Karan was on his way to the Internet Café when he virtually bumped into Siva, who must have been on his way to see Karen. As their eyes met and they both excused themselves almost simultaneously, Karan could see that Siva was perplexed and quickly lowered his gaze, starting to walk away. He could see that Siva had stood his ground and didn’t want to look back for fear of being recognized when he felt a hand on his shoulder and heard the voice he loved so much call out ‘thambi’. He froze in his tracks while Siva faced him, looking hard at him, as if he couldn’t believe what he saw. The many people on the busy pavement passed them by, some of them annoyed at their path being hindered and others brushing by them in their hurry to get where they were going. The traffic seemed to move in slow-motion and Karan felt his ears buzzing as the flush spread through his body. They looked at each other as time congealed and nothing in his field of vision moved – like a scene from a movie he remembered from a long time past.
A week had gone by after that chance meeting and he had not seen Siva since then. His cousin, who heard what had happened, didn’t want to get involved. He’d heard rumours about Siva but never mentioned it to Karan, knowing how sensitive he was and how much he loved Siva. He was sad that Karan wasn’t interested in much of anything anymore – he had stopped going to the Internet Café and stayed in his room a lot. Karan hadn’t made himself up or cross-dressed recently and his mind wandered to places he never even dreamed existed. The only thing that he did a lot was listen to Bowie sing Changes – over and over and over again.
…. I still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test…
Changes, and also his other Bowie favourite, The Bewlay Brothers
….Now the dress is hung, the ticket pawned
The Factor Max that proved the fact
Is melted down
And woven on the edging of my pillow
Now my brother lays upon the rocks
He could be dead he could be not
He could be you
He’s Camelion, Comedian, Corinthian and Caricature…
His cousin was at home the afternoon they heard the blast that made the house reverberate, sending little flakes of plaster showering down like confetti over them. They weren’t sure what was going on, but knew immediately that there had to be destruction of major proportions not far from them. They summoned the courage to go outside and saw people running in all directions – another surrealistic scene he flashed on from another movie in his head – this time without sound. It was eerie to see the pandemonium happening in silent movie mode until, after what seemed likes ages, the screams and shouts and sirens and traffic sounds converged to overwhelm him. They walked slowly towards the carnage and saw the mangled remnants of some vehicles and bodies strewn around, with bits of flesh and pools of blood, severed limbs and well meaning people trying to help the injured. The probable target, he thought, was the army truck lying on its side, the ripped and jagged metal looking like some abstract sculpture, with uniformed bodies in unnatural positions scattered around it.
His cousin jerked him out of his daze and pulled him by the hand to head back to the house and he followed mechanically. He couldn’t come to terms with the devastation – even though he had seen it all in varying degrees ever since he could remember. Couldn’t he ever get away from it, he wondered. And as they pushed their way through the confused crowd, they heard a man shout out that there was a decapitated head that must be the suicide bomber’s.
Later that night his uncle returned home and after dinner they watched the news. The suicide bomb blast dominated the networks and he could see again the destruction caused by the blast as the camera panned over the scene, zooming in on the grisly details. The head, assumed to be the bomber’s, was lying some distance away from the center of the blast and as the camera zoomed in his heart pounded in his chest and he felt himself grow cold as he saw that beautiful face he loved so much.
And as he sat there with tears welling in his eyes and running down his face he felt a great sadness, but along with it, for some unknown reason, he felt an even greater sense of relief – as Bowie kept singing in his head…
I’m drawn between the light and dark
Where others see their targets
Should I kiss the viper’s fang
Or herald loud the death of Man
I’m sinking in the quicksand of my thought
And I ain’t got the power anymore
Don’t believe in yourself
Don’t deceive with belief
Knowledge comes with death’s release…