Pooja sat on her bed looking down from her window, clutching the railing with her left hand. It was almost twilight. The streets of the bazaar were filled with eternal bargainings, frequent honking of bikes rode by husbands who forgot to take vegetables home, insects drawn towards yellow street lights, women slapping their children at toy shops, folks pushing the glass door with ‘PULL’ written on it, mannequins being teased by the children of bargaining mothers who were too busy to control them, and sweaty armpits.
Amidst all this, she was looking at a ‘Pani-Puri’ stall with people waiting for their turn having partially filled sour water in their small plates. She too loved ‘Pani-Puri’. When she was small, she dreamt of opening a ‘Pani-Puri’ stall. But now, she doesn’t talk about dreams anymore. She hates the word so much, she never says it whole but rather spells it.
She saw two people laughing at the ‘Pani-Puri’ stall. She felt envy crawling inside of her. She assumed they were the fortunate kind, the ones who didn’t carry the burden of their past.
She then saw a girl, probably in her late teens, around the same age as her. The girl moved with quick steps carrying a VIP luggage bag. Pooja tightened the grip on the window railing.
“Where is she going? To a new city? Has her father allowed her to go? Has she fought with her family?” the questions flooded through her head.
She then closed her eyes and took a deep breath in. As she was holding her breath she remembered something from her past, they came in as fleeting memories, slowly then all at once.
She finally exhaled and continued looking out of the window.
Sanjay Bhai walked into the room, just then. Simran felt his presence but she didn’t react. He came and sat next to her. The room was dark but she could see his face partially from the yellow light of the bazaar.
He smoked the cigarette twice and passed it to Simran.
“The customer is waiting,” he said.
Simran placed the cigarette between her forefingers and middle finger and took a long puff. Her cheeks shrank and the smouldering part of the cigarette sparkled. She removed the cigarette from her lips and sucked the smoke in, deep inside her, mingling it with the memories of her dreams and memories of her pain.
She slowly released the dense smoke out and watched it escape away, carrying all her pain and dreams through the window railings and then diffuse into the crowded bazaar.
Oh, how she D-R-E-A-M-S of being that smoke.