It has been five days since I returned from Mumbai. The air here is cool, almost wintry. As I walk on my terrace, the sparrows’ cheeps from the lemon tree reach my ears. I crane my neck to catch a blur of their wings. But all I can see are the closely packed leaves. A whiff of lemon fragrance greets my nostrils. A few birds fly from the foliage and land on my terrace. My mind goes back to Mumbai. To that nameless tree that stood across the road. And how during that one morning when I ventured out for my walk, I saw the branches slowly fill up with egrets. Against the backdrop of the hurtling Mumbai local trains, their squalor seemed to have been silenced. Had I gone closer, perhaps I would have caught the soot on their wings. The ache in their eyes. The restlessness in their throats.
The sparrows on my terrace now form a circle.
In the dark, morning hours, Mumbai seemed more awake, more alive than ever. None of the morning grogginess that Vizag wakes up with. To me it seemed as though people slept in their business suits, slipped into their work shoes the moment they were out of bed and rushed out of their doors into cars, buses and locals, their fatigue briefly forgotten. As though propelled by an unseen, invisible force.
“Amma…what’s for dinner,” Jyo asks. Jyo is a tall boy now, taller than me. Every day his voice deepens. Sometimes he sounds exactly like his brother. Especially when he says, “Amma…how boring you can get.”
Back in Mumbai
“Hey Pra…this is your childhood park,” I muttered excitedly, “This is where I used to bring you boys every weekend.”
Light fills Pra’s eyes. Underneath his teenage stubble and his long hair, I catch glimpses of myself. We quicken our pace and settle down on the lawn.
“Any girlfriends?” I ask.
“Amma, how boring can you get?” says P lying down. I gasp at the similarity of the boys’ voices. Especially when they chide me for being “so boring”. It’s as though their words emerge from the same sound box.
P and I sit in companionable silence. There are only a couple of joggers in the park.
Suddenly the sprinklers turn towards us. And soak us. And we get up giggling. With our hair and clothes wet, we walk out of the park. A part of me wishes I was more fun loving when they were kids. Back then I was always serious and worried. Anxious about pleasing everyone and adhering to rules and conventions. In my forties now, I am more reckless and fun loving. I laugh with more abandon.
In Vizag, the evenings are always quiet compared to the mornings. An occasional whirring of mixie reaches your ears. Or the soft tinkle of the Puja bell. As I toss the curry leaves into hot oil, I wonder why Mumbai flats have no balconies. Of course there are those tall windows. But you cannot step out into a balcony. Sitting on the bed, you can view the sunrise. A silent peace steals over your heart as the clamour and chaos of the city fade for a moment and the sky above fills with soft crimson light.
The fragrance of curry leaves now spreads across my kitchen. I feel feverish. My limbs ache. My throat feels heavy. I had been sneezing since afternoon. As I put on a light sweater, hunger whips my insides. I grab a few almonds. Their nutty sweetness fills my mouth. I walk to my medicine chest and take out a crocin and there it rests on my palm amidst the almonds. I walk back to the kitchen. As the rasam simmers on the stove, I empty the remnants of my palm into my mouth. The bitterness of crocin hits me. It floods my mouth and throat. I immediately spit it out and reach for the sugar tin with great urgency. A few moments later, the bitterness has quelled. I feel rested.
It’s as though within me reside many pieces. Some grown and wise. Some small, struggling and craving for attention. And yet each piece wanting to protect me. Like those almonds and that crocin pill. All adding to a complete whole. Like the suffused pink of joy. The shimmering grey of silence. And peace as it is.
I breathe in the easiness of now.
My aches fade. Sleep comes naturally, easily.