June 24, 2009

Lifetime Journeys

She has been sitting on that parapet wall for an hour now. She gazes out at a landscape that isn’t exactly a great view but it is a view to her nevertheless. There is a wide open ground. At the very far end of that ground, she sees a few shanties where labourers live and work on a new building that is far enough to not block the breeze that gushes into her home and ears every night but close enough to still be a near eyesore.

A few children to her right have built a cricket pitch and are playing. On her left, stands another building, dwarfed by the one she stays in. She can see its terrace and she can see a couple strolling there, hand in hand. Far away, she sees part of a road, vehicles zipping by on it. A large banyan tree shadows the road.

He likes the tree. He likes how it spreads out its hands, how it offers a moment’s respite to the people who walk under it. He feels it is old. She finds it young. She can see from this distance, the smoothness of its bark, the freshness on its leaves, the natural spring in its swaying. It has to be young, she tells herself.

She knows he has never visited the tree. Never went and hugged it. Never whispered into its ears, hope it hears and hope it tries to respond. In some way. Maybe an extra breeze from its branches, maybe a few falling leaves, maybe an extra bit of swaying…anything. From so far away, does it know it is being watched? Does it know it is liked? By two people who stay far far away in a house on top of a building that stands on top of a mound?

This is her domain, she feels, and she looks down on it, wondering how long before this too becomes a fragment of her memory. A day when she will pack up one more time and go away, forgetting the tree, the road, the ground, the building that does not even exist yet. After the last goodbye. No more coming and going, no more rainy terraces, no more breezy well lit homes, no more smells of cooking wafting on this sphere where they live now?

He comes out then and catches her looking at nothing. Stop thinking, he nudges. She smiles. She isn’t thinking. She is drifting. Those are different, aren’t they? Will she remember him in an afterlife? Will he? If she does, will he know from afar that he is loved?

June 13, 2009

Of Stainless Steel Spice Holders

There is nothing overtly special about this day. It is just another Saturday, the day of the week that goes fastest, and she is back to her domain, the kitchen, aromas sashaying their way out of the open windows, mustard and asafetida, curry leaves and green chillies chopped fine, like little green nose rings.

She fastens the lid on the pressure cooker, split beans soaked with tomatoes, garlic and onions simmering. She remembers the turmeric, forgotten in its container, straining to remind her that it belongs inside the cooked too.

It catches her attention then. Sitting camouflaged amidst other vessels with lids. Stainless steel, glistening through the smudges that her fingers have left on it. Lid shut tight in place. She falters for a second and then reaches out for the turmeric. It goes right into the vessel and she turns again to the vessel that caught her attention. Five spices. They used it with careless abandon in her part of the world.

She hasn't used it even once here, not knowing how the unfamiliar tastes will be welcomed in this house, her house now...it was a foreign taste here. Not on her tongue though. On her tongue, it tastes like home. Mud and rain and sandal paste and jasmines. Her home. She reaches out to the vessel. It almost seems to leap into her hand, overjoyed after this long spell of inattention.

She cradles it in her hands, kissing it gently and opening the lid. The fragrance wafts into her nostrils and she takes it all in, the heady feeling of nostalgia hitting her hard. She flinches at the tears that seep onto her lips. She takes a pinch of the five spice and tosses it into the vessel. The split bean sizzles and crackles with new life. She shuts the lid.

An hour later when they sit at the table and she ladles out spoonfuls of the lentil soup to his plate, and he digs in, she looks for a reaction. There is none. He is perfectly at home with the taste. She settles into her chair and puts a ball of rice mixed with the lentils into her mouth. It is the first time she has appetite for something her hands have made.