The loss and grieving are not like messages that you can thrust into a bottle and cast into the sea of your fate. They are like irons in your soul and on many frosty cold mornings have a way of reminding you. The heart swells from the edema of those memories as something wells up in you. You seek a release, a Requiem for those moments that are dead, but stay on the slopes of your being ready to avalanche down with a glance or a whisper.
The Glass Bead Games, the headstands after partaking the “Aristocrat” brand of whiskey in the room with the blue door. The shiny red coke cans filled to brim with ashen cigarette butts sitting majestically on the sill of the window that lets in the south Sun peek in through the old broken and grimy glass pane. The old canvas board with a poster of Swami ji who bridged the arms of the solitary aluminum chair. The Swami Ji always looked into the distance, so we were safe in our little myopic room with the blue door. The bare mattress that had sunken like my spirit.
Like alley cats we entered that blue door every mornings as people switched on their water pumps and life was grunting itself awake. We were retiring for the day.
Friends would write poetry, would jump at pagers as it beeped, they loved the same married woman who paged either of them at whim. We slept under the tables in editing studios, in hushed tones a friend would show me the the hair clip that he prized. The other one would go red in ears as someone uttered “doll”. We smoked, drank and never slept willingly.
“Forrest” wore suits, “Chief” wore jackets and fur shoes brought in Ladakh, I wore anything. This was Delhi in late 90s. We smoked Gold Flakes, beer was Sandpiper and whiskey was Aristocrat. There were dying fragrances wrapped in autumn and resistance, there were Steppen Wolves and an occasional Russell. Pathos was Kay Vos “no never, never” and the unrequited love. We were Theos to each other. We were brothers till end.
We had heard of chess games that people play in “real world”. In “high” state we’d despise the chess games and prized our reckless love. We were mongrels much in need of love that came from sunsets never pictured in our valley. The ochery shades were new, the pagers beeped with hitherto unknown insistence, we were in love with everyone. The colony guard, the policeman who we’d chat with during our night patrols. The milk vendor who would always be high at midnight when we came back from the trip to “Princess Garden”, our favourite bar which we could afford when I got my salary. “Forrest” spent all his money on Cigarettes, the ladakh scout had a fiat older than us and it had two functional doors. We drove it like a torpedo at top speed of 30 Kmph.
We came from lost, half burnt homes. The Chief from Ladakh was passionate one, he had shouted “Vande Mataram” in one of his mood upswings and came promptly in the cross -hair of the militants. One day they told him that his friend was “bahut haseen”. He fled the valley next day.
Forrest was an incorrigible romantic: that explained suits. One fine new year eve, we did turns to “couple” dance with a lady older than our mothers. The evening ending with our chief getting lipstick marks on his denim jacket and Forrest finally getting his first ballroom blast!
An innocent looking rubber eraser announced the course of future events to Forrest, it said “deepa”! He says it was found in my pocket. The mongrels had found love! We were in love! She took us to a “dance party”! Chief was all bombast and courage, he shelled into the dance floor and did his repertoire of bhangra moves to who the f**k is Alice! I tried my cross-the-legs and Salman’s Pelvic thrust moves. Forrest melted into the corner with a cigarette in hand. In due time he'll metamorphose into Peter Camenzind.
She gave us a tight hug on new year, all of us. We were alive! Someone really cared for us in this city where every sentiment seemed to be trampled upon and could only be celebrated behind blue doors in dark alleys. She took us bowling and we were learning the ropes and ways of this city. More ropes, less ways.
We found that this city thrives on transformation, into pulverizing your desires, dreams, modes, drives and spirit into a amorphous entity of a urban middle class idol. It is mammoth machinery of compromise and transformation intend to bend the steel of our spirits into the stuff that goes into the pillars that prop it up. The forge is compromised by the shear, finally.
Forrest and Chief worked for the same production company that was once very successful, but hadn’t paid anyone salaries for last six months. Chief hadn’t noticed it, but Forrest, being quite young was getting restless everyday. A call from a production house made him run hundreds of stairs up to their office as lift was delayed and he couldn’t be late. He got the job! I got married! Chief was devastated!
We stayed in the same apartment for days after my marriage, they slept in the drawing room and we peeped out for food/drinks which they took care of for more than a week! One fine day they were gone!
I spent hours and hours on STD booths talking to the Chief and all weekends were reserved to “live again” our “good old times”. We drank beer, I sneaked out of home to meet them. We guzzled more beer, we smoked and I always brushed my teeth, the first thing after entering the home again. We reeked of past and each other! City is always intolerant of strange smells, I always smell formaldehyde. My coiled spirit with its stone eyes would always scare young mongrels who come to this city.
So the spirit and formaldehyde are drawn into the two and half step moves of EMIs and selecting teal coloured curtains. We moved to suburbs and our drawing room features the sunflowers and the starry night. I often check these for mold and am disappointed not to find it! Even Van Gogh has forsaken me. In my old blue door room there was a damp patch near the ceiling. I had seen all shades of yellow there, we had seen the sunflowers damping the cracked dry cheeks of that room. The south side window would throw murky brown light of absinthe on the sun flowers and the dignified solitary tungsten bulb shone dimly as we sometimes ate boiled potatoes, huddled on the floor.
As Forrest says our grains have been transformed! Persistent polishing has put shine in our persona, we no longer ask people to read what tarrot cards say and I can never buy large pop-corn at the movies. Jagjit Singh is dead and Chief had got him to his personal party, lost his job in the process, but then “Baazi Chahe....”. Forrest is a celebrity and poster boy. We have learnt to foxtrot to different melodies. Occasional Harmonies are still heard, but ab hum bhi EMI wale hai!