Archive for the ‘nostalgia’ Category

Wish me luck” he said as he snuggled his glasses into her soft hands. She obliged with a whisper – “luck” and he could almost hear his juvenile heart bounce around to the beats of Air Supply. He was near the penalty box, when a corner kick generated some irate dribbling and before he knew it, the ball was rolling coyly towards him. He leaned to his right and with a quick sweep of the left knee gifted the momentum to the white net. GOOOOAAALLLL !! 

His joy was boundless, as he waved through the dust, at what looked like her silhouette.”Few more minutes, and this trophy is ours “ – he thought. This was the first time he had scored a goal !! Actually,this was the first time, he had been picked to play at any match (that mattered). Thanks to the guy, who was carried out in the second half, due to an injury that had involved a shoe, the football and his groin. Pain !!

The match resumed, amidst cheers and boo’s.Usually, he never tried to use his head (no pun here) to direct the ball (again no pun). You see, it is not easy to do that and keep the glasses on your nose at the same time. But this was a different day.Sans glasses, this  could well have been a first time. Except for the small slip in coordination. His head found someone’s chin, a player from the other team. The referee was furious, used a lot of Kerala accented English and flashed a red card. Exit !!

As he pseudo shamefully  left the ground, he kept thinking – “how does this really affect my football career? I am banished from the next 2 matches …which I would not be picked to play anyways ? And ….no classes since technically. I am still part of the team. Also less time on the ground = Less sweat = Better impression (if you know what I mean). Totally awesome ! !” 

Minutes later. we had won the match and the tournament. I was a school hero. My life changed !! That goal scored me, what I would define as : irresponsibly flirtatious glances from many whose names I do not remember now… (or do I …wink wink). It also earned me pats of disbelief, from the Physical Education teacher, who on other days spent most of his time, coaxing me to walk from the classroom to the outdoors. Right on !!

Once, every so many days, (once every four years to be precise), I close my eyes and replay what transpired on that dusty afternoon. It is not every day that a non athletic nobody like me, gets to make room for a trophy in the principal’s offce. It re-fills my heart with teenage pride. That right there was my “golden boot” moment !! Literally !!  

Enough said  …..let’s “kick off” the celebrations already….. !!

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It was a Sunday morning when Arnold and I met  for the first time. We were in our own living rooms. His, was in the high rise on Manhattan while mine was in Salt Lake City, Calcutta. The most striking ingredient of that memory is his big smile which used to render a display of the most innocent and chocolate invaded set of pearls.

Arnold, was my best friend for several years to come. Our friendship grew stronger with each passing Sunday. If not for his accent (which I had to initially struggle to keep up with) , we had hit it off, almost immediately !! He would do most of the talking and I would be the one breaking out into loud hilarity. I loved everything about him . He was my childhood role model. I even begun dressing like him. There was the cowboy hat ( from the Book Fair) and bell bottom pants (green corduroy) that I had to be in, all the time.  I would  even cross my arms (like him) across my chest during all conversations. It did not matter who I was listening or talking to, I would always strike the “Arnold pose” with all my weight  on the right leg. Strangely Miss Biswas found that extremely annoying (during “drawing class”) and promptly sent me out to bake in the summer heat !! But that is a different story !!

I am one of the several thousands, whose earliest memories cherish loving hues from Diff’rent Strokes. It was my introduction to anything American. I was too young to see beyond the innocent wit  that the show contained. Today, as I look back at those times and the show, I realize that it was so much more !!  All the years that Diff’rent Strokes was on air, it carried a banner of love, of acceptance and happiness. And Arnold,was the star of that show !! Everyone loved him !

Arnold (Gary Coleman). passed away on Friday, May 28th 2010  This is a farewell note from that little boy  sitting on the cold mosaic floor with his eyes glued to the black and white of the television screen, as Arnold slides down the wooden railings. Adieu !!

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Most days (save the cloudy ones) , as I step out, the Sun meets me, right in the face. That is my – first favorite part of the morning.I get situated in our small blue car, turn on the ignition, wear my seat belt, back up my car, turn on the radio and hit the road. Turning on the radio is – my second favorite part of the morning. It was no different today, till I  heard the clear voices of two students from Presidency College. And suddenly, I was not driving on a US highway anymore.  Instead, I saw myself waltz across the black bricks of the tram lines towards the millions of used books on the sidewalk kiosks. My ears tuned in to the faint tinker from the rickshaw carts and my nose drew in the early morning air, a wistful blend of fresh lilies from flower stores and the black smoke that buses from Sealdah coughed up. I was in North Calcutta, in a neighbourhood, which fondly resides in my memories. My very own ….City of Joy !!  

Back to this morning. NPR is doing a story –  “Along the Grand Trunk Road“. It is a journey, one that will take several reporters through various parts of India and Pakistan. During this journey, they will  illustrate the lives of the common man, as they make their way from one end of this historic road to the other. What has got me hooked, are the real protagonists of this story. This story is not about the high rollers and the big wigs. It is about the others – the ones whose dreams, pains and smiles, build  to make India, one of the greatest nations of the world.

Recently, a friend of a friend of mine, visited India for the first time. It is essential to mention that he (friend of my friend)  is from Germany. He had always wanted to make this trip and hence carried with him a great amount of  interest and a fair quota of apprehension. On the third day of his visit, my friend received a call – “S, …what can I say. India is amazing… I love it here !!“……much excitement and details followed,….. and then finally, before he hung up ……he said – “and the best part of India is, ……there is so much going on around you ….the population, the pollution, the roads, the movies, the cricket…. it is total chaos,…. but somehow, amidst all this …there is a sense of  harmony to this pandemonium…. called life !!  there is a warmth and it is not from the heat. it is from the smile, that every one wears on them….almost all the time“.  

As I  sipped on the first coffee of the day and the off- shore (India) team spoke into my ears, I smiled to myself  …”this is one of my favorite mornings …in a long time” !!

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If you were related to me, or were related to someone who was related to me, there is every possibility that you would do what I do …refer to it as  – “Jiyographhee”. You see, it is not that members of our family (who usually speak at no lower than 2735 decibels, on an average) do not know how to pronounce certain words, the way they should be. I know they do. But I realize, (from some serious self analysis) – they are plain lazy, which if you were half as good at statistics as me, you would know instantly is nothing but a classic example of “inference” or something like that. An outcome or may I say, aftermath of exposure to such distorted phonetics inflicted some uninsured dents and, it was just natural that I had problems with the subject. The latitudes, the longitudes and the equator along with the hemispheres induced some low pressure zones in the tundra of my head – my arid scalp. I still remember, how I used to struggle with contour diagrams and if not for the kind hearted damsels, who willingly shared their notebooks (and their lunch boxes) yours sincerely would still be tapping that pencil on the wooden desk.

So today, when I was fidgeting around in the CPU of our household (the kitchen), I spotted – March 20th – First Day of Spring – 2010 on the calendar. And I found myself asking this ….almost aloud – “how the hell do they know”. Clearly this topic was out my syllabus. And so, I looked it up. Online!! (have no idea why I need two exclamation marks after online, but I am going to keep going).

At this point it would be safe to compose my thoughts:-

  • irony # 1: insane snow storm(hence the digital image with a resolution of 3869241.45 mega pixels) on a day that a lot of people wait for, to get a good scrub and a hot bath after the grueling winter. I know I do…….
  • irony # 2: I had to move from beer to the  “real stuff” on ice to keep me warm

Clearly, this is not the ….. first day of spring 2010 !! And I warn you ….do not even try to suspect, that I am no subject matter expert !!

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The Howrah Hatia Express 8615 sneaked in, through the smoke, from the coal ovens of the railway quarters and the tea stalls. The coolies (porters) , hopped onto the still moving train and pushed their red uniforms through the almost empty compartment (most passengers disembark at Ranchi). The softness of your eyes, smiled at me as I waved back at you through the rust of the window railings. We stuffed the auto rickshaw with our baggage and after some gyrations of reckless maneuvering, found ourselves at the new place in the HEC Colony.

This house was better – more room, lots of sunlight and a train of dahlias woven around the perimeter of the property, like a garland. While the rest of the family got busy with conversations and interruptions, I followed you along the red soil driveway. I can still smell your khadi kurta (home spun cotton shirt) and the early morning air, as I held on to you tightly, perched on the back seat of the Vespa – en route to the dudhwala’s (milk man). For the next few days, I was the devoted nephew, absorbing every bit of intellectual conversation feasible between an adult and an adolescent.

The days bloated with constant chatter of the family. The evenings were calm, and that is when, you and I used to go for our walks. Stepping away from the colony walk ways, onto the main road and then bridge over the skinny brook. Our daily little secret was the daal vada (lentil dumplings) from the dimly lit kiosk run by the tribal couple. Any evidence of this atrocity, was neatly wiped out on the greasy square cut out from the daily newspaper, that the vadas were served on.

Somewhere along the path, you  pointed at the lights from the houses, behind the eucalyptus trees and mentioned how there was a son/daughter from each one of them, studying in one of the élite engineering/ medicine schools of India. “This is a great neighborhood ” – you had said, “a great place to build confidence and feed ambition !! ”

That was in the summer of 1994……

After that, the last time we met, was at the hospital in Bhowanipore. You lay there among strangers putting up a brave fight. I could see, that you noticed how much I had strayed. I was not going to be the protagonist of the success story – of your vision. Shame caught me unawares, for a few moments of true self appraisal. My life, as it was then, was clouded with superficiality and restlessness.

Over the years, change (for the better) picked me up on its way We spoke long distance and not too often. You got better but then it started getting worse. I prayed. There was a guilt of not spending enough time with you, when I had the time of your day. And then one day the phone call happened. Our conversations were over – for good !!

That was a year into the new decade. ……2001.

Almost another decade later …. this summer (of year ‘09) ….

He walked out on a relationship, one which he had believed would find him happiness!!  As brave as he is, he survived her lack of commitment and fought back to find himself at a better place. Professionally !! Now, the two hour commute to his desk, finds him at peace with his new life –  the cafeteria et al.

His likes are strong and his dislikes stronger. Over the weekends,  he devours the works of the best and the worst of authors , some in and others from out of town. He critiques with brutal honesty,  silver screen creations of the famous and the infamous. I can imagine how his apartment has not been cleaned in ages. Some days, when mischief pokes him,  the building plummets into  total darkness, thanks to his ancient iron box from the past. His laughter is loud, like that of a  child and his advices are crisp, like those of a good lawyer – one just like him !! That is all I can tell about his day job, almost like the Friends, about Chandler Bing’s.

We talk about everything, from Tarentino to family gossips, from shaadi.com to thin crust pizza, about our days near Nona’s Corner to the cheap vodka, that we downed during our last reunion. He confessed that he was jealous and often times, wondered what his father and I talked about, during those walks, several years ago. Back when he was a kid drowned in books and I was a teenager oblivious to his existence.  We speak to our memories for details and try and put the pieces together. We speak almost every day – me buried  under the Atlantic snow storms and he resonating from a local train in Bandra.

And  in my heart, I realize that our conversations are not over. When I talk to him,…… I talk to you !! You are gone …….but he is here for me –  as I am for him. I know I have to make up for lost time. We live in a cynical world and it is not every day that we know and love someone ……who can complete our sentences in a seemingly intellectual conversation!!

Someday, when I can get myself to see him again, on that balcony, somewhere in  Navi Mumbai, we are going to look up at you ….. and we know you would softly smile back at us ….and say – “Go ahead , ……take that walk….. down that road, ….over the bridge….. from behind the eucalyptus trees !!”

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Sunday afternoon is bad timing …for any kind of activity . That is ….if you are a recovering lethargy addict, who needs to take it easy…..which I believe mean the same thing.”tomar phone” ….(it is a phone call for you) heard him drag the Bata® flip flops across the mosaic floor. He retired into the corner, …..where the red receiver lay waiting to be spoken at. That was the first time …she had called to speak to him. Purely academics. But to him, it was the best phone call ever. That was the phone call that would change their lives …. (how dramatic is that..??)

From that day on…(for the next few months). …..at the same time every evening…. he would Super Glue® his left ear to that red receiver, tapping away on the redial button …….until some very amused junior (student) at the dorm would giggle out her name…loud!! They
had about three minutes to speak …..about “nothing really“.They never spoke in public. It was a secret world, that they had grown for themselves. A world of nods and blinks ….of paused glances as they crossed paths like strangers in vicinity !!

And then one day ……they finally met !! This is the part which Kukunoor narrates as…. “boy meets girl….(if you have not made the connection ….please watch Hyderabad Blues … Parts I and II). When she told him about the free counseling thrust upon her …”stay away from him..he is no good” …….his heart beat ….to a silent pride…. !! Wah Taj !! After that ….their lives took some superfluous ……and some welcome …….exits and entries…kinda like the effects of too much Haldiram® and cola…… while watching
KKHH…(…yikes !!)

A few Sundays later ….. he is still a recovering slob … she still has an apetite for books ….. and they still talk about …..nothing really !! The glances are now …..(for lack of better metaphor or incorrect usage of the English language) ….focussed … on their respective laptops !! Only and only after ….every “one” else is asleep ….PG -14 “months” !! And yes ….. he can still hear ….his heart beat …. (actually ….no) ….he is now used to a loud bang from the kitchen ……as the two feet “piece of chocolate”……. hurls the cake mix bowl onto the fake mosaic of cheap (not a figure of speech…literally) apartment flooring.

Here is my personal one (more) year warranty to Her Highness …..”complete insanity”… guaranteed!! I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Mr.Mani Ratnam and ARR ……for sourcing music and “reel” situations …….for our real moments of rendezvous…from several Sundays ago !!

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For those of you…. who know about the Mile Road system in Detroit …good for you !!! For those who do not …. I have used the hyper link feature effectively. Now that we are clear on that … Ford Road …. really is zero mile road …and it runs east to west or the reverse (depends on which way you are driving really…or maybe working on your reverse gear)….!!!

several years ago ……

We would finish working at our respective menial assignments and then, like a cattle herding individual, one of the ever so ambitious students, would drive down Ford Road …. picking up the (extremely low) hourly wage workers from varied sites of exhaustion. It was that ride back to the University ……which would find, the tall ones trying, not to hit their heads on their knees and the short one ….try to designate …in the order of best to worst … the medley of several body odors. Looking back … I believe that Geo Metro is probably not the brightest of picks (no pun intended), when it comes to an automobile ….especially one which has to fit …..four relatively modest sized (just kidding) adult males and one pudgy geek (very adult …..me). Ours was cobalt blue in color and that is all I can remember about it …. wait ..also … that it smelt of what it consumed …. several million gallons of gasoline….this was in the days before retirement packages went insane !!

Somewhere in those days… was the first time … that I got introduced to Dr.Patron. We hit it off …almost immediately. We had so much in common…that it had a staggering effect on me for several years …even to this day ……each time I meet him. In so little time and within such limited perimeters……, he had so much to offer…. and I was ready to absorb …as much as I could afford from within the holes in the wallet, the one which I was still carrying from my bargain on Ranganathan Street. But I digress. That first meeting happened at the Beck’s family reunion and boy was it fun. We partied in the patio, of this (favorite of all) American hang out (which I later deciphered on the way to the blue smelly tin can) …..was to celebrate the end of a work week …!!

a few years later ……

this Friday….. the 13th…was horrifying !! I was trembling …first cold and then warm (I know… totally does not make sense). …and then at some point, ….was shaken into disbelief,at the depth of incidence, that I could write about (my life from behind the firewall).

for now… just that …these two pieces of genuine artistry called for a bigger audience…..

at around 8:43 am …local time ….. this very sumptuous email was spread out for all …..

which….. a few minutes later was duly consummated by this disarray …..(sigh..).

clearly …. the red ink and the prompts are courtesy : me, myself and sarcasm….

So many years later …… and for reasons like the ones I shared with you …. I do not look forward to Fridays anymore !! The reader should not start being judgemental at this point. Because you have had several other posts and (for crying out loud) the whole of this one (before right now) to do that !!

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