The entire city skyline is spread out, right beyond the small 22nd story balcony. A few cigarette butts stubbed out, lying carelessly on the cold marble floor. An abandoned glass of stale rum and coke. A flower pot perched precariously on the wrought iron grill, nursing a dead money plant. A snapshot of urban decay. In black and white. A sudden gust of wind brings in a wave of mild December chill into my clumsy living room, if it can be so called. The yellow lamp flickers. Once, twice. The quivering light drawing patterns on the books piled high on the study table.
I feel irritated. Getting up from my beige armchair, I reluctantly go out into the balcony, hugging my thin frame gingerly. “Some day you’ll be blown away by the wind…”, my sagacious mother would reflect, as she eyed me from behind the newspaper. Well, my mother is nowhere near me. She’s in a different place, a different room. A different life altogether. I should call her sometime, like I said I would. I miss her annoying displays of affection. The way she fought with our cats, telling them how she knows that their only agenda is getting more food. Calling them names. Complaining to me. I miss her hurried way of talking. Her completely random ideas and elaborate plans, always, always made with me. And I, never, never having time for any of them. And I don’t remember why or how the love between us got so stilted.
I miss having cats around. That strange, detached way of loving, marked by moments of sheer tenderness and uncompromising affection. Love without pretensions. I miss that.
A long, deliberate drag from my Goldflake Kings. Only 3 more left in the packet, and an entire blasted night ahead of me. Leaning against the railings, I lightly touch the shrivelled leaves of the plant. “It’ll always bring you good luck”, she had said. The small paan-shop downstairs is still open I see. The old man about to pack up. 11:30 pm. Not a good time to venture out I guess. The busy street below is dotted with flashes of moving lights. Cars, like insects, crawling with this sense of purpose. Making their way in parallel lines. Opposite directions. Like an orchestrated urban symphony. Someone’s been trying to call me incessantly on my Skype. The ringing continues from inside the room. Nagging, pleading me to pick up. I try hard to tune it out. The sounds of the street are infinitely more comforting in their indifference. In their absolute lack of correlation with me. The sound within, is not.
Time tends to pass excruciatingly slowly when you are alone. It tends to pass even slower when you are aware of your loneliness. A change in place, a change in the faces you are accustomed to seeing every day, does not always have the desired effect, as I am seeing. I look at the cardboard boxes lying beside the chair in one corner of that small splice of space, the excuse of a balcony. They are unpacked- a tangible testimony to my apparent lack of enthusiasm in settling in. Much like the almost empty cupboard of my studio apartment. My apartment. Which claims a unique identity despite the alarming lack of difference from the hundred other, similar, cramped little spaces that surround it. Concrete monstrosities up and down the streets. A thousand windows, some with the lights on. A voyeurs paradise.
Migratory instincts are intrinsic perhaps in all of us. Much like migratory birds, always in search of a better place. Nomads, vagabonds, pariahs. Always on the move, like the cars below on the concrete boulevard checkered with equidistant streetlights. Like the troop of homeless people who have always been there, always will be there, asserting their claim on the footpaths, just like the rest of us. In search of a home, just like the rest of us. Us and them. Step by step. Progressively marching towards that bizarre el dorado. Hypnotized, drawing closer like fireflies towards the bigcitylights.
In search of a home.
The clock strikes 12. There are fireworks in the sky. It’s 2014, and the start of a new year. A happy, new, year.