From the exquisite terrace restaurant, the city looked oddly beautiful in the brown-grey dust and smoke that hung heavily in the evening air.
Eeny, however, had no eyes for the beauty. She ordered the usual for herself and her friends, and then said, “Soy milk for my Meow!”
“Why don’t you spay me, you mindless piece of mediocrity, instead of making me drink that plant vomit?” shouted Meow, her white and orange coat bristling with indignant anger.
“She’s vegan. Aren’t you, my sweetie cutie Meow?” purred Eeny to Meow, mistaking the cat’s anger for assent.
“What plans for the festival, folks? Just a few days away now,” said Meeny, changing the conversations from Meow’s veganism.
“Which one?” asked Eeny.
“The noisy, smoky one,” giggled Mynie.
“Oh, Diwali!” exclaimed Eeny, pronouncing it like Kanye West would have pronounced, “The Volley.”
Moh was not there. In fact, Meow had taken Moh’s place so that Eeny, Meeny, and Mynie had someone to ignore, but it was not going to be.
“I hate that festival…all that noise,” said Meeny.
“It drives my Meow to frenzy – poor thing,” said Eeny, looking at Meow with a feigned pity.
“No, it doesn’t,” screeched Meow, “you putrescent piece of Pomeranian poop!”
Mistaking her screeches once more, Eeny said, “Aww! Look at how she’s bristling with fear just thinking about all that noise!”
“I love the smell of crackers,” mused Meow, “and their sound, if only because it makes that bozo, Nemo, go round and round as if his tail was on fire.”
Nemo was her nemesis, Eeny’s pet dog.
The family legend was that Nemo was a pedigree dog with a regular snout. Once, he had teased an old monk who, in a fit of drunken anger, hit him squarely on the nose. Since then, Nemo had become a Pug.
Meow, however, chivvied Nemo into bouts of anger, and Diwali was the best time to do that.
“I hate all that smoke too,” said Mynie with disgust, and took out a cigarette.
As she started to light it the manager quickly arrived. “No smoking here, Madam,” he said with a firm voice.
“What are you gonna do?” giggled Mynie. “Charge me with smoking?”
The manager knew his etiquette, so he just imagined himself shaking his head. If he had had a Gandhi for every time some girl used this line, he would have been a Nehru by now.
“A no-smoking zone, Madam,” he said with a little more firmness, “and others may not like the smoke.”
“It’s just one cigarette,” said Mynie, rolling her eyes up, and with what she considered as her best logic. “Some people! Ugh!” she exclaimed and reluctantly put away the cigarette.
Meanwhile, the saucer of soy milk had come and Meow looked at it with a distasteful glance. She gently went near the saucer and hit it right across the trio, drenching them with the muck.
“Vegan, am I?” she screeched.
“Naughty Meow!” yelled Eeny.
Ignoring them all, for she was a cat true to her breed, Meow got down nonchalantly and pawed the manager.
“What is it, sweetie pie?” asked the manager.
Meow looked at him wide-eyed.
“Aha!” he said, “you don’t like soy milk?”
“What can I get for you, sweetie pie? For what you have done there,” said the manager, pointing to the soy-drenched trio, “it’s on the house.”
“Poor Meow,” said Eeny after cleaning herself. “She must have been shocked by these blasted crackers and that must have made her upset her favourite soy milk.”
Meow was not there, and neither was there any sound of crackers anywhere.
“What is it with these pathetic Hindu festivals?” asked Meeny. “Every one of them is such a burden on the world…pathetic folks!”
“I have written a poem on this,” said Mynie, who, of late, never lost an opportunity to talk about her poetry.
Before Eeny and Meeny could protest, for they knew the torture that was in store for them, Mynie started.
“The sky is grey,
As a CK sweatshirt!
The air is dark,
As the hole in their heart…”
Meow, unable to withstand this assault on her senses, went stealthily under the table and bit the self-declared poet.
Mynie let out a shriek and looked under the table. She could find nothing there, for Meow had jumped quickly back to her seat.
“What happened?” shouted Eeny and Meeny.
“Something bit me,” said a flustered Mynie. “I hope it’s not a mosquito.” Rumours of dangerous dengue mosquitos were as rampant as the smog that hung menacingly now.
“It will be fine,” consoled Eeny.
Meow screeched happily, and if there was another saucer of soy milk, she would have flung it again on the trio.
The miracle then happened. At exactly 8 PM the grey sky suddenly became so clear that one could see the Supreme Court from anywhere. The stars twinkled like those old tube-lights with faulty chokes.
The three-and-a-half girls looked at the miracle, dumbfounded.
“Now I know,” whispered Meeny, still awed, “why the Court had allowed bursting crackers from 8 to 10 PM.”
The sky burst with crackers but the smoke disappeared miraculously in the clear sky as if it was sucked by some magical judgment hovering in the sky. Even the noise was so muffled to be almost nonexistent. Apparently, the judgment was not arbitrary but had some as-yet-unknown scientific basis.
“Come, let us go,” said Eeny.
“Where?” asked Meeny, reluctant to leave as she was enjoying the clear sky after days. The noiseless and smokeless spectacle, for some reason, was appealing to her.
“Somewhere where we don’t get to see this…this idiocy.”
Four large SUVs left the place, and while ferrying them, passed through the street where Moh stayed.
In the magical clearness that had appeared, Moh could recognize the familiar, characteristic high beams of the SUVs – she had been in one of them many times.
She quickly took a long string of crackers, placed it in the middle of the street and lighted it.
The SUVs had to stop, as if with respect, for all the crackers to finish bursting.