Monday, February 08, 2010
That's Where He Lives...
Riding in the cab. With nonchalance and a fixed focal length.
A crowded bus stand. Rustic drivers startling and baffling pedestrians with sudden swerve and honking. For jest.
Mean looking hovels. Traffic light. Red, green, yellow. A coconut vendor, with a heap of empty shells lying behind him. Dust. A vegetable market. Push cart vendors. Smell. A crowd of billboards - of bikes, Birla Super cement, Asian paints, laptop. Electric poles. A protruding temple, blocking traffic. Beauty salon. Petrol bunk. Mechanics in a garage. A supermarket. People waiting in a bus-stop. A bumpy road. Potholes. Impatient, nasty driver. Once in a way, he drives on the left of the road. Mostly, he drives on whatever is left of the road. A lone mango tree. A patch of smooth drive. A road divider with yellow black stripes. Merging into one another at 40 kilometers per hour. An interval of grey mortar at a spot where a lorry smashed into the road divider last night. Yellow and black stripes continue after the interval. A dog darting across the road, reaching the other side alive by sheer luck. Another lying in the middle of the road with its stomach ripped open. Just like the road divider.
All of them pass one by one through the cab window making no impression. All receive the same amount of attention and indifference.
Except one apartment building. The white-yellow-blue apartment building away from the road that looms from behind all the clutter and reveals itself for 15 long seconds. I wake up from my numbness. For once, the focal length changes.
I hear no sound, I smell no smell. I see no people, no dogs, no shops, no trees. An otherwise quiet and dormant pain becomes alive and wrenches my heart. A liquid ache permeates the body until my limbs throb with the pain of my heart. I fix my gaze on the tall building in the field of view.
Because that’s where he lives. I don’t know which floor, which flat. I just know he lives there.
Only for 15 seconds, the thing is visible from the road. I try to get my fill of it. And then even as I crane my neck hungrily to get some more of it, it is lost behind shops, electric wires and half finished construction work.
That’s as close as I can get to him. A fleeting glance across 500 meters of barrenness, litter and parthanium shrubs, at an apartment building in which he lives, from the window of a rickety cab, in the midst of honking and dust.
That’s as close as I ever will get to him.
The luxury of a 30 minute meeting once everyday lasted about a month. After that 15 minutes twice a week. No sight of him for a week. Temperature and fever on the 8th day. A brief glimpse of him on the 9th day, from a distance of 50 feet. He was wearing my favourite shirt. White and blue stripes.
That day, it rained on parched earth. Just a glimpse from a distance of 50 feet.
The next interval was 3 months long. I searched for him, his voice and his innocent face everywhere. Hope became a thin strand, barely there. And then the phone rang. It was him. I gripped the receiver in my hand as though I was hanging from the edge of a precipice and it was my only salvage.
The distance grew longer and longer and silences, more and more louder. An all consuming feverishness burnt the body, mind and soul until it spent itself. And then came the lucidity that lies beyond grief. And the nonchalance that lies beyond passion.
But hope is a tenacious damn thing. It clings to almost anything to perpetuate itself for a little longer. It can’t see itself dying, even though it knows there is no hope.
So hope got the better of lucidity and found new objects of attachment.
His car parked below the office. A white, long car, with a blue sticker behind. I spot it. No matter where it is. Even when it whizzes past me on the highway.
His shoes lying outside the dining hall. That tell me he is inside. Black but beginning to turn grey and wrinkled from prolonged use. I can find them, among a crowd of a hundred pairs of shoes lying around.
His chauffeur. Running errands on the floor. Walking past my aisle, Standing, sometimes sitting before a system. He could be doing just anything. But if he here, it means HE has come to work.
His blog. A space that he has abandoned long ago. But the four articles there, are all his. I have copied them all to my flash drive. Lest he delete the blog. I read them at home when I miss him.
His emails, that contain one sentence, sometimes two. I forward them to my yahoo and gmail, so I can have them forever.
And the white blue yellow apartment building. That looms from behind all the clutter and reveals itself for 15 seconds. Twice a day. As I ride in the cab.
I wake up from my numbness and fix my gaze on it.
Because that’s where he lives.
With his wife.