I had just come from yet another humid day that Chennai churned up callously. All along,she’s been an equal counterpart and at times has even managed to tip over her Kannada speaking neighbour,Bangalore, thanks to the lopsided coastal advantage held in her beaches when it came to popular city conundrums. I wouldn’t know if it is the balding ozone layer over her or the endless metro construction work that has been going on for eternity now, shrinking roads to half their breadth to spike up the traffic; but of late she’s been a little off colour.
I turned on the television to unwind for a while, legs stretched on a chair before. I was halfheartedly browsing through the myriad channels arranged thoughtfully on the basis of language and genre, as my heart sunk into a reverie far away in time.
My school life to me was an elaborate exercise on convenience with curriculum. Unlike now everything about it was predictably systematic like my TV’s set-top box. My grandma would wake me up just before I could steal another minute of sleep. She was this person who went off before the alarm could. My mother sweated it out in the kitchen to manufacture my lunch with a lot of love and homogeneity, in sync with my fluorescent yellow uniform.
Cycling to school and back from there in a unhurried buffalo hurdle of buddies, was too much fun to be just incidental. Cycling back was in particular a lot more fun for the indefinite pit stop that we made at a bakery, that went by the name of “Choice”. The name was a little ironical given the fact that there was not much of a choice to make in the barren route back from school. This was a simple little road-facing property that was often crowded with flies hovering over the carefully covered consumables when school kids like us weren’t making a beeline. It was an ambitious place where learning was a two way street. We learnt about the existence of stuff like mousses, quiches and pizzas from their watered down Indian versions and the bakery guys in turn learnt to make them right with each iteration by having us for guinea pigs for their baking experiments. But coming to think of it in hindsight as an adult, Choice bakery continues to be a special place, notwithstanding the quasi cakes and confectionaries that violated our taste buds, as what we were savoured there was far more consequential- the last left drops of our childhood.
Coming back from school, surfing through the TV channels leg stretched, as grandma would feed me patiently was easily where the day hit its sweet spot. Pampering me to a guilt giving extent came like second nature to my doting Grandma. Since my parents travelled extensively through this phase, I was used to her taking charge of the house. Unlike my mom who was a little strict back then, she was a person in whom I found an audience for my shenanigans. She was my Santa in a nine yard sari, who felt hurt if I didn’t ask her for pocket money while going out.
Later during the day, talking to friends from the opposite gender surreptitiously about “assignments” from the landline was a tight rope walk without a net beneath; all the more because there was a parallel connection in my parent’s bedroom.Unlike now, sleep came a lot more fluently like the milkman at daybreak, with the cue of a light going off.Probably because the heart was naiver with lot less to carry and process. Or probably because I wasn’t adult enough to nocturnally defy the silk embrace of sleep back then.
The unruly ring of my phone hijacked my thought train, to shake me back to the present where my coffee had turned cold over my extended epiphany. This was an important call from a professional acquaintance that I had to take; important enough to break the bubble of nostalgia, as peace giving as it was.
This is probably the contradictory pastiche I’ve become to be over the years- an adult by appearance and responsibility; a child at heart and aspiration who would blindly choose prosperity over peace every time, while continuing to skip a heartbeat over a watershed anecdote from his distant childhood.