The Vermillion Dust Storm


Update for 4 February 2010

It was like any other day at the Pilgrim town on the Ganges banks. The city was overflowing with pilgrims seeking salvation – from their sins, their daily life and at times life itself. Peter was a little late in joining his Mausiji, the aunty who sold vermillion to passing pilgrims. This morning, he had a dream that turned nightmarish and strangely, he did not want to disturb it and subconsciously let it play on in his head. It was gory – his friend, Jules was in his military fatigues and looked hurt. His hand was bleeding and the gash exposed more than just skin and flesh. Jules was asking for help and stretched out his hand – Peter tried to reach out, but just could not. This struggle was in the backdrop of a desert with explosions going off in the background, while missiles whizzed noisily overhead. Peter tried as much as he could, but just could not get close to Jules. The only thing he could decipher from this mayhem was that Jules was trying to say something to him – and Peter strained to read his lips – it looked like, “help me”. Peter was so distraught and helpless and just as he was about to leap forward and reach his friend, a rat-a-tat came blowing his friend into a lifeless doll that just flopped over still and all Peter could do was scream. That woke him up and he noticed that it was well past day break – he was on the charpoy, the traditional stringed cot that he used, sweating and panting like he had run a marathon. Peter quickly arose, and looked around the hut, Mausiji was not in sight. So he quickly dashed to the well outside, and after a quick shower, and change, he headed to the temple lane to join her. He was hurrying to get to his usual seat beside Mausiji, when his awkward steps and an unexpected intruder caught him off-balance. He tripped, kicking up a few mounds of red, maroon, magenta and ochre vermillion. From his position on the cobblestone roadside, all he could see was a red haze.

I am not sure what dreams visit our D Boyz’ sleep, because it is only this that can perhaps explain their strange behaviours. Last night they left D Street on a high note – with dreamy eyes of their silver screen goddess wearing a flowing green headscarf, Dupatta, while this morning they seemed to have encountered an ogre before getting in to work. So when they started – their grumpy fingers pushed the SENSEX down from a green start to a 50 point red zone. Thereafter, they continued to battle as though battling demons and keeping the SENSEX covered in different hues of the vermilion, like the one available in pilgrim towns along sacred rivers. And finally, when they could not get the terrible thoughts out of their heads – they just forced the SENSEX to fall down to the lowest possible place on D Street today – 271 points down to 16225.

Mausiji was perturbed by the accident in her street-store – and upset that it was not an outsider who had caused the damage; she could not ask her own to pay for the damages. All she could do was raise her fat arm and thrash Peter till he howled in pain. She uttered some expletives in her native Bhojpuri, and walked to a nearby kiosk to get a broom and some water. Peter offered to help, but the cross woman was in no mood to listen to his apologies. She just pushed him away and with a stern look, asked him to stay away for the day. Peter regretted the happenings of the day, but did not retaliate; he just got up, dusted off his now colourful kurta and hugged the “intruder”. He put his arm around his shoulder and said, “Let us have some Indian tea, dad!”

Cheers…..

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