After weeks of confusion between days and nights, a semblance of normalcy returns to my life. I awake in the morning, and now, at seven in the evening, I can watch the golden folds in the sky as the sun goes home and a pale bluish white sky without character or identity takes its place. Soon enough, though, the stars will be out, and even as I write, the sky is turning a sinister grey, with a hint of pink pushing its way from goodness knows where.
The lights are coming on and the cars are jamming up at the traffic signals. Fleeing, returning home, going out to be beguiled at a mall, masquerading. Indian girls who have lived cloistered lives and been told what to wear and what to do all their lives see their first chance at ‘freedom’, if that is what it is to follow the pack, and do precisely what they have been forbidden to. Clothes grow skimpy, alcohol flows free, maybe even a smoke or two. The eyes betray anxiety, a keen hunger for adoration and worship, cowardly defiance, embarrassed guilt. A conscience can be a very uncomfortable thing to have, almost akin to a chronic disease. Fight it all you want, it always catches up with you. Metamorphose, and it will still remind you who you really are.
The children in the park are screaming in glee. Make-believe games and the assurance that someone else knows best (when you are too young to think for yourself or rebel, that is) keep them contented. The black dresses, holding hands on the train and nights at St. James’ Power Station are still a long way off. The only outings they care for now are days on the island with their parents, flying kites on the open grass, the National Day celebrations- the age when a country is judged by its theme parks.
We hover on the bridge, trying to fit in somewhere. The cab driver is shocked at the rent we pay- it is much too high, he says- and we still splurge on bargains at the mall. Susceptible to temptations, earning our own living, doing our own cooking and cleaning, shopping for our groceries and vegetables- sometimes it’s all just too hard to fathom. Where are we, now?
The sky is dark, and my body knows bedtime is approaching. My mind resists vehemently- but I try to make it see sense, because this is a hard-earned fortnight of normalcy, or a semblance of it.