The City and Me (2/2)

“The grass is so tall you cannot even see the city to the right. It’s just you, the rustling leaves, and the road ahead. “

Gif Source: Tumblr (Artist Sadly Unknown)

At the plateau, the landscape diverges into two paths: one paved, curving around the hill, dotted with electricity poles and power lines. The other is steep, still covered in grass and shrubs growing around football-sized rocks. The first time, we took the paved road. Because we didn’t know which way was the right way. Because other people were also taking the paved road.  I wonder if there had been no one on that first day, if we would have taken the other road instead? If we would have given in to this itch in ourselves to go find out what was at the other end of that road. I wonder, how many decisions we make in life simply because we see other people do the same. How much of us is truly our own selves? How much is mere imitation? Where do we end and where do others begin?

I’m a little bothered by it now, especially with how much I adore Frost. But today, today, we are taking the road less traveled by. It is winding and uneven, I’ve stumped my foot on a few rocks and my pants have caught on at least a dozen thorns.

But the wind on my face is worth all of the city. It’s so strong and crisp I would worry about taking flight. But why would I need to fly now?  It feels like the world is laid out before me this afternoon. The satellite dishes are gleaming white in the sun, the water on the rooftops is reflecting its light, creating the most enchanting illusion of honeyed depths.

In between deep silences, our oddly matched group ( A 12-year-old with bloodlust and a fascination for all things dark and creepy, a chatty, surprisingly well-rounded 14-year-old who might or might not be anaemic, a 20-year-old whose thoughts I cannot read, and well, me, cowardly yet curious me) is reminiscing about summers past. About how we would have barbecues at night in Grandma’s garden, how we would hide in the storage room under the stairs, and remember when we had parakeets? At this point, we have climbed up and then gone down. The grass is so tall you cannot even see the city to the right. It’s just you, the rustling leaves, and the road ahead.  Further down, the road narrows, and an eerie silence reigns. The conversation has changed to food and we are ranking the best and worst fried chicken we’ve ever had. It is agreed upon that KFC is not what it used to be.  The 20-year-old has eaten a piece of fried chicken 2 months ago that he can’t seem to forget about.

“If I try to remember really hard,” he says, “I can still taste that drumstick in my mouth sometimes.”

But no amount of fried chicken could distract you from the disturbing silence. Especially when the 12-year-old is raving about zombies, murder and this being the ideal place to hide a corpse. As though an omen, a warning, there is a decrepit, fallen tree blocking the narrowing path. As someone who has studied literature before, you would think I would pay heed to foreshadowing. But like fools, we march on. There are faraway sounds of roosters singing and lonely birdsong. Along the way, we see a huge tree covered in vine, greener than grass could ever be. There are attempts at an Instagram photo, all failed.

We walk and walk until the path gets too narrow and thankfully, thankfully, we decide to turn back.

forest
There was another path, but no way we were going there.

Now, we’re walking in line and even though we’re walking away, I’m still fearing an attack any minute now. So because I have watched exactly 3 horror movies in my life, I know what to do. I place myself in the middle. Got my back and front covered. Totally unrelated to this, is the fact that I am a Gryffindor.

The sun is setting as we return, and this time, there is an all-out photoshoot taking place. Gotta get that light, says the 14-year-old. It’s peaceful, with this orange glow cast over us. We’re dragging behind, lazy and sweaty, content.

By the time we get to the foot of the hill, the sun is no more than a thin band of light on the horizon, and we walk home in its dying breath.

sunset


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Note: This is Day 11 of my little NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge 🙂 You can find the previous part here .

The City and Me (1/2)

” It’s always good to see that the city is not almighty. To realise that far away enough, it can be reduced to a few thousand blocks laid out like Lego pieces, intermittent honking and some dog barks. The city is no end-all. And from up high, you have that odd sense of detachment, like you’re floating above everything else, watching over a million lives. “

 

Gif Source: Tumblr (Artist Sadly Unknown)

I climbed up a hill yesterday.

On my uphill run, I stopped a few times out of breath and looked at the city spilled out below. It looked smaller and smaller the higher up I went, and with each step that led me away from it, the pressures of life and worldly expectations grew quieter, until there finally reigned silence within me.

I could almost have been running away, I thought. With my drawstring backpack and world-weariness, I was all set to leave and not come back, like in those old-timey cartoons where they carry bags on sticks and walk down railways. It felt good to see the city become so insignificant, to see that there were holes in its inescapable net. Often, with city life, it’s a lot of the now. It is a way of life that is brimming with instant gratification, where you’re always looking for that little hit of dopamine, in the number of likes you get for a selfie or the puff of smoke you exhale on the balcony. But it’s also stress, and tightly-wound shoulders, this feeling of restlessness that pulls like a hook around your navel, and an always churning stomach. It’s always good to see that the city is not almighty. To realise that far away enough, it can be reduced to a few thousand blocks laid out like Lego pieces, intermittent honking and some dog barks. The city is no end-all. And from up high, you have that odd sense of detachment, like you’re floating above everything else, watching over a million lives.

From where I was, I could even see a couple football matches. Someone was working on their car. Two cats were lounging on a terrace. You really do feel detached, like a cloud roaming without need for a purpose. But oddly again, you feel the pull, the blurry realisation that your life is also intricately woven into this tapestry, that you are a drop in this ocean (yet, incongruously, you also are the ocean itself), a grey block in the concrete jungle.

So we played “Find the house” or “Which street is that?” or “Locate the park”. All the while I could not help but think of all the lives unraveling before us, hidden from sight but ever so real. One thing about my city that I could not help but be proud of is that it’s blooming green. There are trees everywhere. Even in the dead centre (which, ironically, is the most alive with people, but doubly ironic in that they are all essentially zombies) there is at least a dot of green. A nebulous canopy reaching out for the sun.

But I didn’t have time for shrubs and greenery when the skies were opening their arms to me, as if knowing of all the times I’d gazed longingly at them. As if I had reached home on that small hill, and it was welcoming me like a long-lost child. The ocean was glittering, the azure waters of the harbour deepening into a perilous Persian blue extending beyond the horizon. The ships, large and surreal, breathtaking in more ways than one,were billowing steam and smoke, looking like they had emerged from the 1940s or even earlier.

But as much as I loved gazing at the scenery and picking out the details, we had an adventure to tend to…

To be continued…


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Note: This is a late submission for Day 10 of my little NaNoWriMo challenge. The second part of this story will serve as Day 11! I was so exhausted yesterday I could not even lift my pen. But I did spend a few hours re-reading poems I really liked. So maybe it’s on me, too.