"Will you watch my stuff when I'm gone?"
"I sure will, don't you worry pal."
And then he led him to the execution chamber. That was when they had the electric chair, i think. I was curious what happened to the packet after the black man was dead. Did it reach his wife? What did he have in it? He must have made sketches, of people around him, of the jailer, the sentries, the other inmates, of his daughter, probably of his girlfriend too.
I watched the execution, despite being very scared about it. I have to watch a death happen. And suffer the nightmares for months after that. I always try to see how a knife slits the throat of a poor chicken, probably half dead by the time it is picked up, neck twisted. Done with elan, by practiced hands, unfeeling. I watch. I pretend I am not affected. I am macho, I ride a heavy motorbike, how can I be flustered watching someone die?
The morning when Dhananjoy was executed, I stayed up from 3.00 a.m. till about 5.30, thinking how long his body must have twitched after death, hanging from that rope. What is it with me? Is it the horror of the thought? The thought that the state can coldbloodedly decide to take one's life?
If it is the horror, why did I want to be a hangman? Where exactly am I?
I am on the highway. My money seems to be running out pretty fast, although I found free accommodation every night so far. Won't have any such luck as I get into Rajasthan. Jaisalmer? When did I watch Shonar Kella? Must have been more than twenty years now? Sometimes I forget how old I am . . . people like her make me forget how old I am.
She has a very beautiful smile. Maybe I could have met her in Bombay. Why didn't I? Someday I will tell her that I find her very beautiful. Will she feel good? Will she get pissed off? Nah, one thing I've known in these thirty years . . . pay a heartfelt compliment to someone, he/she is definitely gonna feel good. So I will tell her that I had a mild crush on her. Let me see how she takes it. Maybe tonight when I surf the Net?
What if we suddenly connect? What if she writes back and I feel this absurd urge to take a U turn and head back towards Bombay? One thing's for certain: I cannot afford hotel bills. I have my tent with me, which I can't pitch anywhere in Bombay.
Why am I thinking absurd things?
But you gottu be prepared for eventualities!
What eventualities? I am going to Jaisalmer. I have to see the sandstone fort, the golden fortress. Why am I thinking of going back to Bombay?
Who's this new "she"?
She is a mother of two.
So what, isn't it all about being able to connect?
Connect and what? I cannot afford to be in Bombay. Where will I put up?
Whenfrom have you started thinking about consequences? Why did you set off on this journey in the first place? What has happened to you?
Okay, so she hasn't even written, Ari. Don't you assume so much far ahead.
If I don't, I will cease to exist. I will cork my imagination and it will find outlets in other things. I could make a few sketches, for instance.
I kept riding at a steady pace of 80 kmph. Mentally converting it into miles per hour. For my American friends. Someday I want to drive a left-hand-driven vehicle. But I need manual transmission . . .