Kaushik woke up first, as he usually did. He opened his eyes but didn’t yet look for his glasses, which he kept under the bed when he slept. He could hear the sound of rain outside. The stale aftertaste of wine and cigarettes still lingered in his mouth. He turned towards the window. The view outside seemed grayer than usual. On clear days, although his vision still couldn’t create definite shapes unaided, he could differentiate between the white & grey of concrete structures from the green hazes of trees. Today, everything was covered in an unwavering shade of gray. He closed his eyes and remained motionless for a while. With the rain as heavy as this, Café Ideal was out of question and he didn’t need to hurry the others up.
On the bed next to his, Suresh slept without sound. The crows at the window were quieter than usual. He thought about walking up to the window with his arms flailing to scare them away but decided not to. Finally, he put on his glasses.
It poured so hard Kaushik could see the wind blowing through it, ruffling the rain like it would, a curtain. The sky was uniformly dark, perhaps darker at the edges. It would be a long rainy day.
In the other room, Ashish, Ritankar and Kartik slept soundly on the mattresses on the floor. They wouldn’t wake up till much later. Empty packets of wafers lay on the floor. The wine bottles and glasses were neatly placed on the kitchen platform. Kaushik had made sure they were outside the reaches of the unconscious limbs of his friends before he went to sleep the previous night. The wineglasses, in particular, were dear to him. He’d bought them for fairly cheap at a departmental store that did not specialize in glassware. He had browsed through several other stores unsuccessfully before he found these. They were round and huge with cavernous mouths and, as he had learnt on his visit to the vineyards in Nasik, meant only for red wine. Buying separate sets for red, white and sparkling wines was, however, out of question and these were used, irrespective of the drink, including even whiskey and beer on occasion.
He wrapped the leftover food and the wafer packets in newspapers and deposited them in the trash can outside. On the sofa, he found two packets of cigarettes. One contained two sticks and the other, ashes of the rest. He lit one and sat watching the rain. Sometime later, he checked mail on his laptop. Nothing of consequence had arrived. He hadn’t expected anything either since he’d checked it only the night before. For a quarter of an hour, he played Bridge online, while his computer downloaded pirated films he’d queued. Then, he went downstairs to breakfast at the untidy little restaurant just outside the apartment premises.
He called home from there while he sipped coffee, after the morning snack was tucked in. His Mom and Dad were thrilled to hear his voice this early in the morning since to them this was probably a sign of no alcohol the previous night. Kaushik chuckled to himself after he disconnected the call. His conversations with his parents were mostly repetitive – the same answers to the same questions. They often complained to each other about it, although both sides were aware that there wasn’t much that could be done to alter the situation. The rain persisted. In a couple of hours, the others would be up and they’d spend the day indulging in interesting and inconsequential conversation. They would discuss a film and then another and then an actor or a director, draw comparisons. With Kartik around, they would bitch about legends of the Indian film industry – people that they respected greatly but loved bitching about anyway. Eventually, even these conversations ended up being the same. Kaushik didn’t tire of these, however. Not yet, anyway.