I liked stepping into the tiny mounds of ashes on the side of the road on wintry Delhi mornings. They were the remnants of bonfires that people lit on the sidewalks to keep warm during the night. When I stuck my feet in these piles the next morning I felt an irresistible coolness… until the day I didn’t.

The fire must have been more recent the day I felt the burn.

The pile of ashes looked cold and dead on the outside but something burned within. My reflexes were strong and I withdrew in an instant. Another childhood quirk bit the dust that day.

The memory resurfaces now during introspection of a placid life lived in liquid times. The surface is calm, no waves, no ripples. They are things of the past.

This placidity could appear inviting to the stray traveler. It hints at an irresistible coolness. It’s an illusion.

Something simmers within. It flares at unexpected, innocuous moments of interaction with others. It appears at requests for repetition, it appears at inattention, it appears at stupidity and it always leaves behind regret and despair.

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