One Day - I
One Day - I
As the ray of light fell on Amelia’s face who was lying on her bed looking at the sun, she did not blink even once. The light reflected a rainbow of colors in her otherwise cerulean blue eyes, predominating most of the periphery of her pupil, highlighting it in the center. No one knew where she looked. Outside the high-rise tower in which Amelia lived on the eighteenth floor, a busy road moved by itself mocking at the mundane things in life as she sat back reflecting about the greater realizations that had embarked upon her. The sun continued to shine on the tower, now making its lower floors appear darker in contrast to the upper ones, but there was no sign of perturbance in her.
Amelia lay still on the bed like a piece of embroidered cloth covering a wooden surface, beautiful yet inanimate. The windows of her palatial house displayed patches of Plaster of Paris around the grill borders paying tribute to the ongoing leakage repair work. She closed her eyes for a moment and a white curtain flashed in front of her eyes. Against its background, there were three hands parting away. Amelia could see that two of them were ‘his’ and one was ‘hers’. As their heavenly bodies floated in the ether making a waning effort to hold onto each other, she felt a sense of agony that roused her to the waking world.
Some battles go unnoticed, Madhu felt. As she lay on her bed contemplating about her future there was nothing more that she could think of. These days she was dwindling between hope and disappointment and would not reach a consensus as to what was it that she wanted to embrace. After all, there is a limit to which one can hope. And, three years is a pretty good time! Madhu wanted to be a part of the Indian army. She had worked all her life to joining the regimen and serving the nation. Coming from the small town of Ludhiana the patriotism in her was instilled by the people and the culture in her town itself. But despite trying consequently for three years she had failed. And that wasn’t her only failure. She was going through a difficult period in her personal life when she felt as if she was losing it on all fronts.
With tears cornering her eyes, Amelia got up with a gasp and sipped some water from the bottle that was kept on the table next to her bed. It was yet another tender day she felt. A car screeched on the road disconcerting a kit of pigeons that were pecking in front of the tower. Many men in formal coats surrounded the water fountain built in the middle of the road, diagonally opposite to the tower, catching up with friends from nearby corporate offices. They sought respite from work pressures by chitchatting and feeding the dupes in their free time. The scattering of the birds startled them for a moment and Amelia stood in the gallery mindlessly staring at the scene. A few feathers fluttered here and there and as they started descending onto the ground, she gazed at them with remorse. “It’s called molting, isn’t it? The feathers that were a part of these beautiful creatures up until this moment are not going to be with them anymore. In their place, new feathers would grow. But that does not make the bird new. It is still the same. To its core. Then why this suffering? Why?”, she said to herself.
Madhu was going through a heartbreak and no matter what she did she wasn’t able to heal herself from the past. In fact, she never felt the need to. She believed that whatever it was that she was going through, it was only a temporary phase of separation and that in due time she would get together with her ex, Ashish. They were not in a relationship but had known each other for eight long years. It was a work-based friendship that was blooming to be something more when everything had fizzled out due to a misunderstanding that Ashish never cleared out. Despite Madhu’s efforts to explain the facts to Ashish, he had chosen to believe what he wanted to and had lashed out at her in the office. After that, it became very uncomfortable for Madhu to work at the same place as him as she had become a standing joke and a means of gossip at their workplace. She decided to quit her job to avoid any contact with Ashish and their common friends. She was in search of a job after that and one day when she had an interview scheduled, her phone rang. It was Ashish. After a time span of four years! She just did not know what to say…
He said,” Hi, Ashish here.” She replied: “Yes, I have deleted your number from my phone, not my mind.” There was silence for a moment and then Ashish asked her if she could meet him somewhere. She barely replied saying that it was not the right time to speak and maybe they could speak some other time and hung the phone.
Madhu’s mind went blank for a moment and then the memories of Ashish’s immature behavior started filling her minds’ eye and she couldn’t help but grab hold of the handle of a sofa chair in her room and sit on it to gain some ground. Meanwhile, her mother asked if she would be having lunch at home. Madhu was so engrossed in her thoughts that she did not respond when her mother yelled again and that startled Madhu. “No.” She screamed back.
Rising up with a jerk Amelia gathered her overcoat and, putting it on she made her way to the kitchen. Amelia realized her feet were very cold and took a quick detour to the corner of her room where she had left her slippers to put them on. Being famished after a good fourteen hours of fasting since last evening, she wanted to help herself with a scrumptious yet modest brunch. As she freshened up, a few options skimmed through her mind and she decided to cook some potato wedges, boiled eggs, mildly buttered garlic bread, and a piping cup of tea for herself.
The kitchen was very quiet but Amelia did not let the discomfort in her surface. Instead, she decided to play some music and pep herself. As the seeds of mustard and cumin fluttered onto the hot oil in the pan, she added the cut potatoes and briefly stirred them. The aroma calmed her senses and she lightly spiced the preparation with some turmeric, cayenne, and black pepper. She then added some salt and allowed the potatoes to cook, adding brief splashes of water just to make sure they wouldn’t burn. Meanwhile, she got out the loaf of bread from the fridge and cut it into slices. As the wedges were cooked, Amelia put the pan aside and kept the eggs for boiling. She then added a dash of mint mayonnaise into the wedges and stirred it a bit and finally garnished it with some oregano flakes. As the eggs were boiling, she got her creamy cup of ginger tea ready and buttered the toasted garlic bread. By then the eggs were done and she got everything together in a tray and headed to the bedroom where she preferred to have all her meals. Very occasionally she would use the ornate dining table in her house. There was a sense of comfort in not eating at the dining table she felt. After she finished eating, she placed all the utensils in the sink and headed towards the hall.
Madhu felt ‘at home’ when she was around Freida Ghosh and that was the most precious feeling for her. She was Madhu’s writing mentor. But in her mind, Madhu would often refer to her as her own mother. But she never expressed it to Freida for the fear of being judged. Madhu was content to have Freida in her life without expecting much in return, content in the sense of belonging and feeling of homecoming that was instilled in her at last. She was at a stage in her life where she really wanted to be self-reliant as far as her emotions were concerned and not let anyone make up for the love that was lacking in her life due to Ashish’s absence or her underlying discontent with her own family. She wanted to be her own support. Although at the outset everyone had felt that there was no depth towards her relationship with Ashish, in her heart she felt a connection very deep that was difficult to explain or express to anyone.
The furniture was pretty tarnished and Amelia felt it could use some dusting. She first cleaned the side table near the sofa, then the T.V. cabinet, the huge center table, and finally the top of the shoe rack on which she and her family had placed a Christmas tree for the season that had just gone by. Amelia touched all the decorations on it with a sense of melancholy and thought it was three days past new years’ now and it was time for the Christmas tree to be wrapped up and kept back in the attic so that it could be used again the next year. Very carefully she started removing the bells and the trinkets and the socks and the stars on the tree-dusted them briefly with the cloth and kept them in a nice plastic box. She then swathed the tree in layers of a newspaper followed by a large plain sheet of brown paper. Sentient of the deepness in her breath she grabbed a chair to climb on. With great effort, she opened the lofty wooden attic and placed the tree and the decorations in there at the same place where they were always kept. She then continued cleaning the rest of the house and decided to have a warm water bath before making her way to the local market.
As Madhu went ahead with the day, she had some positive vibes about the interview. She felt after four years there was a substantial job offer that had come her was and maybe she would really be able to crack the interview that day. Madhu was a work-o-holic and at 32 she had achieved a lot when she had to leave her job because of Ashish and his stupid friends who did not seem to understand, leave alone respect other people’s boundaries. After she left her experience of ten years seemed to be incongruent for all the job applications that she kept making as she never wanted to deviate from the area that she was working in where there were no job openings, unfortunately. So, she kept on doing freelance work and mostly kept herself busy by teaching students which she was used to doing from a very young age. This arrangement also gave her the time she needed to understand her family better and be around her old mother. But now, she had grown weary of working from home and so, she started making fresh applications again!
As she passed through a furniture studio, Amelia saw a lavish display of home décor through its glass doors, and for a moment she felt how beautiful those composites would have looked in her house with Michael. But in the next moment, she felt, true, but what if she was not happy in that house? The thought unnerved her and she started walking with an increased pace to get rid of it. When after a few moments of exerting herself, she could not get over the helpless feeling, she decided to stop walking as, clearly, it wasn’t helping her that day like all the other days. Instead, she turned around and headed back to the furniture studio pretending to be a genuine customer and started enquiring about the different shards on display. She asked the salesperson about the materials used and the durability and complimented them on the ‘make’ and the ‘finish’ and then asked them about the ‘prices’ too. And then she excused herself and moved out from there feeling a sense of relief. Amelia’s fear of never being able to have the house of her dreams now that Michael was not there in her life which was engulfing her a few moments back had subsided and she felt much better. Now, she felt much relaxed as she walked on the same street where she was walking a few minutes before as she had regained her sense of self which she lost quite often these days.
There was no reason for Amelia to exert herself after having been on the bed for almost a week as she had suffered from viral fever, but staying at home would have been worse she felt. She quickly dressed up and moved out of the house. The buzz on the road made her feel alive and once again she remembered her favorite lines from one of her favorite movies, “So now, all alone or not, you gotta walk ahead. Thing to remember is if we're all alone, then we're all together in that too.” She had no idea where she was headed to as always. She just kept walking, letting her feet take her wherever they wanted without any sense of direction or constraint of timing imposed on herself. She just knew that she was feeling good to finally breathe some fresh air and it kept her going further and further.
The kite festival was current in the town and the bazaar was lush with many vendors selling colorful kites and nylon strings. At some open places, there were parades of kites being flung against the bright blue sky and Amelia looked at all of it with the curiosity of a child as she walked through the street. She remembered her father, David, would play the kite so skilfully. In their old house which was very different both in terms of luxury and neighborhood than their current one, they lived on the top floor which had the benefit of the proximity of a terrace that came in very convenient for the kite festival. The young lads in their complex would often summon her father to tag along with them. Kite flying often happened in the early evening after a traditional lunch at home. As everyone moved up and down, her mother, Dhara, usually busied herself in getting done with the cooking, sometimes, mocking at the hazy grandiosity of the festivity.
As Madhu walked past the bazaar street, she felt a sense of compassion seeing a few underprivileged children working their way through the day in a cheap hotel for god knows how much money. At least she had a house to live and resources to buy food, she felt. That much she needed to be grateful for. Although that is not all that is needed for living. For a moment Madhu felt it would be so much better if these children did not have to do what they were doing and could lead a normal life which is in fact every child’s right. She kept walking ahead and realized that it is not in her purview to be able to change everything around her that seems to be unfair or inappropriate. Being an over - sensitive person, such instances used to stir her to the core many times and she would often get very emotional. But today she was different. She realized that if she really wanted to bring about a change, first she would have to be able to absorb the pain or the discomfort that those children were experiencing. Only then she would be able to help them proactively, else she would stay stuck in the remorse. Just as she was for two years after she and Ashish had separated. She was not able to process the emotions at all. Let alone processing, she wouldn’t even let herself experience them in fear of the pain which was extremely devastating and thus preferred to numb herself. But after much struggle, she realized that it was not possible to live a ‘full’ life unless she embraced the pain of their separation and the humiliation that she faced before that with much grace and let him go happily which she did earlier that day when she pulled herself away from him in her dream.
Amelia remembered how infuriating it was to her when she was in school as mostly her term examinations coincided with the kite festival and while everyone had fun, she had to beat herself up to yet another scrutinous year of hard work. It all paid off in the end, but, nevertheless! There was one thing that Amelia particularly loved. The food made by a woman named Sheila in her neighborhood which she shared on days of specific festivals with Amelia’s family as would Dhara share it with Sheila’s family at times. Amelia seldom ate the food that her mother made on the kite festival day as she loved what her neighbor used to make and ate most of it leaving very little for the other members of her family. In a way, Amelia was happy that the rest enjoyed her mother’s meals and did not really compete for what Sheila had offered!
“I think there are too many differences between us.”, Amelia had said to Michael when she realized the first spark fly between them and was resistant to go ahead with it because he already had a girlfriend and she did not want to get into the way. She did not want to reject him upfront because he would feel bad about it. His feelings mattered to her although she needed a relationship desperately. Michael however couldn’t accept it and be left tormented. She was elder than him, in age and inexperienced and accepted easily that they probably would never be happy if they were to be more than just friends. But despite this understanding, just like him, she too was not happy that they were not together. Somehow, she felt an incomprehensible connection with him, a need to see life with him not essentially as a partner or a lover but definitely as a friend which he wasn’t okay with.