The following is an extract from I Am Ahmedabad, a collection of short stories
The psychedelic lizard looked pretty much like a little rainbow amidst the blinding rains. Scampering indecisively about the branch in the beginning, it soon rushes towards the edge of the branch and leaps magnificently in the air. And as it stays air-borne for what seems an eternity, it looked as if the fleshy rain wouldn’t let it reach its destination. It is only when it grasps a neighbouring branch, about 5 feet away, that Rashi regains her breath. But not for long, as she finds another dazzling alligator come to the fore and go flying in the air. Almost immediately, the first one leaps again and crosses the second one in mid-air to get back to the original branch. Before Rashi could realize, a couple more kaleidoscopic messieurs had arrived at the first branch to emulate the lead players.
They are playing a game! God they are playing a game! I don’t believe this!
She immediately turns about to draw Akhil’s attention. But he is too busy navigating their path with a stick. It was the first exceedingly soggy stretch of earth and the fear of being sucked into an invisible swarm had kept Akhil on the edge for quite some time now. How boring, Rashi silently curses Akhil and gives the playful lizards a final look before resuming the walk.
It scarcely looked as if they had ever realized that torrential rains were lashing them for the past three days. And that the last time they had seen anything besides a tree was last evening, when they had taken shelter in what seemed a cave. It was not as if the place was inaccessible to humans. It’s just that most avoided the place during these three months of incessant rains. But the two didn’t, as they continued the walk laden with the fear of being ambushed by, well, anything; of a tree falling over them because of the heavy downpour and lightning or of reaching the middle of nowhere.
But no one ever spoke anything. For, that was the only constraint. No one was allowed even a word except the necessary for those eight days! Akhil had thought that the adamant condition would encourage Rashi to find another partner; while Rashi had agreed for it with a belief that it would never be lived out.
Unfortunately for her, it did. And it clearly tormented her more than Akhil.
What the hell, SO WHAT if I’d agreed to this stupid condition! I mean come on; what’s the point in being together if we’re not going to talk anyway. He could’ve at least asked me once if I’m feeling fine or not! But look at him, he can go on without talking for ages. It’s so irritating.
But Akhil was, as Rashi would often call him, incorrigible. For him, a promise was a promise. Moreover, talking had never scored over his thoughts anyway.
What a place! Wish I could keep meandering here. Forever! No need to find good food to prove a point. No need to wear different clothes for different occasions. Perfect!
But everything wasn’t as serene in Rashi’s heart of twenty-two years. Daily fracas with parents had turned home into an ugly battleground. And if it were not enough, job had become a nauseating decay and she had started losing more friends than she had ever made. Always the one for immediate judgements, she had reached the brink of ramming her car in to a fast approaching lorry about a fortnight ago. But for the alertness of the opposite driver, she would have succeeded.
Akhil was the only one who knew about it, in spite of the fact that they had not been talking for over a month at the time of her extreme attempt. He had found himself in that state earlier too. And at times he found it a bit curious. Not just because he was a friend of barely an year but also because most of the period was spent in not talking to each other! Yet, neither found anything unusual when he could convince her to take a sabbatical; and go off to a far away place.
But Akhil hadn’t bargained for Rashi asking him to accompany her. Moreover, he didn’t know anything about going out alone with a girl. And you think I go to remote jungles with guys every weekend or what, Rashi had retorted angrily. But that wasn’t the point for Akhil. He wanted Rashi to spend some time with her own self. However, being far away and alone was out of question for her. Besides, Akhil’s company never created much dialogue anyway.
You’re like a toll free psychiatric helpline that first lets me speak for hours and when I’m done, asks me not to hold back anything, she had once giggled.
The only other thing that she was sure of was, that Akhil affected her. Though, she could never really understand how exactly and why. At times she thought that maybe it was his spirit that touched her the most. She remembered how once after one of his worst setbacks he had joked, It feels wonderful to know that I’m now so deep down in life that I’ll be the first one to come out from the other end.
At times she thought it was more than that. At very different times, he had thought the same about her.
At the moment, she wasn’t thinking about any of that. I can’t stay unhappy for long, she’d once told Akhil. And she no longer was. Of course, being at a place that she’d often seen in movies must’ve helped too. It was a world of trees, trees and more trees. Most were taller than her apartments while some were wider than her small car. Some were naughty enough to make use of every windy excuse to splash water on to her and some seemed to hold each other in a group, just like she and her brother had for a family photograph. And to top it all for her, it was raining like she had never seen before. Only she knew how desperate she was getting to call up Nikki, her best friend, and describe the place.
God! Imagine it raining for 7 days continuously. It was not only pouring like hell, but there were also little streams every few meters. My hands and feet had become so soaked that they looked morbid. Very pale; with blue veins crossing them. At times, the rains would suddenly step up and make it difficult even to keep the eyes open, forget walking. It’s impossible to describe how drenched we were. How our clothes had really got stuck on to our bodies. And honestly speaking, it felt extremely arousing at times!
She smiles thinking about Nikki’s naughty take on her confession. Of course, even in her thoughts, she wanted to first complete her talks before allowing the other person to speak.
Seriously, sometimes I really thought that if it were not Akhil, I would’ve found it difficult to control myself. But you should’ve seen him; I mean the six feet dumbo was walking as if we were going to some pilgrimage!
But it was fun. And so strange! We just kept walking, without knowing where we were going. I mean we knew that we would walk in for 3 days and then start walking back. But that was it. No talk, nothing! It was crazy. I really wished it were our group there; we would’ve had such fun. I really missed you guys.
But the truth of the matter was that she had started liking things the way they were. The incessant rains, the excitement of being where she was and the fact that she hadn’t felt as relaxed for long now. Suddenly, she is shaken out of slumber as she feels something at her ankle. She immediately lets out a shriek. An alert Akhil immediately gets a proper hold of his stick as he turns about. And as the two immediately look down in the ankle-deep stream, they almost simultaneously find out that it was only a very small piece of floating wood that had caused the commotion. As he turns around to continue, Akhil’s indifferent stare makes clear his displeasure about the alarm. That in turn doesn’t amuse Rashi much.
To be continued …