As she walked down the dusty lanes of the Irani market, the strong—almost acrid—smell of bakoor (incense), mixed with the heavenly aroma of shawrma cooking somewhere nearby, thrust itself into her nostrils. She ran her fingers over the rich carpets and the muslin robes. A cacophony of skull-capped children distracted her from the fabrics. The teeming Mohammedan bustle in the market—haggling men; unnoticed women; fattened animals—sheltered under the bright blue tarpaulin sheets that served as roofs. Turkish coffee and shai. Trained eagles and listless camels.
These were things that she saw ever since she could remember. These were affairs that she had taken for granted, for so many years. As alien as the culture was from hers, it was just as dear. Swimming in the tide of unknown people, she wondered if she would ever return to this country again. Would she ever experience this familiar bustle and din? But then, one suffocating evening, Joshi who stood in front of the bathroom mirror, changed everything for him and her.
He was listening to Handel. Staring intently into his cold empty eyes, he watched himself as he slit his own throat. He watched the thick red fluid blending smoothly with the running tap water. By the time she figured that something was not right, he was lifeless. They sent him back home in a wooden box, sealed from the world outside.
Now, seven years later, in another country, she sat down alone on the stairs in front of a massive red Mughal structure. On a full moon night, watching the glistening Iftar shopping, she transported herself to her Irani market days. And once again, it was only the bakoor and the Irani carpets that ever mattered to her.