friday evenings in a deserted city

It’s Friday evening. And I’m in a city where weekend plans are a big deal.

I walk down the street from my apartment building with an empty bag on my back that will soon be filled with groceries.

It’s a bit chilly out, the air crisp and fresh. The streets are busy. The footpath, lined with restaurants and bars, is an obstacle course of people — people dressed up and not, in couples and groups, all seemingly on a night out. I dodge them, thankfully not having to do the awkward shuffle of passing through.

I reach the grocery store, pick up a basket and get ready to tackle the moving hurdles in the narrow aisles that are prone to stopping abruptly and just lingering. And soon, I’m checking out.

I walk out the store and instantly, everything seems different.

The people on the streets are now few and far between. The restaurants around look sparse — no, empty. I take my phone out of my pocket and look at the homescreen — still Friday, less than half an hour later.

It looks like it rained while I was shopping, the roads are slick. I wait alone for the walk sign to turn green, looking around at the quiet. The yellow of the McDonald’s across the street burns bright on the concrete paths.

I start my way back to my apartment, looking through all the glass windows and doors of the establishments — some have their lights on, the staff still there, others are dark and shuttered.

It’s Friday evening and the deserted streets are unnerving.

I soon find notices stuck to the doors —

— to protect our customers

— to protect our employees

— stay healthy

— see you again

— serve you again

— soon!

— temporarily closed

— reopen april 2020

— takeaway only

— open for takeaway!

— thank you for your understanding

The walk back is uphill, the bag of groceries weighing heavy on my shoulders.

A bouncer always stands outside that bar which is now closed off with a heavy black door. That disco place, the one that puts out a short red carpet for the line of patrons waiting to get in, the one with a light that projects dancing colourful dots just outside its door, is dark. That lane dedicated to just restaurants, the tables, patrons and food spilling outside all lively, is deserted.

I reach my building and climb up the stairs tired.

I open the door to my apartment, wash my hands right away.

Pull out my groceries one by one, wipe them down carefully before putting them away.

Spray disinfectant over my bag, my keys and the doorknobs I touched.

I pick up my laptop, sit on my bed, lean on the pillow placed against the wall, take up my blanket (it was chilly out), open my laptop, start typing and clicking and watching, and then just stay there until it’s time for the next grocery run.

i can’t help but romanticise the night

Alternative title: A Potterhead goes to watch the Cursed Child and the expected happens

I walk down the street,
it’s late
and I can’t help but romanticise the night
after walking out of the spell that was
the Cursed Child.

The night —
it’s not wrapped in a starry blanket 
but a stark blank canvas
onto which the buildings are painted,
the light from the windows are the stars in this city.

The Cursed Child’s music
floods through my earphones
and becomes the soundtrack to my steps.

I breathe in the cool air
as the music crescendos
and wonder why the hours long play 
felt not-quite-long-enough.

An echo
of the slight sadness I felt 
when the cast took their final bow
still lingers.

The play had
enveloped the whole theatre,
not missing one nook or cranny,
in its wake of evoking
a rainbow of emotions
and unfettered reactions.

And now its music
envelops the night around me
in its spectacle.

I went to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child live almost a year ago and it was one of the most — well — magical experiences. So here is a piece of prose with line breaks about that night.

(Unrelated: I don’t know if this classifies as “poetry” – which is a whole other debate – but I like the way the line breaks look and read so I’m kind of just going with it.)

Hope you’re staying safe!

Photograph: Saakshi Gupta

Almost

Everyone has flaws – some are magnanimous, defining the person, while others are minuscule, not visible to the untrained eye. It is the latter, with barely visible flaws who are perceived as ‘perfect’. And when even a tiny blotch appears on this pure veil of perfection, people feel deceived, not understanding, not knowing that a human can never be perfect. All one can ever be, if even that, is almost perfect.

Photo from here.

Local Train Buddies

I covered my mouth as a huge yawn escaped me, bringing tears to my eyes.

I was standing at a dimly lit station, waiting for the train to arrive. It was 6.40 in the morning, and the train should have been here ten minutes ago.

I checked my watch again and then looked in the direction from where the local train was supposed to arrive, as if my staring at that particular spot would make it pop out of thin air. My stare wasn’t all too powerful because of my occasionally drooping eyelids, which seemed to weigh a ton.

I was running late as is, already having missed the train I usually took. And as hard as I tried, I couldn’t bring myself to regret those few extra minutes of sleep.

Soon enough, a bright light could be seen approaching on the tracks. As it was still dark outside, the scene fit the idiom ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’ perfectly. But then the sound of a ridiculously loud horn cut through the relatively peaceful air, making me opine that a light-less tunnel was more preferable. I would have jumped in surprise from the noise had I not been half asleep on my feet. Instead, all it did was annoy me.

‘Morning person’ is not a description I strive towards.

As soon as the train slowed down enough on the tracks, people started boarding it. I’ve always boarded trains once they fully come to a halt, but have always wondered how people manage to get onto a still-moving, albeit slowly, train. I’ve never even tried it because I’m too clumsy and filled with a perpetual fear of falling.

Once I stepped onto the train and found myself a seat (lucky!), I settled in for a good half-hour shuteye. But a loud shriek, not much unlike the train’s horn, jerked me awake. I looked around for the offending source and came across a beaming face of a middle-aged woman. My face morphed into an expression of disbelief. Clad in a bright, bright orange and green salwar-kameez, the woman did not look like the shrieking kind.

Ms. Bright Orange was now talking (over) enthusiastically to another equally (over) enthusiastic woman. They were both now rapidly chatting. The other women on the train looked just as happy, all of them now gossiping with one another, their topics ranging from “where and how have you been?” to work to children.

Only the woman sitting across from me was not a part of this reunion; she was dead to the world, her head lolling to the side and her mouth wide open as soft snores left her.

And, even though, all that chattering prevented me from getting even a wink of sleep, I didn’t mind. I was fascinated by the fact that something as simple as traveling by the same train everyday had created this bond of friendship among the women.

Not more than ten minutes had passed when I heard singing. It was coming from the coach next to the one I was sitting in. A man’s voice was belting out an old Bollywood song, while other voices joined him occasionally. When the song came to a finish, there were several voices making demands of which song they wanted to hear next. Soon enough, one more song was being sung. This went on for the rest of the journey.

The train seemed alive. The chirpy voices of the women talking over each other, laughing at intervals over some joke or the other. The continual singing in the background. My sleep was now long forgotten, and I was left wondering if all the trains were like this.

I knew that the train which I usually took wasn’t so lively. Most of the people on that train either slept or stayed busy on their smartphones. My usual train was quiet.

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On the return journey, not only are the trains quiet, but empty too.

But this, this was different. New. And even though I wasn’t fond of chatter and noise, I found this environment appealing. Maybe I would get tired of it if I had to go through it everyday, but once in a while wasn’t so bad a notion.

I got off the train at my station, mind filled with a myriad of thoughts.


I had never thought that friendships could be formed just by traveling on the same train frequently. I had always assumed that forming bonds took a lot more effort than that, but one single train journey had proved that friendships didn’t need effort, all they needed was intention. An intention to know someone, a willingness to open up.

And the same went for fun. Instead of shushing the man who was singing in the train, the others had joined in. If one joins in on the fun, they have a good time too.

Even though my college timings wouldn’t let me travel on that train again (unless I overslept), I knew that this was one journey I couldn’t possibly forget.

Do you have a travel story?

Photo of train lights in the dark by Jiroe on Unsplash

Header and train seat photo: Saakshi Gupta