Another ordinary day. Blood was not running that hard throughout the body. Did not read the newspapers in the morning, as they would have been full of crap that I had already read yesterday through apps. Did not switch on the television. There were few messages and image files on Whatsapp. Someone who had blocked me for some unknown reason had unblocked me. I did not unblock that person. I was seeking vengeance. Deleted all the images forwarded by others even without looking at them. Afternoon was also cloudy and suffocating, except for occasional flashes of humid sun. The wet roads were full of stranded vehicles and there were few good-looking women around. I went to the library and took a few detective fiction. a journal and a management book. I wanted to read contemporary stories. A woman in a black T-shirt came to where I was browsing and left immediately. She was later seen checking her mobile while sitting near a desk. I had to go back to the library, as I forgot and left a book there. That was very unusual of me. The cab driver who drove me back home appeared stressed because of the traffic pile-up on the main roads. There was no traffic pile-up, I thought. Without changing the dress, I started reading another of the Inspector Rebus novels. After a few hours it started raining heavily and the light was so dim to continue reading. I slept for a while. I remembered the books that I had returned to the library without reading.
As the night vibrated with lost dreams and hidden desires, I saw something reddish drifting up in the sky.
It looked like a lonely lantern searching for someone in need of some light and solace.
The orange super moon was the only onlooker as the thing glided towards an unknown destination.
I closed the door as the cool night winds whispered that I may be intruding the private journey.
I could hear the key turning on the lock next door while I sat doing nothing beneath a shelf filled with books. I could hear the key turning as if someone’s hand was shivering.
In fact, there could be no ideal way of turning a key on a lock. It always sounded like someone was in a hurry to open the door and get in or away from the outside. I had tried to test the symphony of a key turning on a lock. For a couple of times, I locked the door from the inside and told my wife over the phone that she should use the key to open the door while coming back from office. When she turned the key on the lock, I listened to her odd way of doing it. It was different from the noise that I often hear from the next door.
I knew the young man who was trying to lock the door in the morning and then open it sometime before noon. Just like other neighbors, I never opened my door, or my window, or appeared on the balcony to know what the man was doing or who was opening the door. I just listened to that sound of the key on the lock. I could not remember whether I had heard the sound of the key after that. May be I was sleeping, watching TV, browsing aimlessly, or reading a book or that wretched newspaper that I always wanted to stop reading.
The man was not alone in that flat. There is a woman, his wife, and a kid in that flat.
A long, winding highway. White line on the black road. Brown hues all around, undulating earth and evening Sun.
A car darts into the scene from the left. Something does not look right.
The scene shifts to the right, as if someone is looking to the right from the back seat of the car.
A man in black coat is running parallel to the car.
The car driver looks back, the man in coat reach the edge of the road, towards the car.
The man holds a long rod.
In the next 20 seconds, the driver screams as the man hits the windscreen with the rod.
Everything goes slow.
We enjoy the unequal mitosis of the glass. The driver loses control. The car skids to the left of the road.
In the next 20 seconds, we see a pool of red as the man kneels down, hit with a bullet on the stomach. Red splash on a white shirt.
The man does not want to live; the close-up of his face says. I don’t want to live.
The music that we liked the most was the one that drifted in from somewhere. We could never predict from where it would come or when it would travel to our little ears. The thing is we were there to listen to that music and the world stood still to let us hear the music. At times, we could recognize the song. At another time, it could be the tune following the first stanza, or it could be a duet.
Among the three of us, someone would hear it first, alerted the other two, and then we shut ourselves from the rest of the noise. We always tried to decipher the song. If we knew the song, we were happy. If we did not know the song, we were also happy. We laughed silently, because any little noise could muffle the thin music that came along. The music drifted in low amplitude first, then increased to a high volume, and then retreated in the same pattern as it had landed on our ears. I knew that it was the wind that spread the music among the high coconut trees, mango trees, and tall jackfruit trees. There could have been Neem trees in between. It was just green of different shapes.
The textbooks on our hands or laps paled into insignificance when such music came to us. We had no idea of the human playing the music. We had no idea how the invisible human was playing the music. We never knew the model or make of the tape recorder or the stereo player that human was using. But the memory says we had always enjoyed that music.
And the same memory says there was also music during the dawn at the corner beyond the big trees. It came from a temple about 20 minutes away from our house. As I stood alone at the door and when everything was silent inside the house, the music surprisingly drifted in by the evening cool wind. I stood there listening and then went back to the noise of everyday life. And I remember when I opened that same door one night and what I heard was something like the music of the sea or waves. I could not believe it first. To the right I saw the trees swaying in the pale white night sky. It occurred to me that I was on the beach, alone, and looking at the foam for some strange reason. Someone said there was danger and I closed the door. ©
A bright Sunday after a morning of clouds and chill. Big crowd at a car showroom. Lots of nasty potholes like punctured hearts near traffic signals. Bulging circular tummy on rear view mirror. The structure of internal illness crying for attention or indicating death.
Disliked the story published for a contest. Realized that it was a very bad story after publishing it. Did not like it.
They moved the new books shelf to somewhere else. Went back home with mostly non-fiction books, except a John Updike review collection. Forgot to make a call to a library that imposed service charge on reading. It was the ultimate insult: monetary punishment for reading. The insult was pasted on a dirty wall: a printout from an unkempt desktop.
Nobody can stop me from reading, or slow me by charging me for reading (Milan Kundera did focus on Slowness). Sunday newspapers never attract me now. They are just wasted newsprint. Cockroaches lay eggs and shit on their yellowed corners.
It is work that is the biggest impediment to free reading. Work.
The building sat on top of a mini-hill surrounded by high trees that looked green and similar. When I stood on the terrace and looked at the fading sun in the silent evenings, the trees still looked dense and mysterious. A green layer of rustling and silken presence living in undisturbed vitality. The trees belonged to the Eucalyptus species and on the upward slopes on the side of the road a few buildings stood in between. The trees sometimes created a silken, thin layer of dead, gray leaves that enveloped the hard earth. I had seen protruding rocks in between the very few shrubs that existed. Rocks that were black and sturdy, rugged and pointed at the edges hidden behind the woods of trees and concealed under the layer of leaves. Kind of camouflage.
Red laterite sand lay underneath the silken leaves and through which wooden branches of the trees emerged seeking something under the dead layer. I had to be careful while walking through this route instead of the curving road that went parallel to the trees. I had hoped that I would see a reptile somewhere concealed in those leaves or crossing the road: a silvery flash of throbbing, viscous skin wriggling across the road. I had seen lovers adjusting their positions in those bushes; I did not look back as I was not interested and my mission was much important than the momentary rush of blood. My friends said they were drug addicts.
The building to where I was walking to stood on a flat piece of land surrounded by labs and an auditorium shaped like the Sun. The auditorium was interesting because I had not seen any activity in that building. In the night, somebody did switch on the white lights, but it was a mystery why that building stood there without any activity.
I usually walked through the paths created by students, and used to imagine that I was a slowing train on the outer yards of its destination. As I approached the building, which was a library, the vegetation cleared and the place grew more brighter until I entered the building through the front door manned by an aged security guard. There was a small shed outside where people used to park their bicycles and bikes.
It was by accident that I discovered that there was a section in that library that did not interest many. On certain days, I could not find the book I wanted. On another day, there were so many that made selection difficult. The unexplored section stood on the fourth floor and it was much more cleaner than the other sections. The books here remained more or less well stacked and in order, untouched or undisturbed. There were new and old books, but the old ones did have a peculiar smell that indicated that they were still fresh. There was Thomas Mann, Samuel Beckett, Marquez, Soyinka, Kafka, Hrabal, Chekhov, Greene, Maugham, Canetti, and several others, free and undisturbed on those shelves. And I, with just two cards, used to stand looking at them, touching them, opening them, reading a few lines, and stretched to take another one with a couple on my other hand already. At times, I saw a bestseller in between, and I get enraged. I used to throw the bestseller to a vacant part of a shelf as a punishment: my punishment for that book being part of the esteemed group. By dislocation, I meant to teach the librarian a lesson. I was sure that the librarian would one day understand why a particular book deserved not to be on that shelf.
Tired and after spending some time there to make others suspicious, I used to take the road back, down from the fourth floor of that library, instead of the tree-covered slope. From the road, the trees now looked darker and lifeless, while a mysterious scent wafted in from a flower that bloomed late in the night, or something that I had failed to notice earlier. I could not remember whether I walked back slower or faster, but I do remember I walked back alone. Even if I saw someone, I did not speak besides the casual greetings.