Around that time, writing left me. Every night I tried, sat there with bloodshot eyes waiting for the morning, doodling distorted human faces in my notebook. Mornings were unbearable. The brightness was too blinding. The paper would still be empty. And the birds would start chirping. Poo-tee-weet. That really annoys me. Birds chirping early in the morning. I don't feel that there is anything worth chirping about the morning. It is way too bright, plus you have to fight the sudden realization that there are others awake now. Last night's mess is visible now.
Once it is morning, sleep comes almost shamefully. Like a rape victim. Mornings come with cottonmouth and hunger and futility and the fucking chirping of the fucking birds. I would just smother my head with the pillow and make it as dark as I possibly could. And every morning, as I drifted off to sleep, I would think about those bands they use to cover their eyes while sleeping. Sleeping masks. That's what they're called. Sleeping masks. Every morning, I would think about sleeping masks.
I close my eyes right now trying to remember that evening in Zari. Well, one of them, really. They have all melted and merged into a single representative by now. Of over-burnt tea and cow dung and Old Monk and incessant smoke. Or the long lost nights at Renusagar, on the dark little hill with the lake overlooking a million chimneys reaching up to a million stars, filling the air with grey clouds of nocturnal industry. Sad nights. Accumulating slowly but surely, coming to get you, little child.
Dead dog lying in the middle of the highway, guts spilling out, still fresh. I walk around the carcass, minding the crows. I hate crows. Somewhere in Panjim, a car with bloodstains on its grill must be pulling over by now. People come to Goa to escape their sad meaningless lives. Where are the people already living in Goa supposed to go to? I go to Zari. Sit down in Patil kaka's chai shop listening to him verbally abuse his thirteen year old nephew. Watch the thin frail ghost of Zari stand dead center on the little road, arms tied behind his back and people driving around him, narrowly missing the possibility of another dead carcass. Watch little kids throwing stones at passing cars. Watch the dark concrete eyes of workers coming back from the factory. Watch out for all the shit, piss, scum and cat litter in the universe.
There was a fair here two days ago. The little village spiffed up. Most of the dog shit was gone. Long strings of pretty flashing lights were put up. In the evening the little street that bifurcated the village looked like the centre of the universe. So many people! Buying, selling, negotiating. Little stalls of cotton candy and ice cream and shiny metal trinkets. Footwear and handbags and little plastic helicopters that fly twenty feet when you pull the string. Little kids crawled like critters among sequoia trees; looked for their mothers. Balloons and toffee and earrings studded with shiny stones. Today it is all gone. The saffron on the street is there, though. The torn festoons are there. The only remnants. Like spoilt make-up on a weeping woman’s face.
Patil Kaka’s stall becomes dull at night. The feeble little tube light tries so hard, but falls short. Little crevices of darkness here and there, the place seems smaller than it actually is. A dusty calendar and a ritualistic photograph of some solemn deity sit on the pink wall, overlooking everything- the equally solemn patrons, Patil kaka telling his thirteen year old nephew how he will never be able to fuck in his life, and me, a stranger here too. Only the nephew is friends with me, for I buy him chocolate sometimes. And the poor little shack takes me, all my companions, even the government issue box of free condoms into her rat infested abdomen, with a surprising sense of complacency. It’s not like she can do anything about it anyway.
All she does is wait. Wait for a group of seven year olds, who come by every evening carrying pots and pans almost as big as themselves, begging for food. The whole village waits for them. For they go to every house, every shop and beg. And they take everything they get and demand for more and mix it all into those huge pots and pans that they carry; All of Zari’s leftovers into one. And they chirp around like tiny little songbirds, poo-tee-weet, in a language you and I will never understand. They brighten up every place they go, and the little shack waits for them, for they give her, and us, the one elusive shy smile we’ve been searching for the whole dastardly day. They take the loaf of bread Patil kaka gives them and keep it carefully among the pan full of yesterday night’s rotis. And then, tumbling amongst themselves, they fly away, leaving us utterly clueless, utterly alone.
The little shack darkens again. Utterly clueless, utterly alone. Like a lover, left behind.