‘Netflix Original Series – Episode 4’
I was binge watching yet another series with my flat mates in Mumbai.
10 years back, who would have thought that it would become so easy to stream your favourite series and watch it at ease?
My flat mate passed me a Budweiser pint and I struggled to open it with my teeth.
“Nahi hoga tujh se saale, opener use kar le. Table pe pada hai!” my roommate mocked me as he tapped the space bar to pause the series.
I gave in to his banter and got up to grab the opener.
The lights went out.
“What the…! Dude, is it just our place or the entire building?” He was utterly disappointed at being disconnected from internet.
“It’s the entire society,” I peeped outside the window to check.
“Shit! I haven’t even charged my phone.”
“Relax! This is Mumbai. It must be a temporary failure or something,” I assured him (and myself).
1 hour went by. My flat mates were getting increasingly worried about their phones’ batteries dying out. One guy informed his girlfriend in advance, in case it does.
“I’ll go, get some Maggie from downstairs. Also, I’ll check with the security guy what the matter is,” I let my flat mates know as soon as I decided. They simply nodded in agreement.
Carefully, I walked myself out of the house. It was pitch black outside except for an occasional flash of light breaking its dominance. I could hear someone talking downstairs. It was our security guard. I walked down the last few steps to find him informing few other residents that he had already called someone to fix the problem. The gathered crowd did the formality of sharing their expertise (?) on the matter.
“The guy will arrive soon”, the guard looked at me sideways and spoke.
I did not ask him a question and continued walking. He seemed pleased with it.
I stepped outside our building and started moving in the direction of the grocery store.
The view outside was not usual. Unlike most other towns in our country, Mumbai rarely faced any electricity issues. Today’s unexpected power outage had forced people out of their matchbox-sized houses. Few were seen using their smartphones’ torch function to walk just a few feet away. Headlights of the moving vehicles on the street were generously offering some of their light.
It was the mid of June and weather was quite pleasant. The cold breeze was reminiscent of monsoons gone by and it was quite soothing to stroll. Therefore, instead of buying Maggie, I decided to first take a walk for a while. I headed towards my favourite spot – the long pathway behind the last row of buildings, the one that was adjacent to the hill.
Those days, I used to often take long walks with my roommate every night after the dinner. It was a stress buster for both of us. We used to consider ourselves fortunate to be staying in one of the few societies in the town, that were still blessed with dense trees looking over the walking track. It almost seemed as if trees from both sides of the pathway held hands together and watched us from above.
I marched faster with the passing time as my eyes adjusted to the darkness. I could hear voices coming out of open windows that would normally be shut or be reflecting light from television screens. I walked further into the night and towards the narrow passage. I had always loved the soothing sound of water gushing down the crevices of the wall that failed to hide the small hill sitting behind.
Two green eyes shone brightly in the black night and a feline jumped into the bushes watching me move in its direction. Walking further, I reached a point where it was almost difficult to view anything ahead. But then, I knew the path well.
Few more footsteps and I heard some noise. Few voices were chatting somewhere close by. I was intrigued and paced towards that place robotically. The voices grew familiar as I inched closer and the visibility enhanced drastically. It was almost as if the dust had settled down after a quick sand storm.
I could see the rough path leading to a house and a porch. My eyes widened looking at the sight. There was a veranda outside the house where few people, rather a family sat close together. They surrounded what seemed like a lantern. Their faces were lit up with the yellow light emitted by the lantern and a candle. Yes, there was a candle too. It was picturesque, like a postcard.
I felt warm just by looking at the view and watching them from distance.
It was us. Gathering around the candle on the evenings when electricity would decide to take a leave. It was me running around and being asked not to wander too far into the darkness alone. I watched the little kid looking back at me from far. He had joy written all over his face. Pure joy, unscathed of any worldly matters. He looked at me and nodded his head before responding to his mother’s call. She seemed to have brought a tray laden with tea cups for everyone. She placed it next to the candle and gently scolded a kitten not to come close to it. The kitten straightened up its tail and rubbed itself against her foot. Daadi on the other side, seemed too busy trying to adjust the flame of the lantern and my sister sitting next to her – wondering if she would ever learn to use it when she grows up. The father, later, informed the family that power would not be back for another hour or two. The family seemed rather unfazed with the news and continued to enjoy the hot tea under the twilight.
I smiled at the innocence of that scene. It had gently pierced through the boundaries of my space and time. It felt like I had looked up from my phone screen after a long, long time. Standing there & watching them, I felt I was too far to cherish the moment while forgetting everything else in the world. And yet, I felt oddly close enough to sense the warmth as the younger-me fidgeted with the flame of the candle with his forefinger.
I think memories sometimes act like black holes, don’t they? They suck us in and all we can do on the way is to watch the kaleidoscope of moments stuck in their orbit.
I was shaken up by a tap on my shoulder.
“Dude! Where are you lost? Power is back.”
“What?” I turned around to see my roommate standing there with his eyebrows raised.
“Let’s go. We are hungry. And where’s the Maggie? You didn’t get it?” He looked at my empty hands.
Without saying anything to him, I looked back. But the house, the porch and the family – they all had disappeared. They were replaced by a pathway illuminated by the street lamp. Similar to how magician’s assistants quickly changed the background on the stage.
There only stood a tall hoarding at the gate displaying an ad by a network provider –
‘At lightning speed. Stay connected with the ones that matter’.