[Editor’s Note : Every week we will be publishing one chapter from Ansh Das’s book, The Memory Of A Face. Needless to say, we are super excited! Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7 & Chapter 8]
The storm within
Diano was tired of looking up at the ceiling. He had been lying on the bed for a few minutes already. Deciding on what to do next was such a terrible task suddenly.
It had been a busy week for him. After landing on Monday, he had checked into the Pacific Hotel near People Square. It wasn’t a 5-star accommodation but it was covered by his office and favoured for its proximity to work.
Work that occupied most of his daytime and sometimes crept late into the evening hours. Not that he was doing something groundbreaking at work, but he had to make sure he achieved his daily targets. After winding up at the office, he’d walk around a bit and then have a warm dinner before heading back to the hotel. A shower and a DVD later he would surrender to sleep.
So tiring and tight was his schedule that he had no time to play in Shanghai. He longed to go out and enjoy the city before he headed back to Hong Kong. This time he had made a deal with his boss. Instead of flying back on Friday night, he had persuaded the man to let him stay until Saturday afternoon. Diano always completed his work in time and was amongst the most promising employees his boss had or at least that is what he told everybody. So there had been no strong reason for not letting the poor kid enjoy one night.
Diano had planned to achieve a lot in that one evening. He’d wrap up work early and then return to the hotel to get into casual wear. Then he’d head out to the Bund area. He had a small digital camera and a tiny tripod to fit it on. He’d take a few night time shots of the lovely buildings on the Bund side of the Huang Pu river. He also wanted to check out the China Sex Culture Museum, the History Museum and the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium if they were open. A few shots of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower from close would offer opportunities for interesting composition.
It had been a hazy morning with an occasional drizzle. But it started coming down strongly after noon. To make matters worse, the wind picked up speed adding to the chill factor. The temperature started to plummet and so did Diano’s hopes of executing his plan. Feeling sad, he had left office early and returned to the hotel. What could he do next?
Darn! The hotel didn’t even provide Wi-Fi or Internet service in his room according to the booking details. The hotel’s agreement with his company did not include Wi-Fi or Internet access. Maybe he should have stayed longer at the office. And done what? Continued working? At least he’d have the Internet. It would appear odd if he headed back there especially after having bade farewell to everybody earlier.
No. The office was ruled out.
He switched on the TV and flicked through the channels. After a few minutes, he settled for a program on animals.
Was it too late to call the airlines ticket office and fly back that night? Was the airport open and were they allowing planes to take off? Was it even safe to fly in that weather? It looked like wretched weather had blanketed the region just as the weatherman had predicted. Did the people in Shanghai believe in the weatherman? He recalled a few strange misses by the Hong Kong Observatory.
On some occasions they had failed to raise an appropriate signal although the public had felt otherwise. On the others, they had raised it too soon creating great inconvenience to daily office-goers and students who had to rush back home. Was there such a signal system in Shanghai? Did they need one? Sheesh. What was he thinking?
What should he do next? Should he just go out and catch a movie? It was too early for discos although bars would be open.
He reached for his bag and started looking for the page he had printed in the office. It had the addresses of several bars and discos on it. But he couldn’t find it. Had he left it in the office? Even if he wanted to go back to retrieve that printout, he wouldn’t be able to get in without the local security access card. He had surrendered it before leaving the office. Aiya. What bad luck. He resigned to his fate and fell back onto the bed.
Thirty minutes later, he could tell the number of spots on the ceiling that appeared darker than the others. He had tried different breathing techniques to calm his restless mind but failed.
He switched the iPod on in shuffle mode. It played a classical piece first. It sounded somewhat soothing but made him feel very lonely. If only somebody were around, at least he wouldn’t feel so bad. The iPod picked a Hip-hop number next.
Diano could not lie to himself any more. It was better to brave the storm outside the hotel than die from the one inside his head. He had to get out of there. But where could he go?
Absent-mindedly, he picked up the TV remote and started flicking through the channels one by one. And then he stopped. Something had flashed in his mind. It was something on one of the channels he had just browsed through. He started surfing through them in the reverse direction. There! It was a program on wine tasting. Something looked familiar somehow. He concentrated harder and scanned the screen inch by inch. And then it hit him. It was the painting on the wall behind the presenter. A popular one. He had discussed it with someone on MSN. He rushed to his phone and picked out a name from the address book. Diano held his breath as he dialed the number.