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The streets of Kochi were glistening that morning. Dull browns had given way to bright greens. Translucent droplets, desperately clung onto the flora, delicately encasing the colours of the rainbow. The once parched earth now emanated, an intoxicating fragrance, as the southwest monsoon winds, finally reached the coastline. This natural phenomenon was known, even to the Yavanas (Greeks and Romans) and they used these winds, to propel their giant boats to the coast of Kerala, over 2000 years ago, to engage in spice trade.
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The drizzle resumed after a brief pause, and joyously getting drenched in the rain, was Joseph. The wrath of the merciless sun, over the past months was such, that he had mischievously left his umbrella at home, before taking the short drive to the lagoon. But once there, he was hesitant to take the treacherous wooden ramp, leading to the Chinese fishing nets. He didn’t trust his legs anymore. But this was his day to eat some spicy prawn curry, splendidly complimented by a glass of toddy. Given, the weather he couldn’t let go off this opportunity. Hence, he was tentative to lift his jittery foot towards the wooden ramp.
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“Hold on Sir! “, shouted a man, who was expertly manoeuvring a canoe boat at speed, through the waters. It was Thankappan, the fisherman. Upon seeing him, Joseph felt relieved.
“Here you are”, said Thankappan, handing over a bag full of freshly caught prawns, to Joseph. The resultant smile on Joseph’s face was a sight to behold.
“What took you so long, you are normally here before daybreak?”, enquired Joseph.
“It’s not my fault Sir. You can blame the weather”, replied Thankappan, sporting a naughty grin.
“Oh! yes the weather”, said Joseph, chuckling.
The skies had turned dark grey. A streak of lightening was seen in the horizon, followed by a loud rumbling sound. It was a dazzling show of light and sound.
“So, what’s special on the menu today?”, asked Thankappan.
“Spicy prawn curry cooked in coconut oil, along with some red rice, and of course my favourite booze!”, replied Joseph, gleefully.
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“So, it’s a grand party today!”, exclaimed Thankappan. Both had a good laugh, and just as they waved goodbyes to each other, a white sedan, came to a screeching halt, next to Joseph’s black SUV.
Out of it, emerged a lady. She was in a frenzy and it was amusing to watch. The drizzle had suddenly intensified into a downpour and Joseph should have made a sprint back to his car. But he didn’t!
“Please wait. Don’t go!”, shouted the lady.
“Don’t worry madam, take your time”, said Thankappan. Joseph had a puzzled look on his face.
“She is a new customer”, whispered Thankappan, as he pulled out a bag of prawns from his boat.
It was beginning to rain heavily, and the umbrella that the lady was holding, was not helping much. All Joseph could see, through the rain, was a thin short frame. Her face was hidden behind her curls. The limp in her walk was unmissable and it took her a few seconds to reach them.
“I thought, I wouldn’t get here on time. It’s a long drive”, said the lady.
“Madam, you were just in time. I have a few tourists waiting at the resort for a boat ride”, replied Thankappan, handing over the bag to the lady.
From within the curls of her hair, the face slowly began to emerge. Joseph was keenly observing her, because the sound of her voice, scent of her perfume, thick lips, pointed nose and funny mannerisms, seemed all too familiar.
How could a person, long gone for almost half a century, staying in a different time zone, thousands of miles away, mysteriously arrive that morning, at the coast of this ancient city, along with the southwest monsoons? However, the little idiosyncrasies, he had taken cognizance of, were too obvious to be dismissed as mere coincidence.
Hence, he asked, “Rosanna, is that you?”. The tone of his voice, expressed his shock, but there was not a semblance of doubt.
At once there was silence. Joseph’s heart missed a beat. The lady turned around to reveal herself.
It was her! The two stared at each other in shock.
“May I take your leave?”, asked Thankappan, cautiously. There was no response. It was, as if, everything had come to a standstill.
Seeing no response, Thankappan got into his boat. The two, continued staring at each other, as Thankappan’s boat slowly drifted away from them.
It took another loud rumbling sound of thunder, to take them out of their trance, as the rain slowly subsided back to a drizzle.
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“What are you doing here?”, asked Joseph.
“I’ve been here for the last year or so”, replied Rosanna.
There was silence.
“Sir, get into the car, else you will catch a cold”, yelled Cyril, Joseph’s driver.
“Let’s go”, said Joseph.
“Where?”, asked Rosanna.
“Let’s sit inside my car and talk, it could rain again any moment”, replied Joseph.
“Okay, let’s go”, said Rosanna, while gesturing to her driver to wait.
Joseph wanted to offer his hand, to escort Rosanna into his car. He’d even taken his hand out of his pocket, but then curbed his instinct. The crowd which had gathered, at the tea stall, across the road, to avoid getting drenched, were eagerly watching the 70-year-olds. Once inside the car, the two tried drying themselves, using their handkerchiefs.
“Cyril could you please turn on the air-conditioner and blow some hot air”, said Joseph. Cyril obliged, while secretly glancing at the rear-view mirror.
“It’s been so long”, said Joseph.
“Yes, it has!”, replied Rosanna.
“I thought you were in the US. Weren’t you?”, asked Joseph.
“Yes, I was, until last summer. I decided to return to India after Mathew passed away”, replied Rosanna.
There was silence for a few seconds.
“I am sorry to hear that. When did that happen?”, asked Joseph.
“January of last year”, replied Rosanna. There was a hint of melancholy in her voice but she was putting up a brave front.
“Cyril, please turn off the AC”, said Joseph. Cyril did as asked and pulled down the windowpane. The rain had stopped, and a cool breeze was blowing. The sun was playing hide and seek behind the clouds.
“You’ve been here for a year, yet you didn’t call me?”, asked Joseph.
“I wasn’t aware that you were here”, replied Rosanna, perplexed by the illogical nature of that question.
“Oh Yes! It’s been more than a decade, since we last spoke on the phone. Isn’t it?”, said Joseph.
Rosanna nodded in agreement.
“Well, my story is somewhat similar to your’s”, said Joseph.
“How so?”, asked Rosanna.
“I too am a widower. But I have been here in this town, for the last ten years, ever since my retirement”, replied Joseph.
Rosanna smiled and said, “So, the falcon has returned to its place of birth”.
“Yes, and the salmon has also returned to the stream where it was born. Hasn’t it?”, asked Joseph.
“Yes, it has!”, replied Rosanna. Both laughed. Cyril continued glancing furtively at the rear-view mirror. He couldn’t make sense of what was happening.
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“Is there someone waiting for you at home?”, asked Joseph.
“Not really”, replied Rosanna.
“How about a lunch date at my place then? Spicy prawn curry and a bottle of toddy is in the offering”, asked Joseph.
“Where did you get the bottle of toddy from? Uncle Kurian’s shop?”, asked Rosanna.
“Oh, common Rosanna, Uncle Kurian is long dead! Cyril has arranged for it”, replied Joseph.
Rosanna looked at the rear-view mirror and saw Cyril smiling. She smiled back.
“How can I be sure; that you will be well behaved? I’ve not seen you in years. What if you have lost your manners?”, asked Rosanna, tauntingly.
Joseph laughed out loud. It was so loud, that people passing by, took notice of it.
“I will ensure that the salmon is treated well”, said Joseph, smirking.
“I doubt if that’s even possible. A falcon on a lunch date with a salmon! It’s too unnatural. Isn’t it? But, I guess, I am in the mood for some adventure”, replied Rosanna, letting out a cheeky grin.
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