At Land’s End

John_Smith221B: Hey 3:38am
Persephone4ever: Doyle fan? 3:39am
John_Smith221B: Yes ma’m. What’s keeping you up so late? 3:39am
Persephone4ever: I could ask you the same thing 3:39am
John_Smith22B: And where would answering questions with questions get us? 3:40am
Persepheon4ever: Hah. Where do you live? 3:40am
John_Smith221B: I come from Mumbai. You? 3:42am
Persephone4ever: I live in the Himalayas. Lansdowne. 3:42am
John_Smith221B: What? Are you serious?! 3:44am
Persephone4ever: Hahah, yes. It’s a small town (typing…) 3:44am

I was 16 then. The next morning I was to be shipped off to Delhi to attend my wedding. They call Himalayas the manifestation of celestial wisdom; and yet there I was, in a town surrounded by snow white mountains on all sides, being emotionally blackmailed into marriage because of my birth defects. Being deaf and mute made me a super-subaltern, but over time I saw certain upsides to my condition too. My father ran a cyber cafe and since I couldn’t connect with people around me, I began making pen friends online. On the internet I wasn’t a dumb deaf victim of fate. With some friends, I’d pretend to be a 25 year old Goth junkie, while with others, I was 38 year old lecturer oftantric Buddhist ritesor a 70 year old lady with two dozen cats. I was always cautious though, and never gave personal details to strangers. But that night was different. That night, I wanted to risk it all.

 

Which is why, when John_Smith221B requested to be my pen friend at 3:32am I accepted without ado.

 

John_Smith221B: wow, small town in the mountains. Wonder what it must be like… 3:46am
Persephone4ever: It’s beautiful most of the time. 3:46am
John_Smith221B: aha? 3:46am
Persephone4ever: Yes…
The air here is musical. When I squint my eyes while looking at the sun, I can paint pictures with the light on the blue sky. And the trees have the history of the planet etched on their barks, if you’ve got the time for it. My favourite are the birds though. The bar-headed geese. Did you know they fly all the way over to the Himalayas every spring? Most of them go to Tibet, but we get a few here now and then. As a kid, I always thought they came all the way over, just to tell me about the world below
3:50am
John_Smith22B: Woah! you must be really attached to the place!! 3:55am
Persepheon4ever: True. sorry about the tangent. It’s just that I leave this place tomorrow…
Forever
3:55am
John_Smith221B: Oh (typing…) 3:56am

 

I wondered if my words had touched him or made him think I was a dreamy fool. Had I made the conversation too personal. I did not want my last night of freedom to be about my abysmal tomorrow!

 

Persephone4ever: So. What does the city sound like? 3:56am
John_Smith221B: Sound like?
Well, I guess it sounds like getting caught in a conversation with too many different people all at once.
3:57am
Persephone4ever: doesn’t sound very cool… 3:57am
John_Smith22B: In the beginning it’s not. But chaos is like a language. Not very difficult to learn. You’ve never visited a city before? 3:58am
Persepheon4ever: No, I’ve always preferred the quiet. I guess I’ll just have to believe you. 3:58am
John_Smith221B: Always a good choice 3:58am

We chatted on, about the simplest things in the universe. I masked my disabilities, wondering what would happen if I told him.I didn’t want to know.

John_Smith221B: Have you tried catching sunlight in your hands? 6:02am
Persephone4ever: You have the most amusing ideas, Mr. Smith 6:02am
John_Smith221B: Haha I’m serious. 6:02am
Persephone4ever: Which makes me realize sun’s rising now. My father will be up soon. I should go 6:03am
John_Smith22B: You don’t have to go just because he gets up 6:03am
Persepheon4ever: He’ll want to close the café. Our train leaves this morning. 6:03am
John_Smith221B: Cafe? Your father runs the 24 hours internet cafe in Lansdowne? 6:04am
Persephone4ever: Um, yes. He’s up now. And this is where I bid you adieu! Farewell John_Smith221B 6:07am
John_Smith221B: No, wait! I think I know who you – (typing…) 6:07am
Persephone4ever is now offline

 

I splashed cold water on my face til it betrayed no sign of sleeplessness. My mother and aunts bustled around me as I got ready for “the big day”. Everything happened so quickly, as if they had been preparing for today since forever. So as not to wallow in self pity, I kept thinking about the previous night. I wondered what his real name was, what his laughter sounded like, why he was befriending strangers online…

My last picture of the village would have been the mountains, had it not been for a curious young man waving his hands at our jeep. My father wouldn’t stop. He didn’t want us to miss the train. The young man became a bizarre blur in the scenery.

There was only one internet cafe between the three villages of that hill. I had visited there a couple of times after my parents sent me to live with my grandparents in the neighbouring village last month. I had heard of her – the cyber-wala’s wordless daughter. Was she the girl I was talking to last night? I peddled my cycle over the hill with divine fury, but in vain. I followed the jeep as far as I could and then took to ridiculously waving my arms at them, hoping she could see me. I would’ve called out to her. Maybe that would’ve stopped her. But how would she have heard me, given I couldn’t speak or hear myself in the first place.

2 Comments

  1. Prose is your strength. This is a wonderful story and I love the use of the “chat” as conversation. I did something similar once using text messaging but not to as good effect as this. Really enjoying your writing.

    Like

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