Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again

Its 1:00 am. I’m back from work. After a long time, I had a very busy day. There’s a power cut here and my inverter’s run out of battery. But thanks to my Fn Page Up key that flashes a tiny lamp on my keyboard, I’m able to write.

It’s dark… and still outside. All I can hear is generator rumbling at a distance. And strangely enough, the only other sound I can hear is the clock ticking in my room. The clock was a present for my sister on her 10th birthday. 18 years back. Buddy just let out a bark, momentarily breaking the silence permitted by the seconds hand. A whiney bark.

The world’s gotten big, and I can feel an increasing inconsequentiality about the night time.

When I was very young, in Srinagar, after 7 p.m all lights were out. Our world fell asleep and the next sign of any activity was only 9 hours from then, when the army PT would start, soon followed by the bands.

It didn’t change much as I grew older, and we moved to Delhi. The only difference being, in the plains, night fell at 10 pm. But after that, there was no reason any rational being would stay awake. Or if awake, engage in anything productive. My sister and I would play word games for that was all we could do as the darkness rendered us incapable of anything else. There was game where we’d compete on who knew more words ending in –ion. There was another one where I would try to guess my sisters’ friends names. If I insisted on playing these verbal games too long, she would scare me with stories about black cats and 100-days movie cassettes. It was time to rest. All contact was broken for the next 8 hours as the world around me retreated into deep sleep.

By the time I was in high school, and then college, night was 10 p.m, but we pushed the limit to a little later. Actually significantly later. Who am I kidding? I’ve stayed up, studying till 4 am on more occasions than I remember. I’ve had to jump across the wall to pick up an empty pack of cigarettes that accidentally fell out of my window into the neighbour’s garden (Was I scared! I was on the phone with the good friend, and I hung up in panic, and jumped across the wall). But it was still night. There was a reason the time between 10 pm and 4 am was reserved for studying the Marshall-Hicks theorem, practicing and eventually perfecting the art of smoking and long, endless pillow conversations - this was when I was alone. Everyone around me slept. There was no connectivity and again, no rational being had a reason to stay awake. I, of course, did. As did the other end of the phone. And no one to disturb the story.

At business school, the earth spun around its axis and my timing was now in sync with the other end of the world. Only, there was no connection between these two ends of the world for me. You enter business school raw, play a freak for 2 years, and exit polished. I wonder how that happens. Day was now night. I stayed up all night, ‘breakfast’ at 8 p.m., Chai at 2 a.m., Maggi an hour later, turned in at 5 a.m, slept through the day, even during class, and would finally wake up by 6 p.m. A shower would break me out of the lethargy, and several different songs, playing loudly from rooms across the wing, marked the beginning of the productive day. There was always the occasional nerd (Well honestly…we were all nerds) that continued his primitive ways and would be up all afternoon, cramming for a quiz 3 days from then. He was nearly done with his day as he had been up since 6 a.m. Can you imagine?

It was a brief interlude, for when I started work in Singapore, the clock turned back. Night was the old night. Like 11:00 p.m. Only it was two hours ahead of the rest of my world. It didn’t matter much.

It’s different now. I’m back from work at 1 a.m, and as I switch on my computer, I have my friends messaging me on IM. They’re just starting their day on the West Coast, while the Londoners are wondering if they will be able to leave work in time to get beer at a bar closeby. My world, scattered all over the place, is not asleep. Its superficial to sing songs about lonely nights. I’m not alone at this hour. Every hour, for the next 7 hours, I will receive at least 2 messages from my friends who will be cracking through their days in Chicago, or returning from their morning workout in Australia. And of course, the boys in Delhi, who’re still at work, crunching on a PE case (yes, the team I was with before), and will sleep only a few hours before the sun rises. I often get up in the middle of the night, and pick up these messages. So when I wake up the next morning, I’m still connected. I get the morning news in my mailbox before the newspaper boy arrives. I have gossip about the happenings in New York before day breaks in Delhi. There’s been no break from the world. Its a continuum.

The aloneness of the night no longer remains.

I think I want to return to a slightly less connected world. I’m not anti the advances in telecommunications or the invasion of the blackberry. I just want to reserve my night. For great writers, un-related thoughts, special people. And imagine the rest of the world is asleep. And the night belongs to me.

The music: the sounds of silence, among other songs by S&G

Pth: The music now: One..two…three…. , the ballad from the movie by the same name

Monday, July 14, 2008

Happiness in its queer forms

I can't decide what I'm happiest about: new specs... I slept on the old pair, and ended an era of Ali McGraw-style glasses....its a more sophisticated but far less comfortable pair now, since the stores at Atria didn't having anything in plastic that fit my budget; feeling ultra fit after prancing my way through the short trek (my old legs didn't cry); the fact that ITC Sheraton has a room on the 27th floor for single women (with bath oils and sleep lotions....the works!) , or the vegetarian diet that hasn't been broken in 10 days!


Sunday, July 13, 2008

An old on Rajkot

Rajkot (2nd June ’08)

Small towns usually stir up mixed feelings in me. There’s always excitement and curiosity about what the place will be like, and often a small fear of a boring, dry turnout. It wasn’t any different this time, when my client asked me to make a trip to Rajkot on work. If anything, I was a bit more anxious after my eventful and rather depressing trip to Nagpur 4 days back.

After scrambling for 2 flights in a row including a mad highway rush with a cabbie who insisted on staying within 50 (and annoying the shit out of me….. aha, Business class made sure I got on the plane 7 minutes before it was scheduled to leave) and a sprint from KF arrival in Bombay to Jet departure, I finally landed in Rajkot.

So far, I love it.

My travel gyaan: A trip is a trip when there are observations. A short trip is a good trip if it allows you to tap in to the city in the little time you spend there. The excitement of being in a new place is just peripheral.

And that’s exactly what I find here. I’ve been here 4 hours, 2 of which I spent walking around (and another 2…working). It’s small, friendly, and makes me feel like I’ve been here before. I haven’t though.

I was welcomed by a cabbie, who made me wait 15 minutes, so he could fit in 3 more people from the airport heading towards the same hotel. When I finally got to the cab, 4 fat men decided there was no room for me, so left me waiting for the 2nd cab. This was roomier.

I reached the hotel, and immediately decided I needed to go to a chemist store (not taking any chances since I have 3 hours on the road tomorrow). On quick glance, as I walked down to the chemist, there was a gym called powerhorse (I’ve seen power house before), with a group of young men standing outside, who didn’t miss a chance to whistle at the only girl in their vicinity. I feel the office wear factor played a role in that. A couple of kids playing marbles decided to stop and point towards me saying ‘wo dekh’. The background dotted with the sound of scooter horns and Hindi movie songs a few years old. The chemist started to speak in Gujrati, but quickly switched to Hindi as he realized I didn’t belong here.

When I got back to the hotel, there were about 8 people ahead of me. One of them, a short old man, probably a seasoned businessman here for some regular trade of his, gave me his place, with a welcoming smile. As I got my room key, he walked up to me with an acknowledging expression, and said “Kaam pe aye ho.....Achcha hotel hai”. He had clearly been here before, but realized I hadn’t. And realizing I was the only girl there, alone, decided to re-assure me I was in a safe place.

My room is small, cozy, and very functional. I don’t have a bath robe, and the room service menu is all vegetarian (the corn cheese chilly toast reminded me so much of business school days). Having separate switches for each lamp (as opposed to the highly convenient single switch in most luxe hotels), twin beds, broadband that needs to be re-connected after every 15 minutes, all such things, the absence of which would probably make you forget you’re in a small town.

Before I speak to soon about this place, I’ll shut down, since I do have 6 more hours to check this place out tomorrow. You never know what could change, 6 times over, in 6 hours. So more tomorrow.