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The Nest

There’s a pigeon in my kitchen. She’s a lovely grey, if there’s even such a thing as lovely grey. It’s not silver, it’s just a clean warm earthy grey, accented by highlights and shadows from the sun catching her feathers. She frequents my kitchen window, and there’s a twelve-twigged hint of an upcoming nest on the parapet outside. I presume they have something to do with each other.

But today, for the first time, I find her inside my kitchen. She’s crossed the windowpane, a feat no other bird of this bashful species (or any species for that matter) has dared to attempt before. Somehow the birds always know to stay out of houses, even when windows and doors are left ajar. I imagine the thought of the imminent confinement scares them away.

And yet, and yet, Pidge the pigeon (I have decided to name her) is in my kitchen, stomping on the cold black granite with her orange claws, pacing up and down the kitchen counter in a hurry, like she has important business to attend to on the top of the fridge, but this can hardly wait for the important business that needs attention on the opposite end by the sink.

She stops for a breath every now and then, her neck’s purple green plumage vibrant in the sunlight, and cocks her head up to look at me. I must seem quite unthreatening to her, for she gets back to her many businesses immediately, marching across my kitchen counter, no time to waste.

***

I’m back in the kitchen. There’s the human standing at the doorway and looking at me. She lets out a low gasp at first, but I look at her and calm her down. She switches on the fan, and continues standing at the doorway and staring at me. I can tell she’s scared, but also curious. We’ve seen each other before, but always across the windowpane. This is the first time we are on the same side.

She smiles at me, and I can’t bear it. I think she’s named me in her head. The other birds warned me this often happens when a bird crosses the windowpane in the presence of a human. This, or death. I’m glad it’s the former.

My heart beats faster in my chest, and I don’t know what to do. I’m walking from one end to another frantically, trying to get my thoughts in order. I look at her, time and again. She seems calm now, her beautiful brown skin smooth as the insides of a worm on a warm summer afternoon, her black eyes darting across the room at things she’s worried I will kick over as I scurry around, trying my best to buy time.

She leaves momentarily, and I make the most of it. I rush to the clothes stand, and peck the fragrant pink towel as it dries, picking up each strand of her delicious black hair from it. There’s thirty six in all, and I carry them lovingly back to my developing nest, ready to spend the day weaving them in. They are weaker and finer than twigs, but smell like mogra some days and rose on others.

One day, when it’s done, I’ll invite her in.

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Your Sunday Morning Trip with Uber Pool

She bit her lip and fiddled with the ring on her finger, looking out the window at nothing in particular. It would have been wonderful if the city had given her an abyss to stare into, but it gave her concrete and windows and the occasional street vendor; really stealing the poetry from the moment.

She turned to me and mouthed something, so I unplugged my earphones and said “Yes?”

“Windows. Can we put the windows down?”

I gave her a nod and rolled down my window, as did she. The driver did too, almost too keenly, as the freshly generated fragrances of the suburbs started to pour into our cab. I could mostly just smell the rain, or whatever it smells like when it rains. I read somewhere that it’s the smell of some metabolic by-product of a kind of bacteria, emitted by wet soil. It’s the sort of trivia that hits you on an idle Wednesday afternoon when you’ve been scrolling down your phone for too long, your thumbs have gone to sleep, and then you realize you probably should get back to work.

Her phone suddenly began buzzing. She looked at it, sighed long and hard and then answered. The voice at the other end was shrill and loud, and started speaking almost immediately.

“Cut the gobi, clean the paalak and boil three eggs,” she responded dispassionately, once again fiddling with her ring. “I’ll be back in ten minutes.”

She had a melancholy look about her face when she caught my eye, and I couldn’t help but offer an understanding smile. Sometimes you just know when someone needs a smile. She sighed out a smile in return and said, “It’s just been a long day”

It was 8.37am, to be exact.

I looked out of the window on my side to see a vegetable vendor wrapping up his cart for the day. Behind him was his wife, who’d completed her cooking for the day in the three houses she worked in. His son would return from his night shift as an auto rickshaw driver soon, and they’d have their one meal of the day together. 8.37am could be a tiring time of day.

The cab took a swift turn off the main road and she reached inside her handbag and put on several red plastic bangles on both her hands. As she did, a piece of paper flew out of her bag and onto the seat. She looked at it, pursed her lips and crushed it and threw it out onto the road. Then she directed the cab to her destination, and almost braced herself a little before she stepped out of the cab.

Another pickup was scheduled just down the road, and a pleasant young boy in very crumpled clothing and worn out chappals got into the front seat of the cab. He leaned out the window to wave excitedly to someone on a higher floor of the building we were outside, then buckled up his seatbelt, turned around to look at me and wished me good morning. I nodded back with a half smile, the way one does to strangers. He whipped out his phone from the back pocket of his jeans and settled into the seat, visibly grinning as he read through an old conversation with the concentration millennials seem to reserve only for social media.

After a couple of minutes, he made a call. As he reclined his seat a little too far back, he said, “Yeah, no gym for me today. I’m exhausted.” He then plugged the hanging aux wire into his phone, put on a song I couldn’t recognize and settled back into the overly reclined seat with a smile on his face and a sigh of contentment.

And soon, I left the cab and walked back home, feeling not so alone in this new city, as half of Mumbai embarked upon their Sunday morning in yesterday’s clothes, without yesterday’s company.

Some People are Home

I walk out in an old red t-shirt, at its faded best.

The sun is harsh, but I’ve become used to it, such that I am aware of it but it doesn’t really bother me. We take the long winding route to the badminton courts. There’s a shorter route, mind you, paved and all. Right through the heart of the college campus. But this winding route, even in the heat, has some sort of appeal to it. So we take it. She and I. I haven’t known her long. But long enough, I have. And as we walk, we talk of what we know of each other. Then we stop talking, and our thoughts drift to our respective worlds.  And then there’s that comfortable silence. The one that, sometimes, feels like the best conversation you may have ever had.

Why are some people so easy to be with, I wonder? Things click, they get you, and suddenly, you’re not the only one. Anywhere. Anytime.

We enter the badminton courts. Now, in all honesty, badminton and I are like an eraser and an ink pen. We may as well be related, but we have issues, if you know what I mean. We get on the court and start playing.
See, this is the beauty of it. As she makes me run all over the court, with all her ‘baddy expertise’, and I keep missing every shot (like seriously, EVERY shot), I grin at her through the net.
She grins back.
And how.
As if to say “Yes sugar, you suck, but I love you.”

We play a little. I tire soon and she moves on to another game. Wow, she does play well. Every game she wins, she shoots me a dazzler across the room. I shoot one back. Then I hop back onto the court with a bunch of three other girls. I’ve seen them around for over a year, yet I don’t know a single one’s name. Maybe it doesn’t matter. We start playing.
They’re all better, of course.
I miss.
Twice.
Thrice.
My ears turn red.
Damn it! No one’s grinning at me when I screw up now.
While I’m thinking this, I see the shuttle moving towards me faster than ever before.
AAAAAAH! And I slip.
Great.

Just great.

But I see the curly haired girl walking towards me, laughing her lungs out. And before I know it, I’m laughing too. So are the other two across the net. And all of a sudden, it’s so easy.

Yes, the net is still finding the shuttle insanely attractive after every shot I hit. But I see mild smiles now. Ah, confidence. Now we’re all ramming the shuttle into the net. This is fun! By the end of the hour, I know their names.  I catch her outside, and we head back to the hostel. And I think of my hometown, my friends there, our conversations of boys and dresses and the latest fads, strutting around in our heels and shades, memorizing every nook and cranny of each mall.
Ridiculous, really.

We reach the hostel in silence, split to go to our rooms. I know she’s upstairs right now, bathing or watching Scrubs or something. I don’t miss her, no, but there’s a certain comfort in her being around.
There.
Accessible.
If there’s a thin line between friends and family, I wouldn’t know what side of it she lays. I look at my old red t-shirt, at its faded best, and think,

Hell, it’s good to be home.