When I opened the shutter-like windows of my first class compartment and held it up, I could hear the triumph of the train warrior conquering all its way and still roaring. The wind was rushing in to over hurl the train of its track. The fog tried to blind the train. I admired the determination with which it shoots into the midst of fog and wind. And the train was sure, almost next to certainty that the fog and wind will loose. But, being the elements of the creator himself, the fog-wind team had the best of spirits. The creation of man on wheels had the best of determination.
I took my hands off and the windows fell on the panes closing everything out. And I could hear the wind curse me from behind the folded metal barricades. A conspiracy was cheated. I tried to sleep. Thoughts rushed in.
When I decided to make a trip up north, I had skipped Delhi from my list. If I step foot in the Capital city, my uncle would be adamant that I stay with him. And the Asst. Commissioner of Police is not that easy to be nodded off. So skipping Delhi from the trip was purely intentional.
I decided to wind up after Jaipur and Agra. The marijuana supply was exhausted and either of the places did not prove blushing with the green weed. Further expedition up North might be just like injecting a barrel of ice-cold pieces into my nerves. I made a last call to tell my mom that I was coming.
Her Police brother and his wife had made some pottery for her and I was told to collect it and pay them a visit. I tried to convince her that DHL would do that job better than me. Well, it all seemed like my mom wanted me to be there at Delhi, no matter if I bought the pottery back home or not. Delhi peeped in like a proud player called back to the ground.
Before getting in the train, I got myself a companion. The price was a bit too much, but the feeling of coldness was worse. She was the guide who took me around Agra. She called herself Nandhini. And I did not really bother. I told her I am Gopi Kishan. She did not bother either. With the Ghagra cholli and her long skirt, she looked like a model. It all looked like Delhi was tempting me to come over.
The train halted some where near Faridabad. It wanted rest. The wind and the fog halted with the train. All of them were gasping for breath. Elements of the almighty obviously had ethics in abundance.
Nandhini was lying on my chest and asleep. Like always, I felt frustrated to have slept with a woman. And then she started weighing heavy and I felt I was warm and in no need of a company. Gently, I pushed her aside and got up from the berth. I opened the window to throw the plastic away. Wind did not even look at my side. It had concluded that, with me, it is prone to treachery. I shut the window down and lit a cigarette. And then I saw that Nandhini was looking at me and smiling. She was whispering my name. She was showing faces.
I smiled back and asked her if she wanted a cigarette. She nodded her head.
She got up and took her handbag. She was still sitting on the couch and her hands were searching for something in the bag. She took out a roll of paper and unfolded it. I was surprised. It was the green weed – A little tanned though.
"Where did you get this?"
She shrugged her shoulders.
"As if you have never seen it…"
I smiled at her and took it out. May be I did not know where to look for it in Agra. The train jerked a bit. And I could feel that the wind was alert.
Delhi in December is at the coldest of her moods. I started to shiver the moment I got out the train. The train was too tired and happy of its victory that it was planning for a good 12 hr. sleep. The wind was trying to fix a deal with the temperature levels, not ready to accept its defeat. May be they would freeze its engine. I wanted to say good-bye to all of them. But then, I was shivering and was looking at Nandhini. She came to me, pulled my nose.
I gave her an extra 500-rupee note. She accepted it, smiled and pressed my hand tight before leaving. I did not know where she was going. And did not want to ask. I believed that every extra word spoken is an extra step closer. I did not want to get close with any body.
I was wearing 3 shirts, all buttoned till my palm. Still, I was shivering. I went to a pay phone and inserted a rupee coin. The old man sitting at the counter gave me a cold look. May be he understood the number of Asst. Police Commissioner on the red LED Display. The phone was out of coverage area. I did not want to try a second time. I called up mom.
"Mom, Its me."
"Tell me, Bala…"
"I have been trying to reach your stupid brother a million times now. He seems to be out of coverage area. May be he is busy with work or something. I am planning to roam around the city for today and catch the next train back home. What say?"
Mom was a little dull.
"But Vishwanath told me that he would come to the station to pick you up. You are not at all interested to go. Are you? Do one thing. Wait there. I will call up Jayanthi and see what’s wrong. If he would not be available, she would make some arrangements for you. I can’t let you wait there like that. "
"But Mom…. "
"Bala, I thought you would be interested to meet Indhu. You forgot her?"
"Indhu. Who’s that now?"
"Oh. Come on Bala… You forgot Indhu? Incredible! You were so fond of her when you were a kid."
I saw rain drip from the red roof of my traditional homestead. The water droplets marched in a line. And I saw her in a white frock playing in the rain. She was trying to stop the water drip down and would laugh loud when the water slipped out through her little hands. It was more or like the fight between the train and wind. Just one thing was different. Here both of them – Indhu and the water – were elements of God. I would run to her and hold her close to me. Her Balettan and his Indhumoll would embrace and fall down. In almost all instances, Indhu would get hurt and she would start screaming loud. Afraid of the police uncle, I would run away leaving a crying Indhu behind.
"Are you there?"
My mom was screaming over the phone. She did not realize the time I traveled in seconds.
"Yes, Yeah… I am. "
"It’s ok that you have forgotten them. Now don’t tell them straight on face. Did you understand?"
I sat down at the waiting chairs on the platform. I was not feeling cold. Why is it that I never thought of Indhu? How did my mom know that I was fond of Indhu when I myself did not know it? Now I did not mind waiting. I wanted to meet Indhu. I did not mind Police Uncle any more – nor Jayanthi aunty. Water droplets fell on me. I could see little Indhu running in circles playing with the rain. Another drop fell on me. I looked up. It was the poor ceiling and the melting fog.
Drive with Naik Saab
I got a call from one Mr. Naik. He said he would wait at the entrance of the railway station. He spotted me by the color of my dress. We shook hands and then we walked towards the vehicle. It was a Police Vehicle – the old Mahindra Jeep. I assumed him to be a Hawaldar. But I was astonished to find he was the Sub Inspector of Police. Poor him. This might be the best escort I ever received.
He drove me through the notorious fogs of Delhi. I saw nothing in front, except the thick white cream all around. But Mr. Naik seems to be seeing everything. I asked him about Police Uncle. He said Uncle is at home and was expecting my call. I said I tried a number of times.
"How many times?"
The police type questioning was new to me.
He laughed loud.
"Vishwanath Sir has told me about you. You seem to be funnier, young man. "
I realized I am looking like an idiot. But I smiled at his remarks. It was obvious now that my police uncle thought I am a clown. What will Indhu think of me?
The sky was clearer and I could see tall buildings standing proud at the Great Capital. Mr. Naik stopped on the way, got out and asked me to wait in the Jeep. When he came with a plastic glass of tea, I looked closer and saw a teashop behind him.
"U seem to be shivering. Have this. "
I poured it straight into my mouth and got my throat burnt. I spit the tea out into the jeep and gasped for air. Naik Saab gave me a cold look. And then he smiled.
"Come on. Easy, young man. "
He sipped his tea and went back to pay the bill. I cursed myself. Would he tell all this to Police Uncle and would all of them laugh at me as if some clown has come from Kerala to meet his uncle in Delhi? What the hell – I shrugged off my weariness. I started feeling better.
When we stopped again, I could see a Mansion in front of me. The sky was clearer and the fog has started to give way to the sunrays. We both went inside. I was removing my shoes. Naik Saab asked me not to worry about it. We entered in and the fog was no more there.
Police Uncle & Family
I saw pieces of clay and a half done work in the center courtyard. It was like my home in Palghat – I must say it was almost similar. The sky was open in the center courtyard. I stood there watching the clay built. There was no one near. I heard a voice from behind.
"Bala… Oh my…! Come here, Bala… "
It was Jayanthi Aunty. She came almost running and then hugged me. She was seemingly delighted to see me. I looked at Naik Saab. If he is going to tell how many calls I made and how I had drank tea, the scenario might change. He was busy on a phone call.
"Vishwettaa… See who has come? "
Jayanthi aunty was calling out the Police Uncle. My God! I was always afraid of this uncle. With his big mustache and hoarse voice, he used to look like Kroor Singh in a Television epic – Chandrakantha.
I could hear him laugh from somewhere inside. May be he is happy that the clown has finally found his Sub Inspector to get the drive home. When he came out I was stunned. He had no mustache at all. A clean-shaven Police uncle was beyond my thoughts. But here he is with all smiles and his hoarse voice.
"Hei... my Kid, How are you? "
"I am doing great, Uncle. "
"Yeah… u should be; U should be… "
He laughed again. I saw a head peep out from behind his calf muscles – A pair of eyes, which wore a glass and some stupid hair, which looked like grass and coir.
"Come out Inder. "
Uncle pulled him out gently so that I can see him full. He was a kid and was stooping his head down and was looking at me through the space between his glasses and his eyebrows. I remembered my Principal at School who used to look the same way.
"Ha… This is Indhu’s younger brother. Inder. Indrajith, in fact. Inder, say 'hi' to Balettan. "
I looked at him expecting a “Hi”. Inder did not bother to say that and ran inside. May be he did not like me. Police Uncle was laughing at his son’s arrogance. Where’s Indhu by the way? My eyes started wandering. But she was nowhere to be seen. I did not want to ask my Aunty or Police Uncle about her. I thought they would tell me. They did not.
"You look tired, Bala. Go freshen up yourself. Naik would show your room. "
And then my police uncle nodded at Naik Saab and went inside. What the hell? What the hell does my uncle think of himself? He is using another government servant for his household works. I felt like telling Naik Saab to mind his own business. But then I wanted to meet Indhu and did not want to create a scene. Naik Saab was already above the stairs carrying my bag. I ran behind him.
Inder aka Indrajith.
Geyser helped me beat the cold water. I had a neat shower and was fresh and did not even feel like I had been traveling long. May be, its Indhu. Yeah. Its just Indhu. I was amazed at how much her name was igniting me. And how I lived all this while with out even thinking of her. I have to find her. I was growing impatient.
I went down the stairs and entered the first room I saw. I saw Inder playing video games. He saw me enter and gave me that not-through-glass look again. I decided to break the ice.
He did not even acknowledge and started to play over again. I felt like giving one hit on his head so that he, his glass and his stupid video games would crash in one on one. But I smiled. I wanted to see Indhu. I went near him.
"Well, I used to like video games; what do you think about the brick game? "
He gave me that most-stupid-on-earth look again.
"Brick games? Grow up Brother… "
He started laughing. What the hell? I did not even know what the Brick game was all about. I have heard it somewhere. But why the hell is he laughing? I felt like peeing in his mouth the very next time he opens his mouth to laugh. But I laughed with him.
"Oh yeah… Crazy no? But I used to love Brick Games…"
He stopped laughing and I was the only one left laughing.
"Btw, where is your sister? "
"She is sleeping. "
"In her room. "
"And where is that? "
"The next one. "
"Thanks Bro’. Now you may play that foolish, constipated game of yours and I won’t interrupt. "
I gave him a gentle hit on his head and I could see he was frightened. I laughed loud again just to annoy him. And then I hummed a tune and went to the next room. When I looked back at him, I could see he was still looking at me stunned. His eyes were bigger and were looking at me through the glasses.
When I moved the door, I could see her sleeping. She was facing the other side and I could not see her face. I could see through her nightdress, the pure sensuality of her dark, ruddy skin blushing at sun that’s hitting from outside the window. Blood rose to my nose and I wanted to go inside. But I closed the door and walked out.
My God, what’s happening to me? I have never felt this for any other girl in my life. What I felt in the past was always desire of the body to flush out white weird thoughts, which would happen either with or with out a girl companion. And now, it’s different. It’s hitting me straight on head and heart. And I am not thinking about anything else. Going back to Palghat would be the last thing I want to do now. I want to see you, Indhu. I want to talk to you, Indhu and may be, may be I would never want to leave you and go. We would embrace each other and fall in the rain. I would make sure you would not hit the ground. And if at all anything hit you and you are hurt, I won’t run away. I would be with you, hold you to my self and kiss all those wounds and the tears that might drop down. I don’t care if the police uncle or the whole Police force comes over.
"Aha... you are standing here? I was searching for you… "
I looked back to find Jayanthi Aunty. She took me by hand to the center courtyard. She had arranged some pots that were colored and beautifully sketched. She saw that I liked the pots.
"How is it? "
"Do you know that Indhu made all this? "
Oh my dear…! I went near the pots to touch it. I could feel her dark, ruddy skin blush to the pinkest of colors. I took my hands away in a second. I was sweating.
"What happened? "
Now Jayanthi Aunty was telling me of how to pack the pots and take it along. I was not listening to her. My mind was traveling. The water droplets fell on the pots. I ran to embrace Indhu. But I slipped and fell down, before I could reach her. I fell on the pots. The pots were all broken. Little Indhu started crying again. I was gasping for breath and was crying with her. My hands & legs were hurt and bleeding. I did not care.
I heard a gentle, sleepy voice from inside. It was Indhu.
"Oh yes. She got up. Now let me prepare tea for both of you. I am sorry I was waiting for her to get up. Now I can finish the job in one shot. Otherwise, I would need to prepare the tea two times, which is not really interesting. Hope you understand. "
"Yeah. Sure. No Problem. "
Jayanthi Aunty went inside. I was left alone in the center courtyard. I felt it overwhelming to go inside her room and tell her that I have come for her. But I decided not to. She might need to change the dress. She might not like any one entering her private room just like that. It’s been long 15 years. She might not even remember me. And then I felt a pain in my chest. No. She will remember me, for sure. I walked to the kitchen.
Jayanthi aunty was preparing tea. She said the tea powder was a gift from a tea estate owner to Police uncle and was fresh and rich in fragrance. Yeah. I could smell it. It was fresh.
"You should not allow Indhu to sleep like this. Its already 10 in the morning. "
Jayanthi aunty smiled.
"Oh. You are just like your dad. Forgot to tell you that she came over from her trip, may be, an hour before you came in. Even we did not know she was coming. She is always like that. "
"Came over? From where? "
"Ask her only. Who knows where she is going? Do you know that she is a columnist and is into writing Books and all…? She is currently working on some tourist spots or something. I don’t have the education to understand all this. But I hope to have confused you to the best of I can. I always confuse people, you know… "
Jayanthi Aunty was really sweet when she said that. And I never knew my Indhumoll had grown up to be a writer and a columnist. That’s really cool. Aunty poured tea in two cups. It smelt really good. I grabbed my cup of tea. She took the other and headed for her room.
"Ah... here she is – My lazy daughter. "
I turned around and saw Indhu standing at the kitchen door. Something stuck me hard and I realized that I was looking at Nandhini. The cup fell from my hands. It broke and spilt tea all over the kitchen. It fell on my naked legs too. It burnt. But I was numb.
"Oh Bala… what’s this? See Indhu, he is very angry with you for sleeping late. "
My eyes were full and red. She was looking wide-eyed at me. Even her eyes were red. Or is it just that mine are and I am seeing red all around?
"Move out… I am going to clean the floor. No more tea for you. Bad boy. "
Found & Enough
I opened the windows and let the air come in. The air hesitated a bit and then started creeping in slowly. The train was roaring over the rails. And there was no one else in the coach. I wished the air good luck. I said to it that I was ready to conspire and out throw the train from the rails. Tears rolled down my eyes. I did not want to get back home. I wanted the train to slide over and kill every one. I did not bother who else is killed with me. I did not care if every one in the train was willing to conspire. I looked out to see if the fog was enough to blind the train. The air hit me hard and my head froze. I saw that the fog was just not enough to blind the train and it was too smart and was searching his path like an eagle on rails.
My mother liked the pots and was praising Indhu. I did not even look at the Package of wooden box and hay in it. My mother called out to me saying there was a clay work of Krishna and Radha in the package. I did not really bother. It was inside a plastic cover. She left the cover with me asking to open it carefully. I opened it reluctantly. She went back to the Pots.
The Shilpam was beautiful. It depicted the romance of Krishna and Radha. I could not help but admire it. And then I found there is a letter clipped to it. I opened it.
It’s been long 15 years that we have met. And I have always been thinking of you. I made this Shilpam as a memoir of my love for you and decided to give you if we ever met. Something deep down inside told me we might never meet - That I am wasting my life. I tried to find you in every man I was in acquaintance with. None of them were you. Everyone was a disguised animal. Even when I met Gopi Kishan in the train, I tried to find you. But you were not there. Instead, I found another animal weak in the meat. Now I know something. You never existed. You were just a part of my fantasy – a part of the Shilpam that you hold there – The Krishna that his Radha would never meet. Thanks for coming over. Thanks for telling me that the Balettan who ran to embrace me in the rain was never there.
The letter slipped from my hands and fell on the Shilpam.
I need you
I dialed Indhu’s home. Jayanthi Aunty picked up the phone. I said all the pots arrived safely and mom was really happy to see all the pots. Aunty was delighted.
"Is Indhu there? "
"Yeah. I will give it to her. "
I heard her call out Indhu’s name. A few seconds later, Indhu attended the phone.
"Hi. Gopi Kishan here. May I talk to Nandhini? "
There was a pause.
"Yeah. Speaking. "
"I just heard that you are traveling alone on an assignment to Haridwar. And I know that you might need company. Well I am free and I am the only one who is living in this planet who has characteristics and a past very similar to your Balettan. Before you ask me why should you give me a chance, I just want to ask you why should you not? You said your search was over and you have come to a conclusion. My search has just started and I feel that you have the characteristics and a past very similar to my Indhumoll. And I know that I need my Indhumoll back – At any cost. "
I stopped and listened to her. She was not saying anything. But I could hear her breath. The breath that I felt so close in the train and never knew whose it was – the breath I am longing to hold on to.
She might have smiled. Because it started raining and I could see a little white frock running in the rain. I left the phone there and ran into the rain – to the center courtyard. I fell on the mud on the plants with her. She was hurt and started crying. I did not run. Instead, I kissed her tears and wounds.
My mother came running. I could hear her shouting.
"What on earth are you doing there? You have spoilt all my plants and you have dirtied yourself. Look at you... are you kids to play in the rain? Oh my gods… are you kissing the plant or eating it…"