Friday, May 08, 2009

THE ICE FACTORY



Gauri sat on a wooden crate, peeling the dead skin from between her toes. Not the greatest of ways to begin her Saturday morning, but the heat was too much for the scaling skin on her feet, while it promised greater returns.

The machines below the ice shed were happily buzzing away, churning perfect little hollow fingers of ice, laced in the mist of maybe cold mountains. But Gauri didn’t care for her brother’s enterprise, for she was the one feeding the pipes with water from a tap deep inside the municipal lane, and pacing in and out to stop adventurous thieves from getting away with the freezing crystals on their bikes and red blue cars. She had often woken up late in the night to the sound of metal lids clanging and hushed giggles followed by the rev of engines.

She failed to understand why the young boys wearing expensive clothes with their expensive girls in the front seat, bother to steal something so cheap. A couple of stolen kilograms of ice made no difference to her brother’s snores or to the wallets of the midnight thieves either. But her capacity to be surprised had reduced to near indifference, which of course surprised her.

The silent drone of the machines was too loud to lull her to sleep, but soft enough for a tiny mongrel that had appeared two days ago, from the dirty brown soil with a black tail, to curl up under the tin shed, its stomach rising and falling with Gauri’s slow breaths. A red car stops and a tall boy in a blue shirt pulled tightly over his bulging belly steps out. A girl with short hair and red shoes follows him. Gauri walks towards the nearest machine and fishes out several ice fingers into two polybags. While she expertly twists the end of the bags into a knot, the girl peers curiously inside the ice container.

“Oh, it’s so misty in here… look Rohan, they are so perfect in shape,” she says while tugging at the boy’s arm.

He takes out his wallet and pays Gauri, who walks back to her wooden crate, shifts it with her feet, away from the sun patch that had drifted over her comfortable corner. The two of them walk towards the car, and the pup follows them, shaking his tiny black tail vigorously, so that his tiny body inflates and deflates in a rhythm. He stands on his hind legs to reach up to the trickling ice bag in the girl’s hand and starts licking the wet surface. As she turns sideways to get into the now open door of the car, she let’s out a tiny screech and pushes the dog away with her ice bag.

“Oh god… can’t they even give the poor dog some water.”

Gauri ignores the girl’s stare and closes her eyes. A nearby machine rattles and clanks, the hum fades and silence follows.