very moment, how important she has become in my life in this short span of time. That I constantly feel this void in me in her absence. As if, a part of me now lives with her which I never want to lose. But, the years of practice of providing limited supplies, stopped me from pouring out my heart in front of her, stopping me from saying that I love her! Interesting, how by choosing a single act or possibility, we let go of all the rest possible alternatives. It is certainly scary when you think about it like that, isn’t it? Life isn’t that mundane after all. Guess that is the reason why they say, “You are already winning if you are surviving.”
Okay Theo. Tomorrow it is then and remember, we Italians do take care of our manners in front of outsiders. So, be properly dressed. 😜
Yep! Shorts and T-shirts, it is then. 😎 Haha. You know… sometimes I get these urges to hug you so tight!! 😬
Well, first. You shouldn’t fight your urges. It’s not healthy. 😉 Second. Hugs are beautiful. Period I know. Okay, imagine if there is a competition between hugs and kisses. Who do you think would win?
Haha. Why on earth would you make them compete anyway? Just give your take on it no.
Guess, if it’s a sprint, then kisses and, if it’s a marathon, it’s going to be hugs. Huh! Nice analogy there. 😃
🤗🤗🤗 Okay, Mr Good Manners. Am off to bed then. 🤗
You know, I am having these urges to ask you for something. No need. You are not getting either of them. Haha. Goodnight Miss Anne. 🤗🤗 Buona Notte, Theo. ☺️
Maam, did I mention that I was in Rishikesh when this was happening? I was with some of my old pals this time. You see having come from a middle class family, from a small town in Odisha, I had never earlier fathomed the idea of travelling as a fun activity. As a kid, the idea of celebrating festivals usually meant going out on melas and buying balloons and having an ice cream. So I was mostly happy staying indoors. In fact even during my graduation, whenever the opportunities to travel would come up, I used to simply give it a miss for some reason or other. Travelling without work or any purpose used to seem like a bizarre idea to me. Even if I did go out, it used to be all planned up with every possible detail. Sure, my understanding of this world was limited then and I was yet to understand that it is the uncertainty of life and its little surprises that gives us the greatest of joys. But, all of this changed with my first trip to Rishikesh. Well my first trip without any specific purpose. Oh, Rishikesh! Even simply taking its name is filling me up with its nostalgic memories. Sigh! Anyway coming back to my story, it was a fine Monday morning. The sky seemed more blue and the clouds therein were carrying brush strokes of love. It’s so puzzling how with love, everything seems a tad more colourful, music more enjoyable, the air more fresh, the people more friendlier and the world simply becoming something to look forward to, amongst its chaos. Oh! Love! It’s magical. So surreal, isn’t it Ma’am? It’s so abstract, yet everyone can relate to it. The funny thing is, it was getting more and more difficult for me to hide my excitement as I was yet to discuss Anne with my friends. Some of them did notice the extra flight in my walks or the constant smile on my face. But, I was too busy with falling in Love. You see Ma’am, though I take pride in portraying that I am a rational person, I do however carry my own set of prejudices. One of them is my belief that an unknown project has a higher rate of becoming successful than a publicly announced one and I certainly didn’t want to take any risks with Anne. Anne, the Italian girl from FindX who was looking for an anonymous chat at the exact same time as me; FindX which used their perfect algorithm to connect us; HER which made me long for an experience something like that of Theodore and Samantha, the idea of platonic love between two individuals from two parallel universes; all making perfect sense for us to come together, like destiny.
We had booked the bus tickets already to take us back to Delhi that morning which was scheduled to start at 12:30pm. It’s hardly a journey of 4-5hours, from Rishikesh to Delhi. So out of the available options to explore from, we decided to hit a cafe and spend the rest of the hours there. The last day of such excursions are usually quite depressing, mostly because of the upcoming inevitable mundane routine life that awaits us. So we checked in TripAdvisor, and found this place called “Little Buddha Cafe”. I must tell you, true to its ratings, it surprised us with its coziness and friendly staff(including Gonzo, the cafe pet dog). The ambiance and aesthetics had Tibetan touch to it with low height tables and comfortable mattress and cushions to accompany it. We placed some orders and before it even arrived, I was fast asleep like a dog next to Gonzo.
Pradyout was kind enough to wake me up when it was time to leave for the bus depot. I remember having a slice of a pizza from the food we had ordered without opening my eyes. Who cares for the food when s(he) is in love. I was in Love and it was taking care of all my needs. I thought of stepping up to the top of the table and shout out loud that I was in love. But, I saw Gonzo wagging his fluffy tail with his tongue out. Maybe he read my mind because his smile was mischievous this time. I gave Gonzo my departing kiss and we left for the bus depot. It was a volvo bus with its comfortable sitting arrangements. We took our seats and our journey back to Delhi began. I got one window seat and I love window seats, for day journeys especially. Allows you space to reflect upon things with guidance from nature. So, I dived back into the net of thoughts having its core as Anne. Funny how love defies logic, concepts of economics, all cognitive rationality altogether. You keep wanting for more, no matter how many hours you spend with your beloved. A statement to one’s helplessness, how one slowly loses control of oneself, allowing cognitively in one’s full senses to be enslaved by love and love alone. How can it be so universal when it is personal, private to the highest degree. I certainly was high with my very own personalized drug called Anne. They say you see your lover in every other individual when you’re in love. What if one is yet to see that individual but is infinitely in Love with her? I experienced something metaphysical, experiencing her presence in everything and anything around me. Love, allowing me to experience something which they advocate, is only possible with God.
Almost thirty minutes down the line, most of the passengers had fallen asleep. But, I didn’t want to miss out on the grandeur landscapes that the route offers from Rishikesh to Delhi. At one point, there came this curve on the road opening up to this gorgeous valley; with steep high mountains on both sides; with serene Ganga flowing within in all its youthfulness; the sun shining overhead, making the rapids look like soft cotton beds laid out by nature for some exhibition; providing a perfect landscape. I thought of sending a picture of this natural picturesque to my Anne, to share some more of what I considered as mine with her. And, it is at this very moment I was struck with gut wrenching horror. I raised from the seat and shouted,”PLEASE STOP THE BUS.”
I immediately took Anup’s phone to reach my cell phone. “The number you are calling is currently switched off…” It felt like a blow, a physical blow in my guts. Everything was happening so fast and I seemed to have seized for a moment or two amidst all that rush. “But, there is a possibility that it might have run out of battery”, I thought. Quickly, I explained my situation to Anup and Pradyout. Your friends can somehow read the gravity of the situation from your mannerisms. Next call was for the Little Buddha Cafe to know if they have found it, but to no avail. My anxiety was gearing up with each such failed attempt. My theatrical “Please, stop the bus” almost had woken up every passenger. But, to find that it’s about just a phone, an important contact therein, they soon lost interest and most of them went back to sleep. Some did come forward to suggest that I can always find it over Google Contacts or can reach that person over Facebook and all. Well! How could have I possibly explained my story; the vagaries of walking on a tightrope of strict anonymity? FindX never asked about my personal details nor had asked me to create an ID there. You simply click the connect button, to randomly start a conversation with a stranger. The very idea that allured me into it was fast changing its shape to haunt me for the rest of my life, making me sick with each passing second. We discussed about it and my only way forward was to try and find my phone back and it made us to get down from the bus at this small town called Kankhal near haridwar. My desperation was out in open now. We booked an autorickshaw and straight left for Rishikesh.
I must tell you here that my life till that point had been full of such surprises. Wallets, keys, mobile phones, ID cards; I have had my shares of losing them at important junctures before this. I swear, there is something supernatural about it. They just used to keep happening to me from time to time. Once, I lost my wallet in Howrah Railway station on my way from Silchar to Bhubneswar, on the same day I had missed my flight due to a newly introduced rule of reporting 45 mins prior to departure and I had to wait for 1 day in the station itself before one of my sister’s friends came to my rescue. Another time in Kota, where I was preparing for JEE examination, on not finding the key in my jeans pockets, I had to carry my bicycle over my shoulders to a repair shop and had a new lock installed, only to find the key reappear from my jeans pocket. With many such incidents, I had no choice but to accept that such weird shits are going to keep happening and with that came the indifference. Maybe life got tired of my indifference to its puns and raised its stakes and made me desperate again, forcing me to play again.
I was feeling a lot heavier. As if someone had pierced his hand in my chest and placed the idea of losing out on my love. The autorickshaw seemed a lot slower than its usual pace. We took the same route back but, hardly I noticed the grandeur of scenery around. The Mountains, the river, the air, the sky; everything seemed utilitarian now, bereft of any taste, any life. And all through this, I had only one thought in mind. Anne.
We reached the bus depot and I visited all the points I had been a couple of hours ago. The Mother Miracle Bakery where we had tried the carrot cake, the pharmacy from where Anup had bought some medicines, the side stall near Laxman Jhula from where Pradyout had bought an earring for his sister, the beetle shop where we had one smoke each after our lunch and the Little Buddha Cafe, where I remember using my phone, the key to the world of my Anne for the last time. Slowly, the idea that I may never meet my Anne again was taking a concrete shape. After revisiting these places again and again, only to see the futility of it, we went to the Rishikesh Police station to file an FIR. It’s some five odd kilometers from the Laxman Jhula area and we took an autorickshaw again to the police station.
You see Ma’am, some of the peculiarity about India stems from its huge population. With such a big population comes everything in huge numbers. So does the number of lost phone cases to the police station and so does their irritation when someone approaches them with such stolen phone cases. It’s quite understood that once a phone is lost here in India, you should simply buy a new phone. My experiences till that time had been no different. For this reason maybe, I have always felt a bit uneasy around policemen. The way they talk, the unapproachable exterior, the idea that they can simply make you sit in the police station for hours altogether for no reason at all. Ironical no? They are instead here to keep us safe. But, contrary to my ideas, hawaldar Shivem Singh was quite dutiful and he filed the FIR without much hesitation.
On extending our stay by another night, we decided to hit the Beatles Ashram. The entry gates close at 4 in the afternoon and we must be the last ones to make an entry that day. What now remains is only the ruins but, one can easily figure out the vibrant life this campus once captured. With its old structures and new graffiti all over the walls, the ashram was providing a blend of both old and the new. I stopped at one of the corner mutts while Anup and Pradyot left to explore the rest of the Ashram. I sat on the floor and to my surprise the wall of that mutt had graffiti saying “Let it go”. I smiled thinking that even after years of abandonment, this ashram is still providing answers to the seekers. You see, what I was left with was her memories in my head and I knew for certain from my childhood that memories fail us over a period of time. I must be only three or maybe hardly four and out of the blue I had this revelation that I can’t recollect any of my past other than the recent happenings and a select few moments. So, I remember sitting there in our old house and making sure to memorize the happenings of that particular day. Though I don’t remember what I was repeating to myself, I do remember this hilarious act of a 4 year old for trying to hold on to something, be it some memory for life. So, I sat there with my eyes closed, trying to repeat to myself every bit of what I had shared with my Anne… trying to relieve it so that I can continue to relive it.
You can’t stay in the Ashram beyond five unless you want to make an acquaintance with a leopard or a tiger. So, we left for the Ganga ghat to witness the very famous evening Aarti. Amongst all these, I kept reciting myself the moments that I had shared with Anne. The evening hours flew by and we were taking a stroll in the ghat. The dark night had brought with it the cold winds and we found two fakirs sitting next to a fire. Both of them had saffron attire of sadhu babas, with ash smeared all over their bodies and the dreadlocks and their skinny structure were giving witness about their lives away from the material worlds. We asked for their permission to join them and one of them nodded with a smile. Guess he was the older one. We joined them around the fire encircling it and suddenly I realized that Anne and I were meant to have this video conversation tonight and that she must be trying to reach me by now.
You see Ma’am, when you are in love, in true love, you develop this tendency to care thousands times more for your partner than yourself. Love changes its shape to acquire a definition of giving without expecting anything in return. So, I witnessed the pain; pain of separation of two individuals without their consent, a dirty game life played with them not even allowing them any form of closure. A loss which was thousand times more painful because I couldn’t help her than help myself. It was like those fated events that change the course of one’s perspective towards life violently unsettling their present to the core. Like a husband’s wish for use of a different sentence during that fated heated argument with his wife before their separation, like a son’s for a different attitude towards his father on his last day before his departing; I also got weighed down by the question of doing things any differently repeating the same set of questions in loop again and again wishing to change the course of my history.
“How can you be so irresponsible?”, I murmured to myself. “Dhundega tabhi to mileage”, the older fakir said which roughly translates into “Unless you seek for it you won’t find it”. I got pulled back to the present from my train of thoughts and I looked in the direction of the old fakir. His eyes were steady like a rock and he was looking in my direction. As our eyes met, I felt this numbness in my whole body. Something assured me that he had already read my soul. Years of meditation must have made him capable of reading others’ minds I thought. I must tell you I had never felt this vulnerable in my entire life. So, all I could do is simply smile in acknowledging my helplessness. He looked away and started lighting his chillam, taking a big drag out of it and said “dvā suparṇā sayujā sakhāyā samānaṁ vṛkṣaṁ pariṣasvajāte | tayoranyaḥ pippalaṁ svādvattyanaśnannanyo abhicākaśīti ||” His eyes rolled back and I could easily see the faint smile on his face was not his own, as his voice echoed in the air. I simply couldn’t take my eyes off him as if I was transfixed by him. In that moment, those hymns made perfect sense somehow as if it’s not the words but the sound of it carried meaning within it. He explained, “Two birds, inseparable companions, perched on the same tree, one eats the fruit and the other eats not, silently watching.” He continued, “The first one is our individual self feeding on the pleasure and pains of this world while the other is the universal Atman witnessing it all.” “Tu wo vi he aur yeh vi.” (You are that and also this) It felt like my world had narrowed down to me and the old fakir. As if I was hypnotized to let go of things that I was trying to cling on to so tightly, to let go of my Anne. He gave me a wry smile and gave me the chillam. “Bom Bhole”, he said. And I did what was asked of me. Closing my eyes, I took a long drag. There was this absolute calmness for some seconds. No thoughts, no sounds, so fear, no agony, nothing. All the pain gave way to ease; a certain sense of contentment filling every void in me. My eyes were still closed and I felt like I was falling through a tunnel of soft bright cottons. I didn’t fight it, nor felt anxious. I simply let it go. Then, suddenly my fall came to an abrupt end, making me land gently as ever on this bed. It was quite bright. I opened my eyes and Anne was there facing me! We were both lying on the bed, facing each other. I simply smiled looking into her beautiful glassy eyes which were equally puzzled and excited to find me and said,
I was zoned out in the middle of the traffic, amidst the rush in one of the Delhi’s mobile zoos. The beautiful zoo for motor vehicles, where you find all kinds of specimens with the recent additives of e-rickshaws. Usually everyone is in a hurry at such jams, to move past one another by only a few meters, cursing and making hand gestures, to prove their competitiveness and it was no different this time. I was on my way from Karol Bagh to Connaught Place to meet a friend, in one of the infamous Delhi’s auto rickshaws. Our auto stopped at the Jhandewalan crossing for obvious reasons. Suddenly, a child shook me out of my midday slumber; she was pulling my pants and asking for something. I was not sure whether s(he) was a girl or a boy. Maybe a girl, hardly 5 years of age. The usual tanned brown skin; frisky light brown hair that hasn’t been oiled since birth; a torn cloth that has given up on its original colour and acquired a colour to be uniquely identified with street beggars. Street beggars of all ages; you just find them everywhere in Delhi and traffic lights seem to the hotspots for them.
I had seen plenty of movies and had read many newspaper articles explaining how the begging network works and only recently had decided to pay the begging children in kind rather than in cash during one of my conversations with my flatmate. She mumbled something which I couldn’t understand. I simply presumed she was asking for money, So, I maintained a stoic expression and continued to look ahead. “Best not to entertain them” is what I had learnt from my limited interactions with them. Another guy stopped by the auto asking me to buy some pens. You see, they are either begging for money or selling stuff. They sell all kinds of stuff at traffic lights in Delhi; books, stationery, flowers, small soft toys, car accessories, balloons; the inventory of lists of things can be quite long actually. She shook my leg again followed by a similar mumbling and my thought this time was to shoo her away. Instead, I leaned in her direction to ask her what she wanted. She had big beautiful glassy, Irish brown eyes. The fair skin had tanned to dark brown by the constant exposure to sun but innocence was yet to bid her adieu. She murmured again.
“Bhaiya, Paani dedo”. (Give me some water)
I was taken aback. My inherent prejudice against the so called “Them”, made me take a few more seconds to understand her words. I forwarded my water bottle to her. She didn’t take it. She simply cupped both her small palms and extended it forward. I poured water into it as she tried to drink from it without dropping any, diligently. I felt simply miserable for what I have become. How did I even manage to let go of my childhood innocence?
The traffic light had turned green again and the competition to get past one another, the honking, the tryst to prove one’s competitiveness resumed once again and I went back to my state of indifference again, excited to meet my friend after so many years.