Saturday, December 12, 2009

Somewhere, anywhere

As long as there is fire the mosquitoes keep away. But as soon as the embers begin to die, they come back. And so does the pain in the knee. I sit on the rooftop, alone, caressing a drink, as the smoke from the half-burnt wood stings my eyes. This is a Delhi suburb, soon to be connected with the big city by something which slithers – sometimes through the belly of the earth, and at times overhead on bridges so narrow you’ld think it might come and kiss you on the ground. They call it the Metro. Why does one have to go somewhere, I wonder. Anywhere.

Few weeks ago, not far from my house, a family came to pay obeisance to a measles-curing goddess. Their five-year-old kid got drowned in an open manhole as the father took pains to put on the gearlock of his car. They discovered the young girl’s body the other day in a drain miles away. Life has to go on. So it will. Somewhere. Anywhere. For the young man in my neighbourhood, it goes to his bride’s house tonight. Around sunset a band has arrived. The band members wait outside his house, a bunch of thin men, bogged down by their saxophones, drums and wide belts across their shoulders akin to what models wear in a beauty pageant. Somebody from the groom’s house sends them a few glasses of tea and a few rusks. They sit hunched around a fire made of waste paper and leaves and gulp down the coarse bread, dipping it in the warm tea. Then two of them dig out beedis from a pack and take long puffs from it. Who would have played on their wedding? Probably they would have played at each others' – that is if not occupied elsewhere.

So, yes, the mosquitoes return along with the pain in the knee. The band is playing. And then they go away, accompanying the groom. Silence returns. I can again hear old songs being played out on a radio by a watchman guarding apartments behind mine. He has also lit a fire. When it dies down, the mosquitoes will visit him as well. And who knows which pain will return. But it wouldn’t matter. After all, it has to return somewhere. Anywhere.