Thursday, April 28, 2005

Evening Samosas

It is one hell of a sexy evening in Delhi and since my DoCC report is nowhere remotely close to a point of completion I am at Cyril’s home listening to FM (the radio for Christ’s sake and not my favorite subject : D ) and thinking about what should go in the report.

I had experienced it before and it still holds true. If it rains on an evening in Delhi and you happen to be in the city you should thank your lucky stars cos it’s the best life can offer you on earth. It’s got a very earthy feel but it makes you believe heaven must be similar. And since typing a sad report wasn’t exactly my way of spending an evening like this I ventured out for a walk.

The drizzle, the breeze and the wet road! Truly truly romantic. Kinda wished someone were close and then shut it out. Couldn’t boil down that someone to one person ;)).

So what better way to spend an evening like today’s than devouring a couple of Samosas? My destination became the nearest sweet store and while I was feasting on them with a 7-Up in hand, a teenaged guy walked into the store and bought ten eggs. And suddenly I was taken back to my days in Ghaziabad when I used to buy Samosas by the dozens on such evenings and the entire family would sit at the dining table and wipe the plates so clean that they required no Scotch Brite.Hero, my dog would add to the fun by running around the table and end up not having dinner for a couple of days after such a feast.

Damn man... I was missing home! I have been in and out of home since the last 5 years and the last two years have been particularly bad in this regard. My calculation tells me in the last two years since May 2003 I would not have spent more than 30 days at home. Worse than an Army Officer maybe. The Samosas unexpectedly lost their punch and the 7-Up was no longer keeping me cool.

And then another guy walked in. This time a working executive on his way back from office- it appeared from his formal dressing. And he ordered – “Bhaiyya ek Samosa pack kar dena”.

“Life’s not bad”, I said to myself .And I smiled. The spicy punch in the Samosas was back.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Silent Valley

I grew up listening to stories of Kashmir at home. Words like Insurgency, militant occupation, the Hurriyat, Kargil, Nuclear tests, Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif used to be buzzwords in conversations over coffee and dinner ever since I remember. They used to resonate in the drawing rooms of the houses I stayed in because Dad always took a keen interest in the happenings of that region .He used to be very vocal in discussions with his friends and relatives and for me Dad gradually became the symbol of the Great Indian Middle Class.

The Great Indian Middle Class (GIMC for purposes of this post) is the group that rules in India yet suffers the most. This group can unsettle politicians and cricketers alike. They are simple people, pay taxes regularly and more importantly stay away from ‘jhamelas’. In essence they follow the simple “Live and Let Live” policy in letter and spirit. And probably that’s why every time Dad heard of a bomb blast at Anantnag or Srinagar he would be a little disturbed. And this class can only think, talk, hope and pray that things be peaceful. They are found in the “Letters to the Editor”, on television chat shows and in drawing room discussions in homes like yours truly. And lemme also add they are the people who can rattle Indira Gandhi at her peak and more than two decades down the line allow her daughter-in-law to rule our nation when every opinion poll in the country thought otherwise.

Around 2000 Vikram Chandra (of NDTV) wrote a book called “The Srinagar Conspiracy” and we bought it. That made things easier for me to understand. The author had used a fictional plot to sketch Kashmir’s history and since then even I began to follow the saga called Kashmir in papers and news magazines. Soon I read my second book on Kashmir “A Soldier’s Diary”, an account of the Kargil War by Harinder Baweja, an India Today journalist and sooner than I realized I became the partner for Dad to discuss our country’s politicians tryst with Kashmir. I was glad at the promotion from a bystander to a participant in those discussions.

And then I left home in 2003 and whenever I went back home for a week or so we never found an opportunity to talk Kashmir. Things were relatively peaceful in the last couple of years compared to the tumultuous years before. However I and Dad did watch the results of the historic elections in J&K together and that was the last we spoke on Kashmir I guess.

And today a bus carrying 21 passengers from Srinagar and 29 passengers from Muzaffarabad set forth to Muzaffarabad and Srinagar respectively. The event was telecast live on all Indian news channels and since I had to work on my presentation I was at home fortunate enough to see the passengers from either side of the Loc across a Bridge painted in white at Salamabad. A truly momentous occasion cos for some for some of the passengers this was a trip after 57 years of separation. The two passengers from Pakistan who knelt and kissed the Indian soil symbolized the very fact that all this while this piece of land on the other side of the bridge had remained elusive for reasons unknown to themselves and their friends, relatives and acquaintances on either side of bone of contention called Line of Control.

Separation must have hurt some of those passengers. And when they heard of this bus service they would have thought - “You never know when either India or Pakistan would condemn each other and would call this off. Let’s book a ticket anyway. I might catch a glimpse of some of my nephews who have grown up to be grandfathers since I saw them last or (did I?)”
And so a handful of people on either side of the divide booked tickets and on our side we even had a hotel booked on the eve of the departure of bus for the tourists. And then some people for the cause of ‘freedom’ chose to bomb those very people whose cause they were purportedly furthering. Of course they thought in a minute would come the condemnation by India and the rebuttal by Pakistan and the engines of those two buses that were scheduled to leave the next morning at 11 from Srinagar and Muzaffarabad would remain cold forever.

So the Great India Middle Class again thought and talked and asked.
“Would the bus service go ahead?”
And a gentleman voted recently as the best parliamentarian ordered his men.
And a general from the other end reverberated. And so did his Deputy in between the border.
And the passengers on either side of the border said

And finally they arrived. They met their long lost brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, uncles and aunties and wives (Okie that’s a metaphor!) and they celebrated.
And the GIMC celebrated too by thinking, talking and writing to the editors.They don’t get enough reasons anyway to do all of that with a smile on their faces.

The last I heard from my sister was that Dad was on phone talking about it and watching every news channel of every fathomable regional language.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Summer of '98

Preface: This post is dedicated to the storm that unleashed its fury while I and Gaurav were cycling on our way back after our evening net practice and the cell diagram that I and Jaydeep drew as a part of our Biology internal exam for our standard X Boards. It’s also dedicated to the ‘Versatile’ Vijay, the computer geek called Ajith and a lady who can play my mother, sister and girlfriend all through my life-Ritika. Ritika is studying hard for her CA exams and I would not be able to refer anything about her without exceeding permissible lengths of writing on a single post hence this post will be restricted to the first two names listed above.

Prologue: All the proper nouns in the paragraph above are those of my friends during the summer of ’98. We had shifted to Ghaziabad in 1996 and I was admitted to the eighth standard in St. Mary’s School, the best school of that district. A district that was more popular for the exploits of its law breakers than anything else. This was the 3rd school that I was studying in that particular year and I decline to comment now the circumstances that led to me being the Rolling Stone for that year. It was in that very year of 1996 that I first spoke to each of these guys.

April 2nd, 2005: Nine years down the line I found myself walking on the same streets with Jaydeep and Gaurav, sitting on the same cycles that we used to race with, eating Aloo Ki Tikki and sipping ‘Chuski’ at the same Chaat Center, still talking about Sachin’s batting and wondering how on earth Deepti Dutta turned mother at the age of 22.
Deepti Dutta was then popularly referred to as “Metro”- a pun on her initials D.D. And the reasons for her popularity well…. I guess it should just suffice to say that she was my first crush in that school. Deepti’s marriage was something that I had laughed off when Gaurav told me in a mail about it but her becoming a Mom did catch me numb for a couple of minutes.
This was a snippet of the weekend that just went by here in Delhi. Had been to Ghaziabad after four years and I realized that some things just don’t change in life and you feel good when they don’t. It was one of those days when you want to thank your Lord for giving you friends who seldom “keep in touch” but don’t let you drown in the crowd, friends who argue with venom and compete with disdain and yet at the end of the day share that all of them did have a soft corner for “Metro” in the same good old Chaat Center called “Husband and Wife”.

Some things just don’t freakin’ change!

Gaurav is still the sophisticated simpleton while Jaydeep is still the firebrand aggressor. And I still play the moderator in the debates on the streets. When I left Ghaziabad on a sunny morning in the summer of 1998 Jaydeep, Gaurav and Vijay were at the door of my house at 7 in the morning to see me off. Gaurav had bought me a copy of “The Art of Fast Bowling” by Dennis Lillee as a souvenir for the trips that both of us had undertaken to parts of U.P. like Guldher, Sanjay Nagar,Roorkee,Muzzafarnagar and numerous other obscure places for playing cricket matches. I remember seeing all three of them in tears that day and I was moist eyed myself. It scared me to think what if I never see them again. And today as I write this I can only thank my Lord for blessing me with their presence in my life cos even today I am a lil scared of never being able to see them again in the rush of this mad mad world.

But for now I am only wondering how to convince them that my cricketing skills haven’t eroded in the last nine years. They seem to think otherwise after a couple of matches we played this last weekend on the same street that I used to rule as a champion.

Why do some things have to change?

Epilogue: Jack Nicholson in the movie “A Few Good Men”- “Wanna tell you something and listen up cos I really mean this .There is nothing sexier on this earth, believe me gentlemen, than a woman that you have to salute in the morning. Promote ‘em all, I say cos this is true. If you haven’t got a b*****b by a superior officer you are just letting the best in life pass you by. ”

Issac M. John in the post “Summer of ’98”-
“Wanna tell you something and listen up cos I know this. There is nothing more precious on this earth believe me ladies and gentlemen, than your friends you have grown up with. Never leave them, I say cos this is true. If you haven’t come back with your decade-long friends on the same streets you used to once cycle with your childhood sweetheart with a ‘Chuski’ in hand you are just letting the best in life pass you by. ”