I worked in Mumbai for a while – and I lived in a hotel suite for some months. It was a very interesting experience. I wrote this poem then, after a night out with a friend.
I shouldn’t have worn the red.
In retrospect, that’s what occurs to me first.
I should have gone with white.
Or perhaps the blue.
You spilled your drink on my red dress.
Oh yes, you apologised; raced around trying to fix it.
Suggested with a hint of hope that I go back to your place.
While you fix it, of course. That’s all you want to do.
I refuse. I do not mind a partially wet dress.
I’m going home soon anyway. Home to the hotel.
I look around.
That couple have been fighting; she can barely look at him.
His fists are balled up by his side; he looks spent.
That man is sitting alone, his face in shadow.
That woman has had enough to drink three hours ago.
She has been crying and still she continues to drink.
That boy is under age and should not be here.
Tia sees me looking.
Tia shouldn’t have cut her hair so short.
It does not really suit her.
She asks me if I want to drink.
I shake my head. I do not drink.
Not now. Not with Metformin.
Not even a comforting glass of wine.
I am not allowed. I can be disciplined.
The room is slightly green; muted.
Silver and crystal.
The jazz quartet finish playing their final song.
We applaud them. They were good. Very good.
The man who spilled his drink on me is quite cute.
I look at him out of the corner of my eye as he leaves.
Tia laughs. You should have taken him up on that, she says.
I remind her of my boyfriend. She laughs again.
Perhaps she isn’t very scrupulous.
Perhaps she is. This morning, in this place. Who cares?
She reaches over and touches my face lightly.
Come on, she says. Back to my place. Let’s leave.
The sobbing woman has been refused a drink. ‘Madam.’
‘It is time for you to leave. We’ll call you a taxi.’
‘Damn your taxi’, she screams. It is embarrassing to watch her.
Later when she wakes up, if she remembers, she will regret it.
Perhaps. I often make the mistake of thinking everyone thinks like I do.
Only I think like I do and that is as it should be.
The angry couple leave side by side but a world apart.
The boy looks up at me and looks away. Barely sixteen or seventeen.
I wonder why he is here and why nobody has missed him yet.
He should be home. It is a school night.
I wonder what I look like to a casual observer.
Perhaps I look like someone with a story to tell.
We all have stories to tell.
I leave with Tia. We go back to her place.
A. Vardaraj — All Rights Reserved