She clamps down on the horn of her Swift. Bee……..p. The blaring horn slices through the silence, rousing a sleepy afternoon from slumber.
She presses down hard. Till the noise equals the angry hum in her own head. No, she won’t let this Ecosport go past. One, it was the chagrin of a small car being railroaded by a big brute. Two, the bully didn’t even possess the grace of an indicator. Three, and most importantly, she was not in the most charitable of her moods.
She’ll have it her way at least somewhere. The exhilaration of choosing to go somewhere, rather than being led. Led like a pet on his master’s leash… into an unknown territory… scared of the surrounding, yet thrilled with the company. Tail wagging. Eyes glued to the only one.
She releases the horn only when the SUV has been warned off. She keeps staring ahead. Not on the road, not on the horizon, just ahead. Eyes bloodshot. Jaws clenched tight. Angry. Seething. Mad. She zooms ahead at 110 kmph on the shining bituminous.
A sparse Sunday traffic hardly notices the black Swift racing on its road. In Delhi, given any chance, all cars would behave like this. Nothing different about this one. Except one thing. It is December, and the windows of this car are rolled down. All four.
After kilometers of aimless but straight driving, without warning, the driver slows down. Gliding smoothly to one corner of the road, a nook created by an abandoned bus stop. The perfect slot to park one’s car in, to merge in line with the pavement, to let the traffic flow undisturbed.
She kills the engine. Holding the steering with firm hands, back stern and straight, jaws grinding. As if in defiance of the deathly cold wind whooshing between the windows. Her fingers an angry shade of red. Cheeks dry and flushed. Gut shivering. Toes freezing.
Slowly, tears well up in her eyes and trickle down in perfect pearls. The first drops barely touch her cheeks. Her nose turns crimson; her facing acquires the patchy complexion of someone just slapped. She remains transfixed. Till her cheeks are completely wet, and nails start hurting from being pressed against the rexin of the steering. A picture in utter sadness. A drab painting of a gloomy winter day. The pink ruddiness of her lips standing out, raw from biting, washed with her own salt.
When she wipes her cheeks, she is surprised how cold her fingers felt to her cheeks. Noticing only then, that her fingers felt numb. Stoned cold.
She fishes inside the glove compartment box of her car, rummaging through petrol invoices, empty bottles and plastic wrappers to find her phone. She can barely bring her fingers to close in on the object. All she feels, is metal against metal. Unable to manoeuvre her fingers, she pulls her hands back, places them under her thighs. It feels good. Warm. Ready to move as per will. She brings her hands close to her mouth, blowing hot air in the cusp of her palms, which condense immediately. She finally reaches out to the phone, draws the pattern password, checks screen.
It shatters her. This time she cries miserably. Clutching her heart, holding her head. Howling despicably. Rubbing the tunnel between her breasts with her finger tips. Her body convulsing with the physical pain of shedding tears. Beating her head on the steering. Not with the blows of self-destruction, but with the defeated sense of resignation. She cries like a baby. Letting go of tears she’s held back for so many days. Before this, she had managed the pretence just fine. Checking her phone every five minutes. Crumpling inside. Smiling outside. But today she felt she was nearing her limit. And that she can no longer hold the fort. It is as if that instrument controls her life. He hasn’t called. Or messaged. Or mailed. What has she ever asked of him? Nothing. But yes, she had told him that it would be ‘nice’ if he called her. How could she go back on her own word and pester him? She loved him unconditionally. Unconditionally. Losing patience would mean failing this love. The best gift of her life.
And so, she cries without rancor and without hope. Tears rain down. The void within feels drained, yet the stream continues unabated. Her entire body writhing with longing and helplessness. In between such agonizing fits of tears, she utters his name. _________. Followed by the first complete breath. A refilling of the lungs. Sudden stillness in storm. And then, as though she just remembered a long forgotten mantra, she closes her eyes in concentration and repeats his name. Once. Twice. She goes on. Faster. But not so fast as to chew off the syllables. She speaks all the names she has for him. In the end sticking to the one with which he’s known to the world.
The tears stop. Her countenance changes – from that of a hunted fowl to that of an animal in chase. Her senses geared to respect and enjoy the twin undertaking of speaking his name and hearing his name uttered. Not wanting to dilute the focus with the pangs of grief. She goes on. In the volume that soothes her ears. The pain in her chest subsides. She is still chanting. His name. The wrinkles on her forehead even out. Ears no longer burning like molten metal. One word. _________. Repeated without breaks. Eyes languid like still ponds. Fingers calm. A strange warmth dawning upon her body…warming her feet. Head laid back, eyes closed, lips moving. Throat parched but no longer hurting. By now, a name uttered a few hundred times.
With each utterance, the insides of her eyelids become projections of his pictures. Still and videos. She even laughs when memory evokes one such detail. She goes on. The pain takes to itself wings and flies in horizon unseen. A warmth, a mixed sensation of jubilation and liberations, blankets her. Just one word. _________. And she is cured. Relief spreads its warm wings inside her bosom, and love ensconces her in its balming heal.
The drive back is suffused with peace. Others may not sense the change in her. But she knows the magic, the religiousness, the spirituality of her experience. Everything falls into place.The aazaan to Allah. The 108 rosary bead prayer to Raam. The heaven-bound call of the sikh – नानक नाम जहाज है...