An Afternoon and I

It is a big room. Rather, a huge room. The store-room. Or, dryer as they say here. The ceiling is quite high, though not enough to drift your thoughts to any wonderland. And it is sloping on both sides. Not even a false, plain ceiling. I wonder why these people make all buildings with sloping roofs. None of the houses have a terrace. None that I have seen till now. Occasionally, rarely a house or two with a plain roof, but no terrace to climb upon the stairs and cherish the summer breeze or rain.
The building, just one large room has four collapsible shutters and two doors. The interiors are stuffed with a variety of smells that seem choking at first. Smell of grass, in its different stages of drying inside two monstrous ovens. Smell of onions, mostly fresh and some rotten, lying on the floor in boxes, unused, unsold, untested. But it is the intense, overwhelming very typical smell of grass which is dominant. And when the initial surge of these smells subside, a third one lurks from inside, the musty smell of a closed, less ventured room. Though it is not that less ventured, visited almost everyday by someone or the other, the smell still remains.

I seem to be the only person working here today. All on my own, in this ominous room. I arrange my stuff on a table near the machine I am supposed to work on. It stands beside one of the collapsible shutters. I have been instructed to keep the shutter open for ventilation. Having done that, I venture to take out samples from the oven. I have to switch off the temperature, open the door and enter inside. Hot air gushes into my face, I gather my sample bags and come out before it starts baking my skin. Starting my work I place one of the samples, all grass, dried, into the grinding machine, switch it on and sit on a chair, waiting for the sample to be ground nearly into powder.

I keep on repeating the same process for all the samples, there are a lot of them. It would take me the whole day to complete. Knowing this, I had brought a book with me to read on while I am waiting for the work to be done. I read the book for quite some time. But I hadn’t seem to notice till now that the weather outside has changed dramatically.
It was a typical summer noon earlier in the day with scorching blue sky and still more scorching wind. Now, the skies have turned dark grey and cool air is creeping under the shutters. My eyes wander outside and my mind wanders inside. It starts raining. Initially in drizzle, it intensifies within a few minutes with strong winds. I find myself transfixed staring outside at the fields while I am waiting for the sample. Lots of memories suddenly flood my mind. Some related to rain, others completely out of context. I’m not sure of this sudden outburst. It bewilders me. I stop working for a few moments, give myself some time to recuperate. But they won’t go away so easily.

I get reminded of certain rain-smeared days, particularly moments. I can vividly see them in front of my eyes. As if the horizon which I can see in front of me is subtly replaced by a different horizon. Of memories. Something overwhelms me. I don’t know what it is. It gives me shivers. I try to figure out the context behind all the scenes which I can see in the new horizon . But they make no sense. I can see myself in that imaginary screen, walking down my favourite street with the mobile phone stuck to my ear. I can hear the song that somebody sang to me and sang only for me over the phone. I can hear that vividly even after so much time, the same crisp voice. Husky, but crisp. This voice still gives me goosebumps, even in imagination. Something overwhelms me again. I still don’t know what it is. I shiver again. This time, I can feel something gradually spiraling up my being, like a snake coiling around. It feels so weird, I have never known this feeling before. What is it, for godssake? I pause to analyze, using all my strength. Meanwhile, too much water starts entering the floor through the open shutters. So I shut them down. The room is dark again, except for two fluorescent lights.
I gather myself, start working again. Still thinking about that queer feeling that had engulfed me. Suddenly I realize, that it is nothing but loneliness. I had never felt lonelier in my life. It had engulfed my entire sense of being. I shiver yet again. And try to escape from this place as soon as possible. Opening one of the doors, I see the outside. The rain has subsided a lot. I decide to go away from here.

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