Anything that’s vintage always comes with it’s own unique charm and attraction. Every vintage item can reveal many interesting and mysterious stories. Not because we share memories with them but because they look so extravagant and elegant. It feels like they have a character and history despite the imperfections.
It was almost like the sepia filter was turned on, On the old forgotten roads. Not a soul to be seen on the muddy streets. He rode a bicycle and sang songs from the 80s. He hurried home, Saw his little daughter waiting for him at the porch. They went inside hand-in-hand, And found awaiting – A bowl of hot rice Steaming hot sambar & crunchy papadam That made his belly rumble and grumble with joy. He sat down immediately to eat, From the kitchen came his wife shouting, “Wash your hands before you eat!” All of a sudden, he woke up from his sleep. Found beside him a white lady in green. He wondered to himself, “Which one of this is a dream?”
Every day I walk on this street, hurriedly, trying not to attract too much attention while also silently observing the variety of events that happen on it every single day.
A woman washes clothes on a stone slab outside the door. A man wearing a checkered lungi stands on the terrace brushing his teeth. A tiny naked girl with uncombed hair is crying near her mother while the mother inattentively washes dishes. A man is sitting on the bike with his friend standing beside him, smoking a cigarette while staring at people/women/me making us uncomfortable. A small tailor’s shop has a bright yellow public phone booth. The shop is empty most of the time but there is always someone on the telephone. I wonder if the tailor listens to everybody’s conversations.
There are many small cement and brick houses on this lane which are painted in awkward bright colors – mint green, psychedelic purple, electric blue, some are not painted at all, and some houses are so old that the paint has faded and chipped off years ago.
In the midst of these fractured buildings, a tall apartment with a massive gate is randomly positioned breaking the entire rhythm. A little ahead is an open ground which is used by buses and truck drivers for parking but during the day it is usually empty.
A temple around the corner fills the street with the smell of marigold flowers and incense sticks. As I get closer, I hear the sound of bells and prayer chants.
I take a right, reach the main road, and disappear in the crowd of a busy street.
An old villa facing the ocean on a summer beach stands still.
Three steps take you into the house through a blue colored two-way door, a string of bells hang above it lightly tingling with the ocean breeze.
A white intricate design of rangoli greets you at the doorstep, you step in and walk on the red floored tiles and enter an authentic South Indian home.
In the open hall area hangs an oonjal wooden swing with iron-link chains anchored to the ceiling. The oonjal is decorated with two maroon bolster pillows on the sides.
The swing directly faces the entrance door, when left open, the door acts as a window to the ocean galore.
Tall pillars standing impressively in the middle of the house holding its weight.
The aroma of ghee from kitchen, freshly prepared vadas, and filter coffee drags you further in. Steamed rice cakes continue to cook in the pressure cooker with the whistle going on and off.
Just by the kitchen is an open area with an open ceiling and right in the center of it is a tulsi plant.
Dressed in a sari with a damp towel wrapped around her wet hair, she waters the tulsi plant and does puja.
Two little girls cheerfully run in the open area holding up their orange-colored lehengas and dropping a few buds of mogra flowers from their hair onto the ground while playing.
There is lively banter and cheerfulness in the air. Grandma talks incessantly with the maid while the maid washes clothes just around the corner of the house on a stone slab.
A stairway leads you to several more rooms, a young fifteen-year old girl walks on the corridor holding a book in her hand and reciting poems in her sing-song voice.
Just when we are about to enter one of the rooms, I wake up with a startle to the sounds of loud impatient honking from vehicles across the street. I look out the window and see streets bustling with people and cars, surrounded by tall blocks of boring concrete buildings. I let out a loud sigh thinking of my heartwarming South Indian dream and get back to living the usual fast-paced city life.
I wake up in a daze. I open my eyes and see the blue sky above my head surrounded by trees. I sit up with a startle and look around in panic, too many trees and scattered fallen leaves on the ground.
Where am I?
What is this place?
“I think I am in a forest, somewhere deep inside a forest.”
I stand up in fright to see if anyone was around. I start walking slowly, worried that I would get lost. I fear of getting deeper into the forest with no way out.
I do not cry for help or make any noise. I just keep walking. Walking carefully, always alert, searching for some kind of a trail or sign that could lead me out of this strange forest. My mind is a blur and then suddenly I heard something. The sound wasn’t from the forest, it sounded like moving cars. I run towards the direction of the sound hoping that I would hear it again.
I finally see a highway far ahead. I feel relieved but I do not move. I just stand motionless and continue staring ahead because I do not recognize this place. This isn’t my home, I am in a foreign land. This feels does not like home, I do not belong in this world anymore.
Something has changed. I slowly lift my hand and touch the back of my shoulder. There was a swelling with a bulge on my back, with something jutting out. I quickly turn my head to look. Wings. There were wings on my back, in the color of my skin, they feel like a part of me now. I try to move them and surprisingly they move with ease like any other part of me. I try flapping them slowly, they move smoothly and effortlessly. Slowly I can feel my feet rising above the ground. I get frightened and stop moving and end up abruptly falling on the ground.
Then it all the memories come whooshing back to me. The night was as dark as a night could be, hazy vision, swollen fingers reaching for me in an inebriated state, and then the fall. I had fallen from my balcony but I did not drop to the ground, I had grown wings and flown away from the miseries of the world.
I shut up my eyes and stop looking ahead at the highway. I turn back towards the forest and slowly start moving. But this time I don’t walk, I fly.