I think it was the first day of school of that academic year. But I didn’t see her in school. She was wearing glasses. She was not a great looker. She is, now. The friendship grew. It reached a pinnacle at sixteen. I am not sure she knew how special she was. But I think she did realize. She was the first one after all. But she turned out unworthy to say to:
“For you, a thousand times over.” Have you read this book? It’s called The Kite Runner.
Cricket at that neglected Shastri Nagar park was not to be missed. Early morning 6.30 Am practice. I was never good at the game. I just used to go to have some fun. They were nice guys. They were not those egotistical lot. They played with five year olds, eight year olds and the then fifteen year old like me. The team was for Uttara. The tournament was between the various Indian Bank quarters in Bombay. The middle aged men ordering us guys around. Something like the following. It was Bombay but still sometimes it was Tamil:
“Leg side la podadha da. Off side laye maintain pannu. Adikaranga nu theriyadhu la.” How many times have you seen this movie? It’s called Chennai 600028. This is cult stuff.
It was May 11th 2003. It was after the AIEEE exam. My centre was one of the Kendriya Vidyalaya in Navy Nagar, Colaba. We were going back home. It was Joy, Arjun and me. Some other guys were with us too, I guess. We had boarded the wrong bus. We got down somewhere near Brabourne stadium and walked to Churchgate from there. We even had light lunch at some dingy place. Near the lawns of Fort campus of the University of Mumbai. In less than a month, I was going to leave the city:
“And the heart for me, was the city. Bombay. The city had seduced me. There was a part of me that she invented, that only existed because I lived there, within her, as a Mumbaikar, a Bombayite.” It wasn’t even an Indian who wrote this. It’s called Shantaram. One of the best I’ve read.
It was the wrong person. She was never the one. It happened so fast for me to realize the error in judgment. Its not a regret. You know, when you don’t have any regrets in life, you are easily the most powerful person? Yes, its true. But that is not the reason why I don’t term it as regret:
“Tattoos are memories and dead skin on trial. For what is worth, it was worth all the while.” How often have you heard violin in rock? It’s called Good Riddance. By Greenday. And I think its quite brilliant.
It was exactly a year before. We sent the driver home. It cost a few bucks. I drove. The car was good. The only problem was that it was diesel. The day just went on and on. It ended at Bessy beach. The traffic on the way back was horrible. Especially with a car I was not used to. It was the last semester. A matter of time before everyone drifted apart. Sitting behind the wheel, it was quite megalomaniac:
“Duniya de jamele, naukri doondo, paise kamao, ghar basao. Aur life di ishaaron pe nachte jao.” Another movie. It’s called Rang De Basanti. Bigger cult.
I know three cities in India pretty well. I know my way around them. I make that a point wherever I go. Bombay is close to heart. Madras is good. It really depends on how and where you live in Madras to like the place. It depends on what you are looking for and whether you know where to find them. There is just too much fragmentation. Bangalore is upwardly cosmopolitan. It lost its balance somewhere. Nobody gets to see Bangalore beyond Brigade Road, M.G. Road, Airport Road, Commercial street, Church street etc. If given a choice, where would you like to live? I admit, the answer is not easy.
“Its our choices, more than our abilities, that define who we truly are.” I am sure you’ve read that before. It’s called Harry Potter.
A sudden realization of the gravity of the situation. Back home, I would pick a hundred rupee note from my pocket and pay at Satyam Cinemas. I won’t think even for a second, before ordering that cappuccino with whipped cream et al. Now I think for a minute. Or two. To even put my hands into the pocket. I dig in. Then it just remains there because its cold. I shrug:
“Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants: money will not give him a code of values, if he’s evaded the knowledge of what to value, and it will not provide him with a purpose, if he’s evaded the choice of what to seek.” Everyone should read Francisco d’Anconia’s money speech. It’s called Atlas Shrugged. Who is John Galt?
Now you are everything that you make yourself to be. Its a different time and place. Different people. Similar aspirations. There are things I like. There are things I don’t. A long way to go. A perfect Robert Frost moment. Just when I am thinking about it, I stop and listen:
“Hogi humein toh rehmat ada. Doop kategi, saaye tale. Apni khuda se hai yeh dua, Manzil lagale humko gale.” It’s called Yeh Honsla. Nothing inspires more.