Friday, February 12, 2010

An attempt at a story: An abandoned attempt.

Sliding Door

Standing in front of the mirror, looking long and hard at the reflection, Maya didn’t like what she saw: A tired worn out face. With blackheads and skewed up eyebrows. Frizzy mass of hair like a black halo around her head. Looking closer she saw the fringes of white hair right in front, the hair was of a different texture even: the white ones. Stringy and stubborn, refusing to get behind the black ones even when her fingers deftly tried its many tricks. Maya gave up, sighing. She sighed that her hair was greying right in front, like Indira Gandhi, she thought. A band of platinum from the forehead, right to the centre of the head and then declining like the metal disintegrating. “But Mrs. Gandhi looked good and Mrs Raphael cannot carry it off.” She did not have the will nor the energy to do anything about her unruly greys. It was right there in front for the world to see. It was no Platinum streak. Just ugly white frays, which seemed to have a life of their own. Walking away from the mirror, Maya moved to her favourite spot in the house: the room with a view. With the sliding glass French windows, which led to the garden. The lawn stretched on just a few yards more and then it was a steep fall to a rocky beach. But from where she was, all she could see was the wide open sea and the sun setting after a long day’s work of shining. It looked like the daily dip. The sea basking when the sun takes bath. Washing away the dirt and grime, after a day of blazing in the open.
Her eyes swept across the horizon, it lazily took in the many sights. Along with it the hammock tied to the two coconut palms. That was where Maya used to read and dream when she was younger.
Summers were always spent in her parent’s house. When Yaakov’s school closes, Maya closed her kitchen too and moved base to her parent’s, beside the sea. This was one such lazy May evening. With glass of iced tea fitted with a mint leaf and a slice of lime atop the ice, it looked picture perfect on the dining table. The glass catching the light of the setting sun. The tea looked like garnet. A big block of garnet. Quickly taking a picture with her small digital camera, a hobby acquired over few months, inspired by the photo stream on flickr, Maya got a better idea. As the light was perfect, a gut feeling told her to step outside.It felt strange. It was not like the stepping out in the morning with the coffee mug. It was not like the stepping out in the afternoon, to call Yaakov, for lunch from the sand pit. Maya felt like she stepped out to another time. Shirking the queer feeling, with camera in one hand and iced tea in the other, with renewed interest to the rock table juxtaposed between the hammock and the sand pit. Placing the tumbler, on the rock, she took a flurry of pictures. The click of the shutter was a familiar sound. Sounded like something she had done just there, another lifetime ago........
“Hey guys huddle closer; we need you all in this picture.” “Hey Adarsh! Sit down will you, P.T. move your fat arse and place it somewhere.” “Prarthna, give me a smile honey!” “Hey! Leave some space for me, you horrendous thugs of friends.” “I need to be in the picture too, heartless morons!” “Ok. Ok get ready!” Rushing towards a space Adarsh had managed to find for Maya, pushing aside Philip’s fat arse and Prarthna’s slim one. He fitted himself and made space for her right beside him. Maya smiled at him. He avoided her gaze with a grin. The shutters clicked. They didn’t move. They stood still. Relishing their togetherness, one last time. Last day of college and all gathered around their favourite place: the hammock under swaying coconut palms.
“NLSIU is where we are going to be next, guys!” Adarsh said with such certainty, which was so typical of him. It was easy for him to say. He’d never failed a test, never a quiz he hadn’t creamed, never a scrabble he hadn’t won. But the rest of the motley crew; Prarthna was not even interested in the course; she applied because the gang was doing it. P.T. so rich, with money spilling out from his father’s bulging coffers, it didn’t matter if he got through the test, ‘daddy’, could buy a seat. And Maya, like Prarthna was indecisive. For Prarthna her flair for design was what made her uncertain. She couldn’t make up her mind between her dream course and her friends. But for Maya she could never make up her mind about anything. She was used to people making the choices for her.Right to what she wore. Her mother always told her what to wear and planned her wardrobe. Left to her own Maya would always choose the same brown jubbah, her faded jeans and her bhandini dupatta. Prarthna always said “Maya, the first time you wore this, it was a statement. Now it’s more like a never-ending speech.” It was her father who filled in her college application. Wrote Sociology in bold. “You don’t have the drive to do economics”, he said. “And you will stop your reading the moment you take up English Literature as an academic course. Honey! I hate to see you give up the only thing you seem to have a passion for.” Her Father thought best that she does her post graduation In Sociology, after the bachelors, but Maya wanted to be with the gang. She wanted to be with Adarsh and that’s all that mattered to her. For the first time in her life, she revelled in the fact that she was finally clear about something. “Adarsh is my destiny.” Maya was sure about that. Maya, stood there watching Adarsh so animated, talking about how they were all going to be together again in another campus. She wondered how simple it was for Adarsh to dream and take by hand everyone into his glorious reverie. Adarsh took them all to the campus none had seen for real. But somehow when he spoke, they all saw, old buildings in red bricks with large wooden awning painted in yellow. Ivy creeping in through gigantic windows. Gargoyles at the roof tops. Pine trees on either side of the pathways, which took them to the various departments, the acres of thick foliage which were left to grow on its own design. Maya couldn’t help smiling at his excitement, secretly delighted for she had visited the campus a hundred times, in her dreams, strolling hand in hand with Adarsh. Not that they ever walked thus in real. For Maya, leaving college, and going to NLSIU, was to be the next step in her relationship with Adarsh. Where she imagined they would finally admit to each other and like couples flaunt their love in public. After all they had come of age......
Once again the gang met beneath the coconut palms next to the swaying hammock. As imagined Adarsh creamed the test, P.T. bought his seat. Prarthna got into her design course. And Maya. And Maya was just a seat away from the rest in NLSIU. Her name was the first in the waiting list. If anyone dropped the course she could get in. That day, along with the rest Alice was there too and she had topped the tests. Jubilant as always, life never seemed to give a reason for Adarsh to be otherwise, impressed that a female actually beat him to it; Adarsh was engrossed in conversation with Alice. As Maya came out with a tray of iced tea for everyone, topped with mint leaves and lemon wedges atop the ice, she noticed Adarsh’s hands casually slung over Alice’s shoulder. “I am the only one who doesn’t have a footing on the future.” She thought. She suddenly felt alone.The sight of the casual camaraderie between Adarsh and Alice left her disturbed. She liked Alice. But at that moment, Maya blamed Alice for her misfortune. Alice had become the enemy and Adarsh the betrayer. Like she always does, Maya withdrew into herself with a big smile plastered on her face. Waiting one more torturous hour for the gang to dismiss, Maya wanted to be left alone. Adarsh was hovering around with a piece of paper in his hands. Maya could see that he wanted some time alone with her. But she avoided every chance at having to be alone with him. Puzzled by Maya’s sudden aloofness, Adarsh said goodbye to the gang as they left in P.C.’s car. Maya quickly stepped into the sliding door and closed it behind her.
That was the last time she saw Adarsh. Looking at her from afar with the piece of paper in his hands, relentlessly swishing in the breeze. Maya stood there in front of the sliding door, and wondered for a minute, “Should I step out and say goodbye”. Adarsh was to leave early next day for Bangalore and in a week the course would commence. “He will forget me.” The thought of her having no relevance in his life hurt her even more. She was amazed at how much she could feel. “And my father thinks I am devoid of passion other than for reading”, she mused. Maya didn’t step out of the sliding door that evening. And she remembered she had just turned twenty two. She went to the telephone confirmed the seat in a local college for post graduation in Sociology.
A week went by, cooped in the house with an Updike; Maya had a yellowish tinge to her skin. “Its lack of some sunshine!” said Maya’s mother. “Get out of the house for some fresh air, for heaven’s sake! You go to MEtro today, and pick up the grocery for the week”, insisted her mother. Maya walked into Alice in Metro. Astonished to see her, Maya notices a look of surprise on Alice’s as well. They exclaim in unison, “I thought, you’d be in Bangalore!”
“No, I got into IIM. A, It was my dream to get there....but I thought you took my seat in NLSIU. Adarsh in fact made me write a letter to Dean, that day at your place, forfeiting the seat if I didn’t want it, so that you could get it. It seems your name was the first in the waiting list.” “He was so happy about it that he was hugging me all day.” Laughed Alice her open, loud, thunderous laugh. And it echoed in her ears...
Maya stirred from what it seemed like a long sleep, hearing a laugh. A loud open feminine laugh. She jolted up to find herself swaying on the hammock, first time after her twenty-second birthday, eighteen years ago. Maya got up feeling heavy.

2 comments:

neelima said...

I could almost see Maya !!

Good to see you back with this touching piece.

Another sensitive one from shalu

Shalini George said...

thankyou Neelu..
U r too kind!