Surprisingly, on that very morning, fresh sunlight was indeed pouring through the main avenue. A pattern of lights and shadows stretched the silhouette of the street and that of its varied occupants. From the passers-by to the light poles and the moody parked cars and proud fire hydrants, everything and everyone was basking in the brisk air. The minutiae of city life showed up in vividness: pigeons went so far as to delay their next flap to admire the view, trash cans were left aghast while peeking from their dark corners, and tree branches went limp with a sigh of painful covetousness. It was one of those days.
For a few brief moments that morning, the world was set afire by a sense of wonder. Not a soul dared break the spell. It is said that even the trove of delivery men busying themselves to and fro were tiptoeing from one elusive door to the next, scratching their head in perfect unison each time they wove across the road. Light bounced, taunting the shop windows whose glare cross-fired in random directions. Sunshine highlighted the texture of the sidewalk in all its glorious granularity. The unevenness of the concrete laid down just the previous spring was now apparent. It was a moving sight to suddenly realize that all year long you were trampling and shuffling over a piece of man-made ground. Curiously, a few feet from the first step leading to the square’s gate, you could decipher in the very pavement the imprint of a boot and the congealed movement of the wooden float used by the worker in-charge of smoothing out this particular section of the sidewalk.
The whole business was just like making tandoori roti.
Pooja tipped the soft folds of velvet out of her shallow bowl on to a flat surface that she’d prepared earlier. Then, squatting down to get up close to her task, she briskly shaped them into a mound. Once that was done, she inhaled purposefully, plunged her fingers deep into the still-warm mulch and began to knead. She’d been at this since she was eight, relieving her mother of one small daily duty, and allowing her to concentrate on other work in the kitchen. Her practised fingers were deft and she had flexibility in the wrists as she worked her ingredients to and fro. The dough was a little slack this morning so she fed in a little more fibre. She worked the mixture steadily until it developed some plasticity and she could roll it into balls between her palms.
I ended up speaking to the landlady of the local pub, whose boundary touched that of Gosling Place.
That’s not his name, she told me.
I couldn’t see why she was bothering to open the place, it was so quiet. She said, I don’t know why I bother to open up. It was a mid-week lunchtime and there was nobody else in, so she had plenty of time to tell me everything.
It used to be Gosling’s farm, she said. That’s where the name comes from. Stanford bought it when the old man died. He got it for a song, at an auction. Nobody else wanted to have anything to do with the place.
Gosling had pulled off some deal to sell all his beef to the Chinese, and when that went sour after Brexit, it didn’t go well for him. People started hanging stuff on his gate.
They walk hand-in-hand from the station, under the glass-and-iron canopy of the shops. This is Buxton, England. The century is fifty-seven years old. Not till they turn into a steep narrow lane does she reply.
‘She reminds me of when I was happy.’
‘You aren’t happy now?’
The crowding buildings of finely chiselled stone echo their steps. His anxious tone disturbs her. Does he think it’s him?
Srinagar, the small city had always mourned in winters. When the world was still enjoying the sun, people in this city continued to be snow covered in woolen fuchsia coats, fur mufflers, and gloves of warmly knit designs. A lifestyle that was yet to be explored by a lot of different tourists and many a times by its own people. It was magical, conceived from white snow, and political conspiracies.
Elif wondered at her favorite window in her house in South Kashmir watching the icicles hanging from the rooftop. She thought of her childhood, when her mother would caress her to sleep, saving young Elif from chilblains.