THE LAND OF MISTS: A NOVEL
Bharathi reached into the bag she has shoved under the seat and retrieved the leather jacket. They were nearing Kodaikaanal. One of the few cold places in Tamil Nadu and being a thoroughbred Madurai person, it shocked her every time, in a pleasant way though. This time, there was an air of finality. The feeling that they were standing at the very precipice of life itself. College-life was finally behind them. That phase of their life was forever left behind with the dust, bustle and city-life of Chennai. In the sleepy little hamlet of Kodaikaanal, life dragged at a slower pace. One had time to savour the best, to desist the unfortunate, to get over misfortunes at a leisurely place. Kodaikaanal brought with it the promise of a beautiful end to a rather trying chapter. And she knew that she had probably had left behind her previous life for good. She had been engaged to Dr. Varun Kathirvelan and would probably marry him by the end of August just like her parents wanted her to. He was her distant relative and this is how marriage worked in their family. They always married within the caste; everything was proper, smooth and unruffled in their lives. Only Parvathy had had a rather tumultuous history but that was neither here nor there…
The bus was grinding through the mountain tracks at a snail-like pace. She felt suddenly nauseous and removed the headphones from her ears. Varsha was slumped against her in a dead sleep. Some song was playing, some familiar song. It seemed to evoke something in her, it was like a familiar voice calling her. That song, she knew about it… and she turned and caught his eyes. It was his ringtone. He picked it up and spoke into it with a thick accent or maybe it wasn’t so thick. Maybe her English was bad. She saw everyone had turned. He was quite a spectacle. A foreigner playing an old Tamil song. Everyone bore a look of amusement on their face but she was quite dumbstruck. How familiar he looked. How very familiar! And those crisp, grey eyes and the unrelenting brow and the thin, tight lips.
Could it be possible? She hoped not for she felt a searing ache pass through her heart as if an old wound had been opened again. He was obviously not enjoying the attention. His cold countenance grew livid and he turned away.
Varsha had woken up unnoticed. She stifled a laugh.
“Well, what does he expect? A Tamil guy playing that song would make himself a spectacle” she said in Tamil and laughed. And to Bharathi’s surprise, the man turned slowly and held their gaze before saying with a low, menacing drawl, “I expect you to mind your own business and keep your tasteless, bawdry opinions to yourself”. That silenced Varsha at once.
She whispered to Bharathi after a long time, “What did he say?”.
“English accent” Bharathi whispered back. “Couldn’t catch it, sounded angry though” and they laughed quietly.