Thursday, August 30

Should have known better

So, room mates.

6 years ago, when I first moved to the U.S., they seemed a mysterious species, giving ample opportunities for exasperation, bewilderment and of course, humour. College really is largely about these emotions, and my first roomies left me with a cornucopia of fond memories on strange habits, beliefs, cooking styles, diets and other assorted practices.

When I moved to Bombay in 2009, an assortment of circumstances led me to share a house with my now ex-roomie, A. Having known each other as neighbours in Pune for years prior to moving in together, we weren't called upon to recalibrate our expectations, ideas or living styles. We respected each other's privacy and predilections, most of our communication being thoroughly brusque in typical guys style. After 3.5 years, he went off to phoren parts to study, leaving me to either find a new house or a new room mate. This was in May.

Determined as I was to live by myself for the first time since 2006, there were geographic and financial factors that coughed gently and shook their heads disapprovingly in my direction. As I was about to give up hope and haul myself away into the suburbs, some long-distance connection of A showed up and moved in. As I said in 'High Speed', everyone was satisfied. I should have known better.

Now, Mod and Grandpa set the bar very high on room mate eccentricity. If I can be frank, and I can, I'd say I never expected to meet another set of people like them. And I haven't. I've met (and am currently rooming with) the guy they took notes from. Ladies, gentlemen and other assorted sundries, I introduce to you, Anthony Perkins. Not the man himself, but let's just say, if they ever decided to do a proper remake of Psycho (not that Vince Vaughn crap), this is the guy who should get the title role.

He looks a bit like Norman Bates and, gathering from my experiences over the last 2 months, is tapping into some rich supernatural vein of inspiration from that legendary icon of thrill & madness. The guy seemed normal when we first met. But they all do. Heck, even Mod did. But he triggered off a chain of strange events that continue till today.

First off, our gas cylinder decided to pack it in 1 day after he moved in. Usually, there's those big orange flames that indicate that its running low, but not this time. Can't blame him for that, right? A couple of days later, he happened to not notice a glass that was sitting on his table, a few inches from his face and swept it right off. Gravity did the rest. No biggie. He locked himself out of the house that weekend, and since I wasn't there, the landlord was forced to come from his house (not anywhere nearby, mind you) to open the door. The ante was upped when I was out of town for a week, with the flooding of the house when the washing machine's outlet pipe came off. Of course, the house wouldn't have flooded if someone had noticed the considerable amount of water creeping across the floor, but that's neither here nor there.

Then came the day when I came back from work and discovered that the iron had been left on for approximately 13 hours. After which I came back from a weekend in Pune to find that the cooker was being used as a steam-inhalation vessel (for a very blocked nose) because someone did not believe in searching the kitchen cupboards for another, more appropriate vessel. He can also, apparently, stand the smell of very rotting fruit. Or thinks the garbage bag will come alive one day and politely walk out of the door by itself. Actually, if that bag had been there another day, this was a strong possibility. 

Then came the day Reliance Energy came to the house and inexplicably cut off the power, 2 days before the bill's due date. This has nothing to do with Norman, but I'm just saying. My prayers. Slowly and surely.

After that, things were relatively quiet for the last week, basically because we were both busy with work and I wasn't here on weekends. I began to relax. Stupid mistake. Today morning, I open the door to the loo, only to reel backward thanks to a strong smell of jasmine. There's also a lot of water everywhere. I ask Norman about it, who mentions that he cleaned the place, culminating the exercise by wiping down the commode seat with Lizol. Yea, the stuff we use, diluted in a bucket of water, to clean floors. I explained to him why the skin of his buttocks was a valuable thing to continue having, and then proceeded to clean the commode with a LOT of water.

Some days, I wonder whether it isn't time for me to become a hermit and head for the hills.
Or get married.

Still, to be fair to Norman, I gotta say...

Song for the moment: You're only human - Billy Joel

Thursday, August 23

We used to wait

So the day has come.

The team sheet doesn't have the name.

At the usual early wicket (being 100/0 is anathema to our openers, apparently. In India. Against NZ. Heaven help them abroad), the name doesn't appear at number 3 any longer.

No one strides out of the pavilion, practising the straight-drive with metronomic accuracy.

The umpire is not politely asked for the middle-off (lately middle-leg) mark.

The side stance, head back and straight, is gone.

The bat has stopped tapping in an ever-increasing tempo.  

Grace has left.
Technique has bid adieu.
Reassurance has retired.

Test cricket feels strange and incomplete. 

Song for the moment: Who knows where the time goes - Nina Simone 

Monday, August 6

Another ticket

He stares at the screen, mesmerised by the rhythm of the blinking line. The blank page stares back, challenging him to put down something... meaningful. He isn't one of those writers who sit down and pound a steady 1000 words a day. He is not much of a topical writer. Unless someone wants to know about endless local train journeys and the emotional vacuum of a single man's life in Bombay. On that subject, he's close to being an expert. But he's tired of writing about it and his waning audience is no longer interested. Apparently, there are only so many ways to skin a cat. 

So, what kind of writer is he? He doesn't know. At some level, he doesn't care. He only writes when he feels like it. In recent times, he has not wanted to. He catches the faint scent of the idea for a post every now and then, but it drifts away, leaving him with a peculiar hollowness. Like he had something to say, but forgot, and can no longer even remember whether it was important or trivial. For him, it is easier not to try. A friend of his is fulfilling a long cherished dream. He thinks about these ideas - dreams, cherishing something, having dreams to cherish... his train of thought goes around a circular track. Goes nowhere. 

He has been ill recently. He falls ill infrequently, but viciously. It happened to him last year. And the year before. Only, this time it is a little different. Something, perhaps the rope tethering his resolve, has snapped. He had borne the city before. Now he finds he cannot. Or does not want to. Most people in his shoes would choose to do something about it. Not him. There was a point where he would use the situation to write piece after piece, tinged with helpess humour. Now, it all drains away. 

He had gone for a week to his firm's head office in another city. It involved overnight train journeys. It meant the train would go through his home city, pass very close to his neighbourhood, and even halt at the station. He saw the road he had ridden his bike on countless times. He followed it as far as his eyes and the window would let him and imagined being home. He thought about how close he had come 8 months earlier to shifting back home permanently. He wondered...

On the journey, he saw things that left an impression. At Solapur - an old man, the colour of mahogany, in cream kurta and dhoti, with a yellow turban. His walking staff is the same colour as his skin. The old man stands, waiting. On the train, he watches; feels a powerful, unknown connection with the man. They are both waiting. For something. At Wadi - a young railway policeman, silhouetted against the sickly light struggling from an office. He is visibly struggling against the mosquitoes. On the train, he wonders what this young man dreams about. 

The visit is a blur. A week passes by and only two things remain with him. The tangible pleasure of being in a nice hotel, and wonderment at the poise and equanimity of a colleague who recently suffered bereavement and legal trouble at the same time. He wonders whether it is time to let go. To make peace. 
 
On the return journey, he is initially seated alone in a two-person compartment. He has stopped caring about travelling companions. His companion is a portly old man, a political bigwig who's valet comes to prepare the bed. The minister suffers from regular and very loud bouts of flatulence. The night is not peaceful. Fortunately, the retinue gets off at Gulbarga in the morning. He is left alone again. He reads and stares out of the window; sees things that he files away in his head. A lonely silver Indica incongrously appearing in the middle of a field. An ancient, stone tank, indicating the foresight of past rulers of the area. Houses with the barest excuse for roofs but with proudly burnished satellite television equipment. Sets of train tracks suddenly ending in mounds of green earth. 

The train pulls into his city of work. He is just another person getting out of the station and becoming lost in the teeming mass of people. He thinks he has something to write about, at last. A moment later, he can't remember what that is.

Song for the moment: Pretending - Eric Clapton