Monday, November 05, 2007

For you S, a Thousand Times Over


"Question everything TS, even the conventional, because the root of conviction is validation, not belief."

S (1981 - )
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4th November, 2007:

19:30 - SMS from L: Dude, sorry for not replying to your message yesterday, it was a crazy day. But yes, we must do something for S's birthday tonight!

Reply: Ok, I'm driving right now so can't really talk. I'll call you once I'm home and we'll figure something out.

20:45 - SMS from L: TC Gurgaon, 22:30. There was no time for a surprise so I've kept S in the loop. MC is getting a cake from Big Chill.

Reply: OK, sounds good, though a surprise would've been fun. Anyway, call me when you're leaving Vasant Kunj. See ya.

5th November, 2007:

00:10 - I get a frantic call from L. He demands to know why I'm not there yet, considering the clock struck midnight 10 minutes or so ago. I tell him about the unavoidable delay, and the fact that I'm almost there. He tells me they're at Buzz, and not TC, which is great because I'm in the mood for bollywood.

00:23 - I walk into Buzz, where the DJ is doing an impressive job of mixing Soni De Nakhre and Ride the White Horse. Blinded by the disco lights and deafened by the speakers and the screams, I fall back on my sixth sense.

I see drunk people.

After a minute or so, I feel a hand clench my arm from behind so I turn. Its L. He motions for me to follow him to the far end of the club, where most of S's universe is standing at the bar. The moment I notice S, I almost run towards her.

What follows is a warm wish, a warmer hug and courtesy L, a hot, hot Sambuka shot.

S: I'm impressed TS, this is the third year in a row you've made it to my birthday!

Me: Well, if the last two 5th Novembers were anything to go by, I'll make my way to your birthday without fail every year. That, and the fact that you still remain one of my favourite people.

She smiles and looks away. I go back to my drink, knowing well that this is the fourth year in a row I'm there on her birthday.

*

When the music finally gives way to silence, an indication, perhaps, that we need to finish our drinks and get the hell out, I feel some thing is amiss. With M and V missing, the details of which I'd rather not get into, the circle feels incomplete.

In that moment of incompleteness, I try and seek refuge in a song. Not just any song, but one whose lyrics have earned a place on my epitaph, and perhaps the epitaphs of the people who are here for S tonight.

I play the song on my phone and wink at S and L.

Is it getting better or
Do you feel the same?
Will it make it easier on you now
If you got someone to blame?

Soon enough, I attempt to hug the both of them together, as has become customary over the last couple of years, since we have laid claim to this song as our own. L steps forward and S makes the initial gesture of a hug, but then backs away and says, "no TS, this isn't our song..."

L and I back away, and the song fades into oblivion as I begin making conversation with an acquaintance from work.

*

The night finally ends at the Bristol parking lot around 6:00 in the morning. The effects of alcohol have long worn off, and the only thing lining our stomach is the three plates of bacon we have just devoured. L, S and I smoke one last cigarette as MC stands there freezing. A plan for Pushkar is finalized for the weekend after Diwali. Once the cigarettes are over, we make our way home.
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The last two 5th Novembers

2006:

Well, if the fact that I wrote six chapters about S's birthday weekend last year is anything to go by, you know how eventful it must have been.

***

2005:

Its 07:00 AM, and extremely chilly for an early November morning. The terrace I'm standing on is large and rectangular, outlined by a railing that reminds me of a house I once lived in during my childhood. There is plenty of light, but the sun hasn't, yet, shed its quilt.

Empty bottles and people are aplenty, scattered casually all over the available floorspace.

Two very close friends are trying to out-drink one another, with the more experienced one yelling "Bas? Ho Gaya?" at regular intervals, hoping to elicit surrender from the other one, who's obviously on the verge of throwing-up. (And to think that today these two shy away from making eye-contact)

A guy is perched on the bean bag, playing "Last Kiss" by Pearl Jam on his guitar. A few others are watching him play and revel in the attention. His girlfriend comes and sits right in front of him. He breaks into a grin and looks straight into her eyes as he ends the song, now only his fingers caressing the strings. Someone cheers them on and the girl blushes, not knowing what to do with all the attention. (This couple married sometime ago, only to separate within a month of their wedding)

Most others have passed out. On the cushions. In the bedroom. On the floor.

M, S and I are looking at the sky, sharing a cigarette. S asks me about plans for the day and I tell her I need to be at work in less than an hour. She looks at me in disbelief, while M immediately asks to confirm if I'm still dropping her half-way home. (M is an ex-colleague who now works for a high-end luxury and lifestyle magazine for teenagers. Every now and then, she also doubles up as a reality check for people like me and S)

*

That day, for the first time in over a year, I didn't show up for work. To make matters worse, I didn't even bother informing my manager, which ultimately led to the initiation of disciplinary action against me.
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Epilogue:

We share a special relationship, S and I.

It began in the October of 2004, when she trained me on the nuances of the English language, and we ended up spending over three weeks arguing over the correct pronunciation of the word 'govern'. Post which we graduated to casual acquaintance thanks to a common friend A, drinking all night, every now and then, at TC Delhi and Zaika. However, it wasn't until mid 2005, when all of us from work began frequenting TC Gurgaon and Buzz, that we actually started hitting it off, and I don't think we've looked back since.

The funny thing is, S and I don't talk on the phone, and neither do we meet, just her and I. Even so, in the last couple of years we have, thanks to common friends (especially M, L and V), we have managed to meet at least twice a week.

*

I want to use this space today to express my gratitude S. You've made the last three years something I never thought possible. Worthwile.

I also want you to know that the social landscape will continue to change in the years to come, like it has these last couple of years. People will come in and out of our lives, and we will continue to forgive, forget and move on, trying desperately to seek the happiness that we believe is ours. And though I hope not, there may even come a time when you and I may go on for years without as much a single thought about this chapter of our lives.

If that does happen, I hope all this comes back to us someday. Many, many years later. When we're old and unwanted. When the kids from the neighbourhood force themselves to listen to our stories only because we haven't paid them for mowing our lawns yet. When its early November, and the smell of the sunlit morning reminds us of a time we have long forgotten.

i want you think of me then and
let your eyes swell up a little
and if your pride permits
maybe even shed a tear

i also want you to hum that tune
the one you once let go of
because for every memory you've disowned
there is a forgotten song
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