I went to Ansal plaza the day I moved to Delhi. I had a job interview the next morning and no appropriate shoes. The Shoppers Stop at the Plaza didn’t quite stock sensible black or brown shoes, what with sequins and flower-Austin-power dominating every kind of footwear. However, I managed to find one that wasn’t so bling. It made annoying clickety-click sounds and if the office was carpeted, the heel was likely to get stuck in the rug and make me trip. But it was either that or my four-inch platforms that I had worn for my reception or my sneakers that I had run in since two years. So, the clickety heels were bought.
At the counter, I seemed to be in the slowest line. One girl in the line was a Shoppers Stop ‘Citizen’ and she was trying to adjust some points or the other. The couple after her were also Shoppers Stop ‘citizens’ (whatever happened to ‘customers’?). They too wanted to redeem some points, use gift vouchers, be updated on how many points they had accumulated so far and ALSO wanted to pay the difference with their credit cards. The guy at the counter was overwhelmed with this list of conditions/ requests and suggested they approach the Help Desk. Of course, there was no-one there. And if this were not enough, as the bill was being whirred through the cash register, the guy wanted to know if they had a ‘fresh piece’ of the TAG Huer he was buying.
All this while, I stood behind, ready to pay hard cash for one pair of shoes.
As one can imagine, I had a lot of time to look around. After a few seconds of glazed eye survey, I saw a wicker basket heaped with candles. There were red votives, lime gel-candles, pink, peach, and saffron tea-lights, ivory long-stemmed flickers, mauve pillar candles, black dinner candles, psychedelic container-filled candles. There was so much choice. Enough to host a fairy party. But I especially liked a couple of candles that would suit our bedroom. They were white and honey colored with gold swirls reminiscent of the sweeps you find on Renaissance art. Perfect for some occasion in the future. I promptly bought them.
Next began the wait for the perfect occasion.
It came quickly enough on Valentine’s Day. We spent the better part of the evening at our wedding reception in Delhi, where neither of us really ate anything. When we finally reached home, I suggested we do something romantic. Since neither of us can think on empty stomachs, the most romantic idea at that moment was to go some place for grub. (‘Some place’ was Claridges, ‘grub’ was 6 monstrous chicken sandwiches.) Sated, we came home and entered our room. I again brought up the topic of doing something romantic. A thought we were already done with that, what with us sharing chips from the same plate. But I wanted more, so I brought out the candles.
Now, lighting those microscopic wicks posed quite a problem. I tried holding the candles upside down, sideways, slanting, etc. until I had used up every single match in the box. Husband, who until now, was making sad clucking noises, got out his lighter. It had never occurred to him to offer that to me in the first place. ‘You hate smoking’, he reasoned. I missed the point.
So, he flicked the lighter and with that little spurt of fire, tried to light the candles himself. Again, he played out the sequence of holding them upside down, sideways, slanting, slanting even more, slanting so much that he was positioned at an acute angle to the bed. But it was a no go.
I chaffed. Chaffing doesn’t go down too well with A, so he indignantly handed me the lighter. I couldn’t even get the blooming thing started…until I flicked it one last time in exasperation and threw it on the bed. And then, it got alight. The sheets didn’t catch fire but only because A had spilled some water on it. Or may be, the sheets were not genuine satin and I had been ripped off. Nothing shocking there.
Since A had now got the drift of what I meant by romantic, he pulled out two spindly wax sticks from somewhere. (Things that came free with a Monginis box of pastries or something.) We lit them, much against my keen sense of aesthete, and I told A that it looked as if we were ready to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to a two year old. A took note and leaned over the bed to switch off the lights; and knocked down the candles on the bed. Again, there could be two reasons why the sheets didn’t catch fire - my naiveté or the dampness. I’ll go with the latter for now.
Clearly, romance was not for us, what with us skirting the territory of arson every time we wanted soft shadows on the walls.
A suggested getting heart-shaped torch lights and keeping them in the corner for mood lighting. Silence on my part. Darkness soon after. We slept.
Several days later, there was something strange in the air, something special. Something in the wind reminded me of my childhood. Something in the ripples through grass reminded me of a frozen pond under icy stars. Something in the flurry of leaves on the road reminded me of the sea. Something in the shivering flowers reminded me of Bombay. There was something in the air; some kind of promise, some kind of hope….some kind of rain.
It rained that night. Dulcet, genteel, stylish, cloqued fuzzes of rain drops. Magenta and yellow dahlias seemed dusted with pearls and the little pathways in the colony were wet and gleaming. A and I went for a walk, sometimes throwing off the umbrella to get that gust of fresh, clear breeze in the lungs and hair and face and body. We meandered around brick-laid houses with colorful tumbles of flowers and leaves all over the façade. We stood in the diffused lamp light by wrought iron gates, looking at pale pink curtains fluttering the wind.
After a luxurious, heady gambol in the drizzle, we reached home. A told me to wait out while he arranged some thing in the room. Then he called me in.
It seemed like I had unknowingly stepped into some-one else’s dream. My honey and white candles were lit on the book-shelves, and A had somehow unearthed another pair of crimson lacquered candles from the drawer. These stood grandly in front of the oval mirror. All those waving flickers added something to the moxie of spontaneous candle-lights.
The liquidy shadows on the bed and the floor, the mellow luminescence on A’s face, the seamless glow in the folds of the curtains, studiedly parted to show the drizzle beyond.
The setting for a special day...when a walk in the rain is an occasion.