Wednesday, April 26, 2006

It's not just an Orange Candy...

Orange candy. It's my favorite ice cream. I could never enjoy any other ice cream as much as I enjoy Orange Candy and this is the best thing to enjoy in hot, humid and sultry summer. Its sweet and its cold. Its made up of ice and flavored syrup only. Nothing to make mothers proud of while they give it to their children, but still the pleasure which comes from it, no other ice-cream can come near to it! The moment I take it out of the wrapper, the humid air around it creates a dense cloud of condensed vapors. I can feel those cold vapors on my nose and my mouth starts watering with the anticipation of what is coming. The moment I put it in my mouth the ice melts away to give the sweetest flavor. The ice, which melts in the mouth, sends the chill down till the stomach. My eyes shut automatically to cut away the disturbance which could take away the pleasure of having my favorite and one and only Orange Candy.

Every time I have an Orange Candy I get transported to the days when I was just 9-10 years old in Agra. I used to study in St. Patrick's School. The best thing about that school was, till 5th std there was no exams for us. We used to have class tests at regular interval and depending upon how we performed in those class tests, we were graded at the end of the year to be promoted to next class. Well, during those days, that was least of my worries. I used to worry about getting 10-10 in my class tests because that carried a promise, which my father had made to me. Every time I used to get 10-10 in class, I used to wait for my father to come home after office because he had promised me 1 Re if I scored 10-10 in class tests. That 1 Re was the most prized possession for me in those days because with that 1 Re I was able to buy an Orange Candy after school. When school used to get over I used to proudly go to the ice-cream man and buy myself one of those orange colored sweet and cold candy. When all the kids used to go to their respective rickshaw, I used to stand at the gate to show off, in front of everyone, my prized possession.

From those days, its not just an orange candy for me. It's a symbol of joy, pleasure and sense of achievement. It was not the matter of earning 1 Re. It was how I earned that money for myself. And hence, the joy and pleasure got stuck to that simple ice-candy with no nutritional value. Even today when I pull the candy out of its wrapper, that sense of achievement never betrays me. Though today its cost is 5 Rs and the money comes from my own pocket and not my father's, but still the flavor and cold and sweet sensation transports me back to the days when it was worth 10-10 marks in my test copy.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Mumbai Uncut.

Its Friday night and when I looked at my watch its already 8 in the night. The best day of the week, but I am still in office, trying to send a product to the client. To make the matter worst, it's an optional holiday in our office and most of the people have either left early or didn't turn up. The effect, I am sitting in an empty office! The security guard comes and starts switching off the lights of the places where people are not working. The effect on me - I just want to scream and run out to freedom!

Atlast, the product is mailed to the client. I have a company to head back to hostel. His name is Rohit. Together we took a rickshaw to Chembur thinking as its a public holiday today we would not have face the wrath of traffic. The rickshaw picks up speed and I am longing to reach hostel. I look out side the rickshaw and wonder the joys of reaching home and finding home cooked meal laid for me by my mom. Suddenly, I miss my home so much, as these are the joys, which I can only dream off. I was shaken up from my dream when I realized that Rohit was speaking something to me. He was speaking something of traffic and then I realized that the rickshaw wasn't moving. I felt like crying when I saw the traffic in front of me. I prayed to god -"Please God, not today!!" I requested the autowala to take another route to which he readily agreed. As, soon as we took the turn we realized our mistake. The traffic wasn't moving there also and we were stuck in between. I cursed everyone and everything. Everybody who wanted to escape the traffic on the main road tried to take this short cut and the result, a bigger traffic jam! The lanes were so narrow, that at times I felt, if I would have stretched my hand outside the auto, it would have entered a house and I could have had a cup of tea with the family inside, while sitting in the auto.

Even autowala got tired and said "You trust me on this one, I'll take you through another route which I seldom take". Having nothing to loose, we agreed to him. He took us through the slum of Narayan Nagar. Well, the luck was definitely in my favor as we got stuck there too. The autowala, switched off the gas and relaxed himself on the narrow seat. Realizing that even I didn't have another other choice, I gave up the dream to reach hostel in time and I looked outside to pass my time. Outside, some kids were playing on the road. As a kid myself few golden years back, I used to play with marbles. In this game one has to throw the marbles on the ground and is asked to hit a particular marble. If one does that he gets the particular marble. Well, coming back to present, these kids on the road were playing the same game but with stones. The amazing part of all this was, they were really happy playing with whatever they could lay there hands on. In the game of throwing the stones, one kid got hurt and he started crying, but within few minutes he stopped crying and joined the game back. Then I realized, few more of such incidents and the kid will stop crying all together. The life on road will make him tough and here I was complaining about such trifle matters of life! Suddenly, all the anger inside me was wiped out by the smiles on those innocent faces.

Some kids noticed that I was looking at them, and when they realized that they were the center of the attraction, which they seldom get, they started putting up acts for us. There was music playing full blast in an auto right in front of us. Those kids took that as a chance and started dancing to the latest music of our own "Nasal King"!! One of the kid got some weeds from somewhere, they all took some and decorated it on their own heads. The dance was nothing different of what you see on Mumbai roads when Ganpati festival is going on. The jerky movements make me wonder - how come the bones don't dislocate on the joints? Within few minutes I was laughing my heart out. Encouraged by my laugh they climbed up the rickshaws back in front of us. Suddenly, our autowala shouted at them and they scrambled away! I was little upset on loosing my army of entertainment, but then our autowala started explaining us that if they fall they would come under our auto and people around wont see that it was the fault of their kids but would gather in large number to harm us in return.

Well, with nothing to do now, I turned my attention to our autowala and started talking to him. In the talks I gave my address to him and when I turned to see Rohit he gave me one of those looks telling me that I should not have had given up my address! I knew what I did was wrong but then I kind of trusted the guy who was trying his level best to make us reach our destination. The traffic started moving slowly and along with the slow pace our autowala was giving us the geography lessons of the area. "Now we are on top of Narayan Nagar hill", "dekho idhar the Muslim area ends and Hindu area starts" and so on. After a point I saw a clear road ahead and then I realized the reason of traffic jam. There was a PC placed on top of a very old and shaking table and with a bed sheet hung in front of it to give it an effect of curtain. There were people seated in front of it and there was loads of noise around. The crowd was in a very jubilant mood with everyone trying to speak something or the other. Then I realized, that its Friday movie especial day for them. The movie would play on a computer. As my auto passed this place, the time just froze for me for a second and I was transported to one scene in Swades where they showed that in villages, they are still using the projectors to see movies. How can such diverse things still manage to exist side by side?

I felt soft wind touching my face and I realized that traffic jam is over and our auto is flying. Our autowala told us to go till Vidhyavihar and crossover the station to take another auto to avoid another traffic jam. As we had totally surrendered to him, we didn't say anything except to nod in agreement. Finally, after 1 and half of traveling for a 20 minutes way and totally exhausted from the day's work, I paid the due fair and stepped out of auto. Then, I looked back to say Thank You to our autowala. In response he smiled to reveal pan smeared teeth and he raised his hand as a gesture, common to us Indians, as a way to give blessings. In that one second I saw love and best wishes for me in those tired eyes and come to think of it, I just knew him for 1 and half hour. A person whom I never saw before and whom, I am sure, wouldn't see again, left such a strong footprint on the sand of my heart that it would take another life to wash it away. What more can I say of this city - It makes you hard enough to wipe your own tears but it also gives you so much of love that it washes away all the hatred.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Magic of FIVE...

Monday - The piercing sound of alarm drills through my ears, with an extra energy and my eyes refuses to open up. The shock that the weekend is over still lingers around like a thick aroma of an incense stick and mind refuses to wake up! Well, its the worst day of the week...its Monday. Lying on my bed, when i hear the birds chirping and when the sun rays slowly fills up my room, it seems that God is really trying hard to cheer me up. I slowly, very slowly get up from my bed with just one thought on my head - "Where the hell, did the weekend go!" .The routine starts and I get ready for office. Makes me feel like bounded labor but cant help it. These working days kind of fills up my pocket which I so easily spend up on weekends. At office too, I see same feelings in the eyes of my colleagues. The work doesn't pick up speed till late in the afternoon. Thats because everyone is trying to adjust to the jolt of "another weekend gone"! Its only by evening, that the mind comes to term that its a working day. The bus ride back to hostel marks the end of another day, but within heart of heart I am happy because the day that ended is Monday...just 4 more days to go.

Tuesday - Alarm is still a jolt, which ruthlessly wakes me up from my sleep. Still lying on the bed, I wonder what if the clocks stops right here and right now (sounds like AB junior singing!) and I'll get all the time to sleep. It takes all the strength for me to get up and start my daily routine. Slowly, the sun also wakes up as if it is also deciding whether to come out or to sleep a little more. The breakfast tastes better, the tea tastes good and the air feels fresh and I wonder where were these things on Monday. Office looks better, the work starts on time rather there is energy to complete the work. Whether is con-call with clients, or it is sitting late to complete the work, I am ready to handle all with an energy which I didn't know was there in me. World seems to be a happy place as I am happy from inside. When the day gets over, I wonder where did it go as I was so busy doing work. The drive back home, whether its in bus or auto, makes me feel happy from inside and then it suddenly strikes me - just 3 more days to go...

Wednesday - I wake up before the alarm rings and wait for it to ring and then before the first sound penetrates through mobile, I switch it off and try to catch that sweet, seductive 5 minute sleep. After 10 minutes when my eyes open again to remind me that its time to get up, I try to convince myself to wake up as its already Wednesday and just 2 more days to go before the week ends. As the morning rays of sun dances in my hair, it feels as if even the sun is happy that's it Wednesday already. The birds are happy; the air smells of sweet flowers and incense that burns in our small little mandir in my room. Even office is bright with bright smiles on faces. The work seems to be good. Brain works with endless energy and when breakfast time becomes lunchtime and when lunchtime becomes evening teatime, I can't make out. In the evening when I come out of office the sun is smiling away to sunset as if it's waving me goodbye with a promise to meet me the next day. Back in hostel, weekend plans starts taking shape. There are always loads to do and loads of places to go. Mumbai as a city can always keep you on toes and that's what I love about this city. When my tired body lies on the bed and my head touches the soft pillow, my heart is dancing with joy - just 2 more days to go.

Thursday - My Thursday starts even before my faithful alarm rings. It's switched before even it dares to create the noise pollution. Sometimes it feels so amazing when you just lie on the bed early morning, see the light penetrate the darkness of night, feel the early morning chills which makes you snuggle into the blanket, the sweet and fresh smell of the morning. Then I slowly get up from my bed, not because I don't want to get up, just because these little things seems so precious at that time, I feel I'll disturb them if I am too quick. Thursday kind of slows me down. It's like yesterday but its not going to be the same as tomorrow. The work happens like the rest of the days until unless some PM needs the fire extinguisher to control the "fire" on the project. The day is relatively slow, because there is a wait for the preceding day. When the day finally gets over, I feel like doing "phew" because I just have to bear with just 1 more day.

Friday - Have you ever got a feeling when you really want something to get over fast, even though you know its not possible. Well, that how Friday is for me. A day has to have 24 hours i.e. 1440 minutes, and we definitely can't cut it short. But then it's so unfair. Right from the morning when I get up I just wait for the day to finish. In an attempt to make the day get over fast, I try to do things fast, thinking maybe if I am fast, the day too would get over fast. But then, earth being so bulky at the wrong places, we cant expect her to be fast. So, while I am all ready to start the weekend, the day, runs at its own pace. I can dance to any tune, I can laugh to worst jokes just because it's Friday. All the work in office gets postponed to Monday as its Friday. No one, including me, wants to take heavy work as no one, including me, wants to stay back late. Have you ever run out of class even before the bell rings to mark the end of the day in school? Well, if you haven't, then that's the best feeling and that's how I feel when I am ready to leave the office in the evening. It's the feeling of being free. Hostel is full of energy. All plans for the weekend are made. There is no urgency to sleep as there no early mornings the next day. The music is on, full blast with the feet tapping and hands moving in the air. Its ritual to mark the beginning of the auspicious period - The Weekend! Pledging to sleep till 10 or 11 in the morning, we finally hit the bed late in the night.

Saturday - Its 7 and I am wide-awake. I can't believe that it's Saturday. Its holiday, there is no office. I force myself to sleep again, convincing myself that I can sleep, as there is no office. Its 7:30, and my eyes open themselves as if trying to deny me the pleasure of sleeping late. I again force myself to sleep again. Then at 9 I finally get, fully satisfied with the sleep and being very sure that I can't sleep anymore. The weekend has begun. Standing at the window, stretching to full extend and smelling the fresh, warm air of morning makes me feel at the top of the world. The day begins with self-grooming, extends to lavish lunch and proceeds to Colaba, or Bandra bargaining for the smallest of thing. It ends with a beautiful sunset at the Bandstand or Marine Drive with sea winds playing with my hair and my eyes dancing to the music of happiness. A more lavish dinner follows and we drag ourselves to hostel for the night. Tired but still in mood we go over the purchasing of the day and feel bad if we didn't bargain enough or pledge to return back to the same place to buy something that we left because out ego won't give into buying that thing for something more that we decided! Feeling great that there is one more day to go we hit the bed...

Sunday - Get up at 9, eat breakfast, search for a movie post lunch, have lunch and sleep in the afternoon. This is heaven. Get up by 3 or 4, and rush for the movie. By evening, when the movie is over, depression starts sinking in. Gosh, weekend is over. It's Monday tomorrow. We have a sumptuous dinner and then drag ourselves to hostel. Once back at hostel, we force ourselves to prepare for the next day...Monday. Sleeping with a heavy heart, I console myself - Just 5 more days to go...