23 May, 2017

Broken skies

As I exited the buildings of the M__ Inc., the sky was the sullen colour that reminds me of a phrase from Neuromancer: "the colour of a TV screen turned off". When I read it as boy, that phrase seemed modern and eternal all at once. Now I wonder how many would remember CRT televisions in the age of flatscreens.

There was a cold drizzle, more like a damp mist.

I used to hatelove these things. The weather was perfect iff you were just about to duck into the broad awning of some well-lit cafe, and the door would welcome you into a merry medley of laughter, the clink of expensive chinaware and the general warmth of human company. And the damp humours of the exterior would evaporate in the expansive jollity like the plot line in some Victorian mystery novel. If and only if. Not otherwise.

Not when you squelch your way through mud and mulch.

Wait. I am winding my way through the concrete jungle of the second largest shopping mall in these United States. Albeit a bit overgrown with weeds between the cracks.

In my mind's eye, I would still be squelching in black shoes and white trousers through the aftermath of a Calcutta rain. Cursing silently and ritualistically at the roar of traffic, the swell of pedestrians, the 20 rupees left in my pocket, the necessity of a bus ride eschewing a cab, at peering in at well-lit cafes, the look of imagined scorn in the eyes of patrons, at having to walk alone to the library ad infinitum ad nauseum. My brief whispers of indignation lost in the teeming indignity that is the city life. Even in teenage I had taught myself the distinction between taking a bus ride because I want to, and taking it because I have to.

The tag on my rusty (and therefore trusty -- I have to say "trusty", like in "he went forth on his trusty steed") umbrella, almost faded to incomprehensibility, reads: "Mohendra Lal Dutt". I could have been walking under ashen skies on concrete pavements my whole life. It fills me up with a sense of something -- hope, resilience, despair, listlessness, belonging all rolled into a roiling mass. And an unceasing ever-seething anger like the embers of a fire ancient men would warm their hands against as they sharpened their flints.

I have missed my bus, so I call an Uber. The road, while often threatening to come full circle, has changed enough for me. It's the little changes that matter. Those are the ones that need a whole world to change to come true.

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