Friday, December 12, 2008

From sunrise to sunset : "Rukawat ke liye khayd hai"

My sister's wedding was a  event that was mesmerizing in the way that it involved so many different people in wildly varying lifestyles coming together. I guess you've heard that from here before, because that's the story of every cross-cultural marriage, and we've had many in our family! Everytime I sit down to write something down on the topic, I decide that I will not do justice to the magnitude of the event right then and put it off for next time. I am going to do the same today too but I am tempted to give you the bare outlines. 

A love story sparked off in the elevator of a building in Ahmedabad (If Orkut is to be believed), then a lover pining by the sea near Dwarka while his counterpart did her bit of pining on the shores of Bombay. A full disclosure to both the families resulting in a scheduled end to this torture on the 27th of April. The two halves of this story take place in two very different locations, one the picturesque seaside town of Mithapur and the other the chaotic hustle bustle of Kolkata. The lead characters in this story traverse the width of India as if it were Andheri to Dadar and amongst them is probably the most well traveled dog in India. Our dog went through the 1700 km of India's width thrice within a week with incredible behaviour worthy of a human. Only one bark from her inside the train in her 3 journeys. 

The real problem is that with time comes better perspective of what really happened but it also leads to the little details slipping out of the mind. I may just to make them up for myself. So don't be surprised if the accounts of my sister's marriage to follow read like fiction. But then as everyone knows, truth is stranger than fiction so I shouldn't really have to put too much effort. In the meantime, "Rukawat ke liye khayd hai!"

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Two false starts

I've spent two New Year's Eves at Calcutta (the most recent two) and both I am sorry to say have been really nauseating. Luckily I do not harbour the belief that the way a New Year starts, the way it'll continue or I'd be having two rotten years in a row. New Year's Eve of 2007, I was in Calcutta only because my boss didn't approve of my leave to go home to my folks in Gujarat. There was this "training" I was supposed to take as part of my initiation into a project. I was fresh into my first job after college and apparently I needed it. As was expected, the person who was supposed to give me this "training" was on leave a week before and a week after New Year's Eve. So here I was going to an almost empty office with nothing to do till the end of the year, gnashing my teeth in justified frustation. 

On the evening of January 31st, in the company of a college pal of mine and his equally bored colleagues of L & T, I set out for China Town. We found a sufficiently obscure place in Tangra whose name eludes me now, where the alcohol was cheap and there was still some space to enter on New Year's Eve. Most of our battalion was finished off by the onslaught of intoxication early on in the evening and only three of us found ourselves still standing at around 11:00 PM. The drunk bodies were then dumped into taxis to go to their respective homes while we pondered our fate one hour before another year began. I don't recall whose brainwave it was but then next thing I knew the three of us were on Park Street to enjoy the 'ambience'. We blundered into the church next to Loreto House and it was a nice, peaceful place to be in. But peace was not written in our fate that night as we decided to venture onto the main thoroughfare of Park Street.

Park Street looked like a playground for maniacs! I don't know about earlier times but now New Year's on Park Street is a mess that needs to be seen to be believed. Thousands of uncouth youngsters (comprising 99% of frustated males, and 1% of very scared females, mostly foreigners unfortunate enough to misinformed about the BIG party on Park Street) jamming the sidewalks pushing and pulling one and all. The party hats and the plastic trumpets were all there but there was an air of such rustic crudeness in the crowd that it put Calcutta's supposed 'cosmopolitan' image to shame. The scores of police men that stood all around were totally powerless to stop the groping and debauchery happening in front of their eyes, instead picking any random individual and putting him into their vans. We were too drunk to realize it then but we were always within a few inches of being put into custody just by virtue of being there. The hoarse shouts and the honking horns of the cars on the road were supposed to express joy on the occasion of New Year but we felt like being trapped in a horde of orcs right out of the LOTR movies! If this was what was called a party atmosphere, I was so much better off without it. The whole thing was basically so uncool that it hurt, really hurt in retrospect! Right then we were too drunk to really feel anything. So next day, my pal and me vowed to ourselves "Never again!"

And guess what? Exactly one year, on New Year's Eve 2007 going on 2008, we were back there again. This time it was at the insistence of a friend of ours who had come all the way from Jamshedpur to catch New Year's in Calcutta. Being the considerate friends that we were, we took him to the one place that we knew would scare the hell out of him. Park Street was as hellish as last year and this time we weren't even in high spirits. This tour was thankfully even shorter and we wound up walking the quieter lanes of Central Calcutta to welcome the New Year. A little biryani from one of the many Mughlai eateries in my area brought in the next year to us. 

Come to think of it, does January 1 really seem so different from any other day? Much as we would like to deny it, the fact is that nothing really changes apart from waking up really late that day. It's a day symbolic enough to warrant special attention but it is not at all indicative of the year to come. The open road of Park Street is not the best place to start a New Year, I can tell you that. This is personal experience multiplied two-fold speaking. Life has treated me pretty kindly as opposed to what two rough and tumble starts to the New Year at Park Street would seem to indicate. Don't know where I'll be on this New Year's Eve this time, but I take comfort in the fact that even if I start on the wrong foot yet again, it'd really mean nothing. Not to say that a pleasant start to the year would be unwelcome.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The blog is not enough

It's quite unfair. There are just too many things I want to write about and too little time. Whenever I psych myself up to fill in a post in this blog of mine, I am confronted by a dizzying array of choices. Do I rant against fundamentalism (be it Ayn Rand's or Osama's or Mao's) or do I write my long overdue post on my sister's marriage? Do I plead the case for keeping caste based reservations (not increasing it, mind it) or should I record some pleasant childhood memory? Does my frustation at the stagnant nature of office life merit a post or should another college day tale inhabit this corner of cyberspace. Should the footloose globe trotting soul that inhabits me be given an outlet or shall I just fawn over books/movies/personalities that I worship?

It is a gross over-estimation of my writing capabilities that I'd be able to do justice to all of these and more of the sifting thoughts that pause in my mind. Yet that is the only thing I want to do. But paradoxically simply writing about all the experiences of my past doesn't leave me enough time to enjoy the present and plan the future. Memories are dead leaves that are sometimes best blown away. Trap them in a book and you can look upon them for years. But you feel sorry that they aren't where they were supposed to be. My blog is a cage where these memories are trapped, exposed to everyone's critical view and never again worthy of the beauty and sanctity they had inside my head. 

If you are accusing me of being unnecessarily complex about a simple point (i.e the blog is not enough), then I accept the charges! A blog is a limited canvas restricted to a palette of words and pictures. When faced with the daunting task of lending a ear to the chaos of introspection inside me, I feel that a life is not enough, let alone a blog!

Footprints across the world

There is a office colleague who has on the wall next to her seat a huge world map. And on that map, marked by coloured pins are the places that she has been to. The pins are peppered all over the USA, Europe and Vietnam her native country. It's my wish to have something like that too one day. If I set about doing it right now, there wouldn't be much variety. A huge number of pins all over India, one in Frankfurt and then numerous more in the USA : that would unfortunately be enough to cover my footloose activities.

But if I started to mark all the places where people I knew very well at some point of my life are or have been, it's a wonderful feeling. My neighbour from the first year hostel is in Luxembourg, the petite European nation. One of my closest friends now works in the glowing sunshine of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. A bunch of my juniors (My 'technical' sons and daughters) are traipsing all over Europe apparently 'studying' with one of them in a little village in France and one in Germany. The USA has been flooded with an influx of RECKERs (my college mates) and QACers (school mates) with whom I was extremely pally with, East Coast, West Coast, Mid West no bar. My friends from college now are back in their homelands of the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal and the South Pacific island of Fiji! I still am in touch with them and our conversation over chat is as casual as it was when we got together over a glass of whisky back in college.

Even though I am miles away from my intention of visiting everyone, it's a overwhelming feeling. The legends of lands far away, of unknown places seem within touching distance now that some person linked to my life lives there and works there, just like I am doing in a small town in north-east USA. It's one thing just to say pompously that "The world is my oyster" but what's really shocking is that it actually might be true!