Pratham stares through the bluish glow of his phone and at the photograph. Past midnight, the sound of a screeching bat reverberates through the otherwise silent November air. Precisely three years, he counts, since the day the photograph was clicked; Google reminders, he curses, never fail to remind one of what had occurred this day, that year. I must turn off the notifications, he resolves. But would that serve any purpose? He hasn’t stopped browsing through old photographs, in the middle of the night, at work, travelling across the city, pausing at the moments which are trapped, forever, in the pictures flooding his phone gallery.
In the prewinter night he looks at the photograph, reflecting upon the time that was. There were no people in the picture, no monuments, nothing downright noteworthy; only a view of mountains, that his phone had captured permanently, stretching far, fading from green to blue to grey till the foggy clouds shrouded them mysteriously. The snow-capped mountains were hidden. Pratham listens to the voice.
Smoke and dust from the valley make the air quite opaque. Unfair, Pratham had slammed. Come monsoons and the dust settles down. One can even see the hills of Shimla from here. We must plan a monsoon trip, chimed in Pratham, delighted like a little child, making a mental note of the direction he must turn his gaze towards to see the Shimla hills and the serene snow clad Himalayan mountains. We will.
The monsoon never came, Pratham laments.
The conversation echoes inside his head, bitter-sweet, much louder than the sounds of the night. Resonating in the corners of his head, he separates the individual sounds-the wind rushing amidst pine trees, hidden crickets chirruping in the dry grass, muffled sounds from the valley down, a distant dog barking away in all his glory. He remembers the faint lingering smell of smoke in the air, peculiarly sweet, coupled with the smell of pines, dry yellow grass and wild flowers, the musky smell of perfume. They had chanced upon a dry patch of earth after a long walk through narrow jungle paths littered with browning pine needles and pebbles, and sat there in silence, broken often by inconsequential conversations initiated by Pratham, garrulous that he used to be then, absorbing the view, memorising it, revelling in the moment. It used to be Pratham’s fondest memories they had shared between them, still is. What did they talk about then? Was it the bewilderment at recalcitrant prickly flowers adhering to their denims and shoes? Was it the moroseness of having had the distant snowy mountains hidden from view? Or sorrow at the holiday ending, back to the regularity of city life? He doesn’t remember.
He sits up in his bed, parts the curtain and in the faint light of the stars discerns silhouettes of bats flying towards fruit trees outside his room while a drunken man babbles away in hidden alleys.
Do you remember with fondness the view, do you remember the view at all, Pratham questions nobody in particular yet directs his question to the darkness, the stars pin-pricking the velvety sky, the November air, the bats. He returns to his phone, stares at the picture again, sifts through his memories, tosses, turns, types a text and deletes it immediately, like the innumerable times earlier, pushes his phone away and goes back to the book he had been reading, reads aggressively, the words empty and senseless. He slams it down, looks at the diminishing glow of his phone and a blankness that follows.
The voice refuses to diminish, the images refuse to fade, the memories refuse to dwindle and time refuses to turn around.