She wore her hair different today. Nothing great. She’s let her hair down and tucked two hair strands from each side in the back. Hmm, a little less of a mess! Oh she’s put on flowers too. And that too jasmine! So unlike her. It’s evening and the jasmines are already wilted & gone. But so what, they are still flowers! Her thick silky smoky brown hair makes it look like milk chocolate & vanilla toppings on a hard chocolate cake. Sweat drops emerged from her armpit , started running down her midriff. As her boney, cocoa coloured, lean frame tilted to left when she walked swiftly, a tiny, vibrant, bangle shop in the right corner caught her eye. Her thick lashed, deep set, brown eyes twinkled at the very sight of those kaleidoscopic glass bangles. Not that she loves bangles or anything feminine for that matter. Just that it’s her wedding tomorrow. But don’t ask her anything about the guy. She’s as clueless about him as she’s about the stink coming from her worn-out green bandhani saree. But then from tomorrow on, she might have a room with a door all for herself and this stranger. Even better, she might get to use a loo with a door. A door. ‘Door’ in quotes. Now that’s going to be heaven, being able to do the most private of basic needs without having to look around, without discomfort or fear. Who knows, the guy will be nice to her. Or he’ll be a maachod. Whatever. She’s a hardcore optimistic. A smile took place from the corners of her lips spread to her face. Her eyes twinkled brighter. So did her smile.
The boy in blue shorts held on to the green glass pebbles in his hand. Close. His black Bata shoes snorkeled in the slush pool formed after morning rain. He thought what maa is going to say when she sees his dirty shoes. Oh this day is too good to think of maa and her tantrums. I just want to think about Chuski, he thought. Kala Khatta Chuski! The mere thought of that purplish black syrup on ice slush, with a squeeze of lime and a pinch of masala made him slurrrrrrrrrrrrp. Woooh! Enough to forget Sharmeen maam’s grumpy face, principal’s gyaan and peon’s gaali. But not enough to forget the strawberry scented eraser Debby gave him, the Ben 10 magic pencil Chotu had and the Rugby match his team won today. Lalalala, it’s all lalalala today. Wait, wait. A Chuskiwallah there. His tiny hand went inside his left pocket in search of 5 rupee coins.
The old man strode past the busy market. He’s a capturer. No. He doesn’t capture hearts, nor is he a photographer who captures moments. He captures worries. As if his own worries aren’t enough. He seeks out miseries & woes. Or is it the other way around? They seek him out? Misery man he is, for sure. And whether or not he could keep up with the pace of the city, this city has been his everything. He feels a deep sense of belonging in every nook and cranny of this place as he wanders about. He searched for worried faces all over the market. A lot, today. He scrutinized all of it. His heart ached wanting to own the worries and pain he’s spotted on those faces. The depth and volume of it made him shudder. A sudden surge of joy took form inside him that he almost forgot why did he come to market. He toyed with every possible reason he could find. Got it, he wanted to get something for Khush, his pet mouse, his one and only living companion back home. If only you can call a 29 sq. ft. space with an asbestos sheet roof, Shankar Cements bag and a few wooden pieces put together, a home! But then in a city perpetually crunched for space, 29 sq. ft. is a luxury, isn’t it? Come to think of it, such an irony to call a mouse who lives there Khush! Gets me laughing. Now the question is from where will he get food with no money. He’s got a plan. Go to grocers, hang around till the crowd gets bigger, steal a handful of rice grains from the opened sack outside. That will do, he rushed.
The curly head just stood there. Looks like she’s waiting for someone. Her thick mane of hair adds charm to the beautiful, sharp face. The red ‘bus kya?’ t shirt she got from Attic is still wet. And so is her psychedelic dhoti pants. She rewinded the whole day in her mind. The long walk in the drizzle was the best part of the day. Except for the getting t shirt wet part. Her body bent forward and trembled a little, while her heartbeat almost stopped beating because of the cold. She started getting pins and needles in her feet from standing a long time. “Where the hell is Prateik? What the fuck is he doing? Why can’t that SOB call and inform that he’ll be late” prevailed her mind. Can’t blame her though. She’s been waiting for more than 2 hours. If Prateik shows up now, she’ll beat him so much that he will be better off as chaatwala’s paani.LOL. The thought of Prateik in Paanipuri made her LOL. Offo! All her anger just went down with that LOL! Sad. Forget it. Where’s she gonna take him tonight. Leopold Café, then Firangi Paani. Ekdum jhakaas. She took her BB from her cloth bag. Speed-dialled 2. 1 is her dad’s no., not Prateik’s.
6:55 pm, 13th July 2011.
Opera House neighbourhoods, Mumbai.
Happy or sad, it’s THE END!