A roadside market in Uttar Pradesh – Part III

Posted: January 26, 2014 in A roadside market in Uttar Pradesh, Short stories, starts & writing


More than a few young men in West London, including myself, learnt of Shani’s existence and took great joy in catching sight of her as she made her way to or from Northfields Girls School, later the Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls, or from her father’s shop in West Ealing.
In the midst of replacing old meters along Argyle Road one day during my short-lived apprenticeship with the London Electrical Board, I happened to meet Yama Surya outside his electrical wholesalers shop. I knew who he was (or, more importantly, I knew who his daughter was) and felt that just by talking with him I was making a kind of weird connection with Shani. When he recounted his oft-spouted anecdote relating Shani’s birth I couldn’t help agree that the old man might be right. She was truly magnificent to behold. Unlike the sun on that first day, though, I could not look away.

During the Summer of 1977, Shani and I happened to attend the same two or three birthday parties. She made it clear the first time I tried to speak to her that she was not interested. But then one evening, to my utter amazement, she approached me and struck up a conversation. It’s a blur. We shared a joint and discussed The Beatles and the songs they had written in Rishikesh. We had quite a few laughs. To see her face light up with laughter was really something else. The memory of her glistening white teeth and sparkling eyes in the orange glow of a lava lamp will be forever etched into my mind.
Five months later, just shy of her seventeenth birthday, Shani Surya abandoned her girlfriends, the prospect of a shining academic future, broke her parents’ hearts and agreed to run away with me. In the middle of a freezing rainstorm that roared against the iron and glass of the concourse roof of Victoria Station, we boarded a Dover-bound train. With our ignorantly meagre savings and our heads full of dope we tumbled headlong down the Hippie Trail. Two more freaks going to India.

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