Anil, the winter that year –
the tarmac outside the Gufa Bar was slick with rain;
tourists rushed inside, plastic bags over their heads,
water droplets trickling down their wet trousers.
You sat near the fireplace, your back against the hearth
while the dry pine logs sputtered and hissed.
Flakes of ashes flew off and fell on our heads.
The smell of coal came in from the train station
beneath the lower bazaar, its smoke hard to distinguish
in the grey fog heavy above the sky of Shimla.
I took a deep breath and felt the smoke tighten my lungs.
We drank Old Monk, mixing it with hot water.
As the night grew, a few boots clapped on the road outside
and then silence again, even the stray dogs were quietened.
The bartender closed the counter and sat down to drink with us.
The bell at the cathedral near Ritz rang twice,
and from the window, we saw the snow
falling softly all over Shimla.