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.
The heat wakes me up early,
Torrid orange-yellow glow drifts in through the swaying, thin curtains.
The heat that wakes me up early is a kind of unknown warning.
The heat stops my aimless journey with fake dreams as consorts.
I touch her hand gently.
The heat is driving me to rewind and review.
The heat is the template on which my review workflow starts.
I am rolling, rewinding,
Like an innocent lithe figure running in one direction and the parallel frame running in the opposite direction.
You don’t know who is running to where.
It is the heat that is waking me early and making my eyes burn.
There were college kids on the road. Some of the them in pale-blue shirts and dark blue pants and others in casuals. They were walking aimlessly to their college.
Big, dry leaves were scattered all over the dusty road.If you take one of them in your hand, it might rupture. If you rewind that act of taking the dry leaf, holding it in your hand, the rupturing leaf may look like a breaking blood vessel.
Broken pieces from a pothole awaited the next vehicle to get dispersed. I usually push a few of them under my car to save them from being run over.
A woman was sweeping the road and whipping up all the quiet dust to the air. In between she pushed a dirty waste bin.
There was a dictionary that I used to look at every day as a kid and it had pictures of utensils, guns and machines. Only nouns had pictures.
The autorickshaw I took had to take a diversion as right in the middle of the road stood a lorry unloading concrete blocks. Somebody always constructed something here. The driver, an elderly man with a high, white beard, stopped the auto and awaited my orders, as if I were his master.
At every intersection, the driver turned his head, signalling that I issue the next order.
I was a navigation map sitting with a laptop bag and with two hands and two legs.
All of us have felt this problem with the route to take. Our route.
I like travelling by train. I enjoy its rhythm; the slow start followed by the forward push, and then the slowing down, and then the locomotive coming to a stop.
I like silence when I travel and have found it difficult to tolerate noise, unless it is an interesting conversation by fellow passengers. Usually, a bored passenger begins a conversation and others join in. If the conversation topic is not my cup of tea, I look out of the dirty windows into the country side and try to decipher what exist in those places, moving away like uni-directional slides. There will be paddy fields, lakes, just lush green vegetation, eucalyptus plantations, small towns barred by the level crossing.
Among all these, I have regarded small railway stations with much curiosity. I never liked big railway stations because of their chaos, ugliness, strange-looking people, palpable tension, and the feeling that one has to be careful in these stations. But I have been curious, for some strange reason, about small railway stations, far away from the depraved metros and towns.
These small railway stations disappeared quickly when the train was running fast. I could see the station name boards, black text on yellow boards, twice at both ends of the station in a flash.
Everything moves quickly: the concrete windows, the station master dressed in a white uniform holding the green flag, tea stalls, people moving either towards the station or away from the train, dogs walking aimlessly on the platform with their tongues lashed out, a few staring at the fast moving bogies, shrubs swaying in the force piercing the air, nude kids from the nearby slums clapping their hands and others trying to run along with the train.
The decadence of the outer area of the station gave way to the low hills with reddish-brown laterite sand, white smoke drifting upwards from a low kitchen, someone closing the front door of the house, just thick greenery of various shades punctuated with invading darkness.
But when the train slows down and when it is dawn, these stations have a different look and feel. It may be my own feeling without much meaning or reason.
It was as if life was slow always and we could not comprehend the apparent reduction in our velocity. The speed was an illusion and the real speed was always a slow march to insignificance. It was only when things were slow the tendency to observe and reflect automatically grew in us. Just sit in a slow moving train, the frame of reference here, and as an object observe what passes by outside the window.
They all assume a different meaning.
The station master standing at the platform with colored flags was a different person compared to the white figure that swept past me in a flash in some other station. I looked at the man closely and tried to judge what his next action would be. I did this many times. I leaned my ear against the dirty iron windows to sense an approaching train. Nothing. I could see crows flying around the station. From somewhere I could hear bells ringing. The sound of a moving bus followed by silence ruptured by laughter from bored youth in the train. There was a different meaning to this stillness.
At night, this study of isolated, minor railways stations was more interesting. There would be very few visible, structural elements in these stations, and I could only see the start and end of the platform. There won’t be any shops in such stations and at times a woman used to stand with the red flag. A good part of the station would be in darkness and there would only be a bulb glowing at the center of the station. In a few autorickshaws lined up outside the station, a group of men were sitting together and talking. There would be roads in the distance, a river nearby before or after the station with a bridge at the middle of the river, a paper-and-pulp factory encircled by brownish, shrunken trees, or just plain land, someone’s cherished asset in these troubled times. The land around railway stations were a unique ecosystem, waiting to tell many different stories.
At times, the train just slowed down and did not stop. Like slow motion, a desolate station looked really grim, may be after a shower. The darkness engulfing the station meant that the power supply had been cut off because of the rain. A lone candle glowed in one of the empty offices filled with dirty files and books and stained walls. In another little room, stood an empty chair. In another room, through a half-open door, I saw a few sacks piled up. Small pools of water remained on the platform and one of them displayed the reflection of a streetlight outside the station. Shrubs formed the outer boundary of the station. The windows in most of the rooms remained closed for some reason. There would be a food warehouse behind with trucks standing still. There was stillness everywhere.
A drop of water fell on my face. Sadness was written all over such stations.
These stations and their people represented something mysterious. And when I observed them from a slow-moving train, they looked hideous, as if they were holding untold tales.
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.
New Year is just a construct. Today is the same as ever and there is no difference in me either.
I don’t know why I want to visit a European country like Italy, or sit facing a blueish lake reading the classics written so far.
The Sun is not out today, the chill in the air starts to crawl up the legs. A squirrel darts across a terrace and then stops to gaze at a swaying green branch.
Where is this year’s greatest living author?
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.