Sunday, November 02, 2008



The walk to her house had been a blur. The street outside was bursting at the seams with the usual cacophony of the Sunday evening bazaar. Roadside stalls, selling everything from cheap nightgowns to kebab rolls, encroached upon his reality with the usual gusto of seasoned squatters on MCD1 roads. That they infested the same gully that she inhabited was a source of surreal disgust to him. But today they did not bother him at all. Today they did not exist.

What was it that she said?

Her voice echoed in the hollow of his consciousness and choked his thoughts.

"You… you are just not enough. You do not ignite my imagination like he does. I want to marry you, but I am afraid I will lose all my zest… my spark for life if I do. I love you. But I love the way he loves me. Do you get that?"


He smashed straight into a cycle rickshaw. The collision with the front wheel hurt his left leg but he could not figure out why it ached so much. Violent abuses of the rickshaw driver floated away into nothingness. Just outside her apartment building, the chaat-wallah's cart was lit by a single gas lamp. Today it glowed like the beacon of a lighthouse seen by ships lost in dense fog.

He had winced at every word she had said. He had stood rooted to the spot. What…? What is she saying? Why? How can she say this? He had felt something shatter inside. So many days and nights… All those nights when I held her close in the past five years. The days we spent dreaming together, those fears we fought back, for each other - all the love we made. All that time… Shards of belief had lain shattered on the floor after she had left. Belief that he mattered to her.

"You are too down to earth. Too simple. You are like a tall glass of cold-coffee and he... He is like a shot of Baileys Irish Cream. Exotic. Smooth. Don't you see I need him! He stirs my soul like you don't. He sees me."


He limped up the stairs of her building. How can she refuse to see me? He did not curse the builder of this apartment block like always, for making the steps too high. The dark narrow staircase - he never climbed it without a light on – it did not bother him today. His loathing of the murky spaces did not matter. The broken iron grill of the staircase railing caught the fabric of his trousers and ripped open a gash. Shit! Why does she have to stay in this godforsaken place? This-good-for-nothing-shithole! And then she has the gall… He stopped to catch his breath before climbing the last flight of stairs and gulped mouthfuls of the dust-ridden air. Fine grains of sand scraped against the soft skin of his parched throat and left him even more breathless.

Six months. She had known this man for only six months. I will not tolerate this. I will not have her walk over me like this. I will… I will…

He banged on her door. Once. Twice. Thrice. With more force each time. He knew she was inside. Waiting for him to go away. He knew she was there.

Open up, dammit! Open the damn door! You cannot do this to me – I am not something you can use and throw away! I will count to three. If you do not open the door by the count of three, I swear I will walk out of your life right now. This very instant. I mean it…

He rested his forehead against the worn wooden door. His clenched fists stopped their pounding. Sweat oozed over his forehead. Trickled into his shirt. Laced the undersides of his arms. The silence suddenly amplified the throbbing pain in his leg and he went down on his knees. Between violent sobs that smudged his prayers, he shriveled on the dirty floor in front of her house. He knew a door had closed somewhere, forever, and he could never again count to three.


1MCD is the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.

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