Chennai Summer by Natasha Gayari
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He told me that he had been feeling useless lately. It was the Chennai summer. No gyming and no pools. Only eating and sleeping throughout the day. And reading a bit, in the night, in a separate room in his parent’s house.

 

I have never visited his house nor seen a picture of his room. I was never interested in how it looked. But I always imagined it based on what his rented apartment in Bangalore had looked like. An old house in an old residential colony in Chennai. His room untidy, with books and newspapers stacked on a table, next to the computer. Clothes dumped on chairs and inside old wooden wardrobes. Dusty, worn out shoes underneath his double bed. His room was the last thing I was curious about. But I imagined it whenever I thought about him, which was often.

 

‘Do something to not feel useless.’ I wasn’t sure what I meant. I think I wanted to sound wise. I sunk back in my work chair and stared at the monitor, my own feeling of uselessness magnified now. He was at least waiting for his visa clearance to head to the US, for an MBA. I was writing drab articles for an online infrastructure magazine in a grey basement that was turned into an even greyer office with space for not more than eight people.

 

‘Like what? Suggest something.’ He wanted to keep the conversation going.

 

‘I don’t know. You have to find it on your own.’ I didn’t want to sound wise this time and so I added, ‘It must be really hot out there. The heat can make you feel like that.’

 

‘Maybe you should find out for yourself. And meet me.’

 

‘Maybe….’

 

I knew that I wouldn’t go to Chennai. I didn't have the heart to say that to him. But I have often imagined myself going to Chennai. Me, in a summer floral dress, with sandals matching. Taking the train. He, receiving me at the station, in t-shirt and bermuda shorts, smiling at me big and wide from far away in the crowd. Joy and excitement in his pace as he hurries towards me. Hugging me tight. Oblivious of curious passers by.

 

He would perhaps ask me which places in the city I would like to visit, if I would be interested in the touristy places, and suggest a few eating joints that he would say were a must visit. He would for sure take me to the public beaches thronged by city folks in the evening. We would walk on the shore hand in hand beside the enormous sunset.

 

I don’t think he would take me to his house or introduce me to his parents. We would perhaps stay in a hotel room somewhere in the city that he would pay for. A hotel near the beach would be so much fun, I would say. And then we would make love on white bedspreads in the neat, white room and talk throughout the night. We could even take a stroll along the gentle waves early in the morning, when it would still be dark, if we felt like it.

 

Or he might just surprise me by asking me if I would like to meet his parents. The way he surprised me just before he moved to Chennai, three months ago, by confessing that he was in love with me. And all the while I had been thinking that he was in it only for the sex, which was fine with me. We had some great times together for about a year until his IT business started making unmanageable losses.

 

Would his Tamil folks be nice to a pahari girl from Dehradun – a prospective daughter-in-law or just another friend of their beloved son?

 

I continued to stare at the monitor. ‘What’s the point?’ I told myself. He would be leaving the country in a couple of months. Why spend a whole weekend with someone I knew I wouldn’t be meeting anymore? Maybe after a few years if we found ourselves in the same city, but definitely not before.

 

‘Why should I go to Chennai?’ I picked up my phone and texted him.

 

‘Because I want to see you.’ It beeped instantly.

 

‘Give me a better reason.’

 

‘I don’t have any better reason than this. I love you and I want to see you.’

 

Things can be simple for people in love. It was pointless talking to him.

 

I typed ‘irctc train schedules Bangalore to Chennai.’ Not really to book a ticket. I wanted to experience how it would have felt, how things would have been, if I was indeed considering meeting him. I have set off on such trips before, years ago, I don’t remember exactly how many. Booked a plane ticket that had cost me half of my salary from my first job to meet a guy across the country. They don’t take up much space in my memory now. My heart was in a frenzy throughout the flight. The date of that journey had become my default password to many of my login ids, until I changed all of them a couple of years later.

 

I would have liked to tell him upfront that I wasn’t thinking of meeting him. I don’t think I was lying either when I said, ‘Let me see.’ Give me some time, let me consider. It’s not as if I was worried that he would be hurt. Far from it. He was the sort who valued honesty over any other quality. Three months back, in an emotionally awkward but vulnerable moment, he wasn’t disheartened when I had told him, ‘Love is so complicated, I don’t get it.’ I could easily close the issue at hand with a simple text message, and he would be all right, except maybe for a moment of sadness. But I wanted to linger, a bit more, in this state of considering, figuring and exploring things, feelings and imaginations that existed between the two extremes of the elation of love and the cold absence of it.

 

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Natasha Gayari studied economics and politics. She has written and edited content for organisations in different industries and sectors. She gave up her corporate job a few years ago to pursue her love for yoga and teaching. She is a community member of the Bangalore Writers Workshop. Her short stories have appeared in a variety of literary magazines.