Saturday, December 2, 2017

after the cyclone

At half past eight, the morning after the cyclone, the lights came on after a 20-hour power-disruption. There was still no water supply. That happens whenever there's a flood. I wasn't really bothered. It was chilly. Hot food and sleep were my top priorities.

I plugged the mobile in for charging and called her.

"Hey," she said, sounding sleepy.

"You didn't call to check if I am ok," I complained.

"Why? What happened?" she asked, voice a blur.

"The cyclone," I said.

"Cyclone?" she asked.

"Yeah, cyclone, I am still here and not under debris," I sulked.

"Oh good," she said. "Hey, can I call you later? It's been really hectic out here."

"Bye Lekha," I said.

"Hey, this is Sreedevi," she said promptly.

"Bye Sreedevi," I said.

I flipped through the day's paper. My phone rang. The number wasn't that of my contacts.

"Sree, how are you?" she asked.

Couple of days back, a customer service person in Philippines or somewhere called me Sree. I nearly fell in love with her. We connected so well. She used the nickname so sweetly. She reminded me of a long lost love, how she used to call me, that one used my actual nickname of course, but this one made it seem that familiar.

"I have been trying to reach you forever," she continued. "Are you ok? The cyclone got me so worried."

"It was nothing, just the normal rain with a bit of wind," I said.

"Really?" she sounded worried. "You are telling me the truth, aren't you?"

"Of course, why would I lie to you?" I said.

"Oh, I don't know, you always shield me from bad stuff," she said.

I thought about something.

"Sree, you are really ok, right?" she asked.

"Yes, I am fine. Hey, I think it's my boss on the other line. Let me call you later, ok?" I said.

She made a sound that could have been a kiss or a sulking disapproval. I disconnected. Who was that, I wondered.

I went over to Vidya's house for lunch. Her male-cook served chapathi, a salad, a spoon of vegetable curry and a smaller spoon of something that was supposed to be chicken masala. She talked about her latest activities with slum kids in South-East Asia, Africa, Bangladesh. I could have asked her, why not India. Maybe, she does India too. I kept my eyes on her face. I wondered why I never went beyond her face, that was when I wasn't wondering about the missing chicken in the masala. Later, in front of the TV, we cuddled. Poor fishermen, we said watching the news. We kissed. The government should have issued the warning much earlier, we remarked. We fondled and teased. Of course, they should be angry, we agreed with the protesters. We came. Thank god it's over, we said and switched off the TV.

Sreedevi called me at five.

"Hey, this is Lekha," she said.

She used more of the sarcasm.

I called Lekha at half past five.

"Sreedevi told me that you called her Lekha," she said.

"Geez, news travels real fast," I said.

"You didn't check up on me during the cyclone," she complained.

"You didn't either," I retorted.

"What? Have you forgotten my call?" she sounded shrill.

I wasn't sure if she was pulling a fast one on me. Or was she the one who called me Sree? But she never calls me Sree. And never so sweetly. The call got over before I could think more.

I went to a club around seven. A friend from the US, now working in Australia, with family living in Europe, had landed in town during the cyclone for a 24-hour-visit. He's always in the thick of things. Another friend also turned up. He talked about his TV shows. He then talked about spirituality. He talked about his connections in the new government and how he could do good when the good ones are in power forever. He then said he felt like an animal whenever he's with women.The two talked about their wives and kids and friends. They talked about a friend who got laid. I should have listened to that. But I wanted to talk about the cyclone. They did not talk about the cyclone even once.

I got back home around midnight. There was no power, no water. Nothing new. Was there really a cyclone?