As the train shudders into the Ashtown station, there is a typical smell that greets her. A kind of wild flower. Once heard, these had been planted by one ancient Spanish missionary who had brought it from his motherland. She wonders how this place would have looked then… Was the soil still brown. Or had it already turned black?
Her place had a special feel about it during those five days of the month when the entire town gathers in the circular park to celebrate the ‘festival of joy’. What a misnomer, she smiles to herself. In the mornings, the sun shines too bright. The air of ashtown is perpetually heavy with blackness. The sun brings sweat. The blackness sticks. And the sun adds further tan to the already dark faces. The outcome- bright clothes with sooty faces. Hesitant smiles. Eavesdropping ears. And egg-white eyes, flitting, searching, cursing.
The skies are too blue. Flowers are in excess. The sultry heat smothers their delicate smell. What remains is only the stench. The park breeds evil, like distended belly of the street urchin breeds worms. Divinity is restricted to a semicircle of radius five meters. White chalk marks, designs, flowers, fruits, colorful festoons, glittering clothes, ornaments – all within the semi circle. Outside that is a Victorian world. Full of dogs dressed as clowns. Pasted smiles and colored noses. A whisper here, a hug there. A grand opera of disguised dogs.
She hates this season. These five days. For her, they bring the worst out of people.
She wishes if she could fold those five and five hands of the mute deity, like a pair of Chinese fans, and pull her by the now two hands and take her right hand and watch her smile as she ran with her into fields flooded with tall bushes of wild flowers and sit by a river and listen to her tales and breathe in soft, light, fragrant air.
Lantana keeps dogs at bay.