Monday, November 22, 2004


The rain begins to fall fast and hard. Viren struggles with the latch of his bag which decides to not cooperate just now. He hunches over, hoping his shoulders will protect the thick pages from this cloudburst. Water hits the back of his head, the centre of his skull where his hair grows in circles like the rings in a tree’s bark. Little streams trickle in wavering lines along his skull. While he fidgets with the clasp of his bag, a part of his mind quickly draws a picture of the scalp dotted with bumpy growths of black hair and the water, crystalline blue, meandering upon the surface, through the stalks of hair. He must draw that sometime, Viren tells himself. But for now, he needs to protect what he just sketched and the elements seem determined to wash it away. Rainwater worms down fatly from his hairline, down past the curve of his eyebrow, the dip of his eye socket and the rise of his cheekbone. One line of water falls straight as an aroow, down from the centre of his forehead to the tip of his nose. It is raining so frantically that the water does not dangle at the tip of his nose. It simply drips in a single white line. It had rained like this once, long ago, when Sitara and he had just started going out. They had gone out and bumped into a group of her friends. All of them got wet in the rain and then one of her friends looked at him and said, "Off your nose, the rain looks like the pee of the cherub in that fountain in Paris!" They had all laughed loudly, including Sitara. Viren’s skin burned even in today’s wetness as he remembered the cheeky bastard trying to humiliate him. Where the hell did that guy come off saying things like that to him? And Sitara, adding salt to sore wounds, invited them along to see the movie just he and Sitara were supposed to see. Then she sat and chatted with them, bright and bubbly, the entire time. He had never felt more out of place or more tolerated.

"But Viren, I didn’t realise you minded them. I mean, we were just going for a movie and they were planning to see the same one, so I thought that…they would have felt unnecessarily snubbed if we didn’t offer to go together since we were going to the same place. I didn’t want to be rude to them. I just didn’t think –"
"No, you didn’t think. That’s just it. You don’t fucking think when it comes to me! Since your friend, who doesn’t shy of making fun of me, would be hurt, you’re willing to make our date this bloody public affair. You totally ignore me so that you’re not rude to your friend. Are you sure I’m the boyfriend? Because where I’m at it looks more like he’s getting the treatment that a boyfriend should be getting while I get the hand-me-down treatment that a friend gets when you pick him of the road."
"I didn’t do that!"
"So I’m imagining the whole thing? This is what I felt, Sitara. This is what you were doing to me when you were busy trying to make your friend feel comfortable and un-neglected."
"Look, I’m sorry –"
"Don’t give me your bloody pity, Sitara or, so help me God, I really will lose my temper."
"Viren, this is not about pity. I didn’t realise you were feeling this way. I mean, I thought we were going to see a film which is a public thing anyway. I thought it would just be nice to have them with us, that’s all. I didn’t think they would get in the way."
"How many words did you say to me, Sitara?"
"I, well, I mean, we were all talking –"
"I asked you a specific question and I want you to answer it. How many words did you say to me? To me."
"We were talking the entire time, Viren –"
"No, Sitara, you were talking the entire time to your friends. How many words did you say to me? How many times did you turn around, look at me and say something? How many times? Tell me. Let me hear it from you. How many times? What? What? If you did talk to me, I’m hoping you’d at least remember. How many times? How many?"
"I don’t know."
"What was that?"
"I don’t remember."
"You don’t remember. Of course you don’t remember. I’ll tell you why you don’t remember, because you didn’t say a damn thing to me. Not one damn thing to me. I could have not been there and it would have made no bloody difference."
"Viren, I was holding your hand the entire time!"
"Fucking hell, Sitara, what the fuck do you take me for? Your pet dog? That’s what people do with their pets – hold on to the leash so that the animal doesn’t go off somewhere while they do their thing. Don’t you dare give me that patronising shitload! How the hell would you have felt, Sitara, if I had taken you with me to one of my friends’ parties and then just dragged you around behind me, holding your fucking hand, and saying nothing to you the entire time? My god, I don’t believe you! It’s incredible. How can you be so insensitive? How the hell can you be so completely insensitive?"
"I’m sorry. Look, I really didn’t mean to make you feel this way."
"Yeah, well, you did. And thanks. It really made me feel great that my girlfriend needs to have fifty million people attending one of our dates to have a good time."
"Viren, I’m sorry."
"No, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I can’t be the person that you want me to be. I’m sorry I’m such a loser. I’m sorry that you have to suffer my presence each time I come near you."
"Viren, please, stop."
"No, it’s true. I’m the asshole, I’m the bore. I’m sorry but dammit all, Sitara, I love you. You’re the most important thing in my life. I want to be with you and I don’t want anyone or anything coming between us."
"Nobody will, Viren. But please don’t make it difficult –"
"I’m making it difficult? My god, one evening with them and already you think I’m the one making things difficult."
"No, that’s not what I meant. I’m sorry. You’re right, nobody should come between us and nobody will."
"But they already have. They’re already standing between us. Look at you, shrinking away from me right now."
"I’m not shrinking away."
"Yes, you are. It’s like you want a wall between us. See, I take a step closer and you step away. How can you say there’s nothing between us?"
"Viren, please, just don’t lose your temper like you just did. Please."
"Sitara, come on, I didn’t mean anything. I was upset. I still am. In fact, it’s making me even more upset to think you would believe I would – fuck, I hate this!"
"Viren, please. Listen, I’m sorry and it will never happen again. Please, don’t get upset. Can we just not fight anymore?"
"Well, if you really do mean that, come here and make me feel better."

The wind throws a rainy slap on his cheek and the cold raindrops sting his skin sharply, like needles as fine as cat’s fangs. The bag is opened finally by his wet and near-numb fingers. There is very little point in putting the sketch pad in now though. The thick drawing pad is completely wet and the drops of water dripping from its straight bottom edge are grey, laden as they are with charcoal dust. Viren takes quick, muddy, splashing steps towards an old banyan tree that stands placidly in one corner of the garden, hoping it’s overarching roots will give some respite. It does. His hands shine with rainwater and he opens up the sketch pad just to see how bad it is. Every line that he had drawn has been lost. All the focussed concentration he spent getting the perfect depth of shadow along the curved ridges of the palm trees’ bark has, literally, been washed away. It is like looking closely at the sea while alcohol hummed in the ears and trailed warm fingers along the ridges of the spine, one by one. Grey, black and white swim into one another in wet, slippery waves. Viren looks at it through the rain and, even though he rues the loss of the thing he had drawn himself, the artist’s eye accepts secretly that this which has come out of the harsh, unfeeling wrath of nature is more beautiful than what he had done himself, without any help from his natural models. It is quite, quite beautiful. He will add it to the portfolio he plans to take to the gallery. When someone asks him about the painting, he will speak dreamily about how he is inspired by nature and her tempestuous fury. His eyelashes are laden with raindrops that fall into his eyes with blunt coolness. He blinks a couple of times and then narrows his eyes to look carefully into the distance, through the rain at Sitara’s balcony. There are still no lights. He wonders whether the rain has lashed the balcony. He remembers that night it hadn’t. Even though it had been raining with much more power, he had felt nothing except the gentlest spray of water from time to time. There had been no rainwater pooling around the feet. There had been no wetness at all. There was no light because the electricity had been sparked out by an errant bolt lightning, plunging this part of the city into a power cut. No phones had rung because those cables had drowned. The sea was beyond an opaque wall of rain. There had been nothing that night but rain. But there had been noise. The wind had howled and the rain had pounded walls, glass, the tin covering over the airconditioner of Sitara’s neighbour below. Sound beat its fists and head upon every surface it found, and its screams were loud. Just remembering it makes him shiver. Viren clutches his sketch pad close to his heart and wonders when they will bring Sitara home.

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