Sunday, February 27, 2011

The gulmohar in the middle of the road

A private breeze, like a whispered aside, stirs to life within its sudden shade, under the big gulmohar in the middle of the road. Its branches were outstretched like the arms of a tightrope artist grown long and taut on the wire. Had it been in bloom, one could have plucked its flowers off a first floor balcony on either side of the road. I don't remember seeing the gulmohar before these one and a half years though it is easily the biggest tree on this road. Maybe because it has never been in flower. Maybe because I haven't seen Hyderabad in spring.

At the throat of the tree where the branches lay knotted up in a thickly coiled rope of a trunk lay a dusty ganesh idol. Nameless weeds of algal aspect, dead green patches that filled the road median flinch at the periodic belch bikes. Forked yellow stalks split into wider Vs at every burst of smoke. Flowers like single silver sequins nodded their tiny heads at passing wheels tucking newer specks of dust among its silver strands. Some lay down wisely, with leaves pressed flat to the sand asleep as everyone else should be on a sunday afternoon.

You can read the sorrow of forsaken siestas on the haggard faces that spot the supermarket aisles. Sleepwalking feet trip over each other jut into billing queues with a toe surreptiously singing along with the radio, weary with waiting.

I have never looked upon her too keenly, only her nose is sharp with lines as if penciled and the insides of her eyes, deep and dry like a dead pond, fall upon my eyes like claws.

I wish she were a picture on a wall that has been gazed upon absently everyday. Her eyes I have never looked into. Like water in the hollows of flower vases they tempt slow perfumed deaths.

I slip out of the store into the road with the spell of denied sleep still upon me. A single handle of the plastic bag wrenches free of my thumb and eggshells  shatter in a screaming sunburst of yolk upon a cloudy concrete road.

"Are you alright madam?" The guard at the store entry asks. My hand numb and cold from the air conditioning goes to my head where hair stands upright brown and sharp like autumn leaves waiting to be crushed underfoot.  I wave a quick "I'm fine" wave and walk past the gulmohar tree where I ransom reason for hope again.