Sitting on his haunches, Maaran’s head was level with the revelers’ hips. The dancers cast distorted shadows stretched across the unfinished concrete floor littered with glass shards from countless drinking sessions. Where the floor met the wall the gangly shadows straightened up to give a sense of normalcy at the very end.
Already Maaran had refused drunken cries to join the fun. Soon the cheap liquor will induce retching vomit bringing it all to its usual denouement. Someone had brought a collection of masala songs for the night. Khusbhoo, Gautami, Amala, Simran, Namitha, all were available at the click of a button, singing and dancing on the TV with the sticky streaky screen. Thumbprints from grabbing hands, smudges from mustachioed lips reeking of sarakku and boiled eggs did not diminish the lewdness of sari-clad gyration. Just last week the screen had been wiped slickly clean by some leery friend who had wiped the muck to see better Trisha’s bathroom bit.
It was played with great fanfare and had been well received.
Maaran tipped forward slightly as the ground started rolling. He was on his fours staring at the thick puddle of vomit under his nose as he desperately tried to avoid falling face first into it. The couple of inches separating his nose and the semi-digested mix of liquor, biriyani, pickle and meat made him nauseatingly aware of the spicy after taste of the vomit.
Swallowing the pieces regurgitated in his mouth, Maaran pushed open the tarpaulin sheet that served as the entryway onto the construction plot to sit in the sudden late night shower to clear his head.
Holding onto a metal rod he urinated not bothering to check the earth’s gradient. Warm water flowed between his toes. His stomach lurched, heaving more food and liquid out his mouth and nose. He felt a little better.
Through the haze in his mind came the image of Selvi. It was in a similar state a long time ago that he had found her. The small tent had not blocked out the songs blaring from the loudspeakers. The charpoy had threatened to come apart. She had come highly recommended. She had charged him 100 rupees. He had given her 200.
Over the years he visited her infrequently. They had kept in touch as she moved from town to town. She had a certain languor that he could not find in anyone else. Like the time she had a playful smile in her eyes as they dusted painful gravel off their knees and toes under the burning afternoon sun.
Suddenly he had a doubt. Was he thinking of the right person? Or was she the other one?
Once he had stopped by her house on his way back from his wife’s funeral. His head full of happy and sad memories, heart full of unlived aches and dreams. That day he found himself in front of the familiar iron gate once again. On knocking, he had found her friend there instead. He spent the night there nevertheless, adding guilt and pleasure to his list of emotions. On an impulse, the next day he paid for two.
The next time he had come by he had searched for any signs of resentment in her eyes. Her body showed none. It was too dark to see her eyes.
All these memories flooded into his arrack addled consciousness. A delicious sense of melancholic anticipation wrapped him as he thought back upon his errant past with fondness. He had been reckless. He suspected that she had spurred him on. Though if asked how he had no answer. Maybe it was the spicy food she cooked. She always used dry chilies. Or was it the sound of anklets in muffled rhythm engulfing him as it shifted positions? Was it those pleasure laden walks to the always welcoming doors, where he could wash away his piety as easily as he washed dust from his feet with the water from the copper vessel kept at the entrance?
Maaran looked up into the tearing dark skies. This was the kind of night he would have journeyed to her.