“If you could look into the seeds of time,
And say which grain will grow and which will not”
The city at night has a life of its own, distinct from the one at day, unmasked of the hypocricies of civilization. Give a man a mask, and he will show you who he really is. What the city does behind the mask of civilization during the day, sheds its mask at night, like an alter ego, does so quite freely, without social censure being attached to it.
Zooming past the nocturnal beings he felt like an outcaste. Its been nine years since he had been to the airport and yet not enough. Travelling through the city at night had its own advantages, one could be oblivious to all the negativities of human existence. The throbbing of the engine reverbated throughout the city, sending impulses down the depths of steel and concrete. Brightly lit buildings with dark stories inside passed by. A winding street led to one of the few places in an ever drowsing city that never slept. After a series of incompetent security checks came some more. One waiting line led to another. Soldiers with Mp5 rifles moving around. In every line he was being preceeded by a couple of dark complexion and unique fashion sense prevalent among the uneducated sections of the society. A man at the back commented, presumably to his wife,”Doesn’t she look like your maid?”
The wife with an artificial snobishness replied,”Don’t be silly! My maid looks much better than her”
He internally chuckled at how intricately the husband noticed the maid. He was the first one to board the bus, took a seat at the far back and did his best to ignore the vocacious dark South Indians beside him. The journey to the airplane was an expectedly short one and he patiently waited for everyone to unboard in order to avoid brushing against their greasy bodies.
When he finally boarded the gigantic vehicle, there stood no one to greet him. He made his way to his designated seat which was not difficult to find. The window seat in the economy class with the other seat being left unoccupied. He heaved a sigh of relief. He was unburdened of the charge of making unnecessary conversation with strangers, feigning interest in their lives, pretending to care about their opinions.
His drowsiness deprived him of the horrors of take-off and when he woke up, the vehicle was already in air, wrapped in perpetual turbulence. The seat adjacent to him was now occupied by another dark South Indian. The airhostess was now visible bathed in red velvet of her uniform. She went around closing closets which now opened randomly because of the turbulence. All the eyes transfixed on the movement of her buttocks, sufficiently outlined by her uniform. He peeped once in that direction and immediately transferred his attention to the view outside the window. The current induced by the movement of her hips that now flowed through his spine, raising every follicle of hair enroute, was too much for him to conceal. He expected the oxygen masks to drop, accompanied by the air hostess’ vain attempt to calm the bunch of unimportant passengers of the economy class. However, everyone seemed surprisingly calm enough. There was apparently no need to get the passengers high with oxygen flowing through the masks to enable them to accept their impending doom. A rapidly balding middle aged man in the adjacent row casually flicked the pages of the flight magazine, moistening his fingers with saliva every now and then. “What is he trying to do? Attempting to pass his hepatitis to this cruel world?”, he thought with disgust.
The airhostess however was a feast for the eyes. The poutiness of her lips accentuated by red lipstick, appropriately applied to complement her uniform. “Is this why people prefer to travel in private airlines?”, he wondered. Admitedly, there was visibly a stark difference, Air India with airhostesses old enough to be his grandmother greeting him, whose uniform trying its best to compress the wrinkles of her aging body.
The engineering of the jet vibrated with each flash outside. “Do you need anything Sir?”. He was startled by a sonorous voice.
“Sir, do you need anything?”, it was the same airhostess dragging a trolley behind her. His father had warned him before setting out, about the exploting tendencies of the private airlines. Apparently, overcharging the passengers for edible trifles while being suspended in air was a tradition that wasn’t to be messed with. He felt her indifferent gaze probing him with an indirect pressure, forcing him into submission. Reluctantly he asked,”How much for a cheese sandwich?”
“Two hundred, Sir”
“Ha! Father was certainly being earnest”
“Humour. Apparently rendered useless above the atmosphere.”
She perched her eyebrows, squinted and slightly rotated her head to the right, an act of admission of complete lack of understanding.
“I’ll have have the sandwich”, he said rather assertively. Without another word she reached into the depths of the darkness of her trolley and rather awkwardly produced a rectangular box with sandwiches printed on all sides. In the act of its ownership being transferred, the skin of their fingers came in contact and in that brief moment flashed before his eyes the entire life of a little boy, whose parents died in an accident of train derailment, adopted by his spinster aunt who longed for a daughter and in order to make the most out of the situation, dressed this poor wretched kid in girls’ clothes and forced him to mould his behaviourism accordingly, and when he protested, he was threatened with homelessness and occassionaly castration. He saw every detail of the tortures inflicted upon the flesh of this child which upon his pale white skin stood out like mountains and routes on snow covered ground that led to salvation. The feminine mannerisms eventually drilled itself to the very core of his being and became the pillar of his existence. At the age of sixteen, he fell in love with a man much older than himself. Whose tastes, though similar, was much more vigorous and vicious, taking interest in both the sexes but being partial to the feminine. This adolescent would take off his clothes in front of the mirror and critisize his own body, but would look at his own face with distant familiarity. Whatever he did and however he did, he could never rise up to the expectations of this man. His aunt had passed away but had damaged him beyond recovery. However, she was generous enough to leave him everything she possesed, which was surprisingly more than enough to live a moderately comfortable life and be happy in his own little niche. Happiness, that is all he ever seeked, but never found. So happiness is what he decided to seek. He spent a chunk of his inheritance in getting his gender changed and the rest in dealing with the complications that followed. But when he appeared before his lover, as the very embodiement of sacrifice, he was mocked, laughed at, scorned and rejected like an outcaste. More surgeries and procedured followed to endow his features with feminine traits, but never enough. This obsession had vanquished most of his inheritance and had exposed him to new alien dangers which he had neither known nor anticipated. The ridicules were always there but where science failed, cosmetics came to rescue. One menial job after another. One form of harassment to another. When he had saved enough money to put himself through an institute of airhostess training, he though the harassments and molestations would finally cease. It is then that the knowledge dawned upon him. The strong did not prey upon the weak for survival. Power carries within itself an inherent desire to oppress and the hand that exercises it does so even without knowing. Harassment in any form of institute is as integral to its existence as flesh to the bone. A disease which originates from such a core of the corporal being that irradicating it would involve irradicating the being itself. So it is let to thrive instead, feeding on its host, giving him a slow painful death to look forward to, while the beholders watch and tsk. The sound of thunder reverberated through the walls of the jet and when the contact was disengaged, he found himself gazing into the eyes of his own reflection. If she were to be stripped off all the artificial feminity, she would become him, for she is him, he is her, one and the same, torn into two separate realities, existing in two different planes. With trembling hands he handed her the cash and she, to much of her relief, moved on. Must had been a couple of minutes before he could remove his gaze from her direction and settle in his seat, he found the dark guy looking at him bemusedly. It was the first time he had the occassion to look this man in the eye and found a sunburnt image of himself staring back. He forcibly held his dizzying self against the seat. The turbulence was growing stronger every minute, almost jolting his unfastened self onto the floor.Almost instictively, he looked at the much perturbed burly man in the adjacent row and saw himself attaining government job through nepotism and instantly diving into into the filth of corruption. Divorced at forty and being left with mountains of debts, lawsuits, exposed scandals, depression, morbid obessity and an eating disorder.Everywhere he looked, he saw different shades of himself living different lives. A young muslim boy clad in white, who converted to islam solely for the purpose of marrying his beloved, later butchered by his own community, being forced to seek refuge in a foreign country. A struggling businessman on the verge of bankruptcy travelling to his hometown to claim his paternal land, an elderly bearded man radiating masculinity who had donned the saffron and left the materialistic world behind, travelling as the ambassador of his monastery. As far as the eye could see, he himself occupying every inch of this grossly juxtaposed world of his own different selves of infinite parallel universes. All the possibilities of his futile existence laid bare in his reach. The past, the present, the future and all other persistent illusions stripped of the redtapism and made accesible to him by the universe, which as if being struck by the thunder had split into infinite minute pieces, right before his eyes. He felt a coldness spread throughout his body, originating from the centre of his chest, inducing a blackening of the vision.
He opened his eyes to find himself immersed in water, with only a faint hint of light coming from above. He heard his name being called from the distance, repeatedly, travelling, as if, through those very shafts of light. He swimmed upward, towards the voice, and it grew more loud and distinct. The light grew brighter as he moved closer, so bright that could almost hear it. He felt waves crushing against his bare body, someone grasping him by the elbow and pulling him out. A feminine face emerged out of the light,”Sir! You need to wake up, we have landed”. He found himself bewilderedly looking at an airhostess, though not same who had attended to him before. Her delicate hands still on his elbow, shaking it gently. He wiped the still wet drool stain at the corner of his mouth and scurried out of the jet. As he descended halfway through the stairs, she called out again,
“Sir, I believe this belongs to you”, she was holding towards him a sealed box of sandwich. He stared at it for a moment, then without saying a word made his way towards the conveyor belt.