Forget the leftover change at the kirana store, run towards the auto, and run out of breath. You’re going to be a few minutes late to the next meeting and even though you’re sweating under your warm hair, you don’t sweat this stuff anymore. Your ears are flowing with the sound of the simulated ocean. It’s always late, always underwhelming, always promised, always can-we-not-do-this-again, always a little yellow at the edges, always the noise. You’re used to it now. Your whole being has morphed into a jelly bean and your weight doesn’t bother you anymore. It’s just there. There. Floating through the universe and sitting neatly on a planet alongside a Rembrandt painting. This is who you are now – a sapient being who shares a blue-(gray)-green planet with Baroque art and an evolved chimpanzee who keeps a small computer that induces anxiety in your barely-usable pocket. These two things exist side by side, hurtling through space at this very moment. You don’t worry that all pockets are equal but some pockets are more equal than others because you haven’t read Animal Farm.
When you arrive, you are late to the meeting, to the awkward virtual dinner date, to the revolución, to watch the sunset. Who are you kidding? When was the last time you saw the sun set? The mail sits untouched. You open it during the meeting. It is a message from a friend about her friend who died while giving birth to her second child. You go into the kitchen to check the date on the calendar, the year. How is this in the mail? How is there mail at all? The calendar has gathered far too much dust, but your therapist made you promise that every day you live in the present day. You live in the present day. The sorrow sparrow tugs inside your chest thinking of the woman’s first child. You prop up a small vessel to boil water, warm water always helps, like a hug from the inside. There is some talk in the meeting that sounds important. I don’t have the bandwidth, you say, but they can’t hear you. No one really can.
You want to be early to the meeting next morning, but can’t decide ‘coz who knows what will happen in 12 hours and 17 minutes? So, when you wake up a little early, you don’t touch the phone first thing in the morning, speed through your cardio, sing in the shower the exact two lines of a song you know and no more. Fry some eggs and chopped vegetables in a pan, cook them up real nice, throw in a multigrain toast on the side and for once, for the love-of-g-d eat it without taking a picture. Breakfast is supposed to look good, but it doesn’t have to be advertised to the whole of Akbar Nagar to see. This is a mistake, you think, this narrator. You want to switch it up. Find a nice narrator, for a change, someone who will say kind things to you and heal you from the inside. So, you re-name the narrator inside your head to Chukandar, and take a picture of your gorgeous looking breakfast in an act of protest. The new narrator is nice to you, holds the warm water a little further from your lips, leaves a thank-you note to a colleague, affirms you, and tells you that your worst fears won’t come true. It doesn’t know that for sure, but neither do you. The meeting is pushed to later. Your life is a royal rip-off of the show ‘Let’s Get Back at Sharma Uncle’ in which a group of millennials play horrifying pranks on a stock character called Sharma uncle to get back at his hypocrisy, misogyny, and casteist behaviour. It is hilarious. Except this is not tv. In real life you’re the Sharma uncle in every scenario. Every single one of them.
All said and done, you decide that this is okay for now. A small routine, no friends who call, the incessant chatter of a family around you, dark messages from time to time about loss, ravenous sex but only on screen, and then there is a looming loneliness, but you can always talk to Chukandar. You take evening walks around Lotus lake, the mosquitoes are rife but you have a great mosquito repellant cream and you don’t even make the old joke that you’re repellant by your own self. This is real progress, the decency to love yourself for your jelly bean body and anxious mind, all while dashing through space alongside exquisite art and you keep a small computer in your unequal pocket. This what happens when a great narrator takes the place of a bitter one. This life is a dawning dream, the water of the lake is still, and on odd days you and Chukandar see the silver fish shimmy around in there. You are happy for them.