We met at a house by the sea. Her golden hair just about covered her ears and her blue eyes reflected the sky. I was meeting her for an interview, not a personality interview but a theme-based one. The chat lasted longer than the subject demanded. As I got up to leave, she asked, “Will you meet me again?”
She sensed a query in my expression and said, “Maybe we could just catch up…”
“Sure,” I said, although I did not know why she’d want to. Her social circle included quite a few famous people. She mentioned them but casually. In those days there weren’t too many foreigners around in Mumbai, except for the tourists. Tia liked slumming it, as I was to discover. Of course, Tia is not her real name and is rather un-English. She called one day and I did feel that, although quite pampered among the elite, she felt disconnected from them. We arranged to meet outside Churchgate station; we later went to a South Indian restaurant, a small place. I still recall that when the tea was served, she put two sugar cubes in and seeing no spoon around she brought out a pencil and began stirring it.
I don’t know if we thought of ourselves as friends but we shared a lot without baring a lot. We skimmed the surface of wounds and warts. One day, she insisted I take her to an astrologer. We entered the room. For some reason, he looked at me and said, “You are a troubled soul, I want to see your palm.” I told him to first read her but I had to be present to translate. It was an uncomfortable situation. What if he said things that, whether true or not, she might not wish to reveal to me? She did not seem to mind and was quite impressed with his predictions.
He looked at me again, as though he was waiting for that. He told me about the year that had been bad. I nodded. The rest was more of a lecture about my soul. I said something about quenching thirst near empty wells.
On our way out, there were showers. We had no umbrella so we ran, our open sandals splashing the water in sprays over the tarmac.
Tia and I were like that – sprays. I don’t know when she left for home. I had no contact number even when I travelled to England.
A few days ago, I was thinking about her. I ran a search. Yes, she was there. The woman who stirred sugar in a tea cup with a pencil is connected to the British royal family; there was some kind of crest and a family tree. No address.
We weren’t about addresses, anyway. We met in places spontaneously decided upon. We ate simple food. Drank from chipped cups. And we did not leave footprints on water. We flowed away…we also flowed into new rivers from old seas.