Down the yellow road
- When fate tosses the dice, which side do you choose
Jun 18, 2017-It was raining outside when Kanchhi started drawing with the wind outside her window. The soft pellets of rain melting on her skin, the wind playing with her hair. The others on the bus were fast asleep as stars glittered across the night sky, Kanchhi was the only one awake and the child inside her wanted her to play in the rain.
The speed of the bus put such thoughts to rest but, Kanchhi still extended her arm outside the small, cracking window; riding the waves of the wind like graceful dolphins. Her hair, recently oiled by the gentle hands of her mother, danced along with the wind, tussling this way and that; sometimes getting into her eyes and sometimes sticking to her lips.
Inside the roar of the engine, Kanchhi thought she could hear the sound of a bamboo flute, played by a hand well acquainted. She thought she heard the sound of her brother’s voice in those notes, the way he drew in his breath right after a difficult play. She remembered his careful hands plugging holes on the bamboo as he played, she remembered her father’s kind eyes and she remembered her mother’s grace. She remembered the toothless young boy and his bright innocent smile; she remembered the recently married couple and how they looked into each other eyes. She remembered young lovers who playfully avoided each other’s eyes. But most of all, she remembered Kalyani; the girl with the unsightly hair, an ugly scar on the left-side of her face, and brown almond shaped eyes.
They had met on a lazy sunny morning, Kalyani on the ground, drawing shapes on the mud and Kanchhi next to her, trying to work on her math. The day was hot and Kanchhi could smell the orange flavored shampoo on the girl next to her. The boys were playing football on a ground below and the silence of the summer was only disturbed by the sound of their profanities. Kalyani didn’t speak to her for a long time but as the sun started centering itself on the sky, the heat had turned unbearable. The football ground populated by shirtless boys, sweating under the sun, were also heading home. And just as Kanchhi had decided to abandon any attempt at working on another problem, Kalyani asked her to follow her.
She took Kanchhi to one of the deeper parts of the forest. An alcove among the trees gave way to a small pond, sheltered by an expanding network of branches. Even through the sun blazed outside, the alcove felt cool inside. Although dark inside, the light filtered in through gaps in between leaves in segments. From the inside, Kanchhi thought they looked like moving curtains. While Kanchhi was busy admiring the view, Kalyani had also entered the pool. Letting herself free-float, she was floating, belly-up, limbs extended and eyes closed. After taking her clothes off, Kanchhi followed her. Two souls floating on the vast emptiness of space.
The duo began after that. Kanchhi and Kaylani, two girls always missing from school, two girls always sneaking out at night and two girls who were always found making their way out of the forest covered in weed, thistle and mud. The two spent most of their time inside the forest exploring. It was during one of these explorations that the two came across the kabadikhana. Groups of old, rusted cars piled on top of each other, the shell old trucks and buses slowing consumed by nature and various mechanical parts scattered around. After sundown that day, the duo had already setup a little space, constructed out of sturdy iron pipes, tarmac and a little ingenuity. The two spent most of their days at the kabadikhana, one writing, the other drawing.
It was also at the kabadikhana, that Kanchhi told Kalyani about her departure to the capital. The sun was low that day and the sky had taken on an overpowering shade of orange. The two of them sat atop one of the dilapidated vehicles, the smell of rusted iron seeping out from its innards. The paint was also peeling off of its surface creating craters that poked them from time to time. Tall brown grass waved in the breeze and birds fluttered off into the distance.The breeze also carried the smell of Kaylani’s orange-flavoured shampoo. She didn’t say anything for a while as they watched the sun set behind the mountains. “I’ll never forget you, I hope you know that,” said Kanchhi trying to break the silence. But Kalyani made no attempt at a reply, she just leaned back on her hands and watched the sky. A bird flew by, ruffling some tree-branches and a peculiar sound came from inside the forest.
“I know you won’t forget me,” Kalyani said after digesting the question for a while. “That’s not what I’m worried about.” She turned to Kanchhi with the deep welts on her face seen so vividly. The orange sky reflecting down smooth on one side of her face, on the other, it left gagged shadows and ugly deep reds that drew continents on her face. For as long as Kanchhi had known Kalyani, she had never broached the topic of how she’d gotten the scar. And Kanchhi had never pushed her.
“The world is a harsh place,” she said, turning her gaze back to the warm orange glow. The sound of the critters nearby mixed with the sound a forest makes while struggling with the wind. “We had a safe life here, we had each other to look out for us and I’m worried, worried that you won’t have me to protect you anymore and I won’t have you.” A strong gust of wind blew past, carrying sounds of roaring engines on the highway and ruffling the fabric that constructed their small fort.
“I want you to have this,”
Kalyani extended her arms with a small circular plastic box in the center of her palm. Kanchhi took the box and opened it, a small mirror was set into the upper-side while the bottom-side lay empty. “Whenever I look into this mirror, my problems don’t seem so big anymore. I can choose what to look at and I can imagine what I want to see,” she said as the sun disappeared behind the mountains and the orange sky slowly started getting inked with blue.
As the bus rumbled on, Kanchhi reached into her pockets and slowly ran her fingers over the box. It felt cold, it felt rough and it felt distant. The rain had started pouring outside and the blur of trees slowly started getting replaced with painted houses, colorful cars and thick boundary walls. She opened Kalyani’s mirror and looked to her refection. “I hope the mirror always shows you your dreams,” she had said and as the first rays of the morning started penetrating the night sky, Kanchhi saw her reflection slowly transform into the image of the girl with unkempt hair, a scar on her face and brown almond-shaped eyes.
Published: 18-06-2017 09:36