She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf…
Silk scarves were more of an obsession for her, than a hobby. Ever since she had come to the new city, she had gotten into the habit of carrying a scarf when she travelled in the local trains. Her long hair was something she cared for and protected well. Away from home, she lived alone in Mumbai, that’s how she preferred to stay. Friendly, warm and welcoming, she had friends coming over to her place pretty often for house parties and weekend sleepovers. But she’d love to stay by herself on most days; it helped her grow, she’d often say. Only the other day was her 27th birthday, the first one away from family and friends back in her hometown. Nevertheless, it had been a fun day, with new friends, cakes from new patisseries and novel gifts on turning old!
It had been quite a year living in the metro, experiencing enriching encounters every day, on the footpaths, local trains, on stations. She was living a dual life, she felt sometimes; one that longed for home and one that had locked her heart in the city’s locker. Love wasn’t her forte, never had been. She’d often describe herself as emotionally challenged and commitment-phobic. Rightly so, since she junk dated random men whom she’d get introduced to at parties, at music events, at book readings and even during her morning jog. She’d meet different men every weekend over a coffee or a beer, share experiences, get to know each other for no reason but knowing and end up with more opinions and observations to cloud her mind. Working as a marketing executive in a multinational company, she earned pretty well and saved up a major portion of her earnings. “I’m saving up for a rainy day”, she’d say when her friends would plan going shopping every weekend, and would fret over her not joining them. She’d rather happily go out on random dates on weekends or a photography walk once in a while.
“Sagarika! Hey, here. Here!” A tall, lanky man walked towards her one afternoon, while she was busy roaming the streets looking for accessories for her home. She loved to decorate her house, and loved buying inexpensive, beautiful little additions to her pretty home. He walked with a sluggish gait, relaxed, very unlike her and something she liked in men.
“Hey, how are you Sameer? Long time!” She said as she hugged him, and they stood holding hands.
“You look great, you know! On some special diet and regime?” He nudged her, and she cockily replied with a wink, “Haven’t I always been this way?” They browsed through the artifacts on exhibit and she lingered for a longer while on a set of collectible knives, her fingers caressing the sharp edges as if they were smooth silk!
“Let me gift you these, please!” He said in a way too charming to deny. She happily agreed.
Days turned to months and months to a year. It already had been more than a year in the new city which was no longer new to her. Life had metamorphosized, from new to different, not old. It was just a different novelty, a slightly known one. She sat in office, resisting the urge to touch her own face. Her phone beeped; she jerked to see what it was, and saw a memo flashing “Don’t scratch face.”
“A strong coffee please, no sugar,” she ordered over phone. Coffee had reached her desk, brewing hot, in five minutes. She thanked the canteen guy with a tip. She was generous with tips since her last salary hike. But life was moving a downward spiral, spiraling her into depression. It was 3 in the afternoon and she popped a few pills in with a gulp of water.
“We have a meeting in ten minutes Sagarika. The client will be here any moment. Tell me you are ready please, because I’m freaking out!” Her boss was in his usual antics. Sagarika calmed him down with “It’s all going to be great Nikhil! I have everything in place. So go have a beer or something!” The antidepressant pills were doing their magic. She made a quick visit to the washroom to dab on some concealer on the exposed marks on her otherwise beautifully fair skin. “I won’t destroy it again, I promise,” she said with a hand on her heart.
“Just let me die!” she shrieked and woke up with a start.
“What happened sweetheart? Are you ok?” He asked, his hand caressing her bare back.
She just had the most splendid and also the most startling dream ever. Underwater, tied to the sea plants and a rock, she was ablaze. With white drapes swimming with her in the sea blue waters, she was in flames and dancing. It was a bright mix of blue, red, yellow and white deep down inside water, and she was burning to ash. A hand suddenly tugged at her legs, trying to free her from the fire. “Just let me die!” She shouted, now as she was awake and while in her dream too, wanting to die a beautiful death, but wanting to die for sure.
Striking off things from her ‘To do list’ on her mobile, she picked a nail cutter lying on the floor to cut her nails. She sat at the window and went on to peel some skin off the meandering area, after the nails were done. It bled. She let it, she stayed there watching it bleed some more till a phone call startled her. It was her mother calling. She picked up.
“Mamma, how are you? I was missing you terribly today.” Absorbed in chatting with her mom for the next one hour, this Saturday was a tad bit better than her usual. She never realized as to when she became someone who’d sit back after self-inflicted pain took over. She regretted becoming this, but then she regretted many things and she knew a few of them were definitely irreversible.
The bell rang. She got up to see who it was at the door, since she wasn’t expecting anyone. She peered through the pinhole and saw a known face, but was unable to locate it. She opened the door. The girl standing outside hugged her. “Sagi, don’t you recognize me? I’m Smita, your old roommate, although not so old! I got your new address from our old landlady!” She joked and patted Sagarika on the back.
“Why is it so dark inside? Are you into black magic now? Sorry, bad joke!” She got inside and switched the lights on. “Now, it is more civil and human isn’t it? Why do you stay like a vampire, in the dark and curtains drawn and all?”
Smita was her roommate when she was new to Mumbai and lived as a paying guest. Sagarika hadn’t liked the intrusion and was in two minds about what was happening. “Smita, actually I had other plans tonight. I could make you a coffee or something, and we can leave together. Is that ok?” She asked softly. She had been resisting too many interactions since the last one month. She was irritable, the days were intolerable and the nights ruthless. Consistent bad dreams had worsened bedtime for her and she’d stay up all night just to let the hours pass. The pockets of stillness in her life had grown to become trenches of despair.
Every waking moment was painful, even when with friends and family. The clouds of depression always showered over her, leaving her dripping wet in tears. Her morning jogs had become critical to her happiness as she would try to over-compensate through them. The jogs made her feel lighter. She’d cry sometimes during the jog, or even after. It was a release for all that had been held inside for too long. She wanted no one to open up to, that was one of the biggest problems she had. In the last few months, her family, friends, Sameer, all of them had repeatedly asked her if she was fine and wanted to talk about anything. Loved and celebrated that she was, she knew she had a million people to open up to if she wanted. But she wouldn’t, and she’d say she couldn’t.
It was her birthday and she had worn the brand new orange wrap dress that her mom and dad had sent for her the night before as a birthday gift. It had been the only tradition she followed from childhood- wearing something new and untouched on the birthday. She had turned 29 and had everything going right for her; a loving and wonderful family who always supported her in all her endeavours, a job where she was highly valued, a group of friends who’d cancel plans if she weren’t a part of them, a boyfriend (or so he thought) whom she wanted to commit to. Still something was amiss. She felt that her jigsaw puzzle seemed force-fixed. She was to meet a random date today, a special one on her birthday. She had been talking to this guy over social networking sites and he seemed to her just the right date for her birthday. A music-lover, and a guitarist in a popular band, yet easy to talk to and a free soul. The time was decided by her and the venue too. She absolutely loved Starbucks and their Java Chip Frappuccino! Even a Mango Frappuccino would be lovely, she thought, with a smile.
It was a beautiful day outside – bright sunshine, yet pleasing shade under those rare trees to be seen in the city. The town area was replete with such miracles! Getting ready for the wonderful day ahead, she looked in the mirror while lining her eyes with kajal, the only makeup item she used. Hanging on the wall opposite to her wardrobe, she saw the collectible knives gifted by Sameer. Her eyes converged into a point far away and yet focused on the wall. She hurriedly put one of those hung on the wall into her bag.
“Taxi!” She called out to the yellow and black wonders of the city. She got into the car and flung her bag next to her.
“Hey beautiful, I’ll be there in half an hour. Was at the studio, the album is going to be kickass! See you soon! Happy birthday, btw.” She smiled and put the mobile back into her bag, without replying to the message.
“Thank you bhaiyya, ye lijiye (Take this),” she said handing out a 50 rupee note to the driver. It was going to be more of a brunch, she realized, as she was getting inside the gate. She always loved the table at the window, overlooking the road. Sitting at the same one, she ordered for a Java Chip Frappuccino and went to the washroom.
It seemed empty, just like a not-so-crowded Starbucks that day. “Not too deep, not too superficial either”, she was talking to herself, with the knife in her hand. She closed her eyes and lifted her dress up. “Somewhere it won’t be seen, but I need to learn a lesson from this.” With that she let the knife meet her skin in a cut. It bled for a while, she dabbed tissue on it, tears streaming down her eyes. Looking into the mirror, she said, “Don’t ever think of giving up on life. You have so much and so many people to live for!”
The bleeding had stopped and so had her tears. She tidied her face and got out of the washroom, the knife held covered with her blue silk scarf. He hadn’t arrived yet, but the Frappuccino had. She hurried excitedly to her table, keeping the knife hidden under her scarf, she sucked in a mouthful of the drink and greased the side of her lower lip a little. “Life is capricious, but never give up.” She loved writing on tissue papers with her Pierre Cardin pen.