Time stopped and I found myself settling into a pace that was unusually slow. It was a strange feeling initially- a feeling that something wasn’t right. I was so conditioned to the fast pace of city life, with its tone of urgency that I felt I was out of phase with the flow of life. I felt I had been deported from the mainstream of life into a place which was somehow not real. I couldn’t place it in the scheme of my life. I was unable to define my goals. I could only see that phase as a temporary phase of life.
A transit, following which I would get back to where I belonged...
Perhaps this feeling of impermanence was responsible for the silence I felt in my mind. I absorbed my environment with a certain lack of resistance, a certain lack of objective.
I absorbed it for what it was, without coloring it with prejudice. I had no intentions of transforming it.
I had no expectations of it. And so, I learnt more than what I would have learnt otherwise.
I remember gradually losing touch with all my friends. I felt at a loss of words when I talked to them on the phone. For we were no longer on the same page. They talked about the continuum of a life I had known all along, while I listened in mute silence.
It got to a point where the conversations just faded away.
There was my friend Madan, who was witness to most of my life in London, especially the part where I had started exploring the world in the true spirit of a traveller. He was deeply sympathetic towards the unexpected turn my life had taken. My first birthday after I moved to Kerala, he sent me a postcard from New York (he was travelling). It was the skyline of New York city-an array of black and white buildings, and he wrote beneath it:
‘This is how I see this city without you! – Colorless’
I was touched and I was miserable. Madan was my best friend and my travel companion. I loved travelling with him because he never came between me and my perceptions. He was there, absorbing with a quiet smile my love for places and people, and I had never met anybody like that. At other times, he would tell me about places he had visited, and I would listen with excitement, for he knew what I liked to hear. Our conversations were always beyond the confines of the tiny world in which we lived; he always made me feel part of a large world. On some evenings, we would walk across Hungerford bridge, and he would discuss his dreams for the future. I would watch the reflections of a million lights on the river beneath, and see in them the brilliance and sheen of the dreams we dreamt. Madan was a friend- my best friend. We were not into a romantic relationship, but I could not imagine life without his presence in my life. I never did.
I was like a child, for the thought that he may fade away from my life never once occurred to me.
With his postcard, there were 3 cards of different sizes, and a coffee mug. All of it had arrived in the post and it made me very nostalgic towards the life I had left behind. Just as I started to adapt to my new life in Kerala, a subtle reminder of my old life would send me into a state of intense denial. It would then take me days to get back to my new life. I started withdrawing from reminders of the past, and pulled myself more intensely into my present. And so, I gradually lost touch with Madan who was also going through his own share of problems. Nevertheless, I can never forget the day he came to visit me in Kerala, when a deep tragedy had befallen me. He was travelling to Dubai on work, and he just took a flight to India and spent time with me. Madan was like that- a man of few words, but his gestures spoke of the kind of love he was capable of. He was a self-made man, and hardships had formed him.
He understood hardships way better than people his age could.
In the early days of my life in Kerala, I would always carry my i-pod with me. It was my means of detachment from the people here. I dreaded their curiosity, their questions…especially at a time when my own head was swarming with questions that I couldn’t find answers to. The i-pod was Madan’s gift to me, just before I left London for good. I remember the day we were packing all my stuff into cartons. He hadn’t said a word about shopping for it. Someone rang the bell, and I was surprised to find an i-pod delivered to my address. Bewildered, I turned around to see Madan smiling. He had bought it for me online, and taken me by surprise. Ironically, the i-pod evoked more questions than the other things about me, here in God’s own country. Strangers in the bus would ask me what this gadget was, and I was miserable at this intrusion into my personal space.
Now, the memory makes me laugh!
I terribly missed my evenings with Madan at Canary Wharf. It was my favourite place in London. The newer part of London, with beautifully lit-up parks and Japanese bridges and canals and fountains and skyscrapers, it somehow radiated optimism and happiness. The ice rink there was my favourite. I would literally jump with the exhilaration of freedom that I felt there.
One afternoon in Kerala, I received yet another post- a stack of newspapers that advertised apartments in Canary Wharf , a magazine on the place and a stack of pictures of my favourite places at Canary Wharf.
And thus, days became weeks…weeks turned into months. The past, present and future played games in my confused mind, until gradually, the past was laid to rest.
I had taken the turn…