Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Foggy parathas


[Tonight is a cold night in Calcutta, cold by Calcutta standards that is, but just the right kind of cold if you ask me. The motorcycle ride back home through deserted late night roads is faster by 20 kmph as your shoulders stiffen up to brave the chill in the air. Your twitchy on-the-verge-of-sneezing nose & numb fingertips feel like they belong to somebody else. Your eyelids are cold, like they have just been dug out of snow. Just the right kind of cold that a man can take... and robustly enjoy! Makes me think back to the four winters spent in the heart of Haryana, last experienced only 4 years ago but already seems like 4 decades ago.]
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07:30 AM
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I have always been a creature of the light, never a creature of the night even through the routine murdering lifestyle of an engineering college hostel. When the sun is up, I have to be up too no matter how late I sleep or no matter how much of a biology v/s fermented liquids challenge last night's party was. So all too frequently on a winter's morning on a weekend, I would find myself blinking like a deer caught in the headlights and grumbling my way out of the sensational comforts of a thick blanket. It didn't matter that I would be taken down by another wave of extreme sleepiness at around 11:00 AM, but for the moment, I was hopelessly awake.
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A hostel bears an uncanny resemblance to a graveyard in those hours of the morning, so deathly quiet is the surroundings. Every party worth its salt has already ended in tearful emotional moments of the "You are a real friend!" nature and the chorus of puking heads out of the verandahs of decadence has long gone silent. It's a surreal world, especially in contrast to the mayhem and the noise and the loud music that inhabited the same space just a few hours ago. Then there's the all pervading morning fog rolling in from the sunflower fields in front of Hostel Number 5, almost looking responsible for putting all the party revellers to a much needed but vehemently-fought-against slumber.
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I lumber down the stairs after pulling on my worn-down-to-the-last thread blue jacket as the cold stings my ears. The few odd inmates (Yes, we have had some notices which referred to us as "Inmates of Hostel No. 5"!) who were also in wait for breakfast to begin also come shuffling down, a mini army of zombies staggering through the fog in search of the one thing they craved, the only thing that could justify being awake at that  - hot paranthas! Methi, aloo, gobi whatever may be the stuffing - all welcomed onto the cold steel of the railway catering style steel plates, topped off with a cube of butter and then another cube of butter to serve as the 'subzi' component of the meal. 
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The warmth of the first morsels of food awaken the other senses and I can hear the sound of the carrom board striker whacking into the sides. Somebody has already got down to business in the common room neighbouring the hostel mess and I am sure by the time I leave the table, none of the newspapers pinned to the boards would be free for a read. Nonetheless, I wander into the common room out of sheer habit and check out what's on TV. Wonders of wonders, it's not ETC with its endless stream of Bollywood movie trailers but a West Indies v/s Australia Test match live. Lara is hitting the hide off the Aussies and it seems that the word has got around already. A few familiar faces, cricket-fans as they are, rush in and take up the first row. I too find my nook, in the second row with an empty chair in front to prop my legs up on to half doze, half dream my way through the wizardry on display on TV. Another blissful day of anarchy thus progresses in REC Kurukshetra, in the land of foggy parathas.

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1 comment:

Kumar Bibek said...

I don't know if you have realised this or not, but one of the benefits of getting up early, is that you get the best pot, and the cleanest one of the lot. :D

Yeah, I miss those Parathas, and cubes of butter and the steamy tea. And the front row seats in the common room. :)