Good Days’ Diary Entries
Listening to his favourite songs from Raj Kapoor’s time, he hummed along to the tune before bringing out chairs for us to sit in his front yard. I hesitated to say the words, but I was curious. How was he holding up after his wife’s passing just a few months ago? Living all alone in the temple compound, what did he do all day?
I was curious because solitude can do funny things to you, and I wondered what it had done to him. I was curious, but I was sure that it would be rude to ask. Almost as if he could hear me say it out loud, he smiled, still facing my father, and responded: “It’s through daily chores that I am reminded of her. She loved these songs from our era, and I don’t think I appreciated them enough when she was around. It makes me sad to think about how we always realise these little things after people disappear to a place they cannot return from. It’s really sad, you know?” I don’t know uncle, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for your loss, I repeated, bitterly realising how insufficient and empty those words must have sounded. He laughed softly, slowly nodding, before launching into another speech about sure-fire ways to win every game of rummy. Before we left, he promised to teach me the next time I would come to visit.
I have become a chauffeur of sorts at home, driving my parents around, going to the city for supplies, and sometimes, driving for no purpose other than catching some fresh air. It is a bad thing, one that I unfortunately cannot stop doing, something I’ve come to realise. A couple of weeks ago, I had to take my laptop to the service centre to get it fixed, and in that small air-conditioned area, huffing under my mask and squinting through my foggy glasses, I almost didn’t want to turn around and drive home. In the few words that were exchanged that evening, I almost wanted to clap and jump into the air, as if cheering for some unknown victory. Maybe it was a victory of some kind; I had managed to hold a conversation with someone who wasn’t a parent and it wasn’t about all the depressing things that were happening in the world. So even while he told me that my laptop wouldn’t be returned until that weekend, I wasn’t too bothered. I was glad my limited conversation skills hadn’t become non-existent now.
Human interaction is a funny thing, I thought, as I walked towards the car. There are days you swear you’re better off alone, avoiding all conversation, and then a small gesture, word, even a look exchanged with another human is enough to remind you that you actually don’t mind humans that much. Humans are… nice sometimes. I drove home with a smile that day, not minding my father’s little complaints or vigorous hand movements indicating that I should probably slow down.
I hadn’t been to the beach in months; I was unsure if that was allowed, even after restrictions had been eased and so many of my friends were out meeting each other, as safely as the circumstances would let them. The beach has weirdly always been some sort of a safe space for me. Especially, this one stretch of sand meeting sea near my sister’s place. Empty, almost tucked away, although a stone’s throw from the more popular beach, which, in my opinion, always paled in comparison to this one. So when I stopped by that beach after returning my sister’s laptop (that I had borrowed for the week), I could only stare at the grey sea and the bluish-black clouds and smile like a lovestruck fool. Playing my favourite songs by Novo Amor at the loudest volume possible, I watched waves crash against rock and sand, and the small bird congregation break up every time this happened.
For that hour at least, it felt like all time had slowed, as if the sea, with all its roaring and crashing, was only taking away everything weighing on my mind and dissipating it all. There, again, the very warm feeling of home had returned. And with it, the refusal to leave. But I had to, for it started raining soon after. I promised myself that I’d be back soon. Now, when I see the road outside my house become a muddy river because of the incessant downpour, I can only think about my promise to go back to the beach.
–Udbhavi Balakrishna, 10/08/2020