18th June 2010, 12.33 A.M.
“- he pretend to call a wrong number?”
It takes me a while to understand we are no longer connected. The call has ended, I see with dismay. I find myself fuming about having been cut off unceremoniously while talking with my new acquaintance. Or, no, my friend. Of course, if you are unable to talk with anyone else, the only person- or thing - you talk with is your friend, period.
This guy who owns me, I don’t know much about him. His features are too distorted in my vision to describe them. But now I see a difference in the patch of reddish-yellow that is his face. It’s more red than yellow now. I see a brownish strip - his lips - bounded by dark, opaque tufts - his moustache and beard, the latter covering a good half of his face. Twin sparks gleaming in the face are staring into the phone’s display. The brownish strip stretches itself obscenely into an upturned arc. It stays so for a few seconds before shrinking into a half-drawn grimace. As if some dirt has settled in his hair, he shakes it violently for a moment, then runs a gingerly hand over it.
Through ten hours of my life - by human standards that is - I have observed a bit of his life. I saw him first in broad daylight. He was sitting astride a motorcycle then, making light conversation with a group of men. They sat cross-legged in a circle on the floor of what looked like a half-finished grotto with a marquee jutting overhead. I could not see any immediate social neighbourhood around this decrepit thing. Far ahead, I saw vehicles passing by over what looked like a low bridge. In the opposite direction, equally too distant, stood modest buildings in sporadic patterns. This guy was wearing a pair of pants, and so did two other guys in the group, but the remaining two were wearing something odd, like a length of checkered cloth draped around their waist leaving their thighs exposed. In a few minutes, my owner parked his motorcycle and went into the grotto to perch upon one of the low walls that enclosed the structure. The others on the floor were handling some kind of cards, exchanging it with one another or picking it up from a small pile in the centre. It was only later I came to know it was a game, but I don’t know which. Coils of smoke rose into air from two of them.They spent hours like this, they playing and he looking on, all talking incessantly and guffawing occasionally like mad men. After some time, he took turns with a cloth-draped guy and settled himself down into the game. The cloth-draped guy passed on a stub of cigarette to him before taking his bike out for a ride. While the game went on, I saw all kinds of oddities poke up among them; a man here chewing open a tiny pack of something, then spreading that amorphous something out in his open left palm, rubbing it vigorously with his right thumb across the palm for some time before lodging it delicately between the lower row of his teeth and his lower lip; another one there opening a bottle to pour out some shimmering liquid into a glass and after mixing it up with another clear beverage drinking it slowly and then passing it around. They looked lively as if in their own sanctuary, cut off from the dreary outer world. He made a few calls meanwhile, the other SIM in action all the time. They were all male voices.
Have you ever sat beside wimps who babbled on relentlessly among one another in a language you did not even know is a language? How about adding in a number of interminable hours, along with no attempt at discretion from their part? If yes, you would appreciate the extent of hell I had to endure in my first hours of infancy. With my time frame being much faster than its human counterpart, the span stretched on agonisingly slow. At last, darkness fell. They moved on to a cheap hotel then. I watched them, bewildered, as each one of the guys gorged himself a surprisingly huge amount of food. Chatter continued as though there was no interruption. Supper was followed by aimless drifting around the streets of the town in two motorcycles, three asses stuffed in one. Chattering still on.
The clock in his mobile screen-saver showed eleven when he reached his home. I was not paying much attention to the building, but I can go so far as to say it is a decent one. A petite woman appeared in the doorway gesticulating wildly at him, her shrill tone piercing through the darkness. I surmised she was his mother. He quietly rode his motorcycle into the unobtrusive shed flanking their home and then went inside without giving so much as a glance at her side. I heard another male voice drifting in from an inner room where lights had just flicked on. It was a tired voice, and even though I could not understand what it meant, I sensed it had a tone of dismissal and abandon to it. His father, I remember thinking.
From that time until he made this last call a few minutes back, he had not been doing anything but lie on the bed gaping up at the ceiling. Now and then he picked up the phone, waded through his contacts to a name called ‘Figure’, looked intently at it. He debated whether to call or not, I guess. At last he made the call which has proved to be a short lived relief for me. By the end of our conversation, the other SIM told something about they talking over a wrong call. I wonder if I would ever hear from him again.
Now, his face looks blank. He is sitting statuesque, contemplating the screen saver with blithe indifference. Then he moves. His fingers press the buttons with determination. On the screen, I see a message quietly looming up: “I’m sorry.”
He rummages for the ‘Figure’ name again, and sends the message.
Lights go off. The lurid glow of his cell phone on his face turns up a mottled image to me as he lies supine, his phone poised over his face. Minutes trickle by. With time, I sense his anxiety beginning to ebb. It drains dry in another ten minutes. His eyes close and usher him into a deep slumber.