Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I get a kick out of eating at places that let me park leisurely on the fringes of roads – the care-of-footpath types places. There was this place in Vels – Wang’s kitchen, who made divine noodles and fried rice for 15 bucks a plate. What made the stuff even better was that he had some tables on the footpath, on the edge of the narrow street that led out of Krishna gate. You felt you were one with the road, the street, not closeted or confined, being out there made you feel free – in that sense the experience of eating the stuff became directly connected with the entire locale itself. You could sit, relax, take your time. You just felt like looking on at the street, at the people who passed by, the tea guy, the Xerox guys, the people out there for a fag or two, the houses that you could almost call huts.

It sometimes fascinated me, amazed me that these people, all of them that comprised Vels, would just stay there, year after year, what seemed like age after age. You and me and everyone in IITM would move on, get rich, become far too important to want to be seen in a locality like Vels, it would, well, just pass out of our lives when we went out of IITM. These guys, all of them, would stay right there. No, they wouldn’t whine or complain about their existence or poverty, they’d be perfectly happy the way they are, for a life outside of Vels or a life other than their own would be unfathomable, unthinkable to them. Vels was their entire existence, their entire universe. When you aren’t even ambitious, you don’t complain about fate – you’re content with the life you have, and you let other different people be the way they want just as well.

Somehow, it seems beautiful to lead that sort of life, to stay in a place like Vels all your life, to grow within it, to age with it, see it change imperceptibly just as it sees you do the same, be its companion all along, to see and love every bit of what it has to show you.

These people, these satellites of the students who kept walking out of the gates, have been doing the same things they’ve been doing for decades. Some things changed – new Xerox machines came, computers came to Xerox shops, new pepsi and coke refrigerators showed up in corners of tea shops, but everything else really seems just the way it must have been when the entire place began to exist – the primarily pedestrian traffic, the shopkeepers, the small talk the chaps made to the regulars there, the cool drinks, the huts, the rows of residences hidden by those immediately flanking the road.

I’ve mused about the life of a Vels guy, and often wondered what it would be like to be living that life. In a small room of a thatched house curtained off from the main road, growing up amid the typical crowds, in the relative crudeness and the pervasive it-doesnt-really-matter feeling, amid the peculiar noises, amid everything that's a part of a labouring class locality that's some way from being a slum - sleeping on mud floors or mats, the only light in your life being the dim bulb whose paleness suggests more gloom than its meager illumination suggests cheer, perhaps going to school, but invariably ending up making tea, or holding chilled cool drinks on a sweltering afternoon, or lighting a fag, or making noodles in sweaty kitchens for students as old as you, who simply happened to be rich enough to be able to do different things.

Chatting with these students, their words coming forth in all accents of Tam – Bihari to Angreji to stranger and completely indigenous styles, knowing full well that these guys would fly off in a year or two, and become hotshots, researchers, business honchos, that their life would change so much that they would never, ever come in contact with your life again. They would be replaced with a new crowd of students, that would in turn come to Vels, go out of it, move on, go ahead with life, while you’d stay put. You’d still go on doing what you’ve been doing, you’d grow up, grow older, get married, have kids, all in your backyard Vels, all the while the numerous people you've meet and talked to, jet set around the world. But you know you dont have to go anywhere. You dont need to. You're happy where you are, and that's enough.

Sometimes there’d be ever so glancing a point of contact with some of those students after they've grown up and left, perhaps in their discussions with old chums that are supposed to be nostalgic, discussions in which all parties know that they don’t want that life back, and that besides it’s beyond them to do that, and yet, in a strangely ironic way, they’d still continue to reminisce about those very days.

Even if they did want a peek into that life, and decided to drop by to see the place where they’d spent all that time all those years ago, they simply wouldn’t be the same guys – they’d never quite feel like giving themselves entirely to the place the way they used to – accustomed to being draped in formals, they wouldn’t quite want to remind themselves of a place where they came in torn shirts and unwashed shorts and rubber slippers. No, that would be more painful, that would be a stinging reminder of something precious they’ve lost, what they are simply incapable of recovering. They’ll have changed far too much. They'd rather stay away.

They might have left Vels behind, but there’ll be a part of it still within them. You imbibed just a bit of the place and took it back with you when you ate at Wang’s. Somehow, it didn’t really seem to matter that there were vehicles hovering around you, cycle bells shrilly shrieking or horns blaring or dust rising, kids hollering, women screaming, that the road or the tables weren’t cleaned often, or that that was the sort of place you'd think twice before you'd take your dad to or before you'd show off in front of non-IITM friends. Wang and Vels was somehow far too personal for all that to matter.

Eating at Wang’s gave you the time, gave you an excuse to look on at Vels, the forgotten twin of IITM. One so entirely different from everything IITM has ever stood for, but one bound inextricably to it. It was a twin hardly noticed, but it was always there by IITM's side.

And then, the day after my second year’s summer vacation, I landed up in Vels for dinner, and found Wang's shutters down. The guy had packed. Left. Just like that.

Everything else in Vels went on like nothing had happened, like Wangie never existed. Maybe he never did. Maybe Vels does change after all - it's just that we dont notice.

I haven’t seen Vels for ages now(it’s only been a year, though, and it already seems that long), and when I think of it, there’s a bit of trepidation, a sort of haunting feeling that I always have when I think of revisiting beautiful places in my past. It’s the feeling that I’ll probably not be able to love it any longer, that either I or it will have changed far too much.

I do want to shelve this apprehension now. I want to be seeing Vels, live the numerous unlived lives I had there, and love the place all over again.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Precisely fourteen people are under the impression that they are the sole recipients of the first email typed out on the comp mentioned in the last post. While all of them were known to have felt suitably flattered, their reaction on reading these lines is not known. This post may be regarded as incriminatory evidence in the likelihood of a very expected occurrence.

Friday, September 23, 2005

I have a new entry into my life, one whom it may not be entirely out of place to refer to as a Navarasanayaka, a rather appropriate appellation in the sense that it will be the purveyor of the navarasas, which, according to whichever is the scripture that defines the lot, are supposedly of essence for those that intend a maximal and comprehensive enjoyment of human life. To be precise, it will now be the steed that will transport me to dimensions I’ve hitherto hardly attempted to enter, and consequently missed out considerably on the joys thereof – most particularly music and movies. There were times when I did feel this absence rather sorely, there was this sort of void in my life, which has perhaps been a major prompt in the coming of this new presence in my life.

Yet another motivation for this new arrival has been, of course, an augmentation in the quantity of my monetary possessions, which the said arrival proceeded to plunge into the negatives, something that’s been rather familiar territory all through college. But its possession and of course, the prospect of the hours spent in its company are sufficient compensation to render worries on any such account unnecessary. Besides, you know, I turn it on like no one else does.

Now, I’ve to get busy. There’s effectively nothing on it. There’s stuff like Aashiq banaya aapne and Dhoom, not to mention something that the guy spells as a telagu movie, all of which it has to be disinfected of so as to render it worthy of the other bounties that it is going to be pampered with in due course of time.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Celebrations! Jubilations! For it has now been established with almost mathematical rigour that while form is temporary, class is permanent. Sourav da hath silenced his critics by his latest century. The one in which he blazed away to his 50 in 139 balls, and then, then, believe it or not, actually stepped on the pedal, and sprinted to his next 50 in the small matter of 122 balls.
This, against the hostile bowling of Messrs Mahwire, Blignaut, Ewing and Dabengwa on a vile, raging pitch in some corner of a foreign field that is forever Zimbabwe. Ah, oh, wooh and other orgasmic noises that are supposed to pass for monosyllabic expressions of speechlessness. This, then, was the baap of the comebacks. This, then, was Captain Courageous. Move over Mark Taylor, Mike Brearley or whoever is your favourite-captain-in-spite-of-low-average.

Besides, he seems to have learnt from his other mistakes, awakening us to the fact that genius lies in attention to small details. No more the Sourav da of old, who would, in his quest for the big picture, forget trifles like grounding his bat. Now he often makes other, faster runners look inept slowcoaches. Laxman, the lazybones( and there're people who actually venerate his lazy, laid-back style. Lethargy, to these misguided aesthetes, is elegance) knew not how to keep pace with Sourav da, and paid dearly for his folly, in much the same way that other Indian batsmen did in the past.

Sourav da will sit back and muse fondly on this, on what we think is his defining innings, but which he knows is merely one of many to come, for the best is yet to be. The musing will last four years, in which period, he will average around 10, but that is just so opponents, critics and men of words can pleasure themselves by arguing that his time is past. Until he hits back. The way only he can.

He then will score a defensive stroke filled century(prefix favourite adjective - 'stout rearguard action','in the trenches' or 'back to the wall') in the 2010 series against the Bongs, which is going to be followed by what philistines would call a slump, but which in truth will an intentional layoff, intended at being the launchpad for yet another comeback in the 2015 series against the Zims, triggering off an astonishing perpetuity of comebacks.

Of course, magnanimous as he is, he isnt going to block the way for younger aspirants into the team, and will retire like a champion, when his game is at his peak, after yet another comeback in the 2098 India-Zimbabwe test series.

He'll then walk away gracefully to pursue business interests – in particular a cure for insomnia – a compendia of recordings of Saurav da innings of the last hundred years.

Until then of course, we have the direct, first person presence of Saurav da to lull us to sleep. Do go gentle into that good night, dearie.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

It came to my knowledge sometime ago that lots of people in office for some reason think I'm married. And stay with wife. Jazz of the sort. Maybe it's the deliberately exaggerated unkemptness(the man who doesnt have to try too hard. Ha.)

I hadnt done much(hadnt done anything, actually:-P) to alter public opinion of my status by way of a revelation of my determination to defer the folly of matrimony for the time being, but a certain circumstance forced my hand - the approach of Raksha Bandhan. That compelling situation called upon me to release the news of my availability to the fawning multitudes.

I must leave now, the queue is lengthening.