Cubbon Road

“You better bet your life,
Or love…
Love will cut you like a knife”
                                        – Pete Townshend

Cubbon road. That’s what it’s called, the long stretch of asphalt that was so much more than it looked. There is a small fork in the middle, and instead of originating from a sharp point, the fork originates instead from a small wall – a crossover between a ‘V’ and a ‘U’, if you can imagine it. And on that wall, there is graffiti that either no one bothers to paint over, or no one can bring themselves to paint over.

In front of this mural stands a girl, contemplating. She is dressed in green, albeit a dreary shade — shoulder-length hair stubbornly parted. She blinks back tears, but it is just the chilly air of a December morning in Bangalore. She would remember having wished it wasn’t, but the coffee brown eyes (that had so very often had to be differentiated from hazel ones–god, hazel eyes were pretentious) save their tears for only the truly special occasions.

She laughs at the silly thought of her eyes being a radar of sorts, instructing her mind to not foolishly dwell over what they didn’t consider tear-worthy. She fidgets a little, feeling goosebumps rise up her spine. This wasn’t right, she had weathered worse.

The previous night flashes through her mind, briefly. She remembers the bright, fluorescent lights of the city night. It would probably have been romantic if it were a starry night atop a skyscraper roof she had smuggled herself into, but life would have none of that–life, that was ever-so-thoughtful, dulling with mediocrity the greatest of sadness. No, sir, the only stars on display were the blinking lights of the disco ball that she so detested.

She had walked in with a clear sense of purpose, a plan of action: rejection would be avenged.

She tears her eyes away from the mural. A myriad of descriptions run through her mind: personifications, metaphors, similes, psychological breakings-down. She smiled to herself, and for the first time in her life, discarded the thoughts. Today, she was a new woman, and this piece–this piece deserved silent admiration. She resumes her trek towards the eatery–‘what a strange choice,’ she mutters to herself.

***

 Mavalli Tiffin Room. A weird name for a weird chain, but the dosas were supposed to be good.

But then, so was the taste of strange lips. And that had turned out to be a definite disappointment, hadn’t it?

‘Concentrate,’ she mutters to herself, again. Of course the boy hadn’t turned up. Insanity isn’t all that attractive in broad daylight. At that moment–perhaps one of the very few theatrically coincidental moments of her life–the Boy turns up. His eyes take her back to the previous night once again.

The plan had been simple, atomic even. If Bengaluru pub culture had existed in the days of Shakespeare, he would have written a play about ‘traditional girl with modern outlook’. Nothing turns Indian men on, more than a girl who looks like their dad could arrange a marriage with, but acts like she’d be open with live-in relationships. And therefore, wear-kurti-to-pub was bound to be a success.

“Hey, um, hello, I’d really like it if you snapped out of it,” says the Boy

She looks annoyed at being snapped out of her reverie. The Boy trudges on.

“What the hell kind of time and place for a date is this, anyway?”

That makes her smile.

A smile different from the smile that she had been flashing the Boy, the previous day, three shots of vodka down. Vodka had always affected her worse than anything else, and therefore, obviously, had been the drink of choice. Simple plan had been going perfectly–the Boy had even been incredibly perceptive (or was it her that had been incredibly obvious?) and had asked her if she was feeling uncomfortable and wanted to get out of there. She had lent him her arm, and he had walked towards the exit. He had asked her if she wanted to be dropped somewhere, and she had accepted.

Underground parking lots aren’t the greatest places to experience serendipity.

The waiter came and the waiter went, but words didn’t come. The Boy decided against chatter and focused instead on breakfast. MTR has this quaint custom of giving people a small stainless steel cup full of ghee along with their food. The idea made her giggle, again. The Boy now decides that he is very close to the threshold. Who the hell was this girl, and what was it about her eyes that had made him come up here on a Sunday morning?

Was it the fact that she had made the first move, grabbing him by the collar and bringing her face close to his?

Was it the fact that she had frozen after that, for nearly thirty seconds?

Was it the fact that pheromones could make vodka breath smell like The Greatest Feeling On Earth?

Was it the fact that she abruptly broke down and cried into his jacket?

She breaks the silence, finally.

“The place comes highly recommended by a friend of mine. Crazy Tamil bastard.”

The Boy smiles, but can’t keep the confusion out of his expression.

This reminds the girl of how she had decided that this particular guy, who had the exact same eyes as she, wasn’t worth being a mindless romp. She remembers how, when the tears stopped, she wore a devilish smile and decided that the Boy was worth putting through the Test. “9 AM,” she had whispered. “Tomorrow. Cubbon road. Look for an MTR on a side alley.”

Even though all of history kept screaming at her not to, she had a feeling that the Boy would turn up.

The waiter comes back. The boy orders filter coffee. She frowns. The boy beams, proclaiming it the greatest drink on Earth. Strike one.

“So,” she asks him. “How would you describe the colour of my eyes?”

“Hazel,” the Boy says, without hesitation. Strike two.

Well, what the hell. He deserved a million strikes anyway.

Arvind Badrinath

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