The aircraft shivered while trying to land on African soil, Aslan took interest in looking out of the window. He saw blocks in thousands ...small, large and big, then patches of breathing land green and serene. “Every block has a story”, he thought to himself, a story that does not matter to everyone, people living in those houses were living each day and aspiring for a happier life inside those blocks. “Everything looks calm from up here but each block has a living being trying to be more meaningful to oneself.
The plane was slowly lowering from a higher altitude, and the symmetrical block did not look calm anymore. They looked weary and tired, suddenly Aslan’s excitement to be in a new country, to experience a different culture and cuisine, way of looking at life, all diminished as the plane started coming closer to the ground. The blocks looked tired and overused, houses, work places, vacant hollow half-built blocks, they were weary. Upon landing there was a huge patch of green followed by several small hangers one next to another and small planes lined outside those hangers. He was happy to see those small white airplanes; they fascinated him at that moment as they kept disappearing from his window one by one.
He was happy again and looked at his shoes and then looked at Tashkeen, she was busy looking inside her handbag. He looked out again, looking at the green patches of grass zipping across his window. The plane was about to come to a halt when Tashkeen asked “for how long are you going to be here?”, “I am here for two weeks,” Aslan replied looking into her eyes knowing that it was a goodbye question. The good time they shared during the flight will be a memory and they shall never meet and that one day this good time that was spent in the company of these jovial women will not matter just like nothing else had mattered after some time had lapsed, that our understanding of the world around us was always in a flux where lot of people were just memories, good and bad, and some not relevant at all. None of it mattered. The plane came to a stop. Aslan wanted to jump out of the seat, get his bag from the overhead bin and be amongst the first few to rush out to the aircraft, but he helped Tashkeen and her partner with their bags, gave them a each a hug and let them fade away in the moving que.
He picked up his suitcase from the carousel and started walking towards the exit. The weather to him felt very much like what he had left behind in India, a pleasant twenty-eight degrees and people seemed warm and friendly too. He got on to an orange Toyota Corolla. “Please drive me to Radisson Blu Hotel,” he requested the diver with a smile. He had to head for Soubré the next day which was about six hours drive from his hotel and was already very tired and wanted to sleep after a cold beer and a sandwich. A few minutes later the taxi reached an all glass four-floored building.The driver helped Aslan with his suitcase.
He was rolling his bag to reception when a hotel porter, a young tall boy appeared and extended his big hand to carry Aslan’s luggage for him. He passed on the suitcase to the boy without saying anything and started walking behind him towards the reception. While they were moving towards the reception, Aslan was gazing at the boy’s slender physique thinking how the boy was so young and how he could be anyone in this world, be anywhere he would want to be, make a fortune out of selling, trading…, or how he could just be a porter for the rest of his life, be happy making little money, seeing his friends and family every evening and telling them funny inconsequential stories about the guests at the hotel, have a hearty laugh and live a life that mattered to him and him alone or could work towards that did not exist but was a possibility. Settling down in his room he threw himself on the bed and later got up in the middle of the night feeling thirsty, had some water and then went looking for the café for a cold beer and a sandwich.
Aslan was among the first few at the breakfast buffet. It was half past seven in the morning. "Neurons fire up, I see freshly cut fruits, chicken sausages, warm croissants, cheese omelets and coffee,”, Aslan smiled thinking to himself and went on for a King's breakfast. Sitting with his last cup of coffee for the day, he wondered if he had an option to have such an elaborate breakfast everyday how long will he be able to enjoy it. Will he be bound by perfect cheese omelets and aromatic coffee or will it not matter. Would it become a source of complaint when he would run out of coffee and the omelet would stop tasting as good.“Can I be bound by pleasure,” he thought to himself and sipped on the coffee sitting crossed leg waiting to start his journey to Soubré. The attendant at the restaurant walked up to him and politely whispered that his ride was waiting for him. Aslan got up from his table to pick up his luggage and asked for the hotel invoice, which he paid and went and sat in his car.
“Good Morning Sir," the driver addressed him in a heavy tone. Aslan responded with a smile, “Let’s go where I am destined to be" and they drove out of the hotel.
The car had very comfortable seats and Aslan had had a good breakfast, he rested his nape comfortably.
"How long will it take us to reach Soubré ..err sorry, I did not ask your name,.” Aslan said to the driver in one breath.“I am Jules sir, it will take us about seven hours”, replied the driver. Looking at the trees passing by in flashes Aslan spoke gently “Jules these trees ...on the side of the road…they look so nice, I can stop by, sit under the shade, sit as long as I can and then go. The trees will still be there and you and I would move on and nothing will change.” Jules kept driving without replying but had a faint smile on his face.
“Jules, does anything really stays the same forever, or does anything really change at all?" Aslan almost yawned while zipping past the trees on the side of the road. "Sir", Jules took a pause raised his left hand slightly with his index finger pointing up and right hand still on the steering wheel,“ I know this much”, he said, “My love for my girlfriends stays the same and their interest in men keep changing” he said laughing hard.
Aslan also joined him in the post joke laughter and they kept zipping past stationary trees.
Two hours had passed since they left the hotel and had reached Tiassale. The road was wide with greenery on both sides. They crossed the beautiful Bandama river, which looked like a bohemian girl glowing in her flow, breaking hearts a many and went wherever she decided to go.
Aslan was hungry again and wanted to stop for a quick meal. Jules was made aware of the hunger pangs and he decided to take slight detour and go into the city to a restaurant that was known for its African Fufu.“Sir,” Jules said looking in the rear view mirror, “I will take you to a very good restaurant, you will love the food.”, “Ok Jules, although right now I can fall in love with anything served to me, but Jules can we really fall in love with food? And how is that love different from the love that I have for the woman I could not have?” Aslan said mockingly. "Sir I think both of us are very hungry, and when I was a young boy, my mother used to say that we see ghosts if we stay hungry for long or if we do not eat on time,” said Jules. “Jules, my friend! Your mother’s belief in the paranormal just galvanized my hunger; take me to my love, my African Fufu.”
Aslan was holding the driver’s seat with both hands.
They ate and were back on the road to Tiassale. It had been over an hour since they had their last bite of Fufu. Aslan was tired and lay in the long back seat of the car with his legs folded, he fell asleep.
He was woken by the halt of the car. “How much more time to Soubré Jules", he asked stretching his neck. “Two hours sir,do you want a coke sir?” asked Jules. “Thanks Jules, I will have a bottle of water,” Aslan said getting out of the car.
To be continued.....