The side flap fluttered relentlessly as soon as I unlatched it. Chrek. Chrek. And it rolled down like a flexible bulwark against the cold – the world at the other side. I love mornings. It’s funny how sometimes your nose is the coldest part of your body. Mom says it’s like the peak of a mountain. Cold. But that’s when we lie down. I cover it with my palms to warm it up.
A misty morning brings fresh stale smog. Visibility reduces. You cannot see the curve of a dome. My geography is weak and so is my architecture.
I cross Purana Qila and I think I’ve reached Safdarjung Maqbura. I see the pedal boats. Still as the water. I see women sweeping the pathway so that others can litter. Boys half my age somking bidi. Men double my age warming up with chai.
I look for my valentine. Kajri. The cute little kid with one of the happiest smiles. I peek outside the auto, my hair more tangled than ever, my nose – coldest. I do not see them. Neither Kajri nor her father. Less than a year ago we stopped at their tapri a Maharashtrian word (unofficial, I guess) for a tea-stall.
Her scent lingers. Mustard oil & faint sweat. The smell of a baby. The smell of tea, cheap cigarette and of urine. Quite retching.
I remember three friends stopping by. Not long ago. Just last Valentine..