Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Gallery

It was hot outside and dusty. So, she thought she'd take cover in the gallery. It was cool in there with the air conditioner and the low, strategic lighting.

He saw her come in from outside. She was not breathtaking, no one could be who's walked down the road in the afternoon heat with a dry dust-storm blowing in sand from the desert of Rajasthan a few hundred kilometers away. But, she did not look like the usual crowd and it was her walk that made her special. She walked without the usual feminine sway. She walked with a spring to her step. She almost danced her way in.

He hated crowds. Not because they made him feel claustrophobic but, because they made him feel uncomfortable in their familiarity in his presence. He hated how many people knew him.

Everyone, it seems, knew him. He was famous. It was what he had wanted, craved all his life but, today, it made him feel exposed. Like a beached whale or a naked kid bathing at the roadside tap.

He wanted to be left alone.

She walked inside the gallery and shut the door quietly behind her. He stood staring at her from the other end. He did not know how to react if she too turned out to be one of those who 'loved' his work or worse, turned out to be a journo.

But, when she turned around and saw him, she was merely startled to find another human being in the room and not excited to see a celebrity artist. That made him breathe normally. It looked like she had no idea who he was. So far so good.

From the looks of it, she was not too impressed by the works scattered artfully around the huge room. She looked around and found a spot with an air conditioning vent right above it and made a beeline for it.

He smiled. She was much nearer now and he could sense her discomfort because he was openly staring at her and she knew.

He liked the blush on her face. She looked nervous and ill-at-ease. He knew she was self-conscious. His staring was making her uncomfortable. He realized that he wanted to make her uncomfortable. That was bad!

How had things got so bad? He was a nice sweet guy with talent one day and then, suddenly he was the toast of the cultured world. Things had veered around at a breakneck speed and he was a much sought-after man across the world these days. With fame he had to pay the price he never thought would be so dear. He was well-known and wherever he went, he got from surreptitious glances to outright adoration everything that declared. "you've arrived!"

But, it also meant, no privacy!

He hated being exposed. It grated on his nerves and put him on edge every time someone walked up to him to say how he was their favorite artist or worse, how his art blended so very well with their home decor!

He knew he should not mind because these were the people who paid for his lifestyle that included trips to exotic locations across the world. But, over the last few years he had realized that he didn't even enjoy his work that much. He was getting bored. And today, when he had some time on his own, he knew why.

In the midst of the whirlwind that his life had become, everything was an obligation, everything was a calculated risk. As his fame grew, his circle of near and dear ones shrunk. He knew now what it meant when people said, "it's lonely at the top."

And today, perhaps because it was a weekday or because it was too hot and dry during the day to venture out and now because of the dust storm, no one had come to the exhibition. He liked the freedom. As it is all the pieces had been sold off the catalog that his publicist had put up on the Net so, he was least bothered about lack of footfalls.

So, he had spent the better part of the day brooding and wondering about his restlessness. He knew he needed to be himself. More like a guy who gives in to impulses rather than a man who exchanges notes with his publicists before speaking with anyone. He needed to unleash himself.

It was a dangerous thought and he was slightly worried as to where it had come from when, she had walked in to take shelter from the heat and dust of the stormy city outside.

Seeing the disheveled and blushing woman made him want to behave like a normal guy who was attracted to a girl. He wanted to go up to her and flirt with her. He wanted to place a fingertip on her left cheek and trace her high cheekbone and then run it down her upturned nose.

He was suddenly jolted out of his reverie. 'What was he thinking?' There were enough women throwing themselves at him at all times but, he had never felt this urgency to move in. Was it because he had gotten used to female adulation and therefore, when this woman showed no interest in him, he wanted to pounce and make her notice him?

He was Nripen, the king! The guy who came up from a small town in semi-rural India and became the toast of Parisian balls all in a matter of a few years. How could she not know him? Maybe she was pretending?

He took his eyes off her face to trace her chin and a few inches below. He liked what he saw. He looked up again to see that the girl was engrossed in her phone. She was perhaps texting someone. The next minute she smiled at the offensive instrument. A real smile that lit up her face and she looked beautiful, really beautiful, not just pretty or cute because she was neither. She had the look of a woman who had seen the world. Now when he peered into her smile that pulled him like a magnet, he noticed the fine lines around her kohl-lined eyes. They declared that she was a mature woman.

So, she was old, eh? He smirked at himself. She should be really flattered if I approached and propositioned a one night stand. He laughed out loud. The woman's eyes looked up, startled. She looked directly at him, her eyes widening, in recognition? No, as he reread the emotion in those liquid brown eyes, he saw, concern.

Perhaps she thought he was a madman.

She looked at him for a few more seconds and then encountered his blazing eyes. They were perhaps too obvious in their intentions. She quickly averted her eyes and turned her back to him going back to the scrutiny of her phone.

Something inside him burned. The fire that had started at the pit of his stomach was now eating up his lungs. The twin bags that allowed him to breathe were now burning, making him gasp for air. She had rejected him at sight. How could she? She was some middle-aged broad who had taken shelter in his gallery in the midst of an exhibition of his work and shown to interest in either him or the priceless work of art on display. She had ignored him.

He wanted to rush up to her, pull her by the hair, turn and give her a piece of his mind or himself. Those lips... The thought was like a splash of cold water to his burning ego and had the desired effect of cooling him down.

Thank God the mind was still working.

He wanted to turn around or go up to the tastefully decorated seating area where only a week back he had entertained the international press and the glitterati and drunk champagne out of crystal glasses.

He realized he'd have to move past her to reach the seating area. He could perhaps then, have a chat with her, ask her to sit with him while she was waiting, in general indulge her in some small talk. Maybe just drop some names... impress her.

Where was his mind going with this? Why was this woman making him go wild?

He moved. Walked forward with his well-known tiger movement. He walked towards her, aiming to go to the sitting area. He could smell her flowery perfume now with a hint of spice. He inhaled deeply and walked towards the sofa, towards her... The scent of the woman was cutting deep into his nostrils and he inhaled like a man smoking - inhaling deep into his lungs her smell that was getting imprinted into his mind as her.

She looked up from the phone and smiled. He staggered, stopped and stared. She looked happy. To see him approach?

He looked closely at her eyes. She looked blissful. Her face radiating with happiness that made it glow. She reminded him of the innumerable paintings by Renaissance masters. His heart skipped a beat. She was smiling at him?

He smiled back. A lopsided smile. The smile of the film stars and uber-egoistical men - someone had written in a piece about him once.

As he lifted his feet to make a move towards her, the door opened behind her, the one she had walked in through only minutes before opened and a man walked in. Tall, distinguished, comfortable and handsome in middle age. Surely in his mid-forties. He had a smooth, kind face framed by closely cropped salt and pepper hair. Her smile spilled-off her face as turned as if sensing his arrival or expecting it. She walked swiftly to the man and fell into his arms.

He pulled her into a tight hug, hiding her into his arms, folding her in his chest. They were merged as one. He picked her up from the floor like she weighted nothing and bringing her face close to his kissed her - oblivious to the man staring jealously at them from the middle of the room.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for reading the post and commenting. Please come back for more.