A cool sea breeze blew into Nirvana Kurien’s musty apartment, the salty smell of the Bombay sea line and stale cigarettes coaxing her awake. Nirvana savored the first few tranquil minutes of dawn soon after she awoke, spent entwined in her sheets neither asleep nor fully conscious. Those few minutes of oblivion allowed her to momentarily forget the enormity of her completely unremarkable life. That was until the incessant beeping of her alarm clock interrupted her brief rendezvous with serenity.
A quick cup of coffee and some toast were all she had time for before embarking on a long and sweaty journey to work sandwiched between a loud Marwadi man and the bosom of a kind Gujrati middle aged woman, who began to passionately describe the trials of her home bound life, and a difficult relationship with her vengeful mother-in-law. Nirvana didn’t mind; interesting conversation was one of the limited comforts the Bombay local service had to offer.
The train wheezed to a sudden halt at churchgate station sending the chatty marwadi and the impatient commuters behind him crashing into Nirvana, violently pushing her towards the paan stained exit and onto the bustling platform. She made her way out of the station, the cacophony of the streets drawing her in. She knew this city like the back of her hand. The streets intertwined and diverged like veins on a wrist, and Nirvana had traveled them all. She took the all too familiar route to the art gallery she had devoted the last five years of her life to build. She worked three very average jobs for five torturous years and could now only just about meet the rent charges of the small but cozy gallery near marine drive. Business was slow for the first few years, but recently began to look up. The suburban art enthusiasts, with their oxidized silver, expensive espressos and cuban cigars had just begun to show interest in the local artists Nirvana promoted.
The furniture had seen better days and there was a suspicious damp blotch on the roof of her gallery, but this was her dream. She was surrounded by what she loved. Art.
She set up for the day and lit a cigarette, this was one of the reasons she loved what she did. There were no rules, there were no ‘no smoking indoors’ signs, nobody asked you to “keep it down,” in Nirvanas gallery, everything was art. The smoke from her cigarette added a certain sense of mystery and grace, the loud whisper of conversation was a comfort.
A woman walked in, her heels clicking against the rough finish of the flooring.
“Namrata Shah,” she held out a perfectly manicured hand which Nirvana accepted and gingerly shook.
“How can I help you?” Nirvana was no stranger to the rich. They often frequented her modest gallery hoping to find a piece that would earn them brownie points for novelty. Nirvana knew they didn’t quite understand the story and emotion behind the paintings she sold them, and they were bought simply because they knew nobody else would own them. She knew what they wanted and understood how their minds worked.
She had once been a part of this elite niche of society, born with a metaphorical silver spoon in her mouth and a sense of entitlement to match. Her parents, renowned psychiatrists known for their proficiency and the outrageous parties they threw every other weekend, ensured that she went to the best schools, made friends with the right people, associated herself with the right initiatives. She was smothered by her parents for the first eighteen years of her life after which she decided she had had quite enough. At the break of dawn, while the rest of the Kurien household was fast asleep, Nirvana walked out, her head held high, with just a bottle of old monk and the clothes on her back to call her own.
Young Miss Shah with her designer handbag held delicately on the crook of he elbow, and her immaculately done up face, reminded Nirvana of what life could have been like had she chosen not to sever all ties with her family. She regretted nothing, but still felt a melancholic pang now and then and questioned whether she had acted rashly.
“It has been almost impossible to trace you,” Namrata Shah sounded almost accusatory.
Nirvana didn’t quite know how to respond to that, while her work had been receiving more attention off late, it certainly wasn’t being featured in any magazines as yet. Something about the urgency in her strange customers voice suggested that she wasn’t here to purchase a painting.
“Your father is dead.”