Murakami in Mumbai
If I repeat thrice hopefully, the landline operator would not call me again to pay the due bill which has been skyrocketing like the city buildings. It would be better off living ascetic than owning worldly things like a landline or paying rent for a house where I hardly stayed last year. Last year was when I left my design job as I was too used to going to that place & talking to many people in a day. It’s great becoming a consultant as I don’t have to travel to suburbs taking the daily local & the metro.
Staying at home has its perks. I can go for my evening tea walks & brush the cat hair off my clothes. My wife loves our cat caramel but I tend to only have a co-living relationship with him. He loves staring at me especially in mornings when I wake up & make chai. I think the boiling chai fragrance riles him up & hence he hasn’t quite taken a liking to me.
Caramel & my wife have a lot of things in common. They both love rains, they both react to the smell of boiling chai & they avoid eye contact with every stranger. In this case, the stranger was our retired neighbour, Mr Mehta.
Mr Mehta lives exactly in the flat opposite mine. His personality is not that striking at first glance, mostly roaming around our floor passage in cotton pants & an old off white vest. If you observe his face closely, you will see his bank job years gone by represented by the crooked teeth & warm smile. Mr Mehta was retired & was living alone since last six years since his wife passed away. Nobody in the apartment has heard him talking or even mumbling to them so definitely anti-social by nature. I happen to stumble upon him when my wife informed me on a typical Tuesday afternoon nap that caramel our cat was missing. I hoped that the cat never finds his way back & he is fine wherever he currently is but that would make my wife & life both miserable. In the search, my first guess was that he entered our opposite flat of Mr Mehta so there I went to.
Mr Mehta opened the door & his face looked stoic but not complaining. On being asked about caramel, he said “He is dead’’.
“How do you know that?” I asked.
“I am going to meet him soon & we would rather talk at my house rather than standing at the door. Would fancy a company or two for a chai’’
I nodded my head, went in & sat across his sofa on a wooden chair. You know a person is not modern by looking only at his living room. Close to zero artefacts & not any furniture which caught my attention was modern at that place. An old sofa which had some springs out & only two people can sit out of four, three wooden chairs, a dusty lamp & two fans were part of his unmodern living room. He handed me a cuppa & that eased me out for the conversation.
“I knew you would come to my door looking for caramel. He had the same curiosity as you” said Mr Mehta.
“Why do you say so?”
“I was a sound sleeper three years back until caramel came & then started having vivid dreams from the past, dreams about living my life backwards & the future never coming back. Have you had such experiences?”
“Naa’’ I sighed.
“Caramel is now part of my vivid dreams & even I live there now. Caramel chose death & a new life in my past dreams. When you start dreaming vividly in the past, it becomes much easier to embrace death as they both are a reality & its up to you to choose,” Mr Mehta seemed torn by something & he continued. “Caramel used to visit my past dreams & we would talk about living there & discuss how that dream city is so different than the Mumbai, He was fond of the idea of dying & he wished he could stay here away from everyone but me.”
“Nothing of this makes sense to me!” I was astonished by the thought & wanted to leave but something about the cat didn’t add up & I wanted to know more about Caramel.
“Tell me, Did you like being around caramel?” Asked Mr Mehta
“I didn’t but liked his presence in my house. He was & is important to my family. My wife had adopted him from the streets & she is grieving for her baby. It would break us both apart” I said.
“See” He walked up & opened the curtains to show me something outside the window. It was raining & in those rains, I could see a distant black shadow of my cat. It was a silhouette of Caramel. “What you are seeing is my vivid dream from the past where caramel is now. He was grieving in this world & now has his freedom in my dreams’’ said Mr Mehta.
I left with darkness in my heart & not sure of how will I be sharing this with my wife. Grief as they say, deeper it is, you feel closer to god but I felt alone in that very moment.