Monday, January 07, 2008

An Airport, a Poet and Life's Greatest Lesson

*
It ended abruptly. That dream. I don't know when or how.

All I could remember was someone screaming, "Was it really worth it???" in my head over and over again.

I found myself sitting in the boarding lounge at an airport, my tired eyes shuttling between a TV screen telling me it was time to board the flight and my notebook screen telling me that the batteries were out and needed charging.

I laughed. Because if anyone needed a recharge, it was me. I shut the notebook and got up to get a coffee from the counter right behind where I was sitting. As I was getting up, I heard a gentle voice say, "Was it worth it?"

I freaked out, turning swiftly in the direction of the voice.

It was P.

Phew!

"TS are you ok?"

"What did you mean by was it really worth it?"

"That 20 second nap of yours, you idiot! Why do you look startled?"

"Oh that, yes. Sorry. I completely forgot you were here."

"You forgot? Is that supposed to be funny?"

"Err.. Sorry?"

"Never mind, its time. They've announced the boarding."

"Ok. Cool. Just let me grab a coffee."

"Ok."

I ordered the coffee. And in the minute or so that I was waiting to get my order, my pupils finally contracted and I turned to take a look around. P's presence finally sank in all over again and I yelled from the counter,

"What are you reading?"

"Pablo Neruda"

"What's that?"

"Not what, who! He's the guy who wrote Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines."

"Oh, that guy. Ok."

Once I got my coffee, picked up my notebook & airbag, we headed to the boarding gate.

During the hour-long flight, my conversation with P centered around how different our lives are from the way we had once imagined. We spoke about our dreams and expectations, and how the transition from childhood to adolescence brought with it new ideas and possibilities. The conversation ultimately deteriorated to dissecting my corporate routine and how I'll never get around to writing that book or making that movie or teaching at university level and so on.

And then, for a reason known only to her, P breached my defense by summing up my life very eloquently. I think it was one of those I-wish-you-were-still-the-man-I-fell-in-love-with moments. I, of course, saw it as just another reality check. She said and I quote,

"TS, your life reminds me about the time I mugged up a Pablo Neruda poem for a poetry competition."

It took a second for me to understand what she meant, but almost all of next day to come to terms with it.

And I think that's exactly why I did what I did the other day.

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Sometime last week, I was informed that I needed to visit a particular college of Delhi University to run a month-long training program.

I was ecstatic when I heard the news because teaching at university level is something I had worked relentlessly towards throughout school and college, but due to my own lack of persistence at key junctures after college (I don't want to blame circumstances even though I am tempted), I had to finally give up on that dream.

And while I'm being honest, I should also tell you that writing and film-making are options that emerged after I shelved the idea of prefixing my name with Professor.

Anyway.

That date with destiny finally came last Thursday. And despite the mental preparation, I swear I couldn't have told my head from my ass that morning. I was a bundle of nerves, tossing and turning in bed all night, losing my appetite, getting ready and going down to the car only to run up, twice, once for my cellphone and then for the car keys.

In the middle of all that I also managed to find the whole thing funny (I do that a lot, not forget things, but find them funny), considering the fact that in the last 3 years I have trained pretty much everyone there is to train in the corporate world, from executives to senior management, without as much as batting an eyelid.

I decided to take my mind off the whole thing so I put on some music...

Extreme ways that helped me
They help me out late at night
Extreme places I had gone
But never seen any light
Dirty basements, dirty noise
Dirty places coming home
Extreme worlds alone
Did you ever like it then?

I would stand in line for this
There's always room in life for this...

Oh baby, oh baby
Then it fell apart, it fell apart
Oh baby, oh baby
Then it fell apart, it fell apart

*

In the half an hour that I negotiated the office rush, smoked hurriedly and sang along with Moby, I think I had what can be termed as a moment of epiphany. I began feeling less wired-up almost immediately and soon enough the nervousness subsided, and a calm soothing feeling found its way up my spine, penetrating my mind just as I parked my car at the college.

I picked up my jacket from the backseat of the car and as I was about to shut the door, I saw something that wasn't supposed to be there, and I think you'll smile when I tell you that it belonged to P.

There, in all its inconspicuousness lay life's greatest lesson, in paper and ink, begging to be embraced. The universe had actually conspired.
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Let it be known then, that on the 3rd of January in the year 2008, TS sat under the warm winter sun in a DU college lawn with a bunch of college kids and read to them, the Poetry of Pablo Neruda.