Of likes and retweets

The myriad ways for people to stay connected now was a dream then; the way people stayed connected then is a dream now.

That was an era; bygone obviously, when people had a healthy relation with their neighbours, not the perfunctory association meetings about car park earmarking. People bled and emoted into letters for beloveds; who treasured them as trophies. Phone calls were a rationed luxury, that had to be booked in advance at the jurisdictional post office; run by a postmaster who doubled up as the agony aunt of his territory. Postmen were acquaintances who were jubilant with money orders and morose with telegrams carrying news of demise.

Friends were family actually, not friend-zoned on facebook. Men wrote love letters rife with metaphors.Women weren’t auditing proposals. “Shy” was the “blush” in vogue then. Good looking people were actually called handsome and beautiful.”Cute” used to be an expression reserved for fluffy mammals.

Then in the pompous wedding between inventions and preferences, the ouster of old school ways happened.Gradually, but steadily. People who grew radios for pets, had moved on to Ipods. People who once used typewriters and fax machines, started getting used by desktops to be it’s artificial intelligence. Life as we knew it,moved from before the monitor to within. Hard copy correspondences were softened in the edges for eco-friendly soft copy ones.

The radical metamorphosis of “What’s Up” is quite something. It started as a naive enquiry of a person beneath to replace “Hello” from common parlance to finally turn into an App that allows colonies of people to bitch about each other with ordered flexibility.

‘Liking’ is not the same as appreciating, like ‘retweeting’ is not the same as patronising.

The advent of Facebook,Twitter, Whatsapp, Skype among a thousand other applications has jeopardised human behaviour like never before changing the way people interact, express, emote with each other. Take the adulation behind a fanboy’s paper cutouts of Amitabh Bachchan during the 80s that cannot be likened with a retweet to a SRK tweet.For that matter, the charm of a trip to a nearby photo studio to encapture a fond memory with a friend leaving abroad as opposed to a selfie at will.There was an earnest effort in a direction that the heart took. A process involved. An aesthetic behind every aspect. A story to tell.

Our life run by PDAs is characterised by convenience sans the concern, the person sans the personal touch and most importantly, a robust structure sans the sanctity. We’ve become too involved to flatter our identity crisis to be our ‘virtual identity’,our alter ego fashioned on edited photos and manicured posts.

This relentless pursuit to simplification has led to a whole lot of utilities,tangible and intangible that have gone on to encapsulate processes, in the process rendering human discretion, vestigial. Take for instance, the need to buttonise emotions that has led to a bouquet of emoticons for every known histrionic. Now emoting in a conversation is a touch away in an emotionless world; where yellow balls have replaced the contribution of the facial muscle or writing to express.

There’s nothing which brings two people together than difference of opinions and the resultant fights. When two friends fought over an issue, they wrote elaborate letters,swore it out on phones and even landed a few punches when reasons dried out of the words uttered. There was a boiling point, courtesy, the difference. Cooling point when reason prevailed over acrimony. Then the bond strengthened. I’ve heard men from my previous generation share such tales. I’ve found a few friends myself in the grind.

But no one cares to go through the entire shebang. All it takes is to stop liking a friend’s post consistently, exiting from a group or my personal favourite of not replying after a double blue tick.  As simple as that. Anger from an expression has turned into an action or inaction.From being impulsively angry when rubbed the wrong way; we’ve found solace in sly indifference and inaction; settling for less friction over permanent solution. Anger,one of the most primal of expressions, that served as a language when men didn’t speak one, has positively been diluted into a pale caricature of it’s former self.

What do I say about the faceless crusader activities on cyberspace. Are these endeavours intended to massage one’s vanity or to scratch the itch of the lurking vigilante within?Being part of an issue actively, participating in a demonstration is not the same as trading in hashtags.For one, there is no accountability;despite the tendency to flatter one’s self to being part of a collective conscious to the nation’s stand on a given issue.

So there is a genocide in Israel, people tweet with #WesupportIsrael to mark their solidarity. Would we trade in hashtags and coinages if our beloved vaporised? Imagine #JewsforLunch trending over Hitler run Germany or #IndependenceFirstLook trending across India on the night of our independence. Resilience would’ve had a new meaning then.Who knew apathy could be compartmentalised in such a virtual way, world wars would’ve been fought on different grounds.

Coming to think of it, yes the world indeed has shrunk in radius, thanks to these social platforms. But have we drifted apart as people in the bargain?

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Dangal- of wars,ringside and beyond

Mahavir Phogat leaves the sport at a point with some more to offer to it and some more to receive from it. This incomplete arc leaves a bitter taste on his soul, that just wouldn’t go with the eflux of time. It just assumes another form; yearning. The yearning accrues into something bigger, a dream. A dream for a progeny- a son to complete his aspiration, carry his legacy forward. This dream keeps accruing in desperation through the birth of every daughter, till it comes to an eventual halt of acceptance at the birth of the fourth. He genuflects before destiny’s hand in fashioning a future in a direction converse to his dream. A few years later, providence springs a surprise at him, in the form of his daughters. As it turns out, they’re wrestlers too like their big man. This is enough for him to dust off his locked dream. And he goes after it like a marooned man at a wild boar. Redemption was all that he wanted- the elusive Olympic gold -and begetting a son was the means and not the end to it. Thus begins a fascinating journey of a father who goes on to live his dream vicariously through the achievements of his two daughters.

Dangal is set in a patriarchal system we’re so used to despising, just that instead of wrestling had it been cooking and if he was a cook and his ambition was to make it to Masterchef it wouln’t have gained the national veto of being an invigorating movie; especially for families with girl children.  As graceful and ambitious as the man was, his underlying chauvinism cannot be ignored. Mahavir manipulates his dreams into theirs, his aspirations to theirs at an impressionable age. They become the monks who’re forced into their renunciation to pursue his nirvana.
There’s something preposterous about sporting achievements- don’t know about other countries, but definitely in this part of the world -that colours personal accolades as pride of a nation. Bigger the arena, bigger its subversion into patriotism. Any sport is a spectator event dependent on the emotional gullibility of its fan to thrive. So naturally when a nation is pitted against another at its behest, the similar bifurcation happens in the stands as well. Cheering for a sportsperson representing a nation blurs into national solidarity. For it is the most convenient display of patriotism unlike paying taxes and taking bullets.

Can’t remember the last time a lead man walked the screen, so naked of vanity to bring credence to a portrayal.There’s a thin line that runs between egotism and mentoring, Aamir Khan’s Phogat treads this with absolute precision bringing dignity,grace and empathy to a grumpy man who speaks economically, while constantly finding himself torn between taming his inner demons and his little devils on mud pitches. It’s this ego he seeks validation of when he spars with his non abiding elder daughter. Her tresses are shoulder length, her manoeuvres revised. She’s no longer the creature of his fashioning, his dreams have dissolved in her indulgences. Age doesn’t blunt his resentment- even if it has managed to make his weary limbs, clumsily slow -as he continues to spar. She comes on top and he loses. But this isn’t one of those vanilla tropes from mainstream films, where the after taste of a man’s loss to his own child is sweet. The sight of a muddy old Phogat gasping for breath in humiliation as his elder daughter stands to taunt is anything, but that. Wrestling transcends beyond the pitch between the two.

There’s a scene where Phogat finds himself before a archaic table in a sports federation, he’s there to seek funds to support the training of his daughters. The officer in front talks to him in haryanvi almost. Almost because majority of his mouth is in the service of grinding a mothi laddoo from a box he’s received from the desperate man before him. He nonchalantly explains the paucity of funds with finger movements for neglected sports like wrestling, especially for women, mockingly. A frustrated Phogat begins to rant about why India fares poorly in the Olympics, when he’s cut midway by the officer’s abrupt exit for lunch.

It is scenes like this that bring out the odds that were stacked against the real Phogat, the numerous fights he had to take outside the ring- with the condescending villagers, the purists of the game, a sporting system content of mediocrity -to get his daughters into it.It is a story which needed to be told. Dangal tells this story with utmost integrity without circumventing around its protagonist like a demigod. Unlike the Dhoni biopic, which felt like a litany of montages shot for Chivas Regal promotions than a movie, Dangal doesn’t sidestep the grey shades of its central characters.It in fact for the most part keeps away from the temptation to celebrate them, instead tells a story that deserves to be celebrated. Even if not for the anthem that played in the final moments, I stood as the end credits began to roll, to doff my hat to- the movie, the people who made it and the ones it was made on. It is that kind of a movie that gets to you. Think it would to most, given the reception it got in the theatre I watched.

Genie-Us

“Only few were smart before the smart phones,just like few were cooks before Maggi came along.”

The quest for convenience has perpetuated in advancements leaving the previous processes vestigial. Resistance has come often from reluctance to change, the intimidation of its rapidity conferring the sore thumbs with a ‘purist’ tag for consolation.

Take for instance the dynamism in the evolution of cricket over the years, from 90 overs it has capsulized to 20 overs.The purists who had expressed dissent during the transitional phase are found perched in the confines of the commentary box ,meekly overseeing the proceedings of the same things they once resisted.

Earlier one had to be an aficionado to know about a movie’s facts and trivia. But now all you have to do is look up the movie on Google and voila, you have everything about it including marital status of siblings of the principal cast along with pirated links to the movie itself.A person’s character was judged by the company he kept till a time his search history became accessible.

We used to lie effectively,be creative when it came to making alibis for our escapades.But with the arrival of “Alt Tabs” and “incognito modes” the chivalry just became impotent.

Like in the case of every invention, this too does have its pros and cons, patrons and naysayers. Take for instance travel as a hobby,people had to travel far & wide to talk about a certain destination at length before Google. Now all one has to do is look up a destination and it vomits images,videos,travel blogs and itinerary suggestions .Being well informed has metamorphosed from keeping ear to the ground to fingers on the keyboard.

During my dad’s time the effort that one took in a certain direction entailing time & money among other resources, defined his passion. These days it’s come down to internet speed and Mbs spent to jack-off all trades.The scope for bluffing is so high that it is hard to figure what a person’s core competence is just by his authoritative opinions on a subject matter.

Technology has not only played a big hand in shrinking the radius of the earth,but also in down scaling utilisation of vital resources like paper & petrol considerably by overhauling existing processes to achieve similar results in an obscenely simpler manner.From a time when fidelity was tangible, we have come to embrace an era with its integrity founded on virtual existence.

But to me the best thing that has happened is the man hours chiselled of  trivial pursuits by the press of a button. There’s more time to live life than before, thanks to technology. But the irony can’t be ignored that the life expectancy has gone southwards in the same era.

As much as the world has become a more accessible place with the mouse turning from a rodent to a navigator, the growing crevice on the human spirit can’t be ignored entirely.With every pursuit in the direction of civic perfection, the primal facets of our tribe seems to be receding to an erstwhile status like the forehead of a fast balding man.

The path of evolution is paved by the spirit of one-upmanship with cannibalistic tendencies to a previous trend.The one’s embracing it move forwards as cogs in a wheel, the sentimental ones stagnate to sing posthumous litany.

All this said there is no denying the impact search engines and smart phones have had in making our lives easier, for technology is a genie that just gives without sieving good from bad; the blame for the manifestation of a wish must lie entirely with Aladdin.

Swades- the classic, we took for granted

Early on we find Mohan addressing the press in NASA about cities his initiative would have an impact on. He goes about, “ San Francisco, Latin Mexico, New Delhi…” , dispassionately. Delhi doesn’t resonate ethnic familiarity. It’s another piece of geography. A mere statistic. He’s as Indian as a Mira Nair movie.
The very mention of India in a press conference- after returning from a trip there – towards the film’s closure, unsettles him. It’s no mere “another” country anymore. It’s his; he its. It’s the pin that made contact with his carefully cultivated American bubble. Swades is bookended by these two press conferences. It’s the story of a man’s search for his mother, that ends in his motherland. It traces an individual’s metamorphosis from being a condescending first world citizen to someone crushed by the stench of third world reality, which was easier to digest as editorial observations over English breakfast.

Where do I start? Do I talk about the audacity of the role reversal employed, where the leading lady is chivalrously let to tie dhoti to an almost emasculated hero; who’s regarded as a deity of fluffy romance in the country’s heartlands. Or do I talk about the spectacle, simple thoughts are translated into onscreen like the “Yeh Tara, Woh Tara” song sequence. Just a few nimble limb movements here, a few facial sparkles there. A song with stars as metaphors under a night sky sprinkled with glittering stars, rendered by a nimbus star in an ominous form. It’s as transcendental as poetry gets on the big screen.

Neither the obscene budgets nor the more obscene promotions(hawking) of these days were there to flex, but he was nonchalantly wearing his superstardom like a good perfume. His charm was organic, not laboured. If Khan’s the film’s face and heart, Rahman’s music is the pulse and soul. Rarely do we get a musical score that follows the story like a solicitous shadow, never once intending to precede or side step for attention. It grows with the protagonist; melting with him; simmering with him; hoping with him and hurting with him. It fashions the western finesse to the eastern sensibilities of the film’s milieu. Swades is a fine example of what happens in a legitimate marriage between the song and dance trope and narrative dexterity.

And a special mention, actually a very special mention to Gayatri Joshi. The deadpan way in which she competes with SRK’s calculator, her implosive consent to his boisterous overtures, her outbursts of child ego while being possessive of Kaveriamma or the dollops of grace she adds to the chiffon saris. She brings so much dignity to Geeta, doing more to the role than it does to her. Not often do we get an actress who makes us feel guilty in a wet dream.

Mohan’s starting to scratch beyond the surface of paper patriotism, when Kaveriamma sends him to collect rent arrears from a farmer. To him it’s just an expedition, another rustic journey to a rudimentary hamlet . But she knows more. She knows it would make him go off the deep end on a journey of self discovery. On his way there he travels on a boat, standing with a glint of amusement in his eyes, distant from the other modest passengers. He doesn’t disrespect them. He just doesn’t belong.

He meets the farmer, through him meets with every ugly truth inundating a nation-  poverty, casteism, apathy – he only knew of at an ethnicity and number-of-rivers basis till now.He came to India with first world problems like guilt from not being able to stay in touch with his foster mother. His project in NASA addressing the issue of global water scarcity that hitherto swelled his chest slowly fades away to inprominence as he gazes skywards, from the ground reality of a third world peasant’s backyard. A young boy sprinting helter skelter, to sell water for 25 paise adds further salt to his wounded soul.
On his way back, he returns a different man on the same boat. He’s humbled by the guilt of ignorance about a country he claimed to be a part of; humbled by the knowledge that the “humble” lives led in its heartlands was in fact euphemism to the collective sufferings. Legs folded, he’s seated among the other modest beings on the boat. The distance between them had crumbled. In fact it now feels like a crime. “They” becomes “we”, as he becomes Indian.

To be or not to be

The movie was to begin in a few moments. I was ensconced in a seat by the wall corner, all by myself, relishing the comforts of the recliner with my boneless under. No wonder wall corners are the most bidded parts in a theatre once the reservation opens, for if you’re someone who’s looking for an experience beyond the movie, then they’re the designated parts for salacious crimes or narcissistic indulgences.I was there for the latter. A loner by choice, left to myself to pick, I would any day pick a night by myself over hanging out with a bunch of friends. My alone times are special for they let me peep into myself for a start. Another reason is I get to walk the entire length of an experience till its last inch – be it great food, movie or a long drive – without having another person to partake in its pleasure. I wanted to be alone this Saturday and decided to go for a movie. The movie was quite engaging and I was liking it even more from the from the vantage of the theatre’s balcony. There are few things that come close to the escapist peace the experience of watching a good movie from a good place in a good theatre-  while gobbling along some sinful butter popcorn -brings with it. I was paying obeisance to the god of small things as I left my seat during the intermission. So far so good.

This particular theatre is notorious for its overstretched intermissions in which it tries to cramp in as many advertisements as possible, to an extent that the jingles from the ad films go on to subconsciously register in that  part of the head hitherto inhabited by three tables and alphabets. As I was returning to my seat with more things to make my waist thicker, my eyes befell a seat behind me that was unoccupied. Maybe it was taken and its rightful owner was stuck in the beeline before the food counter. The movie had started. A song came few minutes into the second half, that was enough for me to check my phone and the seat behind to see if it was occupied. It wasn’t.

And just like that, my well assimilated peace tumbled in a restless rubble as I sat there discontent. There I was in one of the best seats in the house, with an amazing view, fingers greased from the butter on the popcorn. Yet the empty seat behind was teasing my imagination. I was in B row and if I had learnt anything from a lifetime of systematic conditioning to grading system, A was greater than B. My seat had lost its charm, for it was B grade after all, despite being behind twenty rows before me. Like an unfaithful man nitpicking on his wife’s cooking to validate his infidelity, I was starting to notice things about my seat that were not right- like how I had excess leg space and the hairy hands of the old man next to me were touching mine. By now, I was too distracted to watch the movie and started picking on it. I was having issues with the facial hair of the hero, couldn’t he buy a trimmer when he could go on to buy an Enfield, despite the entire village being under 5 km radius.

I was facing Hamlet’s conundrum albeit under different circumstances, “To be or not to be.”

I was positively itching to go. I knew I had to go past the seven gentlemen in my row, while almost smudging their faces with my bottom. God, these wall corner seats are such a pain in the ass! From love to hate, my love affair with wall corners had come a whole circle .
I was sugarcoating my shallow pursuit as an antidote to restore my equilibrium, that had gone down the drain long before. Lord of the rings started making sense to me more than ever. I exactly knew what was running in Gollum‘s head over the centuries of separation from “his precious” and why he did the things he did to get to it. Wait! Why was I empathising with Gollum?Hmmm… a new low by my fairly low standards.

I dropped anchor and decided to watch the movie from where I was. It was really hard not to succumb to the lure, but I chose the comforts of my home to the mistress’s.
Like the eclipse lifting off the moon, my evening’s peace was restored as rapidly as it was taken. I became invested in the movie again, despite having missed a good twenty minutes. The hero’s extensive facial hair felt like a favour, for he would’ve looked quite pathetic without it. The movie got over and I rose from my seat to leave.

There’s a certain charm that accompanies things that we don’t have. It’s not innate necessarily, its just the elusiveness the mind craves to conquer than the eluding object itself.

As I was making my way out I turned to look at the empty seat that had almost managed to possess my soul.  We exchanged cold glances at each other for one last time. No doubt I had had the better of the empty seat this bout, but only by a whisker. Yet another empty seat awaits in another circumstance to tantalise. Let’s see how that one goes.

Twenty Sixteen- bookmarked chapters

Unlike last year which had things like floods to wax eloquently about survival instinct and the spirit of Chennai, albeit at a cost tad too high, this year has been quite tranquil as far as the city is concerned till December. It started with the news of the CM’s death, I thought that this would be the equivalent of last year’s floods in terms of being a logistical nightmare or at least cause a small amount of law and order ruckus, given our tendencies to vent emotions by taking to the streets. But to my utter surprise it was the most well behaved funeral mourning in recent times. So much so that the only breakage in the city  during this period came from households with mischievous kids or butterfingered adults.  Just when I thought that, it was pretty much the length and breadth of the excitement for the year, a cyclone tore its way into attention. If last year, the nature’s fury resembled overflowing water, this year it looked like howling wind.

Hmmm..since this is meant to be more about myself, enough about Chennai for now. Moving on to some developments in my life over the last dozen months or so.

Found a new god in Woody Allen to prostrate before. I figured how delicious sarcastic depictions of follies in human relations can get in the hands of a great auteur. Learnt the extent of leverage available to be drawn from seemingly commonplaces. Sad that Kamal had no releases this year. But Bhai made up for it with Sultan. Had a whale of a time in the theatres screaming to his shenanigans in baby ko base pasand hai.

On the writing front, the work on the manuscript seems to be never ending, but at least I now know how the skeleton looks. Writing feels therapeutic and almost flows like second nature. From being a cool thing to flaunt, it’s increasingly starting to feel like an expression of my ungarbed soul.

The nihilism within, which was lurking passively is slowly starting to percolate into words and action.  Even as a child I’ve always been selective about fashioning my inner circle, friend by friend. I’ve always known an acquaintance from a friend, courtesy from care. But off late I’m able to look through a person; through a conversation right at the intention underneath. Often than not what I see there is not what I heard or saw.   Probably I’m slowly tilting towards misanthropy, OD-ed on Woody Allen movies. But few things come close to the hilarity of people with 897 friends on Facebook making sincere attempts at sending wedding invitations to all “friends”, on the eve of their wedding. Probably a group of friends checking in from a restroom of a multiplex on the weekend of a popular release beats that. But the sunny side to all this social condescension is the predictability that it lends, bringing patience when dealing with people. When you know the where-they’re- headed-to part, the what-they’re-getting-at part starts to make sense.

Was almost on the verge of finding love, but backed out intimidated by the proximity.Felt guilty about kind of leading on a close one. Yup, did that hideous act of crushing someone’s heart. Earned myself truckloads of bad karma in the process. Towed the route of promiscuity for a brief detour to distract, to only find myself on the threshold of love, yet again. Somehow in the most unlikely of circumstances, either I’ve found love or been found by it. This time around, it started platonic to grow into something more significant, more passionate than any relationship I’ve found myself in. There’s something about corresponding in love; you express with words and find yourself getting entangled with each other over every anecdote exchanged, every thought provoked. It’s the purest form in my opinion, given the entirely nonphysical chemistry stimulated. All the more for someone like me who believes strongly in the physical expression of love or attraction.
Touch wood.

This year is the first time in the last decade I’ve not lifted a dumbbell or anything that resembled it for more than six months. I read somewhere about how a trainer stopped his training and diet for six months to see how much he could push his limit, to get back in shape in under three months. So gave it a shot and the results were beyond just physical. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to fit into my muscle fits and slim fits; but what I didn’t know was I wouldn’t fit into the cordiality of some people as well.
After this phase I can safely say, “Grow a few pounds thicker around your waist to figure the decent from the rest.
Now that the social experiment’s done, I’m in the process of getting back in shape by the end of year. This abandon of something as personal as gyming, did bring with it, its share of side effects. I stopped going to the temple I’ve been since the last twelve years. I let go off my faith, took a holiday from the display of gratitude. Here too, like fitness I was trying to push the ambit of my faith, to see as to what kind of a person I would turn into in the process. Through this phase I saw my compassion dry barren as I stopped caring for close ones beyond my comfort zone. My selfishness just shot up and I found myself high. Probably these were the things the stone statue and the sanctum sanctorum were keeping at bay without me being aware all these years.

And the biggest of them all, my baby sister got engaged this year. I tried my best to dissuade, but in vain. She’s not been in a relation of any kind all her life and the first one she’s going to get into comes with a promise of lasting a lifetime. I’m anxious and excited at the thought of her first adult endeavor. Since I’ve not known a life without her since childhood, the coming months without her are going to be interesting. Over the past few months have figured one thing; that I absolutely suck at this In-Law dynamic.
But if there’s a moment that’ll stay on with me, it’s that of seeing my grandpa breakdown into tears as she exchanged garlands with her fiance. He had held my mother as a cotyledon of life, then given her away in marriage and here he was seeing his grand daughter on the verge of marital bliss in his second childhood. Life had a come a full circle.
Probably Woody Allen wouldn’t endorse such thoughts, but people aren’t so bad after all.   Ditto about relationships.

That’s as far as I can remember from the top of my head. Let’s see how 2017 pans out.

 

On the road to romance

It was a damp night, mind you damp and not wet. Chennai’s weather of late has been blowing hot and cold; with almost hot afternoons packed in humid sweat and reluctant drizzles well shy of being holistic downpours in the nights. So it was one of those nights and I was coming from a night show, to find my bike seat gently kissed by several raindrops, that had deceived the sky’s vigil. One of the primary cons of riding a bike during such times is, you can’t wear your lighter trousers. One, the raindrops leave an impression, not a good one- a wet smudge on the sitting area. And two, even if you vigilantly wipe your way off the previous possibility to preserve tushy dignity, there’s no way you can go unscathed, as the several puddles and inconsiderate vehicles on the way would somehow come together to leave a graffiti on the trousers.
Anyways I was wearing a pair of black trousers that night and it held very little consequence to the other happening of the night, primarily about which this piece is .This one’s about the route I took on my way back and the the trip it took me down the memory lane.

While coming back from the theatre, there are two routes to my place. One that goes through a residential  area and the other one that comes a little ahead, connecting me to the main road.  Over the last few years I’ve consciously and later subconsciously been ignoring the former stretch to take the latter. Initially, it felt like a can filled with worms, waiting to be opened up. Worms waiting to feed on my peace of mind. Then with efflux of time, I had grown oblivious and numb to this stretch’s magnetic negativity. It had come to only be a detour and the route that led to the main road had become an obvious choice.
But today was different, I was itching to take the former route. Not to confront the can of worms, but to take stock of my quality of peace. Curiosity had the better of me and there I was in the stretch I had forbidden as a sort of reality check. This trip was straddling between literal and figurative, for so much in my life had transpired in this L shaped stretch, the gravitas of which was getting to me as I was rumbling through it, metre by metre.

A few hundred metres into this road- painted in shadows of the trees behind -came this compound wall on the left. There was nothing fancy about it, just another neglected-marshy structure raised to mark the periphery of the house. But to me, it marked a new beginning. Back then it was always enveloped from the road by a fleet of school vans parked in front of it. It was our second date, I had just kissed her for the first time inside a deserted Mcrennett a little ahead on the corner of the road. She was pink with amusement and I was a cat, who had had his first taste of meat. We soon left hand-in-hand to take a stroll, incidentally my first walk with someone from the fairer sex. She was a bundle of nerves, obviously given that her folks stayed not far away from there and she was walking with a person who had just earmarked her left cheek with his saliva. Fairly educated on each other’s favourites, we had run out of topics and were in a mood for something non-verbal. The secluded compound wall on the right, stood there with anticipation and we got the cue. I lifted and perched her on it facing me, as I placed my hands on either side of her on the wall. Before we realised, I was kissing all over her face like a caveman, rocking back and forth like doing push-ups in a near state of trance. Together we had debased base one here.

As I drove ahead, came the Mcrennett I had mentioned a little earlier on the corner of the road. Apart from being the unwilling witness and stage to our first sacrilege, it had seen a lot of us. It used to be a favourite hangout, for it didn’t pinch on my wallet hard and it served the best cheese puff known to humanity. We’ve spoken about movies, debated about choice of careers, stolen kisses when no one’s around and have even gone for each other’s necks when arguments turned futile.

We were sparrows constructing nests on unnoticed loft corners of houses with little information to its owners, raising our own little monuments in common places of others surreptitiously.

As I turned right came this place, preceded by a newly fitted majestic metal gate. Back then, there used to be no gate. It was just a long winding driveway that led to a nursery school. We fondly called it “nursery”. Only both of us knew what nursery meant, when among a group of friends. So why were two grown-ups frequenting a nursery? This under lit place became uninhabited in the evening and the unregulated driveway that preceded the nursery, with tall trees on either side, became a tantalising prospect for long walks and the accoutrements that ensued.

Here, we became night creatures that made merry after sunset. Unlike the owls, we couldn’t see too well, but we didn’t complain. We could feel and listen to each other like  in no other place with heightened awareness- finding rhythm in our heartbeats, warmth in our touches, wetness in our lips and dexterity in the fingers to render clothes vestigial. This is where we caught up every time before being away for a while and this is where we came together after being away for a while. This was our ersatz room, before we got a real one.

A few second later came this stretch inundated by tall walls that belonged in fortresses, baring faces of the neighbourhood politician and not so subtle slogans in fluorescent font. I could see a younger me going for the wall, as I discharged my bladder’s content in a blissful fountain. She used to be seated on the bike behind, embarrassed about my uncouth way of answering the nature’s call. As I got on the bike, proud and relieved, my comeuppance would come as she twisted my ear till I twirled along with it in tandem.

I pulled over my bike to take a leak. I was all alone by myself, with no one waiting behind to play mother as I sat to ride.

The L of the stretch was coming to an end as the subway in the end was becoming visible. She used to come out of this from the other side of the road, as I restlessly waited near it. I would check myself on the bike’s mirror a hundred times and would strike the best pose on , as she would pop out of the subway onto my bike in a hurry, to employ the harness on me. After dropping her back late in the evening, I would wait by it till she surfaced from the other side of the subway in one piece.In short, our days were bookbounded by this subway.

Over a decision, things that were very life itself had turned into distant memories I could only live vicariously. I  could revisit them, without craving to recreate. This stretch was like a black box that survived a crash. The drive was like going back to the place of accident after recovering- as a healed person – grateful about the second chance, stronger and peaceful. If I’ve learnt one thing over the years, it’s that there’s no such thing as good or bad in life as every experience culminates systematically in a memory. Good and bad are transitory, a mere reflection of the state of the mind from the time of impact.

The L had come to an end. And it felt like a place I was leaving place from, not one I was coming into.As I turned left to climb the flyover, I felt like Superman  emerging out of Krypton stronger than before. Life was one fear short.