Friday, December 15, 2006

On Taking Long, Long Walks...

And with that hope, I walked.

Awkwardly, as I do when my jeans tuck themselves under the sole of my floaters.

Aimlessly, like that helpless old tramp who doesn't beg, but makes you feel all guilty about being rich and having people around you.

Somewhere along the way I stopped and lit another cigarette. A young couple in the vicinity were involved in animated conversation but the moment they noticed me, they looked at each other and shared a moment of silence. As I exhaled the smoke from the corner of my mouth, I looked in their direction and smiled. They pretended to not notice and immediately started talking again. Maybe its the messy hair, I thought to myself as I walked on.

The corridors of Connaught Place were relatively empty for a Saturday, and the chill of a Delhi December evening made me re-think my decision of leaving the jacket in the car.

Another 25 odd metres on a little boy came up to me and demanded that I give him 10 rupees in exchange for the two big, red, heart-shaped balloons he was carrying. He had a running nose, and was wearing nothing but a torn T-shirt. He looked surprisingly content, in a silly, homeless sort of way. I pointed in the direction of the couple I had just crossed. I assured the boy they would buy the balloons if he insisted enough. He gave me a big grin and ran towards them.

I continued walking, one hand warmly tucked into the pocket, and the other wishing it wasn't holding the cigarette. As I passed United Coffee House the thought of hot, hot coffee and scrambled eggs on toast threw my salivary glands into a frenzy. I urged myself to focus and started walking faster.

The decision was silly, because Blues was 2 minutes away and I still had 30 minutes to kill before she would be free from her office dinner.

I skipped the turn left and walked straight ahead, hoping that by the time I went around the block, it would be 10:30 pm.

Half way there I stubbed my cigarette and took out the packet of Classic Milds from my pocket to light the next one. It was empty!

Now leaving my jacket in the car so that I could enjoy the chill is one kind of stupid. But leaving your wallet in that jacket, only to be stranded 2 kms away from your car without cigarettes and money is a stupid of an entirely different kind.

In that moment of stupidity, I looked around, out of helplessness I think. There was an ATM nearby and I spotted a potential saviour. He was dressed in a sky blue shirt and navy blue pants. He looked approachable and without even giving it a second thought I called out to him and asked, "Bhaiya Ji, beedi peete ho?"

He flashed a wide grin and exaggageratingly shook his head from left to right and said "Nahi ji!"

I smiled and said, "Achha, koi baat nahi."

I think the disappointment on my face was way to obvious because he then said,"Bhaiyya sigrit-vaala agle block mein mil jaayega aapko."

To which I sheepishly replied, "Yaar paise nahi hai varna mein khareed leta."

Embarrased, I started walking ahead, but stopped as an immediate afterthought to add, "Vo kya hai na ki wallet gaadi mein reh gaya."

I don't know why I felt the need to justify myself. I guess I didn't want to feel poor and cheap in front of a security guard.

As I turned away, he called out to me, "Saaheb, ruko!" He was still smiling when I yelled, "Kya hua?"

He came right up to me and after catching his breath, he took out a two rupee coin and held out his hand.

Now I really didn't know what to do. At this point, the voices in my head took control of me.

Voice in my head: That's 10 beedis or one Chhoti Gold Flake! Go for it!

The other voice: Are you really going to deprive this poor old guard two full rupees?

Voice in my head: Of course you are. It's not like he has an andhi behen and apahij maa for God's sake!

The other voice: Fine! But you must return it! Youmustyoumustyoumust!

Guard: Arre lo na bhaiyya. Aage paan vaala hai, beedi mil jaayegi.

Me (in a hindi movie sort of way, all misty eyed): Par tumhare 2 rupaye mein kaise le sakta hoon?

Guard (getting irritated): Rakho. Hume vaapas ATM jaana hai. Duty chhod kar aaye hein!

I took the coin from his palm.

Me (trying to sound all mother-tongue-ish): Shukriya. Yeh ehsaan raha aapka mujh par. Mein aapko thodi der mein aake lauta doonga.

On hearing that, he cracked up into an obnoxious, deliberate laughter and in his own not-so-subtle-way let me know 2 bucks wasn't a big deal. Not for him, not for anyone in this country.

I smiled another I-won't-forget-this-gesture smile and made my way to the paan-vaala. 10 beedis it was to be. I lit the first 501 Pataka and took a long drag. The smell of the beedi smoke catapulted me into memories from the one year I spent at the school hostel (my school campus is on the outskirts of CP and therefore the connection).

---Two 13-year-olds jumping out of the hostel window at 11:00 pm to go eat Anda-Bread, drink Pepsi at the dhaba in Shankar Market. Making conversation with auto-drivers and construction workers, smoking beedis with them, playing pakdan-pakdai, then streetlight cricket, bullying them into letting us batting forever, reaching the hostel at 2:30 am, finding no way to get back into the hostel because the guard has locked the window from inside. With nowhere to go, landing up at ISBT, spending the night trying to sleep in the corridors with the homeless, shivering in the cold, seeking refuge in a blanket given to them by a bus conductor, finishing all their money on tea and buiscuts, taking a lift and reaching the school campus at 6 am, just in time for basketball practice!---

My thoughts evaporated when I cited Blues, I called P and told her I'd reached. By the time she came out, I had lit another beedi. When she came out, she gave me a big hug and kiss. The bouncer and the captain from the club stared away at me, wondering why on earth someone who looked and dressed the way I did was smoking a beedi. I whispered into P's ear that I wanted to offer the bouncer a beedi just for kicks. She broke into a hysterical laughter, put her arm around mine and said, "Chal, I'm the one who's drunk, not you! And just why are you smoking that stuff baby?"

"Long story", I replied.

As we stepped into the parking lot just outside, P asked me where the car was to which I flashed my best smile and replied, "I hope you're in the mood for a long, romantic walk."

She jumped in delight almost losing her balance in drunken frenzy, and in an attempt to salvage lost pride, broke out into a dance, singing Aaj Ki Raat from the movie DON. I gave her a hug and we started walking.
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Somewhere along the way she asked me why I had parked the car at the other end of CP. Was it really an attempt to be all romantic and huggy in the chill?

I blushed and asked her if she had 2 bucks to spare, and if she was in the mood to help me change the car tyre.

She looked at me in the eye, a little confused with the randomness of the answer but smiled anyway and said, "Of course sweety, you know how I LOVE to change car tyres at CP in the middle of the night."

"Just the answer I was hoping for!", I exclaimed and kissed her on the forehead as we walked on.
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39 comments:

Sanjukta said...

ok moral of the story..cut down on ur cigs dude.... Naah not really..never give a damn :D

A grt grt post...really.. Perfect narration.

To join Delhi Bloggers Follow this link..
http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/delhibloggers/

Look for the Join this group button once on that page....and pls pls join..

Keep writing

iz said...

Sounds like you've found the right woman.

kalindi said...

its just about being in the right place at the right time and having the right people around

TS said...

@Sanjkta: Thanks. Will definitely join the community.

@Iz: I have. Don't know about her though, ha!

@Kalindi: I think having the right people around makes it the right place and right time.

Glittering Girl said...

Wow! I just come to read your blogs! And they are beautifully narrated. And you know smoking is injurious to health. Try avoiding it when possible. :)

See you!

Anon said...

I accidently started reading your blog....and I have enjoyed it thoroughly since...In fact I have a couple of colleagues who love reading it as well.... Great job!!!!

faceless said...

life is worth living for the italicized events

and somehow I envy the camaraderie that is shared by two smokers!!! someday maybe I will join the club...

Ankita said...

hey..thats a really sweet post..i think alot of us would kill to share such moments with our loved ones...n of course not to forget..to get lost in them...if only life wasn't so transient and these moments could last forever....but whats beautiful is that u can capture them thru ur posts and make them live forever...Am sure u'll get to experience and share many more...

TS said...

@Glittering Girl: Thanks for the concern. In my defense, I don't smoke much when compared with my peers.

@Anon: I'm glad it makes your day at work a shade better, helps me kill a lot of time at work as well... ;)

@Faceless: Amen to point one.
About the camaradrie, go join the army or something... you're better off without tar in your bronchioles... :)

@Ankita: I sure hope so. I capture them for the sole purpose of reliving them someday, maybe when I'm 80 (IF I live till then) and immobile I'll ask my grand-children to sit beside me and zabardasti read to them... they'll yawn and want to sleep but they'll have to be all polite and yes dada/nana ji-ish, or something like that...

Shalini said...

Tanmay..firstly...that pic..with u and Prethew's dumb smile...I zimbly love it!!

Just read ur previous post...I remember..I was 25 minutes late for the movie Black...But I saw it anyways...the movie got over I exit and walk straight to the ticket counter, stand in the line again...watched one show after another..hehe!!..

Just curious aboit this post...did the guard really give u two bucks? or is all this a figment of ur imagination?...either ways...excellent narration...like i always say.. you are a great story teller!!

Cynical Consultant said...

Ts, Thanks for your comment. You really got the drift of the post. I wonder, is life like this any more? ... Perhaps I should just buy a plot of land in manali and grow contraband substances.

Anyway, write stuff asap. I'm done reading all the stuff here.

deepti said...

gr8 post...

TS said...

@Shalini: About the post, if you think the narration is honest then its true... right?

@CC: The sad thing about Manali is people not from Himachal can't buy land there. I've tried. Wanted to open a rstaurant there and live forever but... :(
And I mostly write stuff over the weekends when I have some time, so Monday is a good day to pay a visit.

Deepti: Thank you.

Astha said...

Masterpiece.

I've taken endless aimless strolls in CP with my now husband...and this one really tugged at me...

Oh man! I can smell India right now. And it smelleth heady.

Ujjwal said...

nice..smoke less..change tyres regularly..:)

Jane Doe said...

Delhi December in beautiful memory laden CP, Desperation to light a smoke and just inhale, exhale! And of course P's drunken frenzy! All of it makes one smile as drifting lazily back to one's memory is made easier cause of you..
Thank you!

Horrendously hillarious pic! Hehe!

Jane Doe said...

*memory-lane

hedonistic hobo said...

wonderful post! why beedis though? and which school did you go to? i'm trying o think of shcools in delhi that have hostels and all i can think of is.....ugh.....dps rkp.

say when does blues shut? i love that place! my best dates have happened at blues.

hedonistic hobo said...

:) apaahij ma, behen ki shaadi, pita ka operation, bachhon ke khilnay. there are lot more hindi film tragedies to draw upon dahlink!

TS said...

@Astha: Back from Hawaii already?

@Jane Doe: Anytime, have you been there recently? The drive from Barakhamba road towards Outer-Circle is beautiful. Plus the Central Park has been restored which I'm sure you've read about.

@Ujjwal: Will do kind Sir. Just got back into town so lets meet up before you go back to that complicated course of yours in that complicated university of yours... Carnegie Mellon, right?

@Hobo: Blues shuts by one, I think. Don't go there much so I may be wrong. And I studied at a school called Modern, which is on Barakhamba Road.

Nitin said...

Heart Warming post in Delhi's chill

Nandz said...

Amazing post! Hate that voice in the head, when it crops up at the wrong time, don't you?

The Marauder's Map said...

Hey, lovely post. Brought on a tsunami of nostalgia -- I moved to Blr from Delhi couple of years ago and haven't been back since. Miss CP more than anything else I think, especially in winters.

mannat said...

Awesome description tanmay... i can actually imagine the cold and the necessity of lighting up. And p's drunken frenzy , very cute!

TS said...

Nitin, Marauder's Map: Thank you. And yes, CP has that effect on everyone who's from here. I remember when I was away studying in Bangalore and I came back after three years, the first thing I did was go to Coffee Home and just *sit and look around*

Nandz: Yes. Very much. Though I sincerely wish there was just one voice... ;)

MannatP's drunken frenzy... cute? Hmmm... worrying. I think my company is to blame for her *bad habits*

calm ocean said...

ooh at the time of need mr. judgemental forgets to judge and calls people "Bhaiya Ji" n asks em for beedi eh.. hmmph

Anyways.. i do like the way you write , specially the humour part.. quite similar to my writing style ;) (not that i was complimenting you)

A Shade of Blue said...

May everyone go on a walk like this at least once in their life. Sounds perfect.

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