Thursday, February 19

Day Tripper

There are moments in life when you realize that you are totally out of your depth. That moment hit me just before lunch yesterday as the speaker droned on & on about random whatnots. I was just thankful no one paid any attention to the less than attentive expression on my face.

To be invited to a 3-day conference is not exactly the pinnacle of my achievements, but this one had about as much chance of seeing me in a professional avatar as the last cold one in the fridge on a summer evening. Or any evening, come to that. What sealed the programme's fate was that it was being held in Pune. To make matters worse, the venue was the National Insurance Academy in Balewadi. To be paid to go to Pune is akin to... err, dude I'm being 'paid' to go to 'Pune'. Enough said. Much joy. But, to be spending the day at the NIA is even less encouraging to the get-project-done stakes. A verdant campus even at the worst of times and February is not the worst of times. The trees provide a generous shade, the fragrance of flowers gently tells everyone to stop and smell something appropriate and the geese honking in the distance as they waddle toward the canal gives a ridiculously pleasant feel to the place. The balmy air does not help matters, constantly suggesting that one's time could be better spent resting with a book & beer under one of the aformentioned members of the flora. Or, playing cricket or somesuch sport for those inclined.

Of course, all of these thoughts were only passing in front of my eyes as I dully contemplated the chap pontificating along in a less than jolly fashion. There were some moments when my consciousness broke thru to the surface and I doodled on the pad in a laboured way. But these occasions were far and few and stopped completely once well... okay, you are going to question my sanity here but... once a dish of poha began to seductively dance right in front of me. The simple steel bowl winked at me in the dappled sunlight as the rich yellowness of the flakes was cheerfully complemented by a glinting wedge of lemon. A faint yet definite waft of fried peanuts was present. The diced onion, sev & green chillies only served to accentuate the whiteness of the coconut shavings and the whole dish steamed with a quiet nobility that people can only strive to achieve.

Like I said, I was out of my depth at the conference. But hey, I was at the NIA in Pune and the reverie was worth it.

Song for the moment: Under the boardwalk - The Drifters

Wednesday, February 11

Clocks

Blame it on the 'new job-new city' euphoria, but I've been struggling to put the figurative pen to paper for over a week. That's not unusual in itself since I've taken many a haitus. What's unique to this time is the inability to encapsulate what I'm seeing and feeling and put it down into some sort of coherent, snappy format. After what seems like ages, a rambling post is coming up here. Don't bother to stay and peruse further if you don't feel like it.

Call me vindictive, but there were noticeable stirrings of joy when I heard the boss plead on the phone with some random person for their time... like I'd done not too long ago. For all the cliched karma, even a week at work has made it rather obvious that it'd have taken a miracle for this lot to reach any decision on my employment within the boundaries of my expectations. Work abounds and unlike what seems like half the somambulistic world, it does not involve mindless repetitive bollocks. The job is mine, but not just yet - I'm on probation, a term most of you may be familiar with. If not, consider yourself fortunate.

While the hunt for a place of my own goes on, I'm shacking up with a friend in Bandra, which is midtown in more ways than one. I think I'm getting dangerously comfortable in the melting pot of Bombay where extremes are the order of the day. Just today, coming back home on a jam-packed bus, I saw a little baby boy giggling toothily as he played with his mother. While his antics eased the exhaustion I was feeling, any pleasant thought I may have had died when I was struck by the kid's resemblance to another mite I saw this morning... looking forlorn and tearful, standing in the muck of a newly dug road. And yet, the poignancy that should have framed the boy from the morning seems to be fading into some sort of shrugged acceptance. Perhaps this city, and in particular Bandra, is changing me... in ways I'm not comfortable with.

Travelling on the footboard of a bus packed to the gills is an experience on it's own. Granted, hanging on for dear life while wishing the gent in close proximity understood concepts like deoderant or perhaps bathing, is not going on anyone's bucket list. Still, that, and watching from the overbridge as 4 trains enter Bandra station at the same time heading in 3 different directions (yea, 3 - Uptown Western, Downtown Western and Harbour line) provides a momentary spark of insight as to what keeps this city going. It isn't any nonsensical, done-to-death, 'spirit' I'll tell you. No one here is indifferent. In the greater scheme of things, caught in the whirlpool of making the right bus, train, office time etcetera, the possibility of life being extinguished like a candle flame comes way down on the list of phenomena to look out for. Or brood about.

Coming to grips with Bombay, it's nature and way of life is not an instantaneous event. There are always parts of the myriad one flinches at. Parts one wonders at. Scenes that disgust and moments that soothe. Yesterday I caught myself absently doing what I've seen a lot of Mumbaikars do - reaching out to make sure the wallet is still in the pocket.

So far, so good.

Song for the moment: Catch my disease - Ben Lee

Friday, February 6

Back seat confidential

My two-paise's worth on Bombay - a city with the unique ability to embrace you instantly, making you part of an energetic collective & yet, instantaneously leave you feeling intensely lonely. A loneliness you see in the person sitting next to you on the bus, train or any other mode of transport you choose. Something you can almost touch as you squirm your way through a million bodies... or is that a person a second for innumerable beats of time.

Everyone immersed in their own private hell.

However you choose to look at it, it's home.

Song for the moment: I stand alone - Godsmack