Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A story without an end

Clouds play chiaroscuro with the hills, kids play hop scotch. Mist covers the valleys beneath, a thick white wall erases all. That was Darjeeling, a decade back. Daaju gets me a steaming hot cup of tea.

Cha, shaab.

I am huddling myself into a ball, hood tight on the head. The tea warms my insides. I light a cigarette. Dark clouds force the mall into frenetic activity. Quick last minute deals and ponies trotting back to their shelters.

A girl, shivering in the cold, emerges from the mist and hurriedly enters the tea shack. She is in a red pullover and jeans. And asks for a cup of tea. I can see her companions across the road, buying woolens.

Quite cold, I say.
Yeah, and it’s going to rain, she says, looking at the ashen sky.
You’re from Calcutta?
Yes, and you?
Calcutta.

An uneasy pause follows. I think hard what to say next. I remember rainy days in Calcutta. Moss green walls. The Lake, full to its brim. And I remember my days in Ranchi. The small black hills and the lolling heath-like wastelands. All covered in mist. Pullover sleeves stretched over fingers, even as the lazy game of cricket continues.

But I just say, the tea’s good. She nods, blowing into the cup.

The sky opens up and cold raindrops spear the hills. Everybody scampers for shelter. Kids playing hop-scotch disappear up the road. The shack has an asbestos roofing and the sound is deafening. In seconds, I can see streams rushing down towards the Keventers lane and giant conifers swaying in the distance. And I see this unknown person, fugue like, half hidden in the charcoal smoke of the shack, cupping the hot cup of tea.

I feel a strange kind of bonding with her: consigned to a small shack in some remote magical land, while the elements play out their part outside.

I say, with the glory of a poet in spate, Time stretches when it rains.

She smiles. And I happen to see a copy of The Catcher in the Rye popping out of her bag. My mind is almost made. I love it when it rains. I love it when clouds hang low and play with tree tops.

The next half an hour, contrary to what I had just said, flies. We talk about Salinger, cult novels, Beatles, smell of old books, getting lost in nowhere… We talked with our eyes, our breath. My smiles, her giggles…

The dream is jolted by grating cries from the other side of the road. Her friends; they are frantically calling her. The rain is holding up a bit. The hills on the far side are clearer now. She pays the daju. I am frozen. I need to say something but I cannot. She smiles at me. Says, bye.

I manage to mumble, Can we meet? Later?
We are leaving in half an hour, say says.
In Calcutta, I mean. I am getting desperate.
Where?
Park Street crossing. Next Saturday. Five in the evening. I rattle out as if there was no tomorrow.

Her friends’ cries are getting raucous. She smiles, and runs across the road…

I light another cigarette.

24 Comments:

At 2:55 AM, Blogger Chaila Bihari said...

Hmmmmm, Darjeeling, Red Pullover-Jeans, Talking with eyes... skeletons in the closet.
Paaanchu, serious baepar

 
At 8:06 AM, Blogger jarshad said...

Fabulous... You should be writing more of such stuff than UPS raises Citigroup...

 
At 10:02 AM, Blogger Tridib said...

Great to see the writer in you back from hibernation. I think the world desrves to see your earlier works. Do post them, too. Yes, you would need to hammer in those stories, make soft copies from your handwritten yellowing, crumpled notebook pages. But I assure you it will be worth the effort! Thanks to technology, your audience will no longer be limited to a handful of friends. The world shall know the literary talent that resides in the Fool on the Hill!

 
At 10:56 AM, Blogger vadahole said...

that was so nostalgic...it simply proves how close is nature to our small infactuations. Those that accidently cross our lives, but which we love to call back again and again to our otherwise busy memory.
i could see myself standing under that tea shack, but was that a girl in the red jacket...no, she was wearing a faded brown shawl. ahh, now i realise how much i've missed in life. there should've been a rewind button in our lives also.

 
At 11:41 AM, Blogger Ghetufool said...

wish i would have the word power like you and an eye for details.
and also, wish, i could call the lady in red boudi by now.
you are such a wonderful writer.
derjeeling came alive in bangalore. see i have put on my sweater.

 
At 1:44 PM, Blogger A fool on the hill said...

Chaila: There's always something about Darjeeling, isn't it?

Jarshad: Well, Balzac had once said that money is the petrol of life.

Tridib: Thanks for those priceless words. Feel flattered. Remember those S-14 days? When every piece of crap I'd write would have to pass your test of patience?

 
At 1:53 PM, Blogger A fool on the hill said...

Vadahole: As always, you are poignant in your thoughts. But "faded brown shawl"? That sounds interesting! As far as rewind buttons are concerned, I would rather give them a pass! ;-)

Ghetu: Thanks. But boudi? Lord help us! And... you can never keep a Bong too far from a sweater and a monkey cap.

 
At 12:25 AM, Anonymous Hyacinth Girl said...

That was beautiful, Fool. Makes me want to visit Darjeeling again, once more, and for the nth time...

They say the roads are dirty nowadays, that the locals are strangely hostile if it wasnt for business, but I failed to notice these things.

How does it matter anyway, it's the land of that beloved old mountain, which stubbornly refuses to reveal itself, and makes you forget and forgive a lot of things... Even mentions of lost girls in jeans and red pullovers :-)

What happens next? In Park Street? If I may request, write on...

 
At 12:57 AM, Anonymous Hyacinth Girl said...

One little thing that stood out...

I noticed "Cha, shaab", and not the ubiquitous "saab"

So right and so perfectly North-East, Fool

 
At 4:42 AM, Anonymous Ph said...

:) And yes, please post the ones from your notebook too.

 
At 11:11 AM, Blogger A fool on the hill said...

Hyacinth girl: I wish even mundane urban spaces should make one forget and forgive a lot of things!

ph: Thanks for the interest. The notebook will need a lot of finding before I key them in.
But do stay tuned!

 
At 8:11 PM, Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Hmmmm... Very evocative. 17 is a state of mind.
So when you SEE this in your mind's eye, is it Anjan Datta or (shudder) Goutam Ghosh behind the camera?

J.A.P.

 
At 11:02 AM, Blogger Rimi said...

i'm sorry, all i can come up with is the eminently predictable "it's SOO wonderful!" (JAP has already taken 'evocative', dammit)

if it helps any, i really really mean it.

 
At 10:37 PM, Anonymous Saptak said...

you are quite brave or atleast in your stories you are. :-)

 
At 5:24 AM, Blogger A fool on the hill said...

J.A.P: Manik Da, of course! Remember Kanchenjunga?

Rimi: Thaaanks! Am overwhelmed!

Saptak: Real-life Bond, man!

 
At 12:26 PM, Blogger Roshomon said...

Darjeeling and daajus as I remember it...
Brought back so many memories.
Beautiful post.
We need a part 2 of this!!On popular demand.

 
At 3:09 AM, Blogger A fool on the hill said...

Roshomon: Thanks. If only there were dajus in the hills of south India. And steamed momos instead of bondas and vadas!

 
At 2:48 AM, Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

Time to bring out story featuring pink petticoat, methinks!

 
At 9:49 AM, Blogger A fool on the hill said...

Marauder: The masterpiece, you mean?

 
At 9:34 PM, Blogger Kusum Rohra said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 9:35 PM, Blogger Kusum Rohra said...

*grinning foolishly at the screen, with eyes shining with the warmth she felt* since words like evocative, wonderful etc have already been taken, since people have already commented almost everything i thought, i am just letting you know that i was smiling so foolishly while reading this ... lovely... just lovely and i am lucky part 2 and part 3 are already there, however i am feeling so good reading this will read the part 2 and part 3 later, want to live with this story for some more time :)

I feel a strange kind of bonding with her: consigned to a small shack in some remote magical land, while the elements play out their part outside. *sigh*

Now now i was about to start copying every line and mentioning my reaction or thoughts hehe :)

 
At 3:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello! 

what is your favorite color of....mine is pink!

Wow, I've found the same to be true too!  Where did you get that at?  

See you soon! Girly Girl 



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At 2:24 AM, Blogger pratyush chakraborty said...

The next half an hour, contrary to what I had just said, flies. We talk about Salinger, cult novels, Beatles, smell of old books, getting lost in nowhere… We talked with our eyes, our breath. My smiles, her giggles

 
At 2:29 AM, Blogger pratyush chakraborty said...

The next half an hour, contrary to what I had just said, flies. We talk about Salinger, cult novels, Beatles, smell of old books, getting lost in nowhere… We talked with our eyes, our breath. My smiles, her giggles
- the para i liked the most. Gr8 keep it up

 

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