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He stayed in the little apartment that overlooked the nai ki dukaan. It implied his haircuts were always free. Free is not necessarily a good thing. But his haircuts grew on her. She couldn’t begin to like anything else on him anymore. It was who he was. Embedded into his being. Seared into his skull– renewed every 15 days! 

 There was a tree that grew around the apartment building– its trunk malleable– reconfiguring itself as it wove around the light ka khamba and other such vertical impediments. Nevertheless it persevered. The meandering tree next to the nai ki dukaan. Of course, nothing could be done about the imbecility of the pigeons perched on the wires that ran in a jumbled incline, between the electricity poles, periodically stationed in the bazaar. Oh, yes! That was what it was. The bazaar. And she lived at its reclusive entrance. A few gallis in and out, take a left here, a right there. No, no, that’s a deadend. I mean, you would have to go forward until you reached the unimpressive roundabout that nonetheless was the seat of much traffic. Of course ,the streetfights culminated in this circular gyre– a tussle of bikes, rikshaws, and scrambling feet of weary pedestrians. The roundabout curved into a rather quiet, narrow alley– a kind of quaint outlandishness that was uncharacteristic of the bazaar. The alley was tucked away in the greenery of the teeming ferns, the Neems and the Peepals that had for some strange reason embowered all its houses. She lived in the third last house on this lane. Almost at the doormat of the bazaar. It was an entrance seldom used. It was an idiosyncratic phenomenon – the street and its encircling trees– sequestering the houses and its inhabitants from the gaze of the passerby. That is, of course, unless you lived in an apartment that overlooked the nai ki dukaan. If you did, then you could see beyond the assaulting greenery of the ferns and the Neems and the Peepals. One more thing– the third last house on this lane would be a frequent haunt. 

“What shall we ever do?” she sighed softly. A gentle puff escaped her lips. Her fingers traced a pattern in the mud, creating a furrow for the ants that were queuing up behind it. The sunlight penetrated through the green leaves, and a dappled pattern formulated on the velvety mud beneath. As the trees swayed in the gentle breeze, the mottled mud draped a new sunlit carpet.

 “A Game of Chess”, he pronounced looking up at her. 

A glimmer of the sun was caught for an ephemeral moment in her amber eyes. Her lips curled in an ever-so-gentle smile, almost indistinguishable from its previous state. 

“You read Elliot”, she remarked, laced with tender intrigue, “Can’t say I understand much of it.” 

 He shrugged. “It’s good”, he grinned. 

The ants had begun their quest forth in the crinkle that had been constructed for them. A few deviants darted forth in and out of formation.

 “You don’t say”, she smirked. “T.S. Elliot is …good. What about Tennyson in your opinion? Is he satisfactory? Or does he fail to impress the likes of erudites like you?”, she teased.

 “I suppose he’s alright. Does the job. A little too dramatic for my liking.”

 She picked up a piece of grass and cast it in his direction. He laughed, deflecting it with his palm. 

“Enid Blyton on the other hand. That’s where all the wisdom is.”

 “Of course, of course. Peerless work”, she said matter of factly.

 “Unsurpassed”, he smiled.   

 There was a pleasant odour of summer and fruits and earth in the air. It wafted up their noses, tingling their senses. The guava trees filtered the sun through onto the chestnut of her hair. There was something so pleasant about the juxtaposition of her hair and the green. Soft, muddy silk against the velvety earth. What could it mean to capture such lushness in one frame?

“Why do you smile?”  she asked ultimately.  “Because I don’t know either” he said, twiddling a twig in his hand, “I don’t know what we shall ever do…”

“If we are lost together does that account for anything at all?”

 “I hope so,” he said.

 “Do you suppose this is what companionship is? I don’t know very much about it– I’ve never quite had anyone.” “Ever?” he asked. 

“Ever”, she said. 

“It must be something to have never had anyone”, he said, rubbing the stick on the grass in circles. It created little bald spots in the grass. Oh well, one had to make these sacrifices if the rubbing was to continue. 

“I’ve never known anything else.” 

“I don’t suppose you have.” 

“It’s the greatest tragedy.” 

“What is?”

She lay with her head against the bosom of the earth. The sun freckled her face. She looked at the furrow where the ants walked. The last vestiges of their trail were left behind. He traced the twig around her head. 

“Are you plotting my burial?”

“Can’t afford to waste more land than needed.” 

“The economy is harsh these days.” 

“You’re an understanding corpse.” 

“Guess I am.” 

“What is the greatest tragedy?”

“I suppose it might not be the greatest. More like an unfortunate inconvenience. A tribulation, if you will.” 

“Aren’t you a little dramatic? A “tribulation”!” he smiled. 

“Like Tennyson?” 

“More”, he grinned. 

“It’s a bit of a pain to be so perceptive. I understand everything. Even if I’ve never quite had anyone.” 

“I don’t suppose that’s a prerequisite for anything.” 

“It must account for something.” 

“The grass is always greener on the other side.” 

“Anyway. That’s beside the point.”

“Go on.”

“Well, I understand everything. When I say that I really mean it. It’s a curse in some ways. It’s like an X-ray.”

“A penetrating gaze?” 

“Talk about dramatic,” she said, tossing grass into his hair. A smile snaked its way onto her face. He mirrored it. 

“So you understand everything?” 

She nodded, murmuring in affirmation. A light trill escaped her lips. She held a tenacious grip onto a few disordered notes. With each succession, she affirmed the tune, until it began to sound rehearsed after all. 

“Yes, it’s quite a burden to understand the soul of things.”

“I can see that.” 

“But the worst part of all —” , she sighed in mild exasperation, “I often wonder. How can someone be so ridiculously perceptive in one thing and absolutely foolish in the other?! I don’t know how to do things. I don’t know what they mean. The only thing I know is their soul. I understand the rasa. I –” she furrowed her brow. “I suppose I don’t know how to put it forth…It’s hard to explain.” 

She picked up a leaf lying on the grass and began to pull apart at it. In a small voice she crept, “It’s almost as if that’s all I know. There is an incongruity. I can see what a lot of people cannot. But I cannot see the simple things they can.

“Are you born esoteric then?” he smiled. 

She chuckled, and shrugged. “It’s a funny thing. It’s sad. It’s a sad–funny–confusing thing.” 

“What shall we ever do?” 

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