Monday, November 05, 2007


It was a chance meeting; the ugly elevator door with the choicest of expletives scribbled over its cream facade amused her and pressed an unknown nerve in the back of her head. She didn't understand the power of cognition, which will develop in the years to come and the significance of a throbbing nerve willing to transform into intellect.

Fueled by the words of a Chinese girl living in the States during the World War, a book she refused to part with, even when she played silly games with her friends, her mind debated the fairness of crime and colour at the unlikely age of twelve. It was just a phase, she was convinced, yet, it became a conversation piece. A rather sinister one, as she was to realise.

He walked in with a confident smile and sleek spectacle frames, nestled comfortably on his attractive face. In thirty years he had met and mated with several yielding women but the charms of a girl, still unaware of her bra size, holding her badminton racquet like a weapon were still unknown. She was leaning against the steel wall ignoring his smile, when he grabbed the book out of her hand.

"The tale of a girl torn by the politics of a world she did not understand. All that was left on the street was an empty sandbox..."

"Why would you read this?" he asked.

The elevator stopped at the third floor and he looked at her expectantly. Of course, she will not follow him out and continue the conversation. He gave her the book back and walked out towards his parent's apartment.

The elevator door shut and she allowed herself a panic attack. Her instincts rarely betrayed her and it was the first time she realised she could use her disheveled enigma for something. The first time she played the game.

It was simple and natural, just like badminton. He would see her walk across the road, run up the stairs, play hide and seek around the brick-red pillars, catch a glimpse of her dark legs without any sign of familiarity or greeting.

The bonfire was cracking and choking with peanuts and pop corn. Middle aged aunties chattered on about their husbands' promotions, while the uncles, sipped free scotch. Toddlers dozed off in cheap strollers. Little children chased each other with dirty ash clutched tightly in their folded palms. Teenagers danced awkwardly to cheesy pop songs. He watched the circus with interest.

She was threatening to break a thirteen year old boy's heart with the look on her face and a burning stick she had just snapped in half. Her friend waved at him and he started walking towards the two girls purposefully.

Her slim frame was wrapped in a white turtle neck, silhouetted perfectly by the burning flames, her face showing signs of impatience.

"Hey, I was looking for you," her friend said grabbing his arm earnestly.

"You couldn't have possibly missed me in this madness," he replied with a smile.

"Really, even the devil couldn't have possibly dragged you down here," added the friend.

"Of course not, but what makes you think I will avoid your lovely smile, free popcorn and Lohri?" he said and drilled his gaze into her eyes. She cracked a shell and popped the peanuts in her mouth.

Maybe he saw a faint smile appear, but it could be a smirk. She was walking away before he could make up his mind. He would have chased her, grabbed her tiny waist and kissed her lips dry, till she screamed in his mouth.

"Young man, you are filling up nice." He felt a hand on his expanding stomach, suffering from his mother's cooking.

"Namaste aunty."

"Your ma tells me something interesting...better not be a gori eh!"

"Umm... well not exactly and we are not engaged."

"Good, you didn't disappoint your mother. So how much are they paying you now?"

And he lost sight of her. It was the boredom. He reassured himself. He is not a pervert, besides she has breasts and so he couldn't possibly be a pedophile. He shook his head and put his hands in his pockets. His fingers played with a crumpled bill for the three kilos of Makaibari he had purchased for his boss that afternoon. He began a slow stroll towards the building erected by the government his aging father had served for the past twenty-five years, a milestone celebrated by a brand new watch now hanging loosely on his own wrist. He stopped and looked at the silver dials. It was half past ten, too late to walk down to Laxmi store and call her up two continents away. He entered the marbled lobby, stained with paan spit and absent-mindedly checked the broken letter-box marked F-14 with a tiny hinge less door.

"I read it because the girl talks about moonlight. I don't understand racism. I don't know why the world war started." She was sitting on the steps, her palm sliding over the iron banister slowly.

He tried hard to suppress it, but the laughter burst out and turned into an embarrassing cackle, just as her expression turned from confused to angry.

"You could tell me," she replied spitefully.

"They will tell you in school, soon enough."

"My brother's old book smells like naphthalene but has a picture of a man who is a skeleton."

"Yes, concentration camps."

"I have to go home." She said and ran up the stairs.

Well she moved down here at the age of 18
She blew the boys away, it was more than they'd seen

The phone rang. He ignored the ringing till his ears started ringing of the shrill noise in silence. He waited and picked up the shiny new receiver of the intercom, much before the first ring ended.

"Hello... hello.... hell-o... oh c'mon... don't do the blank call routine," he said.

"I don't know what you sound like and what your dad sounds like," she snapped back.

"Oh right, well you can always call and ask for me."

"Yes, 'cause I know your name."

The long beep announced the end of the conversation. He found a yellow directory next to the phone. He dialed the 4 digit intercom.


"Beta, papa hai?" he said.

"Shut up."

"Then I am coming over," he added with a chuckle.

"Shut up."

"You come down here or I am coming up in 10...9...8..."

He imagined he heard her slamming the receiver somewhere above the white ceiling and started laughing. The door bell rang and he immediately ran towards the living room, ruffling his hair self-consciously.

She walked in and peeked into the empty bedrooms and decided the one with the music was the right one. She sat down on the floor, next to his luggage.

"When are you leaving?"

"I am Tarun."

"Where do you live?"

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose.. by any other name would smell as sweet," he replied.

She started laughing and gestured him to sit beside her. He pressed a button and the music stopped. The tape started wheezing and rewinding. He lit up a cigarette and sat beside her.

"I will be thirteen in twenty days."

"And you are telling me you understand Shakespeare."

"No, but I have read all the bridged stories."

"Abridged... which is your favourite?"

He noticed the annoyance on her face.

"Hamlet, of course."

"Really, why so?"

"Why do you only talk about books?"

"The only thing I know about you is that you have mesmerising eyes which can sometimes read literature."

"I will be a famous writer," she said.

"We all will be one day."

She stared into his eyes and he felt a tinge of regret mixed with humiliation. She took the cigarette from his mouth and crushed its butt on a plastic CD cover.

Last dance with Mary Jane
One more time to kill the pain

He traced her nose, lightly brushing her lips till his finger reached the pit of her neck. He felt her back stiffen but the look of contempt in her eyes was maintained with bravado. He held her waist from both his hands and pulled her. She slid towards him, but her voice gave away the panic.

"What song is this?" she whispered.

He kissed her lips and she closed her eyes. He started sucking her lower lip gently. She opened her mouth, unsure of any movement she should make. He pressed the center of her back and her body against his. He played with her tongue before sucking on it. She shifted a little and sat on his lap, holding the back of his head with her palms. He let go off her mouth and started kissing her cheeks moving towards her ear. His tongue found its way to the neck and he bit gently into the pale skin. She felt a thrust against her abdomen and crushed herself against him. He started breathing slowly over the trail of his spit on her neck. His hands cupping her breasts lightly. She opened her eyes and started kissing his lips. His fingers slid under the thick elastic band of her sports bra and dug violently into the flesh. She bit his cheek, his ears, his neck, searching for the smell of his body. He held the end of her green mini-dress and tugged it up till her head refused to allow it through. She shook her neck till her favourite dress came off. She took off the white sports bra, embarrassed of the fraying elastic along the straps. He unbuttoned his brown-beige checked shirt. She started kissing his chest, the sparse hair tickling her cheeks. He grabbed her face and pulled her up till his gaze.

"Who are you?"

"I am the girl you met last night."