A Drizzle in Pokhara

If you think be­ing madly in love with your best friend’s girl­friend is un­for­tu­nate, try sit­ting next to him dur­ing a Microprocessor lec­ture hav­ing to lis­ten to him de­scribe the sex they had the day be­fore. What’s more, Mi­cro­proces­sor is one of the few sub­jects I ac­tu­ally en­joy. My friend is nor­mally a level-headed per­son who does­n’t speak much. But it seems that the ex­cite­ment of the first time is grand enough for him to break char­ac­ter. Need­less to say, I’m mis­er­able.

I look out the win­dow, if only to some­how com­mu­ni­cate my lack of en­thu­si­asm to him. It does not work. The class goes on for an­other forty min­utes in which he fills me in on the color of the cur­tains, fla­vor of the con­dom, state of the bed sheets af­ter they were done and what not. In an ef­fort to not be­tray my feel­ings, I pre­tend to lis­ten. I’ve cho­sen the cow­ard’s way out again.

The day is over­cast and a thin fog has sucked the life off col­ors. Leafless trees stand tall and somber, they evoke im­ages of gi­ant skele­tons el­e­gant against the foggy back­drop. In a dis­tance, I see the new ICTC build­ing as it’s be­ing con­structed. From afar it looks like tiny ant-men are scur­ry­ing about, as­sem­bling the uni­verse one bread­crumb at a time.

When the class is fi­nally over, I can’t wait to get away. We head out to­gether with a group of friends. The next class is pro­nounced un­bear­able un­less a cup of tea is first had. By this de­sign, the crowd starts to­wards the can­teen. Nat­u­rally, I’d rather avoid hav­ing to hear any more about the girl I love vi­o­lated in var­i­ous po­si­tions. So I in­vent some ex­cuse or an­other, I don’t re­mem­ber now, and take off.

I am­ble around the cam­pus, care­ful to cir­cum­vent any hang­out spots. My in­tent is to avoid my friends for some time, al­low­ing the nov­elty of this whole sit­u­a­tion to wear off. The cool breeze is rich with the smell of rain. It some­how blows against you no mat­ter which di­rec­tion you face.

I’m near the Civil block when, out of nowhere, ab­solutely with­out prepa­ra­tion, a girl misses her step and falls nose-first on the ground. Thankfully, the ground is soft and her friends are by her side. They pick her up, dust her off and see­ing that she is some­what dis­ori­ented, take her to the near­est sit­ting place. This is done with such flu­ent ges­tures that the whole event has the aura of a sa­cred rit­ual per­formed with deep rev­er­ence. It gives you the im­pres­sion that the curly haired girl is al­ways falling, her friends al­ways dust­ing her off and guid­ing her to the near­est sit­ting place. I don’t know, that could be true. So I decide to de­fer all judge­ment ex­cept­ing one: that she has good friends.

The next class starts in a few min­utes but I have no in­ten­tion of at­tend­ing. I board a bus to Mahendrapul. There is no par­tic­u­lar rea­son to be there, and I’m generally short on money at this point of the month, but I need to do some­thing to take my mind off things.

The curly haired girl and her friends amuse me for a while, but on the bus, look­ing out the win­dow, my thoughts cir­cle back to Shraddha. (That’s her name, by the way.) In my soli­tude, I’m free to think of her as I choose (her bright in­tel­li­gent eyes, the silly sponge­bob hoodie, the way she walks strangely rem­i­nis­cent of a duck, the fact that she has a pixie cut with bangs that reach down her eyes, or that she can quote so many writ­ers with­out even be­ing aware of it … I could go on). But of course my mind wan­ders back to the same dingy ho­tel room.

Mahendrapul is busy as ever. The usual scat­ter­ing of fruit ven­dors sta­tioned at every turn­ing are sit­ting amidst bas­kets of straw­ber­ries, ap­ples and tan­ger­ines the col­ors of which have dulled due to the set­tling of a thin layer of dust that was raised by the roar­ing green buses steered by solemn dri­vers look­ing to have a smoke in Bagar. Smells pour­ing from the Marwadi min­gles with the var­i­ous trails of per­fume — which might lead to a group of girls hud­dled around a table wait­ing for their or­der at Samrat’s; or to a pair of fash­ion­able women pur­chas­ing shoes in the Big Baazar. I lose my­self in the crowd and it is sooth­ing.

The cof­fee shop I’m lan­guidly strolling to comes to view. There I place my or­der. Outside, it has started to driz­zle, thin drops wet­ting the as­phalt and pit­ter-pat­ter­ing on the tin roofs. A chilly wind sweeps in laden with vague mem­o­ries of days long past and the crisp fra­grance of the moun­tains. Someone shuts the door, shiv­er­ing. The warm nos­tal­gia that had come with the wind dies with the wind.

I used to love the rain. My old jour­nals are full of cheesy po­ems I had writ­ten in­spired by the pet­ri­chor. All this is, of course, be­fore I came to Pokhara. It rains so much here, and with such vengeance, that what was once the ro­mance of the rain­fall now feels like every­day nui­sance. It an­noys you like a per­sis­tent mos­quito.

The barista is a pleas­ant man a few years older than me. He has a smile ready for every oc­ca­sion and uses it to great ef­fect. He brings a cup of warm wa­ter as soon as I’m seated. I’m greeted with a re­mark on the weather and a com­i­cally ex­ag­ger­ated en­act­ment of shiv­er­ing. He leaves with a sin­cere smile. Little later, when he comes with the amer­i­cano, his happy smile is still firmly in place.

Sipping my cof­fee, I con­tem­plate the at­mos­phere here in this café. The aroma of freshly ground beans in­ter­weaves it­self with the charm­ing melody play­ing through the speak­ers; thin drops of wa­ter hit the win­dow pane and leisurely con­verge; the espresso ma­chine whirs in­ter­mit­tently; and the every­day chat­ter and bus­tle of peo­ple adds to the am­biance. This con­tex­ture has a pe­cu­liar qual­ity to it. A quality that in­vokes poignant re­flec­tions and makes you want to smoke cig­a­rette af­ter cig­a­rette in some shabby road­side restau­rant.

I say pe­cu­liar be­cause I have never smoked be­fore.

The crowd has thinned, there is barely any­one in the café now. Thoughts of Shrad­dha are back. She is look­ing di­rectly at me as she em­braces him; the white cur­tains flut­ter. I shud­der, and make my­self think of pleas­ant things. Shraddha. Her name paints the pic­ture of red hi­bis­cus flow­ers atop a sanc­ti­fied cop­per plate and the sweet smell of in­cense. It calms me some­what. There she is, next to me un­der my blue um­brella; we are walk­ing to the class to­gether. You know, evenings hurt the most when you’re lonely”, she is say­ing. I look long­ingly at her fin­gers, won­der­ing if I’m ready to face the con­se­quences. And just like that the mo­ment has es­caped. There’s noth­ing I can do now ex­cept to go back to my room and crawl un­der the blan­kets. Some cheesy ro­man­tic-com­edy might cheer me up.

At some point the barista sets down a plate with a cin­na­mon roll on it. I’m knocked out of my reverie. When I ques­tion him with a look, he ex­plains, on the house”. Then he flashes a wide toothy grin and I know that he won’t go away un­til I smile back at him. I’ve found this qual­ity charis­matic at times, though right now I feel a strong urge to hit him on the head with a pan. Nevertheless I muster a small re­ply. He goes away sat­is­fied.

I go up to the counter and feel for my wal­let — it is­n’t there! I’m struck for a mo­ment (the guy on the counter no­tices this) then I re­al­ize that I had slipped it into my bag in the bus. Relief washes over, and I’m out of there as soon as I can.

The rain is still falling; dusk has set­tled it­self over the cityscape. I de­cide to forgo the bus and walk a lit­tle fur­ther. Rain falls on the streets and the pud­dles, and on my blue um­brella. Had she been walk­ing by my side, I would have told her that rainy evenings hurt even more, spe­cially when you’re in love.

This was my en­try for the Zerone ar­ti­cle writ­ing com­pe­ti­tion.