Sunday, May 20, 2007

Love is an old shirt

It's a Sunday today. I think, if I visit the coffee house in the evening, I may be able to spot you. "He wonders, why do I insist on going to the coffee house. How do I tell him why." This is what your sms read. "Who do you love more?"I committed this stupid mistake of asking you again. Now I realise how your love has made me capable of jealousy. You wrote back, the screen of my mobile phone getting lit like a thunder sky. "I have only loved once. I cannot fall in love again." Ah. I remember closing my eyes, and leaning backwards, in relief perhaps. But the fact is that you are not with me.

Sometimes, when there is no one around, I open my cupboard, and take out that old, worn-out shirt. You had washed it once, with your hands. More than the detergent, it smells of the moisturiser you'ld put on your hands.

I would like to think that you use the washing machine now.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Seven seas in Chandigarh

Memory is vision. Even when the summer heat in Delhi blinds me, I can clearly see a swirling ceiling fan and a wet floor. I can also hear songs from the ‘Bandit Queen.’ I go back to the summer of 1996, to Kamal’s room in Sector 15-B in Chandigarh. April and May meant long walks in the evening around the Sukhna Lake. They also meant milkshakes sweetened by Rooh Afza. Kamal’s landlord, an old Sikh widower, would be gone to his Kasauli retreat. In winters, we could see him, sitting in the compound of the ground floor, his feet resting on a cane stool, sipping his scotch silently in front of a fire. Come April and he would leave for Kasauli, only to come back in September. To sip more scotch, we thought.

We would lie on the clean bedsheets – Kamal and I – in his room and listen to Nusrat Sahab’s haunting voice. To turn the air cool, we sprinkled water on the floor. On the top floor lived a man who would be drunk throughout the day. He fought with his neighbours all the time. But we never troubled him and he never troubled us. He had two sweet little daughters, who we were his darlings. The man, we learnt later, was the son-in-law of a very famous Qawwal. He himself taught music at the local Girl’s college.

One day, Kamal was not there. I lay half awake, in perspiration, as the power supply had been cut off. Suddenly I heard two sweet voices, singing a song from one of the popular Bollywood flicks released during that time:

Maine kiye paar saat samandar…

I heard the entire song with closed eyes, completely mesmerised. When I looked out, I found the musician’s little daughters, wearing identical pink frocks, singing that song. Later, Kamal and I would make them sing the song a hundred times. It was during that time when the singer Vinod Sehgal came visiting his house and we came to know that in a few months’ time, Gulzar’s film Maachis was being released in which Sehgal had also sung a few numbers.

A few months later, our final exams came to an end and we had to bid goodbye to Chandigarh. A year or so later, a friend told us that the musician had passed away (he would not have been more than forty). In his place, his wife was offered the job.

Eleven years have passed and, in summers, when the electricity goes off, I sometimes hear that song:

Maine kiye paar saat samandar…