The bubbles at the sides of the glass, raising… It was a rainy day when I opened the shop for the first time. I don’t know whether it can be addressed as a shop—a cartwheel in the shade of a huge umbrella. A man in folded up mundu1 was my first customer, talkative, arrogant. With rising enthusiasm, he had asked me how the magic drink was made, without using bottles of soda, but with ready made soda. His name was Ramu or Koya—a name I thought had deeply engraved in my brain, but disappeared in the shadows of life. The bubbles at the sides of the glass, raising and disappearing… Kids or grown ups, Bengalis or Malayalee, Hindus or Muslims, rich or poor, television channels or YouTubers crowded around the rusted out stand covered with blue tarpaulin sheet. They demanded more until their mobile phone cameras captured the process of making the magic drink. Then they disappeared into the mob, into their daily routines. The bubbles at the sides of the glass, raising and disappearing; blending with the wine red color of the grape juice. Anwar, my school mate, was interested in the business. He set up a similar shop on the opposite side of the road, but with some plastic chairs and tables. We sipped hot tea sitting on the chairs, when the wind blew hard on the polyester umbrellas. On cold nights, people preferred Anwar's shop more than mine. Gradually, we forgot to talk, smile or stare at each other. The astringent flavour of the Jamun fruits we used to lick on the way to the school and the sticking of our purple tongues thereafter slipped out of our minds. The bubbles at the sides of the glass, raising and disappearing; blending with the wine red color of the grape juice; Lingering sourness in the taste buds… The National Highway project of building four lane roads is announced. They give compensation to the shops being demolished, a huge amount, good enough to start the business somewhere else. They approach me. No building, no chairs or table. They refuse to give money. “Move away.” I walk through the road leaving behind the cartwheel and the jars of grape juice, yet to be carbonated. I search for a new site everywhere. A village transformed into a modernised town. People too. “Not here. That's our car parking area.” The bubbles at the sides of the glass, raising and disappearing; blending with the wine red color of the grape juice; Lingering sourness in the taste buds… The regurgitating gas… Chokes him. The bottles of grape juice will remain non-carbonated. __________ 1 Mundu is a garment worn around the waist in the Indian States of Kerala Tamil Nadu, Lakshadweep archipelago and the island group of Maldives
DR. MUHSINA K. ISMAILis a dentist by profession. She is greatly intrigued by the complexities of mind. Her works have been widely published in Malayalm magazines. Her flash fiction ‘Iteration’ has appeared in the Quiver Review magazine. Her poems are published in the Active Muse and the Delhi poetry slam magazines. Her poem,’ Sourness of Loneliness received special jury mention in AIFEST international poetry contest.