A cigarette cradled between two fingers, I walk along the deserted Shillong roads. The watch has been left somewhere , I don’t remember. It is dark, night. A few cars whoosh past me, their headlights blurred. There is a slight drizzle, a wind that sprays the rain and the road looks dusted, with icing sugar. Wind makes the cigarette burn faster than I smoke it. The glowing tip looks just like another light. The road here plummets and I can see almost half the Shillong spread before my eyes, twinkling dots in darkness. From here, I need to take a turn and walk towards the place I live. The cigarette burned to the filter.I take a drag and bitterness fills my mouth.I throw it, crush it with my sandals and rummage my bag for another.I donot want to take the turn.
The wind here is comforting.The flaps of the chador feel like soft pats on my back.The roads are awash with moonlight in rain and a wind.I crave for Shakti’s poem or Neruda.Inside that yellow building, which looks nothing but a dot from there (I can’t even see it, I just imagine that I can.It makes focussing the hatred easier), is the place where I spent my days of useless existence, earning money and going out on weekend to spend it.Good you think?It hardly is when utility of life has to be measured in money spent and earned.So far away, still I can feel those raunchy Akshay Kumar songs spill out and suck the happiness out of the valley.Faces shall line the TV and gasp and clap at every gyrations of hips.There will be smell of stale goodness hanging in the air.I shall have to chew a gum before going in because the smell of cigarette is more suffocating to them than those movies that I am expected to appreciate.
I want to smell the pine cones that litter tha road, the yellow dandelions,the wild smell of the colourful flowers that line the road,lie down on the grass, look at the stars and cry.Cry my heart out, cry out the sadness that I accumulate everyday and the hatred that grows within me.The hatred that is fostered by the useless small talks, by the daily drudgery of online shopping (this is supposedly a very productive pastime).This hatred doesn’t come cheap.It takes it toll.It saps the ability to appreciate, to write and to revel in the beauty of the land of ‘Shesher Kobita’.And it doesn’t spare even me.It makes me hate myself for hating others.
The rain started to fall in dollops now.The wind turns chilling.The last cigarette has been over long back.I feel thirsty for another but all shops are closed.The dim bulbs hanging from the roofs makes the wooden planks blocking the shops laugh at me.There isn’t a single person in sight.No one stays outdoors so late here.They all have a home to go back.I couldn’t create any for me.I stand in the awning of a shop and wait for the rain to stop.It is dangerous to walk when it rains.The water starts flowing in rivulets by the road, carrying the dirt with it.I come out into the rain.It begins to pattern my dress, working its way down from my face to feet.Fingers turn numb, I don’t even bother to take the umbrella out.The rain continues to hit me, as I take steps along my way.
“Ekhane bristi pore baromash, ekhane megh ghabhi-r moto chorey”.It does rain here the year round, clouds graze like calves-the clichéd Shakti Chatterjee comes to my mind.I long to recite it to someone,anyone.The urge overpowers me and I ask out aloud, ‘Abani, are you home?’.The rain drowns my voice and a Khasi kid stares at me from his window. “I look at you and I sigh”- W.B Yeats come to me-a book flung at me-a courtesy done well and gracefully accepted.Gracefully? I wonder now, or because there wasn’t any other way?A bitterness again wells up within me.The rain turned strong and pierced me now.I look at my fingers and see them shrivelled and pale.They look foreign to me, like pieces of meat, forgotten in a freezer.I rub them together and swallow hard, to drown the bitter taste.It has more to do with smoking than memories, I tell myself.
I walk along, alone, bracing the cold.
I walk straight to my room, leaving them to wonder if I am drunk.I must be, to walk in rain and come back so late.I so very wish that I were.Then I could shout out and pretend it was the alcohol talking. Some news about the PM visiting some state is going on. Some calls me out to watch it and I bite back a ‘Fuck off’.Swearing by a girl would scandalize them, make them mock me.I manage a laugh. People with no idea about Naxalbari start talking about it.Some news about something in Chattisgarh.I want to yell out, berate them and show them reason.They rejoice one year’s success of new government, the amendment to child labour law haunts me.I can’t talk to them and sunk into a self-righteous sadness.It acts as a balm.I think and then I start believing that I am better than them, better than anyone. The loneliness that stuck to me with the wet clothes get cleansed after a bath and a steaming cup of Earl Gray.I enjoy this luxury,the common bitterness being drowned in the flavour of bergamot orange.They smile at me, I smile back.Tea has loosened the muscles.I smile wide and walk to my room.
Ali Akbar Khan plays Pahari Jhinjhoti for me.The notes flutter, ricochet of the glass panes, mix with the sound of rain and fill up the emptiness.The phone lies silent on the table.I don’t bother to check it anymore.I use the collected poem of Yeats to support the laptop and lie down.Sleep wades in as tears roll down the cheeks and I smile.Storm clouds gather in the sky, and Maya Angelou writes,
” Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone. “