Rabia Kapoor is the daughter of Indian film actor, director Rajat Kapoor and his production designer wife, Meenal Agarwal. She is an avid reader, primarily because till date the family has never owned a television.
Parties were not her thing. She would sit in the corner, or she would stand in a corner, or she would sit on the stairs, in the corner of the room. She’d have her heels in one hand, and her head resting in the other, elbow resting on her knee, foot resting on a stair. Eyes flickering; on and off and on and off and on and off. This was when her mind broke out of its loose confines. Wandered to every face around her, tapped them gently on the shoulder, wondered if they fit the puzzle of her fantasy and then moved on to the next. Gradually the faces didn’t match their owners and they became completely fictional, suited to her satisfaction. One of the faces would turn to her, dusted in her creativity, it’s a boy’s face. Charming and tall and perhaps a year older than she is. He tilts his head to one side and watches her sitting in her corner, tapping her fingers on the tiles to the rhythm of a song playing in her head, blocking out the music that’s blaring through reality. She’s swaying gently, almost unaware of the heels she’s holding, she’s so used to them, they’re a part of her as long as she isn’t wearing them.
He’s walking towards her in the purple haze that is currently their makeshift sun and he’s stumbling because there’s a panic of feet and hands and spilling drinks before him. But he’s still smiling and she’s still watching him, from behind her curtain of hair, straight face but exploding butterflies in her tummy. Heart racing (racing whom? Time, perhaps. So she thinks, “Slow down, heart. The less you race, the more time you’ll have”, pounding, or maybe it’s just the bass that’s reverberating though her. The purple light is turning green and coming and going and coming and going. She’s blinking in time with the light’s magic trick without meaning to. The music in her head is getting louder as he comes closer and her breathing’s getting heavier as he comes closer and he’s coming closer and coming closer. But just as she looks up to see him right in front of her, to watch him slowly bend his knees and sit beside her, he loses his consistency and as the green light turns red and blinks away, she blinks with it and then she opens her eyes again and he’s gone.
Maybe she does feel a little sinking feeling, a little disappointment, but she knows this is how fantasies work; they begin and they end. It isn’t like real life, where you never really know where the hell you are, the beginning, the middle or the end. She feels like she’s in the eternal middle and she feels like maybe the middle of her story is going to be the end of it. She doesn’t really know how that works, but she’s too tired to figure it out. It’ll figure itself out.
This was another one of those uninspired parties with uninspired people who think they’re having a good time. She’s in an interesting corner this time, on the balcony. Naked bulb, orange light. Same song playing in her head. She’s leaning against the railing and she’s looking down a thousand stories. She can see the main road like a dark river, full of glowing red fish. Fish that honk, and have people who open their fins and walk out and fight with the people in other fish.
Her heels are in one hand, dangling fearfully above the long nothingness, her other hand is writing vague words that are floating through her mind on the dust that’s sleeping on the ledge.
Tonight she hasn’t eloped with her usualdaydreams. She’s standing at the end of memory lane. Her finger slides out the words so please run away.
She takes a step forward, then another, and one more. Her pace quickens and she starts to run down the road of her past. She’s barefoot and the ground is hot but it fuels her memories and they burn in vivid technicolour. Suddenly she isn’t running on hot cement, she’s running on hot sand. She can’t see too well; there are sticky circles of rainbows caught in her eyelashes and there are stars floating in the sea in the middle of the day that she’s running towards. She’s tripping and she’s laughing with her head thrown back. It isn’t a straight line she’s running in, but it’s an interesting pattern of footprints in the sand. “If you have to follow someone’s footsteps,” she shouts to the salty air, “follow these” and the cracks in her skin absorb the sea as the water reaches for her feet and she screams as the cold hits her and she keeps running and the water disappears and she’s back on the concrete road.
She slows down, she’s out of breath. The adrenaline rush is fading already. She doubles over and breathes heavily through her mouth, clutching her knees. She wipes the sweat off her forehead. She wipes her hand on her shirt. She looks at her shirt. It’s an old, worn out powder blue shirt. The one she used to steal from her father’s upboard and smile smugly at him when she wore it while he smiled back helplessly.
She was in front of an old building. She walked into the apartment on the ground floor. Bad light and a gray floor. The kitchen counter was strewn with steel utensils. There was a random metal cupboard in one of the rooms. There was a round dining table sitting in the middle of the living room with a sad, floral tablecloth thrown over it and a plastic sheet thrown over that.
A bowl of potato chips, a bottle of coca-cola, paper cups, little sandwiches, a pink cake with white icing that announced a birthday. Pink balloons tied to the corner of the room, or taped tackily to the wall watched pathetically as family and friends stood around the table and sang the birthday song.
Little girl in the middle, that stupid birthday hat on her head, a butter knife in her tiny hand, and a look of absolute terror on her face.
It warmed her heart, and she walked towards the little girl, “Don’t cry this time.” She told her sternly, “Smile and cut the damn cake. Don’t cry. And don’t cry harder when they laugh good-naturedly and all.”She reached out to hold the little hand that held the butter knife, but the little girl had already unleashed the horrified tears, turned and run to the kitchen, howling.
She sighed and hid her face in her hands, embarrassed. When she looked up again she was back outside. She put her hands in the pockets of her jeans and started walking again. She walked past a movie theatre, a peculiar one. Each screen was in a glass room and she could see each one from the street. The first one showed two girls, about four years old, staring helplessly at a broken thermometer on the floor as their mothers walked into the room. The second screen was playing a short scene of a boy and girl about seven years old running from four dogs who were approximately as big as they were.
The next screen showed a road lit orange and glimmering with rainwater. A girl roughly fourteen walked quietly on the divider. Shivering, soaking wet, but careful not to lose her balance.
The last screen, in front of which she stopped, showed a girl on a balcony, holding a pair of heels in one hand, glazed eyes, and a stranger standing behind her, leaning against the wall. His head tilted to one side, he was smiling. He was wondering why she always wore those heels if she hated wearing them so much. He wondered why she came at all if she hated coming to these parties so much. He wondered what she was thinking that made her look so lost. He wondered what she was wearing that made her smell so wonderful. He wondered if she was fading. He wondered if, when he blinked, she’d disappear again, like she did every time.