The Soggy Cake

A batch of freshly manufactured negative thoughts hovered over her head . The sky was sunny just half an hour ago and suddenly the cloud formed and threatened to dampen her day. Now  whether that cloud of negativity rains or not but it will dampen a couple of hours before she  finds a place to shove it off. Her closets are full of them and I guess pushing under the carpet has reached it’s saturation level and flushing isn’t an option anymore. The entire place seemed to be bursting with negative energy ready to explode anytime … like a land mine silently waiting for a stray foot step. She however ingeniously  drained the cloud off hers eyes over the pillow and after a while her  invisible tears rose lazily to the sky  as the soggy pillow cover was left to dry under  the sun. Then came rounds and rounds of diffusing the negative clutter by extensive cleaning of her appartement.. unnecessary chores… and more and more self generated work so that she doesn’t think negative.But did that help. Yes for while but then again she boomeranged . It was turning into a vicious cycle .This time it was severe as her job itself was under threat.The past couple of months she had been severely criticized by her superior and this lead to more mistakes . She was losing the joy of working and her confidence was dwindling. She failed over and over again to figure out what went wrong ‘cos sometime back she was doing well. This was a particularly hard day and things had hit rock bottom .A cup of coffee and the left over chocolate cake would probably lift her spirits. Whenever the disheartening bell of rejection gonged she found her solace in chocolate cakes. There was one invariably in her refrigerator to soothe her soul.She opened the refrigerator door and her thoughts of positive reaction to the negative news was blown away. The refrigerator had stopped working and overnight the ice in the freezer section melted and carelessly seeped into that refreshing chocolate cake.  Now there was this soggy cake in the refrigerator, which  itself was surrounded by a pool of water .She felt like screaming. She couldn’t bear the thought of staying home even for a second .She stormed out of the house and caught a metro . The walk to the metro station was a blurr.  Through her teary eyes her red  high heeled shoes shimmered. She had no clue where she was headed and as usual  at the busiest metro terminal she was pushed along with the impersonal crowd and she found herself at Canaught place.The market was dug up at several places for the upcoming commonwealth games . It was a difficult walk . She walked for the sake of it hardly aware of the people around her. Her mind was a numb blank. Her trance was disturbed by a constant nagging voice following her for  a while. It was an old beggar woman . She didn’t really look into her face but just to get rid of her dropped some change on her stretched palm. A few steps after she  thought she got rid of the beggar woman it started raining and now she really felt like a fool as she forgot to bring an umbrella. The whole dug up scenario meant even more difficulty in walking with those high heeled shoes. She looked around  and spotted a shelter beneath an ongoing construction spot. She was drenched and felt exasperated. She was the soggy cake now ”It does’nt  get any better . Does it!! Now I am the soggy chocolate cake “ She almost yelled frantically squeezing out the water of her clothes . “Do you have some cake for me”. She almost jumped with horror as she thought she was alone there. The beggar woman had followed her. “ I am hungry . Could you give me some cake. The money you gave me is of no use in this harsh rain.” All the wrinkles on her face seemed to  be begging out for food. “No I don’t have anything. Least of all a cake. What I had ,got soggy and is worth nothing . Besides I don’t have it here.” She wondered why did she not say a plain no and shoo the woman away. “Oh madam ji the rain has made the cake worthless for you but even a soggy cake is welcome for me “ She was irritated by now and realised only an evidence can make the old annoying woman shut up. She opened her bag and was about to yell when her words foiled in her mouth …”What !!! how did it get in here?”. There laid the cake nicely in a plastic foil. She was too shocked to stop the woman from grabbing on it and taking it out. She was shivering and could not distinguish if it was because of the cold wind that tortured her drenched body or was the shock and amazement of what just happened. The old beggar woman had by now nicely carved out a piece from that soggy cake for herself and ate it with such grace and gratitude that rendered her speechless. She almost imagined the old lady holding a piece of earth in her hand and growing happiness from it’s hopeless (to her ) sogginess. She wanted to leave the old beggar woman relishing the cake and move to some other sheltered place. The rain had turned the whole place into a blurr. She was about to leave when she heard the satiated voice of the beggar woman “ Madam ji … I am done you can take the rest of the cake “ . She was still a little annoyed and puzzled  “ You can keep it for later . It is of no use to me” she gave a replied curtly. “ Well my need is fulfilled madam ji and I want no more.” “ I am too tired to walk so I will rest here till the rain stops. If you walk ahead in this direction there at the corner at a footpath book shop you would find a little boy …. Can you give the rest to him?” This was getting too much. However she wanted to get rid of the woman and wanted no further conversation so she grabbed the rest of the cake stormed off. The beggar woman did her no harm said no hurting words yet she felt immense repulsion towards her. “WHY?” she heard an echo in her head. Perhaps she could not come to terms with the fact that the old woman could find so much joy from the same soggy cake  that made her lose her calm. She looked for some place to throw the cake but then something made her go and look for that little boy. Well a little more craziness to a crazy evening wouldn’t make much of a difference. A couple of turns and there he was. A boy of six in tattered clothes dusting off the books from the army of flies that frolicked too and fro . She looked at the boy and he was already staring at her. Strangely there was no soul to be found in that corridor. Far away on the street she could see cars passing by. People rushing off in raincoats and holding umbrellas. But this place seemed stranded. She stretched her hand and handed over the cake to the boy pretty sure that he would complain that the cake was soggy. He didn’t. Instead what he said was the least expected . Read me a story . I like stories but I can’t read yet.” He handed her a book. The book looked familiar and it was in English. She kept her bag on the stairwell that led to a cloth store and sat on the first step. The boy huddled close to her eagerly waiting for the story to be read. She opened the book. The colors shimmered and the black letters danced. But to her extreme horror she failed to read them . She almost choked on her stammering words.. “I… i… I… ca..n’t  read this ….” The boy looked at her with disbelief and disapproval. “You are lying” He said in a weepy disappointed voice. She was too horrified to pay attention to the boy .She frantically kept turning the pages . The boy lost patience and started tugging on her skirt nagging real hard . She was so overwhelmed that she almost yelled at the boy pushing him away . The book fell away and she stood up with a jerk almost at the verge of crying . The boy was howling by now and she was out of her wits. Before she could make sense of anything or pacify the boy  suddenly a stray dog came barking and almost threatened to attack her. She grabbed her bag and ran towards the street. The rain blurring everything and there was  a sudden thud and a fall. The red high heels gave way and she fell grazing her knee. Drenched , hungry, shocked and in pain.Thankfully the dog had disappeared.  It took her sometime to gather herself back. Strangely the people around didn’t notice her. Didn’t bother to lend a helping hand. She walked to a dry place with the broken shoe in her hand . She was so drenched that her tears became the rain . She looked for a place to sit , maybe have a warm cup of coffee or tea. As it was a bad day she thought she won’t even find that. There she spotted him .A cobbler.To her happy amazement there was a tea shop next to his work spot. She had a hard time believing her eyes. She reached the spot and he was really there . “Give me the shoe … and have a cup of tea.. you will fall ill otherwise ..”  She didn’t even have to utter a single word. “Heavy rain isn’t it “ the cobbler said as he examined the shoe. She gave a shivering nod holding the glass of tea unable to utter a single word. The cobbler smiled looking at the shoe “Don’t you think it’s a wrong day to wear them .But perhaps you didn’t think at all. You have a worried heart .” She was startled. This was getting stranger. Is she going to get a pep talk from a cobbler? “Oh you can tell me even though I am a humble cobbler. I am a nobody. But I can still listen to you.” The mind reading astonished her and she felt a bit cared for. “I forgot to read” she blurted without thinking much. He looked at her calmly and with a mild caring laughter he said “ Oh you don’t believe that do you? “ “If you know it… you can’t not forget it missy !  I can stitch a shoe in my sleep and no body and no worry in this world can make me believe that I forgot mending a shoe .” The tea had made her feel better though she still could not make much sense of what all was happening. The shoe was done and she wanted to go back home now as the rain had eased off a bit. “I think you should go back where you forgot to read “. She heard the cobbler say as she walked away paying him his due. “Go back ?” she thought. “What is going on !!” she thought again. After dabbling with some ambivalence she decided to walk back. Since she ran in the rain hurridly she had some difficulty in tracking the corridor where the book shop was. She almost thought she reached the place but instead of a books there were flowers! The most attractive orchids she ever saw were displayed there. Beneath a bunch of white orchids laid a little placard she tried to read it… “ Sometimes there is no way back…. Sometimes you have to find it “… Hardly made sense . But “Oh boy !!! I can read … I haven’t forgotten to read ….” and mixed with the joy came the guilt that she made a little boy cry . She moved ahead without giving much thought to the crazy events . She was getting accustomed to it. As she circled round the place from inner to outer circle she felt really anxious to find the boy. It was turning into a maze . She bought a pair of flip flops to ease her walk. Her clothes were dry by now. But she had no clue which alley she met the boy. She felt hunger pangs and her legs ached. She should get back home before it rains . She decided to put her mind at rest and take a stop for lunch.While she was having lunch she tried to rationalize  whether  to go home or to   figure out where the boy could be. Suddenly it flashed in her mind. “I might be missing the obvious! As she stepped out of the restaurant to hunt for the boy again.  She heard a voice from a distance. “Are you looking for something?” Before she could answer the man near a shop uttered “ Madam ji I do not know what you are looking for but you should look for an umbrella in this rain for sure .” as he pointed towards the displayed umbrellas on the footpath . She sighed and self talked “ Of cos … what a fool I am . An umbrella is an obvious thing to look for  not a 6 year old boy !” With a sigh she decided to buy an umbrella as it threatened to rain again. Perhaps it’s futile I might actually go back home now. She chose one . As she made the payment . The shopkeeper asked her if she could do him a favour “what favour?” “ Could you read my little boy a story ….??/” There beneath a huge umbrella was dozing a weepy boy of six with a book grabbed to his chest. “ Oh sure !” she chirped . The boy woke up and she took the book. But before she could read to the boy … the ground beneath the construction site  started breaking  and she started falling into a deep abyss with the umbrella in one hand the book slipping away into the distance …. she could just read the title that said…. “Aaaa…” “Alice in wonderland !”

She held on tight to the blue umbrella and suddenly it turned dark and then  a heavy thud.Her entire body jolted as if a seismic wave had passed from her head to the toes and she woke up.

“Ah it was just a dream ” . She wiped the sweat beads on her face and caught her breath.

“You can’t not forget what you already know ” the cobbler’s word echoed in her head and she smiled at the little wise and weird dream she had.

Seemed she slept all evening .

The door bell rang.

She shrugged the thoughts of the dream and  went to get it. There was no one. Perhaps the little kids of the building were playing “ring the doorbell and run” game again.

Before she could close the door she noticed it .With wide open eyes  she stared at  a blue colored drippy umbrella resting mysteriously in her corridor.