10 a.m. sharp, I switched on my desktop to start work. I soon remembered something I needed from my laptop so I switched on my laptop as well, to make the transfer. Whilst the computers booted, I went into the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea. When I got back to my desk, my laptop had already spent 35 % of its battery. And that, right there, triggered a sweet stream of consciousness.
Six months ago, I was sitting at Departures, Delhi airport listening to Mikali’s Il Faut Du Temps Au Temps from the soundtrack of ‘A Good Year’ on repeat and trying to figure out a way to pass the time. Reluctantly, I switched on my laptop. I say ‘reluctantly’ because I knew the old, aging battery of my dear comfort computer wouldn’t last too long and ergo wouldn’t really help me pass the time. However, I still tried my luck and wrote a quick half-pager before the battery warning started blinking cantankerously.
Brilliant, my comfort computer had stayed with me for exactly 20 minutes. I put it back in my bag, folded my legs and began to look around. Within seconds, I found him!
He was sitting, hidden in one corner of the waiting lounge bent on some sort of gadget the size of an ipad but it couldn’t have been an ipad, could it? Were they in the market then? His hair fell on his face tenderly. He was dressed in shades of brown from head to toe – He was Ralf Hart!
Yes, ‘the’ Ralf Hart of ‘Eleven Minutes’ or ‘Onze Minutos’, Maria’s boyfriend and one of my favourite protagonists ever! The way he looked, he seemed to be the man, the artist who has just met Maria or is about to, as opposed to the boyfriend/husband in the end or beyond of the book.
And, no, I wasn’t attracted to him. That should have been my natural reaction but I wanted nothing to do with him. Yet, I was ensnared and unable to stop staring, albeit discreetly. And, he sat there unaffected by the viscosity of the airport, its acerbic friendliness; somehow shielded because after all – he was fictional, or was he?
A little later, he walked off into the crowds and I physically felt his charm being recanted. Soon, it was time to board.
As soon as I was comfortably set in my aisle seat, I saw him again and instantly my heart was in my mouth. I didn’t want him to sit close to me, not even, where I could see him. I wouldn’t have been able to relax or breathe easily through the 8-hour flight. And, I needed to.
As I hyperventilated obsequiously, he walked right past me and sat somewhere in the back and thankfully I was able to sleep through the flight.
As soon as we landed and I was off the plane, I saw him again; he was walking a little ahead of me. Groggy yet reverent, I tried to match his step. It felt like we were both walking in beat with Makali’s song. He was as surreal as he could possibly be, self-assured and as close to perfection … my mind was racing now trying to keep up with my heart that was saying that Maria was there at the exit, waiting to greet him, and if I just dextrously followed him I’d see her too. I was almost dizzy at the thought …
The next second a hand stopped me in my way.
‘Do you know where you are headed Madam?’ a man’s polite voice said.
I looked at him and said, ‘Yes’ confidently and curtly.
‘May I look at your ticket please’ he asked and I showed him.
‘That’ he said pointing in the direction of where Ralf was headed ‘is the exit. You should be heading back that way to connections. Your next flight departs from terminal 3.’
I looked at him stunned, and then looked back at Ralf’s fading figure. In my heart, I bid him and Maria farewell.
Just then, I remembered I needed a notepad from my room. Whilst looking for it, I found this notebook of mine. I haven’t opened it in a while. I wonder why! I use it or rather used it until 4 months ago, to scribble ideas with the intent of coming back to them, to draw inspiration or some such floozy thing. But I never really come back to it.
I opened the notebook to a page with little bits of paper that I had been drawing
and writing on whilst on a train journey from France to Italy.
“… from the train - fields of rubies, gold, emeralds, and topaz canopied by possessive, dramatic skies. Is it pathetic that I am analogising these beautiful artworks of nature with precious stones? Perhaps! Perhaps not – the intent isn’t to capitalize nature … it is to say that nature is equally precious, if not more.
Beautiful midget houses. I want a midget house. I see a unicorn. I must have done something right. Forts, rivers, lakes and cemeteries.
Pampelonne - Carmaux - Toulouse - Narbonne - Montpellier - Lyon - Geneva - Roma”
I think we had just reached Montpellier.
Somewhere near Geneva that night, amidst confused rail tickets, towns looking deserted at 8:30 p.m., taxi drivers who refused to drive one anywhere and upon much begging mercifully drove one to the train station whilst giving one a tour of lake Geneva etc., wonderfully helpful fellow passengers, and a ridiculous number of traffic signals; somewhere amidst all that I lost myself in a thirteen minute time warp and missed my train to Roma. So, in my notebook the next 8 – 10 pages are blank. I wonder if I left them blank hoping that I’d go back!