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Red

To all the strangers who have been the angels that I needed them to be

She was alternating between picking at her chili sauce noodles and fiddling with her grandmother’s ruby ring. Feeling so listless. Life seemed so aimless. She was tired of the same routine. It was wake up, get ready, go to work, come back, sleep and repeat. ‘Art classes or Dance lessons.Hmm’ she wondered. She tried calling an old girlfriend, Scarlet. No response as usual.

Giving up on her futile attempt to ‘shake up’ her life with Chinese food, she asked for the cheque. As she was settling her bill, she noticed a broad heavy set man. He had a thick beard while his head shone like polished marble floors. He seemed to have been observing her for a while. ‘How rude.’ she thought to herself. At that precise moment the man gave her a smile. ‘Pervert!’ she thought, decidedly appalled by the gesture. She hurriedly left the restaurant.

It was a clear night with stars lighting up the sky which had a tuscan hue. There was a slight nip in the air, she pulled her crimson coat closer. ‘Definitely not a night for my pretty dress.’she mumbled sadly wishing she had a date.

“Miss!”

She turned around and saw it was the same man from the restaurant and with the same creepy smile.
“Oh Dear! I shouldn’t have come to this lonely part of town so late. I am so stupid.” she reprimanded herself as she increased her pace to avoid the man. But the man’s longer limbs were closing in the gap between. He continued calling out still.

In her hurry, she turned into a lane and realised she had hit a dead end. She turned around and saw the man now walking towards. She had no escape.
‘Oh look at those big crazed eyes beneath those bushy eyebrows.’ she noticed, ‘And those crooked teeth!’
Feeling more and more desolate now she told herself, ‘Honey, you are done for. Look at those big paws, he is going to crush you.’ That’s when she noticed her red purse in his right paw(as she had called it).
“Miss that was some workout.” he said between pants. “Here you go.” he handed over her purse. Feeling embarrassed, she apologised for scooting off the way she did and thanked him for returning the purse.
He laughed heartily and said,”That’s alright. You remind me an awful lot like my kid sister. To be honest, she made me run quite a lot as well. Haha!”
She blushed.
“There must be some way for me to repay you for your kindness.” she implored.
“Yes! There is one way. Join my family and some friends for lunch this Sunday. Rossa, my wife makes amazing roast.”he answered.
She smiled.
They bid adieu. She reached home and when she happened to have a glance at the mirror, she made a mental note, ‘I like this red.’

Note: The author does not advice roaming around in lonely streets and befriending seemingly strange people.

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The Floating Mountains

It was not a good idea to wear shorts. The brambles and the prickly thicket did not care much for preteen fashion. We were climbing up a random hill in Renuka, Himachal Pradesh around ten years ago and thorns were making themselves comfortable with my skin. When we had left the guest house(the only one in that area at that time), I felt quite dapper in my navy blue t-shirt and khaki shorts. I felt like an explorer. Indiana Jones probably smiling under his Fedora. But then as we set out towards the trail that we were supposed to be taking, we noticed a village lad climbing up a path. We took this road less traveled.

Ten minutes into this expedition and the slippery sheath and prickly bushes made me lose the Indiana Jones in me and turn into Fredo Corleone from Godfather II. The trail was steep and difficult especially if you are often associated with a cow, pig or any such being not known to lithe. Soon we reached this young lad who had stopped at a clearing, turned out he was as young as the mountain. The life of a hillbilly can do wonders for your waist and skin (as long as you learn to avoid the thorns).

I kept whining as we moved further up against the recommendations of the not so young lad. The closest interpretation of what he said in Pahari would be, “You are too fat for this trail.” I didn’t even need this discouragement. The heat and the thorns had done their business.

We did reach the top but I felt that I had no energy to enjoy the view which was indeed amazing. So I sat there with a grumpy face. All I could think was about the way back. I took a deep breath as we started our climb down.

We came across a village school which had just been let out. A young school teacher came out and was leaving for home. He looked like he was in his 20’s. But looks can be deceiving in the hills. He was wearing a crisp white shirt with navy blue checks and ink blue trousers. His hair oiled and set to perfection. He had kind eyes and a kind smile to match underneath his thin neat mustache. These features are quite common in Himachal. He asked us if we were headed to the town and if so if he may join us.  We gladly obliged. I have a feeling my parents themselves had no clue of the way back.

I don’t remember how Mr. Prim Mustache ( what I decided to call him) made me feel absolutely at ease and extremely chatty. It seemed like a blink of an eye and we had reached at the foothills. I wasn’t tired. Instead I felt charged up. I saw my parents were still huffing and puffing their way down ( the first and only time I beat them in a trek). We parted ways with Mr. Prim and went to Renuka lake after which the town has been named. As I dipped my feet in the mystic waters of the lake, tens of fish came teeming to my feet. It was as if they were kissing a welcome to my feet.

Strangers are always advised against but this tiny hamlet was all about the Indian phrase – “Athithhi Devo Bhavva” ( Guests are God). From the village school teacher to the fish, Renuka is all about hospitality.
Renuka also made me ponder on negativity and positivism. Was there any? Is there a depletion of resources or just a transformation? Maybe it is not about yin and yang, but the void in between. Maybe utopia need not be created as it already exists shrouded by the yin and yang of our perception. There is no end to capabilities, it is merely veiled by the limits of our motivation. The veil may be made of iron or lace depending on the level of motivation, perseverance and dedication one has. The mystical connotation to luck boils down to the permutation of certain hard to measure parameters.

The villagers say that the hills of Renuka are actually floating on the lake and not encircling it. Maybe we should just keep the magic alive. Let the illusion find its reality.

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