Monday, April 25, 2005

Watching the sky turn blue

It's late, I'm thinking. It is late. It's 1:15 in the morning and I'm waiting in a car to pick up a friend who works late. This is late. I'm at Juhu, that famous stretch in Bombay that means beaches, money, movie superstars. Opposite the office is a freaking traffic jam at this late time, with four-wheel drives lining up to enter the Marriott, the snazziest place to be after 9pm on a weekend. There are traffic cops present but they cannot ease the slow crush of cars on this two-lane road. I park the car on the side, waiting. Three women, dressed in saris and bright lipstick, lean against the car behind mine. They are not out of place, but what they do is clear. Occasionally we make eye-contact. There's this kid, Raju, all of nine or ten, hanging by my window, selling me his flashy 'I Love You' glass keychains by just looking at me. With keychain attached to car key, we get talking. And then friend arrives. Old friend, new friend, previous life friend, sometimes I think future friend, close friend, afar friend; whatever, I'm happy.

And we drive like we drove before. Without purpose, without a destination, without an eye on the fuel gauge. This is life, I'm thinking a little sentimentally. But who cares. Bombay at night is a city that throbs only indoors, leaving me free with serene streets, open roads. Just the way I like it. We drive in the suburbs, where the last traces of life trickle into clubs. And then we drive to town, where the architecture is what you expect of a decent architect. But really, who cares. A drive's a drive. With friend, it becomes a Drive.

And so we see early morning walkers at 4am. Four am at Worli Seaface, where workers from a nearby wedding site have just crashed on benches! Amazing. A type I had only heard of in parental legend! And we drive on, driving past places that meant something. Old roads are traversed; the new ones are not worth going down this late. Buses begin operating again, and I am back to the regular morning duty of playing prod-prod with them, this time on surreally empty streets. Road's too narrow for my driving ego, really. Anyway, so we drive. And then it sneaks up, as changing colours do. The sky turns purple, and shades of blue sneak in. Soon I would have to go home. I grow nervous, we will have to say bye. Never before had a countdown been so rich in colour.

We say bye. The sky is blue now and the birds wake up others while they put me to sleep. The phone rings. It is care calling, keeping me on the phone till I get home safe.