There is a road in Koregaon Park that is not listed on tourist maps. Yet, it is a place a traveler would be besotted with. It is innocuous like a village path with simple, bucolic scenes. I call it a ‘road’ simply because it takes long to get home when I trundle on it. Actually, it is a lane that started small and never grew up. A Peter Pan strip.
Like a favorite jaunt, this road is many things to many people. It is cheery to kids who bubble out of little huts to play with rubber tyres and sticks. It is a chic soignée to polished cars that glide through wrought-iron gates with bottles of Dom Perignons stashed in the backseat. It is frothy to gangly teenagers who laugh over nothing in particular and share a smoke at the crossroads. It is vibrant to runners who sprint across it in the wet, morning mist. It is rugged to construction workers who sip chai amidst bricks and mortar and befriend stray dogs. It is languid and treacly for lazy weekenders who amble along peering into bushes or gazing at goats scampering about. It is salubrious for jaded office-goers who sometimes see prickly boughs of trees under pouffy clouds and promise to vacation in snowflakes and pines.
The remarkable aspect of this road is the way it transforms itself at night. It wipes away traces of diurnal dreams and cloaks itself with the night sky and its attendant mysteries. When you walk here at night, you usually walk alone. Your eyes get accustomed to the jagged gleam of sharp stones. You know to instinctively duck when you see bats around or step around uneven ridges of potholes. You get out of the way when the stray cyclist whizzes past. You dodge strange looking insects that crawl out of rocks. You smirk while the odd frog hops about.
Some days, you may stand outside a building and watch a party in swing. Mellow caramel light would flood out of cane slats and glasses would clink to cocktail conversations. There would be a moody switch of radio stations or CDs. Sometimes you’d see the host, or the scarlet belt of one of his guests. Sometimes, you’d see the slats pulled up. And you’d see a lot more.
The light is brighter, the conversations more noisy.
A man shifts from one person to another – putting ice in someone’s glass, sharing a quiet joke with another, humming a few bars to a third guest. Then another guest, in pretty lace, would probably ask for a refill. You’d see the banter between the two and wonder if they have been to the South of France. It is easy to imagine that they have. Her wrists look like they have swirled a long stem of a wine glass in a yacht. He looks like he may have jogged along the shores of St. Tropez.
Then suddenly, in the distance, you hear honking. Light from a car would move under trees in one fluid movement and the car is gone.
You look back at the window and the slats are down again.
Now, you must be on your way.
The night is cool and aloof. Silhouettes seem rounded and hazy, dream-like almost. Then you pass a hollow part of the lane that is subtle, eerie, haunting, wistful – like the novel ‘Rebecca’ where you know a person’s story, but not her name.
You turn and watch the little fleck of golden dapple in the distance. The dream in the night where the party is happening – crafted, elegant, unreal, the beginning of something incomplete – like the opening line of ‘Rebecca’: Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’