A chilling breeze ushered in the smell of distant rain. From the fourteenth floor, the city lights were a daze. Looking down at the road was no respite either. The traffic was relentless and the cacophony was not letting him focus. His eyes caught a middle-aged couple walking all huddled under a pink umbrella. It was barely big enough to cover the both of them from the drizzle. Probably out for shopping, he thought, like the many who venture out this late on a Sunday evening. Marriage is after all a shared responsibility, one that you come to terms with, probably within months into the relationship.
All the initial raucous, the celebration, the travel, the honeymoon period is all just an elaborate trap to lure the smartest predator. The fine linen of momentary gratification only fades to reveal the underlying fabric of reality.
Well, marriage was not the immediate concern. He had a couple more years to himself, before he had to face the sacrificial altar. His eyes shifted to a group of teenagers who had just finished a game of basketball. Their adrenalin levels still seemed to be high, in a lot of friendly punching and leg-pulling. He strained to hear them speak. No avail. The only sounds he could hear from that height were the honking of vehicles and the howling of the wind. The boisterous bunch soon split up, scurrying into their respective apartments, probably in a hurry to mentally prepare for another gruesome week of school slugging and to watch some late night TV. Most of flats facing his balcony were lit. And a scary proportion of them didn’t have curtains. It was a haven for voyeurs. You could see right through the balcony glass, which were French window style and pretty transparent. Large LED TVs, with their super bright displays were running in some of the homes. Some residents were out on their balconies, talking on the phone and leaning on the parapet railing. A few smiles, a few serious faces – could be teenagers thinking of the next cheesy line or joke to crack, or couples connecting with their parents from distant towns.
He shuddered when the Muslim call for prayers blared in the background, and continued for the next 2 minutes. He had never seen a mosque in the vicinity and had always wondered where it came from.
Religion, he thought, what a powerful bond it creates with your imagination, the most successful mass phenomenon, which keeps people from the ends of the earth together, which infuses a sense of belonging and pride, a feeling of brotherhood and instant connection no matter your language, nationality or culture. And so easily did people give themselves to this idea, with no authoritative questioning or even a hint of disproval whatsoever. It has been in business since the beginning of civilization. By now the rain had got heavier. He felt the thick raindrops on his palm. They felt cold and empty, just like his mind. The roads looked deserted all of a sudden. Some black specks bobbed here and there in the distance, which wasn’t very clearly visible under the dim street light.
Some women rushed outside to their balconies, in a hurry to take down the clothes they had hung, with their kids running behind them to help out. A lot of others just didn’t bother! The hum of the raindrops filled his senses. All the background noise seemed to cease and he felt one with something bigger.
Flashes of lighting, and distant roars of thunder! He remembered his childhood… Back in Goa, the monsoons were pretty heavy and getting to the school was a mess. Children were warned not to walk when there was lightning. The thunder never ceased. When he got back from school, his mom would give him a welcome hug, and then help him remove his shoes and bag. He would run to the balcony in his uniform just to get wet. Jumping in the rain and feeling the rainy gust of wind was something he cherished. His mom would run behind him, scolding him for his irresponsibility and mischief.
What an innocent world that was. Why did age steal those memories from him and change him so much – all in the name of survival, progress and maturity. Was he as free and innocent as his former self?
All that self deceit, denial, ego and anger that raged within him, concealed within his calm and patient exterior, waiting to burst out. He wanted to be purged and walk into the light, hand in hand, with someone he could trust. But who could he trust. So many people had come into his life, appreciated his hospitality, leeched on his energy and ever giving spirit, and had just walked away. ‘Move on’, they told him, ‘Life is short. Meet new people, have fun! Change is the only constant.’
He smiled to himself. How could people be so callous with relationships and trust? Whatever happened to being sincere, honest and trusting? Maybe the world has changed after all. That little boy from Goa couldn’t fathom the harsh reality of this life, the selfishness of relationships, the funny, fake emotions.
Distant voices from his past echoed in his head, luring him to fill his deep void with memories from those good old times. He tried to shut those memories out, trying hard to focus on the present, the moment. He felt cold. All he could see was a blur of lights. He tried to clear his eyes. His face and cheeks was damp. He liked to believe that it was the rain on his face.
~ Kiran Benny | Edited by Nandini Sharma Kapur
Image source: pixabay.com