Early on, She had suggested that I never get emotionally entangled with any of the eyes that I come across, on the way, because it could land me in deep trouble.
I was the kind who could not risk being utterly involved – especially when it came to men.
Men, there have been all kinds – the only need is that one may maintain themselves well, and keep themselves smelling fresh.
People are strange and their ways rarely understood.
I would stand outside their doors for hours together, and when I would finally decide to leave, they would call me sweetly from their windows.
“Angels like you.” They’d sing.
I made sure never to turn around and go back to them – I had been raised by my Gram’s modest means – and she always asked me to walk forward, courageously and with my pride intact.
“Remember, pigeon. What does not come right the first time, almost always misses the way, the second.” Her words were measured and in no way, derelict.
In the town where I had found a temporary dwelling, The Four Shops’ ended squarely, and thereafter a turn over to Children’s Lodge, which was a few meters from its bustle, usually led to the longest walks onto the cemetery, where one was told not to venture alone, because the cemetery was infested heavily with specters and wraiths. Apparently, prayers did not work, in that part of the town – it was a dark, dangerous place, and quite alluring too, for people crazy enough not to care about a nameless death – or maybe to seek death, by submitting to it.
An hour ago, I had smoked a long drag with the owner of my lodging, whose wife taught at the convent school, the only one in that hilly top.
He had told me about the sahib from Bombay who was to be accompanied to the party to be held at the Admiral’s wine tasting.
He advised me specifically, to wear a well-fitted black gown, that had been ordered specifically for me, with no corset underneath, as well as a special kind of perfume, which supposedly costed a fortune, but which the sahib loved on his women.
I made a sharp turn at Children’s Lodge, and soon enough, I was crossed by Larsa, the woman who lived with her adopted family in one of the many colonial mansions, which she had no relationship or ancestry with.
“You look pink today. Are you nervous for some reason?”
She asked. Larsa and I, we often had tea together, as a salvage from our lonely evenings.
“Not a bit. I think, I want to make my way to the bake-house, the earliest. They are keeping it closed tomorrow, and if I do not get my supplies, I would not have anything to eat.” I replied.
Larsa scoffed, and pretty rudely.
“Beautiful women never go hungry.”
I wondered if she wished on mocking me, and I thought she was jealous.
She led a boring life – tending only to plants, and her family, which always threw tantrums about her existence.
Compared with her, I kept no word with my family and their responsive drama, and I almost always had a good time with men who came for their weekly sojourns, to receive their respite – from heat, from crowds, and from their girlfriends and wives.
I was an accessory, an accompaniment – and it felt wonderful, to be only that. I was absolutely free, and the wildness of it was heavily addictive.
I was almost always grateful, for everything that came my way – because it taught me details about life, and living, queer, refreshing and even humorously aligned, at times.
I liked fun – and the guilt that came with it.
I had learnt early on – how to enjoy my own company, and which is what gave me all the means, to make sure, I make others around me, have a good time with my frolic.
Men should never be poked with details, because once alarmed, they rarely open again. This, in turn, means, that they are pretty flowery.
I wished I could tell Larsa, that I would never have tea with her again, for her impolite behaviour, but I was once again filled with sympathy for her loneliness – and I instead only nodded and smiled. Her scorn made no difference to me, anyway.
I paced quickly toward the Cemetery, and she unabashedly called after me.
“Careful! Bears, they never let beautiful women go.”
I did not turn back.
Once, she was well out of view, I slowed my pace, and breathed lowly.
The road to the cemetery, was one among my favourite walks. I always thought to myself, that if I really ever loved a man, I would bring him along, and watch him, vulnerable to the decays of time, and the reflection that lonesome walks beget.
The dream had never materialised – it has always been better to fulfill needs, and get out of harm’s way, when the time arrives.
I do not seek reverence anymore.
Nobody came here during weekdays, and the forest guarded the road well, masking all sound that existed on the other side of the forest, where habitations had flourished, quite pathetically.
Everyone hated crowd, and everyone struggled to be a part of it.
Ironically, this is what gave them reason enough to continue living – the conflict of their own thoughts, and the hope of resolution that never came.
I walked leisurely, and started singing a song my gram sang, when she separated wheat from chaff.
“La, La, La, the birdie went blah, she drank Sangria, La, La, La.”
My shadow walked ahead of me, and she appeared only when a cone of light would find its way down the thick of the pine forest.
I have always adored reflective walking – and the way a forest can take one’s misery and transform it into silence.
I have always been a chirpy person, and I generally love making good moments – even if it means having none along.
The raw truth is, everyone wishes a life of control, one of blatant security, a place where they can direct the orchestra to play the music of their liking.
However, having a life in strange places, has taught me one very simple thing.
You do not get to choose your way, as much as you would want to goad about it – a series of circumstances most often guide you, and you must keep forging ahead.
Can I really pride myself on resilience? Because, how can I be certain it was created by me, and not just one of many ways Life has tried to express itself on this planet?
Every being is Life’s expression – every thought its means of breath.
My gram said, leave the garden a little more beautiful than how you find it – and it is absolutely breathtaking to be able to do so – to follow a simple stream, to cut your ankle on some stone, and not abuse it, but discover a herb, which can be put to better use, when others get hurt.
On this part of the Cemetery Road, the sun never shines, and so it remains chilly and through the day; yet, if you have lost yourself in forests and streets, you’d have known the joy of knowing, unknowing, unlearning and learning.
Freedom, how absolute – to be untouched by any word, any person, any deed, at all.
To be able to laugh, that is what the Forest taught me, ever since I learnt to lose myself in its realm – or rather, was directed by Life to do so.
I was only a little girl – and my mind did not know fears – it loved to be curious and to explore – and to keep it the same, has been one hell of a treacherous call.
Nevertheless, as a child, I had zoomed very quickly, against warnings by all the elders of my village – to never wander into forests and to a river-bank by the name of Magazine.
It was a button you should not have been pushing – but you pushed it for that very reason.
If there is bliss, I knew it – and in the midst of turmoil.
Forests taught me to vibe, and in their realm, I discovered life’s best kept secrets.
It is the state of being – and it never changes, however hard ravaged by times and sandstorms.
I had grown up to be a pretty woman, and it was amazing to get by, with what prettiness often affords, and especially, if it combines some form of wit, alongside.
I had been walking almost an hour now, and it seemed not a soul had been there for a long time.
I knew I was being followed, the moment I had entered the premises of the cemetery – I did not know what it was – but it was big, and it was black – it’s aura was intimidating, and it was not comfortable having my presence in its territory.
I began speaking to the big black being in my head, and my heart was pounding feverishly.
“I mean you no harm. I am only traversing.”
Something began to growl in low tones, and I did not know what to make of it – but I did not turn back, to have faced it directly.
“I wish you well. I am only traversing.” I repeated, this time, aloud, expecting it to understand my statement.
The low growls continued, and my knees began to be sickly with fear.
Larsa’s words haunted me – bears, they never let beautiful women go.
Was it a bear, or was it a spirit that had made itself manifest?
I did not know, and apparently it made no difference – this was something, that would not let me go, without its permission.
I made no act of prayer, perfectly aware of its futility.
I heard footsteps through the dried leaves, as though the big black being, was approaching me, in its effort to examine, what exactly I was.
I knew my options – and then the lack of any – the only way, there, in the wilderness of a haunted cemetery, was to submit to the force of nature.
Submission was the only way through this communication – any cry for help would have been useless, any method of fight, would have been futile.
I was powerless, and not in my territory and the only way to communicate, was to surrender, and to be left at its mercy – to allow what had been reserved for me.
I felt it drawing closer, as I began to feel the warmth of its breath on my back, and chills went down my spine.
TO BE CONTINUED.