I can’t remember the days of the week. I just know that I’m two weeks into the vacation and, I hate to admit this, a trifle bored. Okay, I’m not complaining, but sometimes you just feel that way when you have plenty of time on your hands. I know it’s not correct to complain about something you wait the entire year for, working and hoping that the pleasant days will arrive soon. Summer holidays, right from school, are probably the best time of the year. (I would have gone for the monsoons, only, Vizag doesn’t have a regular rainy season; the rains are mostly caused by cyclonic depressions in the Bay of Bengal.)
So I lounge on the sofa with the TV running, stumbling upon watch-and-forget English movies, T20 matches, the news (which is almost always, irritatingly, about SRK and his huge contingent in black and shining armour). I have the day’s Deccan Chronicle crossword puzzle (the only good thing about the paper, ever since they stopped the Saturday Paulo Coelho column) or a book with me. I go out on the balcony. The sky is a maddening bluey-white, a sure sign that the sun is shining bright, and in a few days, the blue will give way to a blazing white. Summer in full force.
The day before yesterday it was, I think, that we had some rain. There was a light grey cover of clouds in one part of the sky- the other was bright and sunshiny. Lightning and thunder accompanied the showers, but the rain wasn’t refreshing or cool. It fell even as the sun cast its faint rays on the streets, the raindrops glistening as they dripped off the thick, glossy green leaves of the ornamental plants across the street. I couldn’t smell the earth. It was like being in a tropical forest- the rain stopped in a short while, and thick vapours of heat rose from the ground.
But I’m not complaining.
Sometimes, when I go out on the balcony, I see this neighbour, an elderly woman, putting clothes out to dry on the clothesline. She looks up and glares when she catches sight of me, the kind of look that makes people go off into highly imaginative fantasies about what would happen ‘if looks could kill’. I don’t know what she holds against me, or against humanity in general. She got locked out on the balcony one afternoon (reportedly), and banged against the door and screamed till she was let in again. In all fairness to her family, I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but I wouldn’t be very surprised even if it were.
I have been trying to break the ice, wondering how she would react if I smiled at her. I have been attempting to gather courage to do so, but the moment our eyes meet, my facial muscles paralyse temporarily. The only muscles that do work then are those in my feet, for they help me flee instantaneously. Apparently she has that effect on not just me, but other people as well. God bless her.
Weddings are supposed to be fun. They are, but strictly when you are in the company of people your age and actually have something to do or talk about. At other times, they’re just an exercise in politeness and courtesy. You get introduced to numerous adults who are so distantly related to you nobody knows exactly how, only to forget who they are by the time the next wedding comes around. These are people whom, for some reason, you meet only at weddings.
At my cousin’s wedding a few months ago, we had the same kind of experience. My cousins and I were introduced to some people, and of course we were, to put it politely, not deeply interested in remote relations that we couldn’t remember. I happened to run into a lady I was supposed to have met six years ago. How on earth did she expect me to remember her? I blundered into a correct guess, thanks to my unexpected good luck, and spared myself the blushes. People do feel terrible when they’re not recognised, don’t they? Anyway, not all the encounters were sorry affairs. I got to talk with one of the groom’s cousins- a nice girl with the tragic tale that is becoming all too common- engineer-to-be-who-wanted-to-be-a-journalist.
Mealtimes are an ordeal at weddings. Eating off a plantain leaf is difficult, especially when there are numerous small heaps of unidentifiable dishes, variously flavoured, piled on in quick succession. How can you possibly eat something whose ingredients you are unaware of, and if you don’t know whether it’s something you like or not? And just when you’re struggling with your food, somebody comes along and asks how you like the food. How can you be honest without being rude? I’ve never really mastered the art. White lies are all I can manage. (I learnt of them from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time– great book!)
My cousin said he missed the sight of little girls running around in colourful silk paavadais, the sound of anklets etc. I was really surprised- do boys really care for traditional weddings? I felt sorry for the bride and the groom, left to sweat it out under the camera lights, constant smiles affixed to their faces, gradually losing any semblance of emotion. Why can’t weddings be short and quick? It’s funny how people stand around, trying to look important when they’re as jobless as can be. We dress up for everyone to see, and once we’re in the crowd, we’re only bothered about how we look, with a few casual compliments thrown in someone’s direction so we get noticed.
That’s enough cynicism for a day, I’m sure you agree. It’s time I went back to the hard-earned peace of joblessness.