“Putha! Drink this!” Rani brought the Kola Kenda and handed it to her son Ranjan. She was wearing a printed housecoat with a mask and she shouted to him from the doorway because Ranjan, was unvaccinated and never wore masks. Rani was worried and angry with Ranjan but her motherly instinct still kicked in and she would still feed her 45 year old son a herbal drink to boost his immunity.
Ranjan believed that Covid was part of a new world order to take over people and the vaccine was a part of this conspiracy. Despite arguments from many friends, countless reasoning and scientific evidence thrown in his face, he refused to take the vaccine. He anyway spent most of his days locked in his studio playing his music – drums, guitar and flute. This was his refuge. He had become a recluse since his divorce 5 years ago. He had moved back to his parents’ place to save on rent. Inadvertently he slipped back into the very tentacles that had led him to find a woman who wanted to control his life to the extent where he could not live anymore. Like most men who are damaged emotionally and who refuse to acknowledge their own need for help, Ranjan regularly escaped into the world of drugs, sex and music. Those were his vices – he proudly boasted them to whoever came his way along with his theories of the new world order.
Menaka was someone who happened his way in an unusual manner. She was looking for an accompanist to play for a song she was composing with her church group. She wanted Ranjan to play the flute and guitar and he agreed. Menaka was younger than him and held her own though she came across as being rather reserved. The two struck up an unusual friendship which resulted in long chats on the phone and a few meetings in his studio while working on her music.
“You know I can’t stick to one woman. It’s not my thing” he would often say. To this Menaka, after remaining quiet a few times, said,
“Really? So you go looking for blow up dolls and hook up girls?”
“Ha ha, well. Not like that so. Just you know. I don’t believe in commitment”
Menaka did not respond. She quietly remembered that he had been married. “Another one of those” she thought wryly. Went the distance, got burned and the burn was still stinging. And therefore no one would be allowed again. She mentally shook her head.
“So you hate going out?”
“I did that men. Went clubbing, partying, got drunk, never slept. It’s not worth it men. It’s not a life I want back. I need to sleep aney.”
“Yea I know what you mean. Been there done that. Can’t party like that again” Menaka remembered her own 20s – weekend parties that made no impact, all nighters and now, a bloody glass of wine and she was out. Gone were those so called glory days.
“I just want to disappear from everyone and just make my music you know. I don’t know why we are even alive”
Menaka looked at him. They were in his dark studio housed on a side of his parents’ house. She could not see his face, it was covered by the shadow of his speaker. The only light was from his monitor glowing squiggly lines that were now stationary. She suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of sadness engulf the whole room. She wasn’t sure if he was serious. Either way she felt sorry for him. A sort of pity.
Ranjan got up and walked barefoot to the window in the outer area, lighting a joint as he did so. The window opened to an old blank wall that was the neighbour’s . It was covered in bits of dried moss and looked rather grey and desolate. Ranjan kept puffing as he looked outside.
“You know this is just my 7th for the day. So I have a few more to go. Do you want one?”
Menaka was staring at the wall and slowly shook her head as she got up and walked towards the door which was opposite the window. Her bag and slippers were on the floor by the door and she bent to pick them up.
“Ok, so I will go k? I have to get home – lots of stuff to do”. Menaka’s ‘stuff’ was an MBA in the pipeline, a call with her friends and a plan to perform the song they were composing.
“Let me know when you finish” Menaka said as she walked out and slid on her slippers.
Ranjan waved and saw her to the door and was just closing up when a voice rang out,
“Ranjan! Putha! Did you have the kola kenda?”
Ranjan shook his head and slowly walked back into his room. He did not respond. He sat down, put on his headphones and started playing a tune on his flute.