The great escapeAs the sun shone brightly above her, Bini’s body struggled in the heat. She could feel every inch of her body sweating.
As the sun shone brightly above her, Bini’s body struggled in the heat. She could feel every inch of her body sweating. The back of her head itched under the helmet. The drops on her nose drenched the surgical mask she had hoped would save her from pollution. Her feet tapped the ground beneath, while her fingers drummed the handles, restlessly. She couldn’t wait to free her limbs from the skinny jeans and her breasts from the under-wired bra. It was a bad day to wear both. There was no doubt that by the time she reached home her body would be painted in rashes.
Bini couldn’t tell how long it had been since she brought her scooter to a halt following the cue of the vehicles in front of her. But in that scorching heat, it felt like forever. She was aware that she should sit with her back straight, you need to take care of your posture her friends had often reminded her, but the heat made it impossible to do so. It was at least 27 degrees out. So, she hunched, guiltlessly, and quietly judged every person in plain sight.
The skinny guy in the bike in front of her wore shredded black denim pants. Self obsessed, she thought, as he swept his dyed hair to the left and then to the right, every now and then glimpsing around at the people around him when he was not glimpsing the rear-view mirror on his friend’s bike.
The girl who had hid her face behind a yellow animal-print scarf and large brown sunglasses with golden rims rested her head on her boyfriend’s back. The boyfriend, unaffected by heat or the jam, endlessly scrolled through his social media feed. We’re all living a lie.
The plump lady inside the Safa Tempo, probably in her mid fifties, stared into void, still protectively clenching a small boy by his hands. There’s no end to it. You raise your babies and then you raise their babies. Bini wondered if she would ever even get married.
A couple of college goers, still in their uniforms, walked on the footpath lined with numerous bookshops that sold the same books for the same price. The girl could tell the boy was in love with her, the boy couldn’t tell she wasn’t. A heartbreak in the waiting.
Everybody in their own little, separate, universes.
“Teri ma…” A sudden, outraged voice caught everyone’s attention in that slow minute of that too hot-to-handle hour. Bringing multiple universes back to a shared space.
Bini couldn’t see the man to whom the voice belonged. But, from where the voice was coming from, two goats emerged: One predominantly brown with white patches, another predominantly white with black patches. Young, healthy and with jute ropes still tied to their necks, they ran—confused but free, directionless but happy. The great escape.
Bini’s heart filled with warmth. A smile appeared on her face as she slowly turned her head with her eyes following the two goats—the escapists who had dodged the darkest day of their lives. Run, baby, run. Don’t let him catch you.
Bini didn’t know how free she was or how free she could ever be, but she sure fancied the idea of freedom. Oh, how she loved the idea of running. Oh, how she had run all her life—from people, from places. In that bizarre moment, she could resonate with the goats, so much, so well.
But the show only lasted for a while. Freedom after all is always so fleeting.
Before she realised what was happening, a man, much more intelligent than the naive, clueless goats, made his way from the back of the traffic and caught the great escapists by their free flying ropes. Once he got the situation under control, he smacked them hard with a thin bamboo stick, not once, not twice, but multiple, multiple times till the goats wailed in pain. He looked at everybody and smirked with his head held high. He had given a great show. He had reclaimed his dignity. He had satisfied his anger. He had shown the goats, and the world, who the boss was: A plump man in an extra large worn-out striped t-shirt and a passed-down black pair of office pants cuffed asymmetrically at the bottom.
As he walked away with the goats that he would sell at the Khasi Bajaar today, the traffic started moving too.
13:15, New Road.
As she made her way into the Indian restaurant, through a dark, traditional, stairway enveloped in the smell of Double Apple Hookah, all she could think of was how much she longed to escape this life of hers.
She knew exactly how the goats had felt—after a brief moment of liberty, smacked right back into reality. Freedom after all, only ever lasts so long.
“Bini! Right here...” Romi waved his hand from the window table where they had sat so many times before, observing, judging, contemplating the lives that passed them by on the road beneath.
“You look tired,” Romi said.
“Disturbed is the word. Just too much on my mind.”
“Maybe hungry too?”
“Maybe...I don’t know,” Bini should have been famished. She had only had three biscuits with chiya this morning. “Perhaps, it’s the garmi..I can’t really tell if I am hungry..”
“Well Madam, I’m starved. I’ll just go ahead and order and we can share then! Plus, I know exactly what will lift your mood”
“Cool,” Bini smiled and looked outside the window, while Romi called for the waiter.
“Yes sir, what can I get for you?” The waiter was a lean, underpaid man who had been in the job a little too long and didn’t care if his customers didn’t like his face. He wants to run too, Bini thought.
“Two lemon sodas, two lights and Madam’s favourite Mutton Biryani. Now, she is starving, so unless you want her to create a scene, the Biryani better have ample good and large pieces of mutton in it.”