Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Matter of Time

If you looked at her eyes, they would betray a feeling of happiness, something she’d felt after a long time. She was beautiful once, but time takes away what it gives. But as if with a strange sense of magnanimity it leaves a few traces behind. For her it was her eyes, and she assumes that he’d seen what she’d lost by gazing into them.

She stopped and picked up a coffee mug from the shelf to her left. It was a plain white mug but it had this image printed on it, that made it look like it had a crack running down from the top. She didn’t know if he’d like it. She would take a look at everything down the aisle, which had some of the most ridiculously expensive items one could fathom. They called it the gifting section. She was sure he liked coffee. He’d told her this, on numerous occasions that she’d visited him. She thought back to the day she’d gone to meet him at his house for the first time.

He hadn’t taken too long to answer the doorbell, and she walked in dressed in a yellow Salwar suit and shrouded in apprehension. He had whiskey on his breath and his hair spilled carelessly yet beautifully over his forehead. He was dressed in a navy blue shirt, and had left a few buttons at the top open. He had a light stubble on his face, just the right amount. He smiled and looked at her, as if trying to see through those invisible walls she’d built around her for years on end. He shouldn’t try she thought.

She assumed his house was perpetually in the state of disarray that it was in then. Men were like that, she believed. Her son and her husband were no different. He gestured for her to sit down on a rather dusty armchair. She smiled and obliged. He brought a chair from a room inside, and sat down just across from her. He asked her for how long she could stay. She had an hour before she’d have to go and fetch her son from school. He asked her how she was and if she’d been doing well and if she’d been happy. She’d mumbled a few things before he said that he’d been meaning to tell her a lot of things about himself and his life. He spoke about leaving this town soon. He spoke about travelling for a while, and visiting places. He spoke about soul-searching and about wanderlust. She knew what it meant. It was one of the most sensuous of words. He spoke fervidly about fulfilling his dreams of travel. He explained to her the morbidity of an ordinary life, and he then went on to speak about love and how we conveniently defile it in the name of marital sanctity, which was but a set of senseless impositions by an incorrigible society.

She only listened and listened intently and she could see a glint in his eyes, every now and then, interjecting and yet adding meaning, like remarkable drunken poetry.

She placed the coffee mug back on the shelf as she remembered a quote that speaks of how ‘It’s always words that undress you’*. She walked further down the aisle as she permitted herself a faint smile recollecting whatever else that had happened on that afternoon.

He was putting on his shirt, as she prepared to leave, and he asked her if they’d meet soon. She had nodded, smiled and left.

She’d met him several times since then and she’d be meeting him tomorrow too. It was his birthday, and she decided on buying him a coffee mug, albeit a one different from the one she’d picked up earlier. She also picked up a card and wondered what she should write in it.

As she made her way to the billing counter, she felt that in her own little way she was doing what she can to escape the unpleasantness of what he (and now she) liked to call an ‘ordinary life’.

She was just joining the queue, when she saw him not too far away from where she stood. He was walking towards her hand-in-hand with someone else with that song of a smile on his face that she’d grown to look forward to. That smile was a song for that someone else too. That someone else did look happy.

She turned away and walked as fast as she could. She set the coffee mug and the card on an arbitrary shelf, and she didn’t let any of what she was thinking show on her face, but if only you could look at her eyes now.

You’d know that time does take away what it gives. 

*'It's always words that undress you'- Shahir Zag.

Friday, September 6, 2013


‘Advantage Mr.  Woolworth’, said the Referee in his stentorian voice as Douglas Woolworth shot a forehand winner down the line to leave Jerome Harper even more baffled and out of sorts than he was after terribly losing the first two sets to Douglas.

Douglas Woolworth was Britain’s pride, a true vanguard for British’s lacklustre sporting arsenal. Woolworth was the current world number one in professional tennis, a position he had consolidated over the last 4 years. 15 grand slams, 62 career titles later, Woolworth was well on his way to becoming one of Tennis’ most celebrated legends.

On any other third Sunday of July, he would usually be playing the finals of ATP Masters Event in Toronto. With a prize money of 700,000$ most top ranking players didn't think twice about playing the tournament. So, when Woolworth called up Brian Ericson, the Chief Organiser to inform him that he was pulling out, Ericson was compelled to ask him- ‘Are you out of your blazing mind?’ Woolworth had said that he just didn’t feel like it, much to Ericson’s anguish, leaving the 350,000 people who throng to Toronto from all parts of the world to mainly watch Woolworth play and decimate his opponents, in sheer disappointment.

The little Devon Community of Clovelly was surprised albeit pleasantly to find out that Douglas Woolworth would feature in their annual Tennis Championships played out in their town’s small but sedate Tennis Club. The local favourite, Jerome Harper had won the last five editions of their revered tournament.  ‘He wants some fresh country air.’- the Secretary of the Clovelly Tennis Club had surmised. Not many bought into his argument as a man like Woolworth with his millions of pounds of career prize money could get some ‘fresh air’ in places which were fairly far more exotic. Not a soul voiced regret as an opportunity to watch Woolworth play was well worth staking one’s life savings for.

Jerome Harper was the scapegoat Woolworth was using to captivate the few hundred people who could be accommodated in the courtside seats at the Clovelly Tennis Club’s Final’s Court. The people at Clovelly had probably never seen so many persons of the Press at once. Woolworth’s pictures were always front page material and the folk at Clovelly wanted to make the most of the chance to sneak into some of them.

Woolworth had been gifted a breakpoint for the twelfth time in the match now. He had successfully converted 7 of those leaving Jerome in an island of despair. He converted this one too with a fiery passing shot which elicited gasps of admiration from the small audience. Such expressions of awe were not unfamiliar to Woolworth who had received similar responses on several occasions when he played on the hallowed Centre Court at Wimbledon.

Woolworth was now serving for the match. He served up two aces on the trot to make the score 30-0. The crowd egged Jerome on, much like enthusiastic parents do when their toddler tries to pronounce a long difficult word.

Woolworth was now gifted three championship points as Harper contrived to frame the ball for the umpteenth time that evening.

He quickly served another sizzling ace to seal his victory and to seal a look of exasperation on Harper’s countenance.

The pair shook hands at the net as is customary after a tennis match and Harper remarked- 'Blimey, you play like how I play when I play in one of my dreams.’

Woolworth returned the compliment as he said-‘You don’t play too bad yourself. Serve up quite a twister, you do. Join me for a drink?’

Harper tried to remember how many times he had got a chance to talk over drinks with someone who had a personal wealth of over 120 million pounds. He couldn’t recollect any such instance and agreed to join the acclaimed sports star for a drink.

Back at the mansion Woolworth was staying in (Harper was aware that this was the biggest and most expensive home in the town), the two sat down across from each other imbibing what was quite possibly the finest whiskey Harper had ever had.

Harper looked around. All he had ever got to see of this house was its resplendent facade and the lavish portico. The interior did its bit of taking away his breath too- extravagant upholstery, tapestry that was fit for royalty, magnificent windows that seemed to accentuate the crimson hue of the evening sky.

‘Taken this place on a month long lease’, said Woolworth casually, as he downed his second peg for the evening. ‘How long have you stayed here in Clovelly?’- He asked.

‘Twenty six years, or simply all my life’, replied Harper.

Woolworth went on- ‘Came here when I was 5, to visit an old aunt. She moved to London some 20 years ago. She stays not far from where I do. Her name’s Mrs. Angela Hawthorne. You don’t know her by any chance do you?’

Harper smiled and asked- ‘5? Do you remember your visit at all?
‘Nothing at all’- said Woolworth grinning.

‘Mrs. Hawthorne you say? I think I’ve heard of her, but nah, I don’t remember knowing such a person’- Harper remarked.

‘She’s become quite batty now, she has. London doesn’t suit her much. But the old woman has the most remarkable memory. She remembers what I wore to her house back when I had visited her 22 years ago. An eidetic memory is what they say she has.’- Woolworth stated in a matter-of-fact tone.

The two chatted on for an hour and a half and Harper was left astounded by how Woolworth seemed to know a little bit of almost everything under the sun, whereas Harper’s very limited knowledge and understanding in the things they talked about, were quick to the fore, each time a new topic was brought up.

‘It’s getting a little late, Jerome. I better take leave of your very generous hospitality. Thank you for a wonderful evening.’- Harper said after finishing his fifth peg. The alcohol had induced a pleasing level of tipsiness, and Harper didn’t want to embarrass himself any further than what he had done with his complete ignorance on most of the things they had conversed about, by drinking more and going overboard.

‘There is something I’d like to show you, before I am deprived of your enjoyable company,’- Woolworth said. His voice betrayed a slightest bit of amusement.

‘And what might that be?’- Harper questioned, a wee bit flustered.

Woolworth went into his room and came out with what looked like a very old photograph, ready to come apart, but held together by plastic lamination.

‘Go on, have a look’- said Woolworth.

Harper looked at it suspiciously.

‘That’s my Aunt Angela.’- Woolworth said pointing to a tall rather dark woman wearing an old navy blue dress with a smile that looked rather forced.

‘And that’s me! This was the first time I had picked up a racket!’- Woolworth said placing a finger on a freckled, curly haired boy, holding an old wooden racket and smiling brilliantly.

Woolworth went on- ‘There standing next to me was the first kid I ever played a rally with. I guess he was 4 then. At least that’s what Aunt Angela tells me. You won’t happen to know him would you?’

But Harper knew the lad very well indeed. He couldn’t possibly have known him any better than he already did.

There standing next to Woolworth, with a smile that would give Woolworth’s smile in this picture a run for its money, was a 4 year old Jerome Harper.

He looked up, his mind having run the gamut of human emotions.

'Woolworth’s face wore a smile that would put the smiles of both the boys in the picture to shame.

‘Aunt Angela and the things she remembers.’- Woolworth sighed.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Big Days

The boy put the cell-phone back into the right pocket of his trousers.

It was a close‘well-wisher’.

Wishes would do him good today.  It was a big day for him.

People of his age, were always looking out for big days for themselves and he was no different.

The lane he was in was like many other lanes in this city. If ever someone needed a pictorial description of the words ‘bustling with life’, all they had to do was come here.

The boy looked at a young rag-picker stroking the head of a street dog near a garbage dump. It was hard to tell, who was dirtier and even harder to tell who was happier. The dog licked his face and the child smiled the most perfect smile. The boy compared the smile with the ones he’d seen on people in tele-ads. There wasn’t so much difference in the smiles as there was in the emotions they conveyed. The child was not pretending to be happy.

The lane was narrow and was lined with old buildings which seemed to jostle with each other for space. The boy walked on, his shoulders brushing against someone else’s more often than not.

He’d come to this city two months ago and he’d come to this lane in particular, just a couple of times since.

The boy had always been determined. He loved putting in hard work and he’d put in a lot over the last year. This city was known for its undying ways of providing opportunities to people who came asking for one. He’d come asking for his and he’d got it. He allowed himself a smile as he thought about how far he’d come. It was in no way as cheerily conspicuous as the rag-picker’s.

The boy looked at the chaat-house to his left and the pot-bellied vendor counting currency notes before putting them into a coffer-box. The boy loved chaats. There was one such establishment right below the building he was staying in. He liked chutney particularly. He’d been indulging himself every alternate day but it wasn’t an extravagant indulgence.

He wouldn’t indulge himself today. It would be petty to do so on his big day.

He wiped the sweat that had trickled down his forehead onto his eyebrows. It was very sultry today.

He’d gotten used to the heat and humidity but that didn’t make them any less oppressive.

On his right by the lane, sat numerous hawkers selling their wares.  The heat didn’t seem to numb their enterprising spirit. No, it was business as usual for them. A young girl in a shockingly pink salwar suit was bargaining in a loud shrill tone with one of them. She was apparently interested in a pair of very fancy sandals. She faintly resembled one of his sisters back at home. However, none of his sisters shared her liking for fancy sandals mostly because they had never seen any.

The boy looked at the four-way intersection ahead. A policeman stood in the middle on a small platform, blowing his whistle intermittently. He wanted to make a difference, and it would have helped had the people had let him do so. People here, will only worship you if they’ve put you on a pedestal themselves. One could not be an exception to this scheme of things.

The boy reached the busy junction and stopped for a moment to look at the old hotel that had towered above this intersection and had imposed its shadow on the lanes below for a lot many years. The boy had stopped to look at it the last time he’d visited this place too.

Its walls were oblivious to change. Some things should always have such a quality. They serve as reminders of things forgotten, or more appropriately of lessons forgotten.

The boy walked on ahead.

The lane he’d walked into was even more crammed. A much younger boy clad in a school uniform bumped into him hard. The school boy smiled, apologized and scurried on. The boy smiled back very hesitantly.

He used to play with the neighbourhood kids back home. They didn’t go to school but they were a fun bunch nonetheless. He’d been away from home for quite a while.

He did like being there. His family albeit terribly poor was very warm-hearted. There were times when his uncles and their families would visit them. The meals were simple but the joy profound.

Here in this city, he had dearly missed all of this.

You can have a million people around you and still be alone and unheard.

The boy remembered the policeman at the intersection.

However, his big day was above all of this.

Focus and unwavering focus at that, was imperative.

The boy marched ahead and these thoughts meandered as quickly out of his mind as they had meandered in.

He looked at his watch for the time. He’d purchased it when he’d come to this city. It was a good standard digital watch and time was of the essence.

Punctuality was a dying virtue in the youth of today.

Even on their big days, most people his age had very less regard for being where they have to be on time.

He was not like them. He couldn’t be.

After all, he could only have one big day.

The boy now stood in front of a large restaurant which was even a more apt example of 'bustling with life'.

There was a seating area outside where people sat around tables which were under those typically red Coca-Cola umbrellas.

The boy walked into the restaurant past this area.

He’d been here just once before but hadn’t stayed to eat or drink.

He wouldn’t be doing so today either.

He looked around and took cognizance of  the very large number of people having conversations of their own at their respective tables.

The restaurant was suited to bourgeois tastes. The decorations inside weren't elaborate but the patrons it had won over the years of its existence ensured that it would outlive its more opulent competitors. But, outlive would not be an apt word to use here.

The boy ignored one of the attendants who wished to lead him to an empty table.

No, that table was destined to be empty, the boy thought.

He looked at his watch for the time again.

The boy noticed that he was standing next to a table at which a mother and her very young daughter were seated.

He moved away. He didn't know why, but he did. He felt he’d rather not be close to them.

His watch beeped faintly. It was the alarm he'd set.

The boy’s mind eased into a state of thoughtlessness.

There were two more beeps. These were from under his shirt near his belly.

For the briefest of moments he felt a searing pain.

But that was it.

He’d have heard the screams.
He’d have seen shards of glass fly.
He’d have seen the walls shake.
He’d have seen blood.
But he didn’t.

He was the first to leave.
There were many who followed him, to wherever he had gone off to.
They might have even gone to some place else.
They were just not here anymore.

His ‘well-wishers’ would be happy.
A nation would grieve.
His family would not know how to react.

But how would all of this matter?
What mattered was that few people his age have had or will have bigger ‘big days’.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Of smiles and satisfaction

Six year olds do not have a keen understanding of how hard one should hit a rubber puck during a fun session of classroom football in the teacher’s absence.

Six year olds also buckle under their teacher’s dangerous interrogative gaze. 

Thus, Rajeev was held responsible by his honourable classmates for having broken the window next to their teacher’s desk.

‘You could have hurt somebody’, Mrs. D’Souza said admonishing Rajeev for his valiant effort to score a goal for his team. This effort got its due reward in the form of a note from Mrs. D’Souza in his class diary.

‘Make your father read this and I should see his signature on this tomorrow first thing in the morning.’ - Mrs. D’Souza said in a tone that had horrified six year olds for a good many years.

Rajeev held the diary like he was holding a vicious serpent. 

For the ensuing forty-five minutes, he looked at Mrs. D’Souza apologetically as she taught them long division, but to no avail.

The last bell of the day rang, as Rajeev slowly made his way out of the class throwing Mrs. D’Souza one last look of appeal, the only response he got to which was a stern frown.

The walls in Rajeev’s world were beginning to crumble. His father Dr. Vikraant Gupta wasn’t one to go to with a note from one’s class teacher. For his father, the severity of this transgression would not be forgivable. His father valued perseverance and most of all obedience and he had known this ever since he was a toddler, he had known this even before he was left bereft of a mother. His mother Anita, was the typical demure, gentle mother any child would wish to have, this Rajeev had concluded from all his pictures with her as an infant, in none of which she had anything other than a bright smile on her radiant face. 

‘Chhote!!’- a voice called out to Rajeev from a veritable sea of children and their parents, outside of the school gate. 

Hari had been the parent Rajeev was never made to feel the need of for the part of his life post Anita’s passing away. 

Rajeev searched for a dark, wrinkled face with a cleft lip which made the smile it wore even more heart warming. He soon found the face he was looking for standing next to a grey Ambassador Mark III. 

Wearing a pale white shirt and a somewhat whiter pair of flannel trousers, stood Hari, the man most responsible for Rajeev’s well being from the moment Rajeev came into this world.

‘Chalen?’- Hari asked. He was always amused to see Rajeev’s face light up on seeing him after school.

Today, this phenomenon occurred but for a fleeting moment.

‘Mrs. D’Souza, Hari, she’s given me a note for Papa to read and sign on’- Rajeev said despairingly. 

‘What did you do? You aren’t very mischievous!! What made her write a note to Saheb?- Hari asked sympathetically. 

‘It was an accident. I broke one of our classroom’s windows’, - Rajeev answered.

‘Arre, do not worry, Chhote, cheer up, today, Amna has prepared some delicious paranthas’- Hari said as he whizzed through Marine Drive. Bombay in 1975 was a city bustling with people pouring in from all across the country, all of them striving to achieve what they had set out to after leaving their villages and towns. Hope is contagious in Bombay. It always has been.

Dr. Vikraant Gupta, was a well established doctor working at Bombay’s revered Breach Candy Hospital. His father had been one of Zaveri Bazaars most successful diamond traders and had ensured that his son was given the finest education possible and bequeathed enough to ensure that for generations to come, his lineage had enough to live extravagantly.

Rajeev, wasn’t allowed an indulgent lifestyle. His father wanted him to grow up following the principles his own father had raised him with. ‘There’s no greater crime than being dishonest to oneself, self-deceit is the biggest lie,’- he always told Rajeev. Rajeev didn’t know what deceit meant but never asked, as he was content knowing that self- deceit was something abysmally wicked.

Hari swerved into the Guptas’ driveway as an old security guard opened the gates of Vindhya Manor, the Gupta family’s residence for the last twenty years. 

He stopped in the portico as Rajeev got off and then parked the car next to the lawn as Rajeev waited by the door.

‘A bath first or lunch right away?- Hari asked as he took Rajeev’s bag off his shoulders. ‘Bath first.’- Rajeev replied still looking as rueful as ever. 

Hari had been a part of the Gupta household ever since he came to Rajeev’s grandfather looking for a job some thirty years ago. No one knew what made Rajeev’s grandfather agree to hire him as a domestic help but they were all the better for it. Dr. Gupta was a lad of six then and he held Hari in high regard right from the moment he was introduced to him.

When they moved into Vindhya Manor from their small dinghy house, Hari was given a room of his own and quite a spacious one at that.

‘I’ll ask Aamna to set the table. Bathe quickly or else the food will get cold’- Hari instructed Rajeev.

Hari laid out fresh new clothes for Rajeev as he went into the bathing room.
Blue was Rajeev’s favourite colour, Hari remembered as he took out a sky blue t-shirt from Rajeev’s closet. Hari knew everything there was to know about Rajeev, and although he was ashamed of ever admitting it, he knew Rajeev much better than Rajeev’s father himself.

He knew Rajeev loved playing with tiny sea shells on Juhu Beach, he enjoyed calling out to the Mehras’ dog from outside their gate, he loved the smell of new notebooks, and he loved lying down on dewy grass. 

At the dining table, Rajeev chewed on his favourite paranthas as if it were peat. Hari remembered the day of Anita’s sudden and tragic death.  Her son, wailed on endlessly, more so because of being surrounded with unfamiliar faces and being unable to seek out the face he loved most. 

‘Do you think Papa will sign on the note Hari? What if he doesn’t?’- Rajeev inquired, now utterly disconcerted. 

‘I think we should worry about that when he comes home later in the evening. 

What I want you to do now is, go into your room and bring out your football. Whoever got anything out of sulking at the dining table?’- Hari said clearing Rajeev’s plate.

Rajeev brought out the ball and the two of them went out to the lawn for Rajeev’s daily dose of physical exercise. For Hari, playing football with Rajeev was the highlight of everyday’s proceedings. Rajeev’s bubbly fervour invariably warmed Hari’s heart besides leaving him panting profusely. Today, Rajeev didn’t exhibit the same infectious enthusiasm he almost never failed to show.

The guard opened the gate as Dr. Vikraant Gupta's car made its way onto the driveway and pulled up in the portico. He got off holding a brown box and smiled at the two of them. ‘I’ve brought pastries from Mrs. Pirzana’s bakery’, Vikraant said going inside. 

Rajeev didn’t react to this. Pastries and a note from one’s class teacher were too much for the mind of a six year old to think about. He picked up his football and walked back into the house, with Hari following him concernedly.

Dinner was a private affair in Vindhya Manor, and the domestic help in the household took leave of the family as it dined, discussing the events of the day.

Rajeev had his diary on his lap as he slurped on the bowl of curd, leaving most part of the chappatis and sabzee untouched.

‘What’s wrong Rajeev? Is anything troubling you?- Vikraant asked noticing his son’s lack of appetite.

Rajeev put his diary on the table open to the page on which the dreaded note was written. 

Vikraant perused the small note as a dismayed Rajeev looked on, almost shivering in trepidation. 

 ‘Leave the table and go to your room’- Vikraant said as he kept Rajeev’s diary aside.
Vikraant was livid, this much was clear to Rajeev who was slowly welling up.
‘Papa please!!’- Rajeev said tremulously.
‘LEAVE!!’- Vikraant reiterated.

Rajeev left clutching his diary.
He didn’t read his daily chapter from Aesop’s Fables, which his father had purchased for him a month ago.

Hari switched his bed side lamp off and placed the book back on the shelf on the wall.

The child’s father had asked him to go see him in his room before he went off to sleep.
Vikraant was sitting on his bed reading a journal when Hari knocked on his door.
‘Come in’- he said as Hari entered.

Hari was aware of why Vikraant had summoned him. It was the last day of the month, the day his salary found its way into his coffer box.

Vikraant handed Hari a wad of notes and said-‘You’re doing a fine job Hari. Thank you!!’

Just as Hari turned to leave, Vikraant called him back.

‘You’ve been more a part of Rajeev’s upbringing than I could ever manage to be. For this he shall be eternally grateful to you and so shall I. The greatest satisfaction in life is to your child smile. And I know you’ve been more satisfied in this respect than I have. He has been more of a son to you than to me. ’-Vikraant said, his voice quivering a little.

Vikraant had been a gracious employer but not once had he spoken to Hari using such heartfelt words. Hari did not know how to respond and mumbled an incoherent- ‘Thank you Saheb‘.

'Anyway, just get me Rajeev’s diary, I need to sign the note his teacher sent’- Vikraant said, having regained his composure.

‘Yes, Saheb’- Hari said and left the room to fetch the little boy’s dairy.
The next afternoon Rajeev left his classroom tired as ever albeit with a strange feeling of contentment. 

He walked out as once again a sea of people greeted him and a familiar voice called out – ‘Chhote’. 

Hari was standing next to their car as Rajeev ran up to him. ‘He signed, Hari, he signed’- Rajeev said as he got into the car. 

His face wore a brilliant smile. 

Hari smiled back.  

He felt a little sorry for Vikraant as he acknowledged how this particular satisfaction would almost always be- just his.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


For the nice guy, watching cigarette smoke is a delirious affair.
It’s like the thoughts in his head-
yet confined.

It makes him believe in the normalcy of incoherence.
The irony of being nice and being where is,
and he loves it.
It makes him intellectualize the word- ‘nice’-
the last cigarette always does.
The people he cares about,
are busy talking about how nice he is.
But watching the smoke waft over your head,
and seeing light diffuse into it-
slowly, surreally,
makes one want better words for description,
because ‘remarkable’ becomes an unremarkable word to use
for something like this.

His story is not one of disconsolation.
It’s nice like how he is.
It's fleetingly beautiful,
like the smoke he's observing.
Escaping into the darkness,
nothingness engulfing nothingness.
The night shall wear on,
and he shall have to go.
Not to get back to being nice.
No, his work for the day is done.
But to arrange for more of this entertainment.

He does not like the smoke inside him,
unlike others who aren’t just as nice.
He likes to watch it leave.
He loves its promise of being a sight to behold-
not an empty promise this.
It's quite like the promises he’s made,
to people who speak about how nice he is.

The nice guy shall remain- immovably-


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

An Urban L(ove)ust Story

'Did you sleep with her?’- Alex demanded as she got her handkerchief out; her eyes were welling. 

For the last half hour Francis and Alex had been arguing in Luis' taxi, and were being largely unrestrained in voicing the thoughts each of them had about the other, and Luis had been a patient audience, watching them do so, courtesy of his rear view mirror. 

Luis had been driving his taxi for just over a week now and his older experienced colleagues had told him about the things they hear while they’re working. He wouldn't be the first to have a story to share about a man’s alleged infidelity and the thought of still being the cynosure in the gathering of pseudo-intellectual taxi driving folk later that evening amused Luis a little.

Yes, cab drivers were worldly-wise. As Old Xavier, a mentor of sorts for many of them always says- ‘I’ve learnt more about life driving a cab than most people learn through their education.’

When you’re a cab driver, with little hope of making it big in any other walk of life, words like these work wonders to raise your spirits.

‘That is not the point Alex! I want to give it a shot with Amanda, because the life I’m going to have with her certainly looks more promising that what the two of us have had so far, and to put it bluntly I know that it has been a MISTAKE!’- Francis said; his face had been steadily turning red over these last few minutes.

Luis could see his lips quiver a bit. Men are never too strong, he thought to himself. They are made out to be far stronger than they actually are.

Alex let out a sob; she’d reached the rather infamous hysterical threshold women of her age have. ‘So it was all a mistake you say? Cameron is a mistake? The house we own is a mistake? Oh Jesus, after all this time, this is what all of this means to you?’

‘So you think this is hard for just for you? It’s a big decision, but I’ve thought it out well. How long were we going to pull it off? We couldn’t have lasted and I think that it’d be better for the two of us to acknowledge this and move on!’- Francis said, now shaking visibly.

‘Why should we? Why can’t you see there’s nothing to acknowledge? Why must you always try avoiding seeing the truth? The truth is you’re as filthy as they come! And no matter how much you try to rationalise this you’re going to realize this someday or the other and Amanda will too!’- Alex retorted, as she buried her face in her hands and sobbed uncontrollably.

Luis slowed down a bit and turned around to ask Francis if he should stop, but strangely enough Francis asked him to go on.

Heartless, that’s what this generation is, Luis thought as he suddenly proud of how his Papi had raised him. He fully understood a man’s commitment to his family, and how he must put his family before all else.

The traffic in the evening was as much a cause of displeasure to a taxi driver as a perpetually misbehaving kid is to a teacher in elementary school. There are things you just can’t avoid, and just can’t get used to. Thankfully, there were just a few minutes away from their destination.

‘You know I’ve had it with you! You and your stupidity! It’s as clear as it can be Alex! For once why don’t you think something through? There was nothing in our lives worth continuing this!’- Francis bellowed, his fists clenched and his face contorted menacingly.

Alex sobbed even harder- ‘Our child, our beautiful child! Why do you have to make him go through this?’

‘Can we press on the gas a bit harder? We’re getting late!’- Francis said; his tone rather different from what it had been so long.

‘He’ll be better off without having to listen to his parents scream at each other every day!’ – He continued; his tone as acerbic as it could be.

‘He’ll be better off without having a moral-less father like you!’ – Alex said, almost howling.

‘YOU DARE ACCUSE ME OF NOT BEING A GOOD FATHER!’- Francis hollered now turning to Alex with a vicious look on his face.

‘A father who loves his family so much, that he considers fornicating with women as unprincipled as he is as a sacrifice for their well-being’- Alex replied, wryly as she struggled to control herself.

‘STOP NOW!’- Francis growled, raising his clenched fists, his face more menacingly contorted than any face, Luis had ever seen before.

The car screeched to a halt.

‘We’re here sir!’- Luis said; his voice betrayed how terribly distraught he was.

‘You’ll pay right!’- Francis said as he lowered his hands.

‘I paid the last time, Phil!’- Alex complained.

‘Ah well, how much mister?’- Francis asked Luis as he opened his door.

Luis didn’t answer. He just stared blankly at a poster on the telephone box right next to his car.

’20 bucks. Wait, you’re in it?’- he asked Francis disbelievingly pointing at the poster.
‘Err, yeah, just like the poster says. That’s me and that’s Erica! We have a hard time in this town. We’ve got to take whatever comes by our way. We hardly earn! Had to take this one too! Asked the folks to think of a better name but ‘An Urban Lust Story’ is the best they could come up with. You know what? This acting thing gets on your nerve and damn it I’m going to quit soon. Stupid names, stupid scripts, stupider cast. Gosh didn’t it sound ridiculous to you! You just saw almost the whole of Scene III. And we’ve hardly practiced!’- Phil said as he handed Luis his fare.

‘You think we need to go through it once more?’- Erica asked as they walked away from the cab.

They clearly don’t, Luis concluded, they most certainly don’t.