|Image: Man 1|
She touched the back of her neck, caressing it gently where it was sore. A loose strand of hair had escaped her bun, defying the pins and clips that tried to tame it. As she arched her neck, she closed her eyes, a smell wafting up to her nostrils. Sweet and heady. Teasing in an innocent, virtuous way. She didn't want the smell to disown her. She clung onto it in mute desperation. The sweetness of those mogra flowers. Motiya. Strings of them braided into her hair. Losing themselves amongst her tresses. Dancing in tune to the breeze. Heaving and sighing. Smiling and writhing. They wound around her. Coal and moon dust. Playing each other into submission. Fingers would run through her hair, entangling themselves in those strings of imperfect pearls. Crushing them with a ruthlessness so sadistic, it would wrench an anguished cry from her. And they would lie, petals and anthers, drenched in their own perfume. Trampled into the past. But their smell would linger, like a potent afterthought that hadn't been put aside yet. She would smile as a breeze would tickle her nostrils, with the scent so sweet, it was almost cloying in its perfection.
Mogra. He did not want to buy a single string. The white flowers tinged with buttery yellow lay in neat strings, so innocent he could scarcely believe the torment they were creating in his mind. Little beads of moistened memories. Drops of forgotten moonshine. Serene and silent. He looked at the young hawker, a little boy. He wore shoes without laces, the holes gaping like three pairs of judging eyes. He pushed the pearl strings in his face. "Late ho gaya hai sahab. Das mein teen le lo. Tumhari dulhan khush ho jayegi." From where did they learn these lines, he thought. He stared sullenly at the traffic lights, willing them to change before the perfume caught onto him, lingering like a dream dreamt too often. He felt his senses swoon into submission. Her hair. The pearls startled by its inky blackness. They shone like drops of scented dew, weaving through those tresses, perfuming them with guileless love. He'd reach out and crush them gently, their souls mingled into her blackness, purifying whatever they touched. And then in the morning, the beads that were still breathing awoke, fluttering open their petals, but just slightly. They were more cautious now, holding onto the last breaths of their scented strength. The buds would become half-hearted flowers, wrung off their passion, they glistened no longer.
"Sahab le lo na."
The little boy made him spring out of his reverie. He nearly slapped him. Unperturbed by the sudden change in demeanor, the urchin moved away to next car. The smell stayed back. Its vacillating proximity was claustrophobic. And suddenly so cruel. Images flashed before him. Flowers. Garlands and bouquets. Flowers. Strings and bunches. Flowers. Wreaths and petals.