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A Day In The Life

By Yaschen Dlima


“So what are you doing beta?”

I’ve found a response to those delightful uncles and aunties who enjoy parading into the personal spaces of the young adult, just out of humour, to lighten their otherwise dull afternoon: maybe their tea had less sugar in it, or their housemaid didn’t show up that day, leaving their living room dustier than usual (something we middle class buffoons enjoy despising). A response to the idiots of our lives, the eternally inquisitive, but really they aren’t all that inquisitive: they just don’t know what to say, who to be; so in moments of sudden drama, when their awkward lives intersect with another, the rush of it all, the last lonely cry of the setting sun, everything abandoned, they turn with a hidden feeling of gratitude to a set of dispositions, opening statements, to incite conversation and extinguish the silence that tends to widen the gap between themselves and the other, and they ask certain questions with such flare, such panache, such tidy loveliness, questions that invade and plunder quietly, that accost the soul, that really startle you, I mean me, and make you scared, fearful of your position in the world; the world which is theirs and theirs only, to which you are a stranger, and even when you are permitted admittance, you know not it’s strange ways and falter forever at each step. So, in response to their questions, I shall say “Sorry, but I would prefer to not talk about this.”

Met Ashwini uncle. I remember listening to him narrate certain events in his life, chart out a sort of biography, from the onset of adulthood into and out of careers, the things he learnt, principles that stayed with him. It’s 7 o'clock now. The sun has set. My tea is mild with mint and it’s warm, but no warmer than on other days. There is still light outside and the leaves, green in the afternoon, outside my window, have turned to a darker shade, softer in the light, dull itself, trying to match the even softer spaces of the sky, now fading in brightness but still light and calm. There is a slight breeze running through the leaves, making them quiver, like the aspens in Shalott. I never saw an aspen. Maybe I did, but I wouldn’t recognise one. My cup of tea is now cooling down, along with my body, tired as it is from my exercise. A bath awaits me. Then the rest of the night. The night I shall spend searching through for happiness and content, for something good. But to no use are my expectations, for they too will soon recede into the background, cooling down softly like the evening and the trees and my cup of tea. It’s even darker outside now, but the sun still stands proudly, far away. I think back to myself. I look at my fear, I look at who I am, who I think I am, poking myself with thoughts that swarm like tropical rainstorms. I bring the teacup to my mouth. My lips touch its smooth ceramic: warm and cool at once- I’m called to the living room. Mamma is at my bedroom door asking what brand of tea I served Ashwini uncle, for he found the mint flavour happily refreshing. I say at once it was the Moroccan Mint flavour, and we rush to the kitchen, fling open the cabinets and remove the blue paper-box carrying the last two sachets of this soul-refreshing tea and hand it over to our dear guest before the moment had decided to end.

After a while I find myself brewing another cup of tea for Ashwini, as he now wishes me to address him by, and drop the superfluous title of uncle that finds it birthplace in Indian tradition. Now, I’m sitting comfortably in a checkered sofa chair in the living room. My parents and Ashwini discuss bank details, my father’s salary, investments, credit cards and all the blueberries of that far flung space adults are forced to pick in the heat of May when they find themselves desperately asking questions they already know the answers to. My dad, who is wearing a gorgeous light pink polo shirt over a pair of faded denim shorts, suddenly turned toward the living room, perhaps addressing me, or maybe the general crowd of the room, and asked in an excited voice, when was the IPL supposed to commence.




Pasta for dinner. It’s almost 8. I drew a tree today: a wonderful way to waste the long midday hours that climb up old church walls and settle beneath shelves of larders and pantries. In the driver’s seat of my car, I sat waiting for Mikhail, and to pass the time I sketched the tree in front of me, beside the narrow road, touching the margin of the pavement, not quite here nor there, in the middle of things, just like me, with leaves plentiful, green as ever, falling over the road and into the compound of the building in front of it. So many lovely leaves, small tiny leaves, laughing and fluttering in the early afternoon breeze, I could forget myself looking long into its many openings, its many stems and branches, just leaves and leaves. I wrote a poem about a parrot and leaves once. I called it a rainy afternoon. I wrote it last year in the monsoon, before university began, right here as I sat in the same checkered sofa chair, when the rain gushed outside the window, and all the air and sky and the tall evergreens of the garden were washed in such sweet softness, such a delicious dull gray light but tinged so slightly, so coyly with yellow streaks of the receding sun, cloudy all over, and dull as ever, and I remember becoming younger, dying slowly, forgetting yesterday and for the moment not realising that it exists, that I exist, for it didn’t matter and I knew this all along.

A wonderful response to anyone interested in what I’m doing, those delightful uncles and aunties who enjoy taking two steps out of habit into the personal spaces of the young adult, just out of humour, to lighten their otherwise dull afternoon, maybe their tea had less sugar in it, or their housemaid didn’t show up that day, leaving the living room more dusty than usual, something we all middle class buffoons despise in the hot month of April, so yes, that response, to the idiots of our lives, the eternally inquisitive, but really they aren’t all that curious, they just don’t know what to do, what to say, who to be, and so in moments of sudden drama, when their awkward lives intersect with the another, in this case, mine, the rush of it all, the last lonely cry of the setting sun, everything abandoned, they turn with a hidden feeling of gratitude to a set of habits, dispositions, opening statements to incite conversation and extinguish the silence that tends to widen the gap between themselves and the other, well me, and they ask certain questions with such a flare, with such panache, such tidy loveliness, really marvellous to witness, such questions that invade and plunder quietly, that accost with firm grip on the soul, that really startle you, I mean me, and make you scared, small, fearful of your position in the world, the world which is theirs and theirs only, to which you are a stranger, and even when you are permitted admittance, you know not it’s strange ways and falter forever at each step. So, in response to their questions, I shall say “Sorry, but I would prefer to not talk about this.”

I like looking good in clothes so I’m going to start exercising. The parrots are crying, we, yes we and not I, haven’t refilled the bird food container with seeds, but I have headphones on now and my red shoes, which means I’m ready to start skipping with good old fashioned focus and wilfulness while Regina Spector sings Hero.

I have finished exercising. Met Ashwini uncle. I totally forgot our previous conversation. It was wonderful. I remember listening to him narrate certain events in his life, chart out a sort of biography, from the onset of adulthood into and out of careers, the things he learnt, principles that stayed with him. It’s 7 o clock now. The sun has set. My tea is mild with mint and it’s warm, but no warmer than other days. There is still light outside and the leaves, green in the afternoon, outside my window, have turned to a darker shade, softer in the light, dull itself, trying to match the even softer spaces of the sky, now fading in brightness but still light and calm. There is a slight breeze running through the leaves, making them quiver, like the aspens in Shalott. I never saw an aspen. Maybe I did, but I wouldn’t recognise one. My cup of tea is now cooling down, along with my body, tired as it is from the exercise. A bath awaits me. Not a bath, but a shower. Then the rest of the night. The night I sought to spend searching for happiness and content, for finding something good, maybe something worthwhile all this time I have spent, but to no use are my expectations, for they too will soon recede into the background, cooling down softly like the evening and the trees and my cup of tea. It’s even darker outside now, but the sun still stands proudly, far away. I think back to myself. I look at my fear, I look at who I am, who I think I am, touching and poking myself with thoughts that criticise the folds and mountains that drape the country of who I am. I lift the cup of tea with my right hand to my mouth, my lips touch the smooth ceramic of the cup, warm and cool at once- I’m called to the living room. Mama is at my room door asking me what brand of tea did I serve Ashwini uncle, for he found the mint flavour happily refreshing. I say at once it was the Moroccan Mint flavour, and we rush to the kitchen, fling open the cabinets and remove the green blue paper box containing the last two sachets of this soul-refreshing tea and hand it over to our dear guest before the moment had decided to end.

After a while I find myself brewing another cup of tea for Ashwini, as he now wishes me to address him by, and drop the superfluous title of uncle that finds it birthplace in Indian tradition, I guess, I’m probably wrong, but it has something to do with etiquette passed down from parent to child, the rules of a community, instant trust, a sign of good upbringing, whatever, I don’t really care about it. Now I’m sitting comfortably in a checkered sofa chair in the living room while my parents and Ashwini discuss bank details, my father’s salary, investments, credit cards and all the blueberries of that far flung space adults are forced to pick in the heat of May when they find themselves desperately asking questions they already know the answers to. My dad, who is wearing a gorgeous light pink polo shirt over a pair of faded denim shorts, suddenly turned toward the living room sofa, perhaps addressing me, or maybe the general crowd of the room, and asked with a confident tone that resembled a young schoolboy inquisitive to find out the subject dominating the lively conversation of the group of students adjacent to where he is situated in the classroom, and asked loudly but not without a little nervous blush, when was the IPL supposed to commence.

Pasta for dinner. I forgot the water boiling away gladly in the corner of my kitchen. I’m tired of this exercise. I want to do something fun. It’s almost 8. I drew a tree today. It’s quite a wonderful way to waste the long midday hours that climb up the walls of old churches and settle beneath shelves of larders and pantries. In the driver’s seat of my car, well not my car but my parent’s, I sat waiting for Mikhail, and to pass the time I sketched the tree in front of me, beside the narrow road, touching the margin of the pavement, not quite here nor there, in the middle of things, just like me, with leaves plentiful, green as ever, falling over the road and into the compound of the building in front of it. So many lovely leaves, small tiny leaves, laughing and fluttering in the early afternoon breeze, I could forget myself looking long into its many openings, its many stems and branches, just leaves and leaves. I wrote a poem about a parrot and leaves once. I called it a rainy afternoon. I wrote it last year in the monsoon, before university began, right here as I sat in the same checkered sofa chair, when the rain gushed outside the window, and all the air and sky and the tall evergreens of the garden were washed in such sweet softness, such a delicious dull grey light but tinged so slightly, so coyly with yellow streaks of the receding sun, cloudy all over, and dull as ever, and I remember becoming younger, dying slowly, forgetting yesterday and for the moment not realising that it exists, that I exist, for it didn’t matter and I knew this all along.


By Yaschen Dlima





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