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Archive for the ‘writings’ Category

from my window

The wind is blowing strongly today, from the west. It has knocked all the clouds out of the sky and blown the city dust away. Each green leaf of the leggy tree outside our 4th floor windows has been swept clean. Plastic chai cups, cigarette butts and paan packets are flying across the car park, gathering in handy piles on the sheltered side of the compound. Small sparrows are preening behind pot plants on our balcony and pigeons are hiding behind the AC compressor, cooing contently. The gulmohar is stripped of it’s dead flowers and dried seed pods, the banyan tree leans above it, rustling and swaying in a slow arc. The drivers are sitting by the back wall, watching their newly washed cars become enveloped in a fine coating of dust, whipped up from the construction site down the road. Two crows are keeping a fierce watch over their nest in the garden box of an empty apartment. The wind is sending shivers of feathers down their sleek black backs.

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chowpatty girl

The interior of our sleek black Mercedes is a cool, clean beige. A children’s nursery rhyme is humming from the stereo, above which I can hear the steady

tuck, tuck, tuck

of the turn indicator.

My driver is tall, moustached and sensible. He sits with his hands resting lightly on the wheel, waiting for the signal to change.

My eighteen month old daughter sits next to me in her impact-resistant car seat and we both look out at the wide sprawl of Chowpatty Beach, South Mumbai’s litter-laced, fish-stinking golden-sand beach.

Hundreds of pigeons gather round a circular bird feeding area – their gray bodies swarm and peck over tiny grains, then flap flap their way heavily into the sky. They swirl and land, swirl and land in stage-managed precision.

                car, car… bus!

                look up mama, sky!

my daughter says as I hold up her snack box, revealing a still-warm omelette. We are lunching on the go, on the way to an afternoon playdate.

tap, tap

tap, tap, tap

A head appears at my daughter’s window.

She is a young girl, maybe eight, possibly twelve. She is slight and small and wears a green floral dress, once proud and pretty, now worn, filthy and limp. The puffy shoulders look silly and big against her stick-thin scratched-up arms. Her hair is wild, matted; her lips are cracked and rough.

My daughter squeals with delight.

                girl, girl, mama see!

                eyes, nose, teeth, ears, hair

                                madam five rupees please madam

She eyes the light yellow omelette, the full water bottle and licks her lips as the signal light changes from red to green, a block ahead. The driver impatiently nudges our car forward and her face disappears, returning quickly outside my window.

                                madam please only five rupees madam

Her voice is low and urgent as she shuffles back and forth.

                girl, girl, look mama

                hi, hi girl!

Our car leaps forward suddenly, racing to beat the signal and I turn quickly to look out the rear window. The small girl is standing still, looking back at us. Her tiny feet are bare on the searing midday street, and she is framed by a blue sky and wide flock of swirling pigeons.

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