Sunday, February 28, 2010

Paper Boat

Complete_Stranger: Did you lose someone close to you?

Loner: Yeah. My Granmaw.

Complete_Stranger: I'm Sorry.

Loner: Don't worry about it.
She was quite old, and diseased.

Complete_Stranger: What Disease?

Loner: Brain damage, and a Very bad liver cirrhosis. She was a heavy alcoholic for three decades. She started in her late twenties, but she quit very late, in her fifties.

Complete_Stranger: She Quit drinking? What made her do that?

Loner: I think, It was a someone she met in a cruise ship.

Complete_Stranger: :-)

Loner: A Woman.
A French Woman. She used to tell me about their conversations. She always called it her destiny to meet Nicole.
You know, they went to the same University when Granny was a student in London, in her teens. and, they even lived on the same street. But they never met until the cruise ship.

Complete_Stranger: Wow, Small world huh!

Loner: Yeah. and, they shared so many things in common, Both married very young at 23, and were in their late twenties when they lost their husbands, grandpa died, Nicole's divorced her.. and both never got remarried.

Complete_Stranger: ah, your grandmother lost her husband quite young.

Loner: I guess, that's why she started drinking. And then my parents died in a plane-crash, when I was six months old.

.....................LIGHTS OUT..............................

The computer fan took a few seconds to stop, then it was completely silent. She took a deep breath, and thought about lighting the bedside candle.

She lit the candle and saw her grandmother's picture. In The picture a grey haired woman was holding a paper boat, and behind her was vast water. And she was smiling. As Though, she was in love for the first time. "The only time", she thought.

It was a picture Nicole took, and the only picture her Granny had framed in her life. Granny had never framed her parents' pictures, her parents' hated Granny for being an alcoholic. But she loved her because Granny was just a sad woman. And everything changed after the cruise.

She placed the picture back on the shelf, and looked at the time in her cell phone.

It was 4:15 in the morning already."Shit!!!" was her reaction.

She had wasted her time.

"Complete_Stranger" was a stranger to her. She didn't know the person's age, or even if the person was male or female. nothing. She didn't want to know.Conversations she thought, are REAL if they are among strangers. There would be no emotions involved, no obligations, no attachments no embarassments. The purest form of conversation.

She goes to her cell phone MENU>APPLICATIONS>ALARMS. And stares at it- 12 P.M. She smiles at her stupidity.

"12 AM idiot, 12 AM" she says when she changes her alarm to 8:30 am.

She then checks her INBOX and CALL REGISTER. There were no messages, no missed calls, nothing.

No-one cares.

She places her cell phone beside her bed, puts her head on the pillow, covers herself with the blanket and says, "Happy Birthday Loner, You are 29, and all Alone in this world".
.................................................................................................


She would be late for work. But She didn't care. This was her day. After her bath, and her ritual infront of the mirror, she opened her birthday gift she bought for herself, "Christian Loubatins". Even though she found it on sale, it cost her a fortune. and Even though it was a bit tight for her, she bought it. She would wear it on special occasions only. It was sparkling red, and 3 inches. She owned it.

She took a taxi to her office today. She needed to feel like a queen, or at least a lady, just for this day. And she had no one to do this for her. When the taxi stopped, she acted as though the door was stuck, and politely asked the taxi driver to open the gate from outside. He did. She thanked him with a nice smile.

She had a bit of trouble walking with those tight shoes. When she reached her office she would open them and let her feet breathe.

She opened her shoes, hid it, and put on something comfortable and went for the the formalities in her office.

She first reports to her seniors, to let them know she is there, she makes passive small talks, then she moves to her desk along with people her age.

Her peers, every woman peer in there had the usual loud, showy, over-exposed way of greeting each other. Everyone was performing with the fake smiles, and fake hugs. Everyday!

She was close to these people, But She never shared with anyone there. Once, she made the mistake of saying her Grandmother was sick and in a hospital, the conversation carried from her grandmother to old torturing women to old men farting to motorcycles to lipsticks. That was the last time she really opened up with them.

"This is work, only work." She tells herself everyday.

The men were worse. She could always notice the men ogling at her breasts first before saying hello.

The seniors were too professional. They only cared about how much money you are making them. That was her only motivation to stay in that place.
....................................................................................

"Hey... Lunch?" one of her male peers asked her.

She didn't want to go out. Not with him, and not with those tight shoes.

"I'm fasting today. Tuesday"

She planned to have a party at night for herself.

When everyone went out for lunch, she went to the terrace, lit a cigarette and released a tail of smoke. This was her first one today. And she always loved the first smoke.

She never thought about her everyday life when she was smoking. She believed that the cigarette would make her mind wander away from this empty-lonely life.

She sat down on cement fence of the terrace.

She had started smoking after a very nasty breakup with her third boyfriend. All men she knew were chauvinists, sexists... everyone wanted to prove their manhood, and always say "women don't do this, and women don't do that", or "you could do this, this would suit you better". Like they knew what they were talking about.

She had no strength left in her to try again and again and again for some fairy tale, Cinderella ending to her life. She was turning 30.

Sometimes, she would take home a bottle of wine, and finish the whole bottle watching Animals on Discovery or National Geographic. It came to her a while after She lit another cigarette with red ashes first one She was turning into her granny.

Her Granny was the world to her, but she was an alcoholic to the world.

She smoked the last tail of smoke, and looked as the cigarette bud fell 5 floors below. "Life could end so easily if you give up."
...........................................................

Quitting time.

She waited till everyone else left the office. She couldn't wear the shoes in front of her peers. She wore the shoes for herself, she didn't wear it to show off to the brand vultures. She planned to go to Newroad for her birthday treat.

She dropped off at Sundhara. She walked till Kichapokhari. There were very less people in the street, and all the shops were closing.

She then heard loud noises coming from Sundhara. Another "Protest" she thought. She walked northwards, to new-road. Everything was shut. People were hurrying towards somewhere, like a huge storm was about to hit. She had never seen New-Road so empty. There were always people here.

She tried walking quickly towards the gate, but her shoes were tight, and her heels were three inches. Still, she tried walking fast.

Everything happened so suddenly. She didn't know what came first, A huge rolling, Burning Rubber Tire, OR The sound of whistles- artificial traffic whistles, man made whistles and cries of loud noises, OR that faint smell of very rotten egg, or worse, rotten garbage.

"Tear Gas", she knew this smell before. She walked faster, almost in a running speed. with the 3 inches, the shoe seemed to be crushing her fingers. She reached New Road gate, turned left, and saw a bus.

She so wanted to get on this bus. The bus was the only one, and looked like a school bus and some passengers were trying to get in. She wanted to get in the bus.

The bus was beside the new building of Bir Hospital, and she was running opposite the Kal Bhairav Temple.

She walked faster now. Faster. Faster. The bus was trying to move. And there. right there. She saw herself sitting on line to get on that bus.

She was still running from Kal Bhairav Temple to catch the bus.

She was not under the effect of the tear gas. She knows the effects of a tear gas. and this was not it. There are no hallucinations from tear gas. Now this time she saw herself getting on that bus. But it was not her. The coat the woman was wearing was not her's.

She was a different woman, but she looked exactly, in every shape and form, like herself. She had the same face as hers, the same hairstyle as hers... her clothes were different, but she had the same worried look in the face, the same body structure... she must have been 29 too... she wanted to know for sure.... she wanted to know who it was.

So, she opened her Christian Loubatins, and ran. Barefoot in the footpaths. Ran to know the person who got on the bus. Ran to know who the person was.

However, the bus was already jam packed and in motion. She reached the door of the bus, and she cannot get in. The driver will not stop because he is afraid the mob would devour his transport. The bus slowly was gaining acceleration.

She couldn't get in, she was sure of it. So she changed her tactics... She tried looking through the windows, trying to get her to possibly get down from the bus. She didn't find her in the sides, the bus was already picking speed.

At the back however, someone was tapping in the back window. It was her, the woman, the lady who looked exactly as herself... their eyes met.

The lady in the bus smiled, and she replied her smile. The bus started moving away. She was still running barefoot, and smiling with her red shoes in her hand.

Then the lady from the bus broke her gaze, and took out her cell phone, and pointed the camera towards the barefoot lookalike. The barefoot woman was still running, still holding the red shoes in her hands... and still smiling. And she took her picture.

The Bus went away.
The woman stopped running.
..............................................

She was home. She was looking at her mirror. She had not changed. She had spent an hour thinking about the woman in the bus. And then her eyes fell on her grandmother's picture. Her grandmother holding a paper boat.

"She took my picture" she thought. And she was holding her red shoes. She gifted herself those red shoes for this special day.

Maybe right now, the lady from the bus was looking at the picture from her cell phone. What would she ask her?

She looks into the mirror, she says,"Are you Married?? Do you have a boyfriend? Of course you do, You're so pretty... ha ha ha ha".

She asks again, "You know, today is my birthday... were we like separated when we were children? ha ha ha, but I don't know, that's not possible, only happens in Hindi Movies. Not Possible No???"

NO answer.

She then stops asking her questions, but telling her some things "You know, my Grandmother, went on a cruise once. She met a lover there. Nicole. And they promised never to contact each other ever, because, that sort of love could not exist then, so my grandmother made Nicole take a picture of her, with a paper boat... and today, you took a picture of me with my shoes... Do you know what I am talking about?"

No answer.- The mirror only shows her what she sees.

But she was smiling. She was somehow happy.

"You know, I used to feel like, I am all alone in this world. But you are there somewhere. Living as my self. It was my destiny to meet you. As... you and I have the same hairstyle, the same face, and same everything... I am not alone in this world... I am not... My decisions, my actions, affect others... you know... Yeah... I made you take my picture Didn't I???"

She was smiling. As though She was in Love for the first time. The only time.
................................................................................................

Tribute to Krzysztof Kieslowski,"La Double Vie De Veronique" (The Double Life of Veronique)

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