Every Thing We Are is a coming of age novel where Samyukta aka Sam learns that every thing we are is not always on display. This is my first attempt at writing a novel. I started this project as part of #NaNoWriMo2020 before I fell off the wagon. Hope you will read along as I get back to writing it. All episodes of this series are available on the ETWA page. Subscribe to my writing here.
It’s a bright, sunny winter day in Cubbon Park, the kind of day that would have produced washed out pictures once upon a time. A peppermint coolness fills the air, offsetting the sunlight bouncing off the out-of-control trees growing into the sky, the orderly plants standing in a line and the wilful grass growing with a purpose. A perfect blend of warm and cool that makes you look up at the sun and smile. I reach out and pour myself a steaming cup of coffee from the thermos flask. Perfect.
The park is practically empty like it was mid-morning on a weekday. The tabebuias are in bloom. I walk up to the tree proudly bursting with its annual pink flowers. No photograph can ever capture the joy of this bloom. The soft, caressing rain of their aging flowers. The faint, warm stench of decomposing flowers afoot. I hug the trunk tight and say, you’re beautiful.
A movement around my feet distracts me. It’s my favourite park dog, Marble Cake. He is a wobbly old fellow barely able to see or walk. But he always makes time to say hello.
“Wello der mah bay-bee-boo. Howsh mah bay-bee-doo doin’?” As I say that, his brown and black chocolate drizzle body melts onto the floor in slow motion, paws in the air, begging for a belly rub.
“Hoosh feeling friendly today? Hoosh that puppy face?” I coo, petting him and looking around to see if Mama was looking at me. She would throw a fit if she saw me petting a stray dog. Cubbon park visits were a Sunday ritual for the family. I look around once more but there is no one else around. That’s odd, I think momentarily before going back to intense petting.
I walk on, skipping past piles of dry leaves and squirrels going about their day. Mynahs are congregating on a Penguin-shaped dustbin. A crow refuses to share a dead rat with his family. Pigeons mill about pretending to exercise. Jason Mraz is on loop in my head, “soak up your life, your beautiful light, you’ve got a paradise inside”.
In the bamboo grove, a group of theatre enthusiasts are practising for a play. I go over to them and sit down on a rock. One of them carries a cat around, who turns out to be a pivotal character in the play. The playful cat essays its role to perfection. She’s hilarious. I laugh loudly at the cat’s antics but nobody seems to notice.
The smell of warm and spicy fire-roasted corn fills the air. Someone hands me one. I blow on the cob to cool it down. Closing my eyes, I take a bite, smacking my lips after. It’s tangy and spicy. When I open my eyes, I am on a slackline. I am grinning ear to ear as I walk across the taut rope expertly while still taking bites off my cob of corn.
When I fall off the slackline, I cover the short distance to the floor in slow motion. In time I hit the grass which feels like a comfortable spring bed and bounce gently. I turn over to the side, still smiling, and bring my knees up into a curl. Is the grass glossier today, softer even? Someone calls out to me. But I feel like I’m in that moment when you are awake but not ready to open your eyes to the world. When you want to linger in the certainty and warm comfort of your bed. “Come quickly. You are going to love this. Come on!” They call out to me again.
When I fall off the slackline, I cover the short distance to the floor in slow motion. In time I hit the grass which feels like a comfortable spring bed and bounce gently.
I look up and see your silky straight, soft hair, Madhu. I hadn’t paid attention to who was calling out to me because it didn’t sound like you. Now that I see it is you, I am up on my feet, running to you. Though it seemed like you were standing right in front of me, I now realise that you are a way off. You are turning away from me. It’s been so long since I met you. I want to hear you laugh and smell your hair. There is so much to tell you.
When I get to where you are standing, I hug you from behind and breathe in your hair. It smells like joy. Everything will be alright, as long as I have you.
I hug you tighter and you burst out laughing. I’ve heard that laugh somewhere. You grab my arm. I am too happy to care. My face is warm, grinning ear to ear. You turn me out in a twirl. I fall back in horror but you twirl me back into you.
I am running.
Your face, your face is not yours.
Yes, you’ve got your hair and your body and your clothes.
But your face. It’s his face. Guruji’s.
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