Ranjit has a history of waking up in bizarre places. Most of those instances were from childhood when he used to live in the village. While other kids have tales of falling asleep in school during class or exams, Ranjit can recount tales of waking up on the back of a walking bull, on top of a slowly rotating ceiling fan, and on a bicycle going downhill. For the longest time, he thought he was a somnambulist. It was years later that he learned it was his cousins’ doing.
Many people are afraid of mice. Ranjit isn’t one of them. So when a mouse came scampering towards him as he parked his motorcycle in his apartment complex, he wasn’t worried. Surprised, but unworried.
Many people detest cats. Ranjit isn’t one of them. But when a cat pounced on him right after the mouse scurried up his leg under his trousers, he was a bit worried. Surprised, and worried.
Winters had overstayed their welcome, and summer, aware that it was late to the party, had rushed on with twice its usual vigour. The sultry air had stripped trees of their leaves. A new covering was due, and Ranjit, in a bid to follow suit, visited his barber for a regular haircut. But routine chores and events hardly ever enfold in a regular fashion for him.
Changez was sitting up in his bed when Ranjit entered. The ward boy handed him his medicine and passed by Ranjit, who took his seat beside the bruised and battered patient.
“Ranjit, what brings you here?” asked Changez. Ranjit rolled his eyes and looked at Aamna. She did the same as she sighed at her brother’s chronic sarcasm.
All streets echoed with music. As Ranjit got down the staircase he reminisced how the streets used to be packed with kids and youngsters, both in body and at heart. People now take to their rooftops rather than the streets to give each other eccentric makeovers on Holi.
As he stood while the metro approached his stop, Ranjit thought how good it would be if he could use public transport for his daily commute. He didn’t mind getting squished among bodies when it got crowded, or standing for long durations. His motorbike travels involved sitting while he drove and standing while he waited in torturous traffic. In that regard, the two weren’t that different, save for a vibrating entity between his legs. But it was the comfortable decibel level inside the metro that he liked best.
It was not late in the evening, but the curiously prolonged winters had drawn the curtains for the day. Ranjit was headed to Lodhi Gardens to meet a friend and had to change lines from Mandi House, but the route was shut for maintenance. It was a short journey and he thought of hiring an auto-rickshaw.
“Doesn’t it seem strange to you that we are going to a bar to meet our uncle?” asked Ananya while walking beside her brother. The deserted street gave the impression that it was much later in the night, giving Ranjit an ill feeling in his gut that strengthened with each step.
“I’m still trying to make peace with the fact that I agreed to go to a bar with my little sister,” he said. A streetlight flickered noisily as it winked at the two of them, giving the night some sound. Good upbringing had taught them not to drag their feet while walking, even while walking on a broken, dusty, pebble littered pavement.