It’s getting cold here and you know how I shrivel up in the winters. I become a cranky wrinkled prune, wrapped up in quilts, romancing a book and refusing to step into the chill. How I would relish a cup of tea made by you. Remember how I’d asked you for step-wise instructions on how to make tea just like you, but we both knew, even then, that I’d never make it. I think half the charm of drinking tea is having to not make it yourself. On grey days like these, I love snuggling. Perhaps even more than kissing, but I can see you shake that planet-sized brain of yours at something so blasphemous, so I won’t elaborate.
After days that seem more like months, of lying in my lonely bed and conjuring you from my memories, (rather unsuccessfully for they languish my dear, your absence leaves them so threadbare), I’ve buttoned and laced up. I’m determined to brave the cold. To fight this Solitude-induced Snuggle Starvation that threatens to engulf me. As soon as I walk out, my nose turns an unflattering shade of plum. I rub it with my mittened palms and remember how your hands laughed as they ran over its limited surface. “Such a small nose! And so flat!” “It goes perfectly well with my face”, I’d retorted and you’d made peace by planting a kiss on it.
Ek zara chehra udhar kijiye inayat hogi
Aapko dekh ke badi der se, meri saans ruki hain
In this wintry mood of sombre longing, I find myself on the periphery of the lake. It’s my place of calm – familiar, yet engrossing. In summer I had picked blackberries here, the plump berries collapsing into delightful mush as I picked them, staining my fingers a passionate purple. Then I had discovered a raspberry bush in late autumn and the scarlet fruit perked up many a lonely walk. I have seen the trees around this lake change colours with the seasons. Like tragic skeletons after the fire of autumn, they now stand disrobed, skeletal shadows of themselves. Summer saw them show off such enviable greens. Rich olives and fanciful limes, shades merging and dancing in the summer sun, how warm the world seemed then! The thought of summer reminds me of that sweltering day we had fought to escape it, sweating by the bucket, two filthy lovers hounding Delhi’s parks for some respite. I struggle to shake myself out of one reverie only to collapse into another.
We're not the same, dear, as we used to be.
The seasons have changed and so have we.
There was little we could say, and even less we could do
To stop the ice from getting thinner under me and you.
I look at the lake now. Its surface is frozen at this time of the year, but just about. The water slides over itself in broken sheets of glass. The ducks paddle about in small huddles and I have again forgotten to bring the bread I’d kept aside for them. They look at me expectantly, hoping for some crumbs and then seeing me empty-handed, turn away, shaking their beaks disapprovingly. An evening from another time, we had fought over the phylogeny of ducks and geese. I had been trying to find you in the maze of our favourite gardens and you’d said, “I’m where the ducks are.” “You mean the geese”, I’d said and saw you sitting on a bench, surrounded by their white cackles. I’d smiled as I saw you (I still marvel at how my face always manages to do that when it sees you, no matter how sombre the impending conversation). Those smiles, are my way of telling you (and my incredulous self) that after all this while, I still skip heartbeats. I had watched you see me and get up. The geese (which they undoubtedly were) scattered and looked for other prospective feeders. We had been standing on opposite banks of the pond that day and smiled across the expanse of water. I’d followed your steps watching you make your way to me, it had been a mellow evening. No one looks back at me across the lake today and I carry on walking.
Tonight, that nuzzle alone will have to keep me warm.