Waking Up

It begins with a slight tinkle and suddenly ends with a loud clatter. I wake up with an uncomfortable start.

It’s like being snapped out of a reverie and being slapped by the hand of reality.

Suddenly the open fields metamorphose into graveled roads.

Where the mighty oaks reigned and the rosewood ruled, the earth now bears witness to a concrete jungle.

Where men stood tall and held their heads high, now exist as mere shadows..lowly shifting in the darkness..flinching as a stray beam of light threatens to expose them.

Where the warm shimmering sunlight is replaced by halogens – leaving us with no sense of time.

Where beauty once proudly owned – is now a commodity.

Where children, who were beacons of hope, are now burdens of responsibility.

Where “mistress” is now a word fittingly and grudgingly used to describe your office chores.

Where money seems to buy happiness – albeit temporary – a series of temporaries entered in the books of account as a major gain.

Where plastic smiles and plastic cards are almost as easy as expendables.

Where the brother becomes a foe and the dog becomes the best friend.

Where the world is now just a mouse-click away..human proximity being shattered into oblivion.

Where the only sound heard is the ominous ticking of the clock – in a house full of people and void of mirth.

Where human life has a value – wager against materialistic possessions.

Where the times when there was honour even among thieves, have been brushed to the farthest corner.

Where innocence is lost so young, that it’s almost but a thing of lore.

I wonder if waking up was worth it – there’s a happier place just around the corner, close your eyes, go off to sleep and let your imagination turn the moment magical.

The Best Date Ever

        No, there weren’t any roses, no quartet of musicians, no fancy restaurant, no three course meal being served by butlers, no dressing up…and yet it remains forever lodged in my memory as the best [and most unexpected] date ever –

‘Shifting sucks. Unpacking is suckier. And being stranded alone in an unknown city is the suckiest of all.’

    This had become my anthem from the past five days since shifting my base to Mumbai. My belongings had arrived two days back along with a message from my would-be housemate and current best friend that she would be shifting after a couple of weeks due to some emergency back home. I had neither kith nor kin in the city to turn to in case I needed someone to talk with. I was not even friends with the neighbours yet.

    Luckily my company had provided a nice accommodation in South Mumbai, a mere 10 minute walk from the famous Marine Drive. I planned to start sightseeing as soon as I had managed to convert the house into a home. I spent the entire day among cardboard boxes of varying sizes which held all the stuff I owned. Clothes were put in the cupboard, books placed on the bookshelf, kitchen utensils stored in the kitchen and a general tidying up followed to make the house more inhabitable.

    At the end of the day, I donned my favourite pair of pyjamas and plonked tired on the slightly creaky but comfortable sofa. A cacophony of emotions ran through my head, where each emotion tried to gain a dominant position in my mind. Lonely, angry, lost, betrayed and…wait a minute… sweaty? While I was lost in my own woes, I failed to notice that the electricity had suddenly decided to bid adieu. How in the world could this happen? Wasn’t Mumbai supposed to be the ‘City of Blinding Lights’ and all that razzmatazz?? Things were just going from bad to worse, and I didn’t know what to expect next.

    I had a horrible time hunting for some kind of illuminator as I had suddenly become disoriented in the not-yet-familiar place. Finally I chanced upon a box of candles by the bed-stand. As I lit one, I heard a loud knock at the door. The sound caught me by surprise and I whammed my knee into the table. I let out a shrill scream, followed by self-directed curses.

    “Are you alright?” a smooth male voice called from outside the door. Replying with a feeble yes, I hobbled towards the door. The man identified himself as my neighbor [which I confirmed by noticing the open door across the hallway through the peep-hole]. I opened the door and brought the candle in my hand to lighten the caller’s face. It was probably the face of the most handsome guy I had laid my eyes upon. Boyish looks, a day’s stubble, curly hair and almond-shaped eyes which made me go weak in my [already hurting] knees. My hand involuntarily flew to adjust the strands of my unruly hair, but then I realized that this was unnecessary as my checkered pyjamas were already making a style statement of their own!

    I must have missed something he said when he asked, “Would that be fine?”. “Huh? What?” I replied immediately, snapping out of my reverie. “I asked if I could use your phone to make an urgent call as my cell phone is not charged and I have no landline”. “Yeah sure”, I replied coolly, embarrassed by my lack of attention. I handed him my phone and tried to ignore his conversation about some railway bookings.

    He thanked and left, only to return twice in a span on 30 minutes to check whether there had been a call for him. I invited him to stay in the house for sometime till he received the call. It’s funny how two random people just meet and click from the word “go”! He had an easy going manner and a smile that lit up his eyes instantly. It was almost an hour and half into our conversation when we became aware of the hunger pangs in our tummy. Considering he was shifting out the next morning and I hadn’t quite settled in yet, availability of a proper meal was out of question. We scoured about in our respective houses for some quick bites. He came back with some leftover pizza, home-made cookies and a carton of apple juice. I furnished a bowl of maggi noodles and potato chips.

    We continued talking about our hobbies, jobs, pets, childhood, hometown….Kishore Kumar, Mohammed Rafi, The Eagles, Kenny Rogers and the likes keeping us fine company all night through the songs playing on his I-Pod.

    And then it began to rain. A drizzle at first and gradually pouring in its full glory. The first rain always has an inexplicable way of lifting your spirits so high that it almost feels un-worldly. The pattering of rain sounded like music to my ears. We sat by the window, watching the rain..letting it do all the talking for some time. The street lights enhanced the beauty of the rain drops to an ethereal level. I was mesmerized by the quick transformation of Mumbai from a sad and lonely city into this beautiful place which seemed to have the potential to fulfill all my hopes and desires.

    A sudden craving of tea ended in a frantic search for tea powder in his house as I hadn’t stocked my kitchen yet. Unavailability of gas led to the bright idea of brewing tea over candle flame. As we continued talking about our dreams and ambitions, we took turns at holding the tea vessel over the flame of 5-6 candles. It almost took ten times the time required to brew tea, but it was the most amazing cup of hot steaming ‘cutting chai’ I ever had.

    It was about five in the morning when we decided to take a walk along Marine drive. The roads were still glistening with last night’s rain. The smell of fresh earth filled our nostrils, driving home a sense of pleasure. Early risers gathered around the tiny tea-stall at the corner of the street, to enjoy a hot cup of tea and biscuits before beginning their day. As we walked towards Marine drive, it only seemed natural to hold each others’ hands. It felt as if two old friends had met after a long time and only had one night together to do all the catching up over the years. Watching the sunrise that morning was one of the best experiences I had. The sun seemed to be performing its routine activity of rising with extra beauty and grace today. The sea shimmered effortlessly in the virgin sunlight to provide a breathtaking visual.

    We walked back home in the sanctity of silence; replaying the events of the night and savouring every moment. It was mutually decided to refrain from taking each others’ contact details and leave it entirely upto destiny to decided when and where we would meet next. The idea of mystique sounded great. We said our goodbyes at the door and then went our separate ways.

    I hit the bed immediately after coming back home. He had probably left while I was enjoying my beauty sleep because his door was padlocked when I went out to check. It sadly struck me that we had completely forgotten to even ask each others’ names..it just hadn’t seemed necessary at that time. It was then that I noticed the parcel lying outside my door. Hastily packed in newspapers was one of the little oriental cups we had used from his house to have tea the previous night. The note next to it said – “Hopefully there will be more of these”.

    You can have the best of the moments in the most unlikely of the settings. In my case, all it took was two lonely strangers, a leftover pizza, maggi noodles, old hindi music, great conversation, rain and hot steaming cutting chai.