Calypso Door

There’s nothing more disorienting to one’s senses than an aberration in someone’s attire. More so, if the someone concerned is wearing a ballooned blue shirt with its collar sewed down, (never to betray even a little of its unordered arrogance,) with a yellow thread, safely tucked inside a black pleated pant worn almost from diaphragm downwards, signifying a sense of purpose (or even, purposelessness,) with soft canvas shoes, chequered in blue and black. More so if the houses he is passing by have iron handles placed at a height higher than his. More so if you are following him.

The modulations of his practised walk defy any explanation you’d want to attach to him. Too unburdened to be a clerk. Too coloured to be a postman. Too lazy to be a guide. Too decisive to be a detective. Too old to be a trickster. What can he be? Though it’s unspeakably hot and your fine shirt (which by the way has to last a week) has grown darker with sweat, and though scuttling past the short man, leaving him to his solitary walk in the narrowing lanes would just seem to be the thing, you don’t. You don’t leave him. Not just now.

You shift and peep from behind to the get the glimpse of the face that would surely mean nothing to you. But what if it does? What if it holds the answer to right every wrong in this world? What if it be the face that would launch a thousand ships? Maybe not. You laugh a little at the shoes. What must he be thinking, wearing those flag-posts, you muse. You are walking a little quicker. You are closing on him.

There’s always a sense of something ominous following you in a narrow lane. There’s a little rustle of a paper lying around and you look back. There’s someone behind you, and you let him pass. It’s the thing people living in suffocating streets know. Never let the inconvenience of someone following you hamper with the fun of stifling your breath, and evading muck. But the short man was not of these lanes. He, sensing someone is following him, shifts his head a little to confirm the presence, and walks faster instead. That someone is decidedly miffed. That someone has to see his face.

At last the man stops. He still does not see you. But what if he does? You are still hopeful. You put on the hardest pretence there is: you pretend to walk. Standing there would just be rude. The man is on his toes to ring the bell. You see his face a little. The enmeshed temple receding into the silvery grey. You hear the bell ring. You hope for a delay. You hope for him to look around.

He does not. There is no delay. The door opens. And he’s gone. You stand frustrated. You know how Odysseus must have felt when Calypso ate six of his friends. You look around. There is someone following you.


The Man Bends Again

A man, naked, stands divided in river. He bends his back just enough to immerse his head in it. He remains there holding his breath, and in that profound moment of mortal reality can hear the river. He chooses not to.

He stands there, positioned precariously, finding a fish. It looks difficult. It is difficult. People watch in anticipation. A man with a camera, aware of the picturesque significance of the act, stands still as a scared little rabbit. A woman, probably from China, sits amidst amused men, like Buddha, her eyes half-open. A small girl, wearing yellow, selling flowers, looks too.

After moments, which seem like loathsome decades, the man locates the fish swishing past the pale river. He throws his hands in the water, joins them to make a small cage of sorts, and heaves them out almost then. He stands erect – divided in river – looking at his hands. The man with the camera looks. The woman sitting like Buddha looks. The little girl wearing yellow looks.

His firmly gripped hands drip water. The fish survives. A hint of exasperation swells a little spot above his temples. But soon it vanishes. The man bends again.

In one of the many middles of the darkening river, someone rows a boat. “The river has been calm off late,” he tells the girl looking at him in amazement. “Or it would have required more men,” he elaborates to tell her that rowing alone is not that big a task.

She looks away at a distant lighthouse. He tells her it is haunted by ghosts. She looks at a distant Ghat. He tells her it is for burning the dead. She looks at a train on an old bridge. He tells her he has never been on a train. She looks at him, again. He looks away.