Sunday, May 24, 2009

Burn after Reading

A bit about the people. Ritwick stood on the edge of the bridge, with Shlok as a silent companion some distance away. Both of them were leaning over the railing and trying to look brave staring down. For the first time since they had known each other, it seemed as they were enjoying their silence more than any form of conversation. The banter seemed unnecessary and futile right now. Almost as inane as its name implied. The hush approved of whatever was going through their minds. Or whatever was not. The stillness in their thoughts was in sharp contrast with the lovely breeze that tried to push them over the edge. The sun had already set, leaving a dull orange haze in its wake. It spread across the sky in lazy artistic strokes, becoming darker every passing second, and subsuming all other colours with it. Birds and bats were returning to their nests and seemed pleasantly surprised at the unexpected visitors. Smugly satisfied thus, they flew past, suddenly fluttering their wings a tad too excitedly in an attempt to unsettle the unlikely couple.

Now something about the local marvel. Due to some bureaucratic hiccup in the unbelievably efficient government machinery, the construction of the bridge had been stopped just when the other end had seemed within reach. Probably the river had dried up too soon (because of the dam some distance ahead) and the thoughtful engineers decided there shouldn’t be one over a desiccated bed. Whatever happened, the result was what came to be known as “The Broken Bridge” – a somewhat normal construction that ended somewhat abruptly. A derelict signpost at the beginning of the structure and a pile of concrete served as grim reminders of incomplete contracts and satiated pockets. The unfinished project had now become a favourite hunting ground for lovers, dopers, alcoholics, and just about everyone else. As such, police raids were not uncommon. Neither were thefts and muggings.

Back to the setting again. The drop to the unending expanse of mud below was sheer and steep. One could not stand on the edge without feeling a bit dizzy. Although the river had disappeared a long time ago, it had left serpentine trails in the mud in order to remind the visitors of its presence in a time not so long ago. They now served as makeshift roads for drivers who were a bit too adventurous for the normal takeaways. A lone jeep was making use of one the trails, very close to the horizon, stirring up a dirt storm in it wake. Lights blazing, it appeared ready to take the plunge and jump over the edge. The jeep seemed to be the object of attention for both Ritwick and Shlok. They looked at it for sometime, then at each other, and finally smiled, nodding their heads in silent agreement. Yes, both of them were thinking of the same thing. The scene was poetic enough to be the finale of some abstract movie. Not a painting. Not some random poem. A movie it needed to be.

An unlikely company. Undeterred by secondary human presence, a couple came to the bridge at about this time. It seemed as if they had walked the distance. The fellow was sweating a lot and looked like he was in the mood to complain. He was frustrated and sore. It looked like he had dressed up for the occasion. Quite a bit. But now, wet patches under his armpits graced his designer shirt while his red sneakers were dusty and almost brown. The lady in question just smiled serenely and probably tried explaining to him that it was worth the effort. She was fair, very elegant and wore a faded yellow T-shirt with bermuda shorts. A strange form of intelligence shone in her eyes. Hers was the kind of beauty that made you jealous of the stupid bloke who had been lucky enough to have her. You could be satisfied by just looking at her. Shlok sighed inwardly. Ritwick not so inwardly.

At the first sight itself, it had become apparent that there was no pretence in their boldness. They just did not care. So Shlok looked at Ritwick and hinted about giving them the privacy that they deserved. But Ritwick seemed to be in a sour mood himself and decided to stick around. He was not going to let others spoil his moment at the edge. Not if he could help it.

And now the masala. The fellow seemed to have calmed down a bit and was tracing his fingers through her lovely hair as she leaned back. The wind caught a whiff of her smell and carried it to where Shlok stood. She smelt delicious. Like a baby just bathed by its mother. Wet and innocent. They were hugging now. Shlok tried to resist staring at this amorous couple but gave up doing so. They did not mind, he eventually decided. He was softly speaking something into her ears and she was smiling while nodding her head. The earrings jingled in appreciation. The eyelashes blinked in sarcasm. And the eyes shone at the prospect of a scandal. She was not looking at him but through him, as if her sight could pierce through flesh. As if its insight was something tangible. The lone jeep caught her attention as well and for a moment her forehead was lined with furrows. But then she was herself again – smiling, nodding, jingling, and listening. He, on the other hand, had ceased to inspire any observation long ago.

Then in a swift smooth motion, she brought his lips to hers. As if taking control from him. And they kissed. It was not the embarrassed kiss of lovers hesitant about their intentions. But the passionate kiss of two people who knew what they were doing. He had his eyes closed. But she had them open, as if she wanted more; not just satisfied by the taste of his sweat on her lips. For a second she glanced at Shlok and in that second it appeared that she was proving a point to him. That she had taken the plunge and chucked all the inhibitions circumstances had imposed on her. There was the slightest smudge of a smile on her lips as she looked away, and locked her lover in an embrace. The world had shrunk to the space between their arms.

The sorry departure and just a hint of philosophy. Ritwick and Shlok mutually decided that they had enough. They tip toed their way back to the bike and started on their way back, leaving the lovers still entwined in, well, love. The area around the dried river bed was pockmarked with ravines and scrubland. The trees and bushes were a dull shade of green because of the dust that had settled permanently on them. There was a strange brown haze that hung in the air. It dulled everything with its suffocating presence. Restricted vision. Prevented thought. It was hard to take away one’s mind away from it. But if one tried, one could find beauty in the stunted shrubs. Find hidden patterns in the ravines and listen to them telling stories of floods that gave birth to them. But only if one made the effort to look beyond the permeating dirt. If and only if.

Riding back home, it seemed as if too much life was running through their veins. Too much of it going to waste. The stillness in thoughts had been somewhat replaced by the tiniest question. Well, several tiny questions in fact. All of them connected. All of them vague and futile. Where they looking too far ahead into time? Was this vision of the future somehow preventing them from making the best of now? Was it preventing from appreciating the wrong kind of beauty? Were they making a dash for the wrong finish lines? Would it help if they too shed their inhibitions and risked it? Gave it a try just once? Not a long time back, Akanksha had chided Shlok for romanticizing and dramatizing everything. “You think too loftily”, she had innocently remarked. If it was a personal obsession, why then was Ritwick suffering from a similar turmoil? Even if just for those few moments. Something can not be wrong with everyone. Not everyone can lust after the same sinful (or was it simple?) pleasures.

Back in his pigeonhole, Shlok smirked at the irony of the words that were exploding from a house nearby. They hung in suspended animation and mocked his thoughts as subtly as possible.

Oh, it's a mystery to me
We have a greed with which we have agreed
And you think you have to want more than you need
Until you have it all you won't be free

Society, you're a crazy breed
Hope you're not lonely without me


  1. Is this what you were thinking back then?

    Haww..I thought otherwise!!

  2. I am sorry to have disappointed you man. In case it was a disappointment.

  3. I was wondering what could have been the reason for late back tracing to college. The bike keys? Now I find an answer! Pretty bad, that we all think of the same things?

  4. hmmmm...
    remember samrat ratan?
    ' wid ur choices. and have the conviction to stand by them' :)

  5. hmm.. interesting.
    and i gather that this is not fiction either..

  6. Pinky: We also had ice cream at Trapti after ages. It was like exploring a new territory all over again.

    C: Conviction. Conviction. Conviction. That's what missing right now. The strength is there.

    Aunty: Partly Fact. Partly Fiction. Partly Hogwash. So it must be called fiction.

  7. Don't try to see the 'men' in characters. Or the women for that matter. (All fiction must be inspired from facts somehow.) Instead, try to listen to the story they are a part of AND are trying to tell.

    Comment, if possible, on what they say and how they say it.

    Interpret, in your own way, both these things.

  8. And that (the comment above) , ladies and gentleman, in a nutsheel, are the collective teachings of Budhau the Khoosat.