Ari Gold cravings

I’m seeing someone“, Melissa blurts coldly.
Ari breaks down to tears instantly.
Aren’t you going to  say something?
What is there to say?

Well, for the uninitiated Ari Gold‘s a character from the series, Entourage and Melissa’s his wife. The above is an excerpt from their conversation, when their wedlock hits a roadblock. Entourage’s a vivid fly on the wall account about Hollywood actors, their shenanigans, the psyche of the entourage that sticks to them, the men who run the showbiz and the hardball they play to levitate their image.
Ari rates amongst my most favourite men, alongside Kamal Haasan and Chandler. This notwithstanding the unabashed bastard he is. Foul mouthed and irreverent, he would be Osama if political incorrectness was terrorism. But there’s something endearing about all this. Below all the pungency, the pompousness, he’s a nice guy.

Maybe there’s more to my adulation. I identify with him or immodestly put, he’s a lot like me. I’m aware and have been told when I haven’t been, what a human repellent I’m. All my life, I’ve barely been the guy to be found kind or considerate at first sight. Just like Ari, I’m a jack fruit kind of personality, with my thorny exterior being a red herring to the sweetness within.
It is quite fascinating when a favourite character and alter ego merge. Even more, when he goes through the same things you’ve been through once. The fourth wall breaks. You just don’t root for him to be alright. You emote with him; actually like him after a point.
This is exactly where I found myself through the final season of the entourage.

Ari’s wife leaves him over his incessant cussing and mercurial temper.Suddenly his trigger mouthed persona is reduced to a moping bundle, who seeks solace in mediocre gatherings. It took me back to days when I was going through the motions in life post my break up, with every iota of desire sucked from within. She told me about how embarrassed she was before her friends, every time I would use cuss words. Embarrassed?!
Wasn’t she supposed to embrace me for the foulmouthed asshole I was. It stung. I could empathize with him, when he got dumped. The vantage point we gave to our sweethearts, only to be shot from there.

She needed a break from me to discover new things, when I begged her to take me back, months after my break up. I couldn’t believe the low hanging fruit, my self respect had turned in the name of love. My king sized ego, self respect…whatever had become a luxury I couldn’t afford anymore. Beggars couldn’t pick.  Just like me, Ari too was left high and dry.
Bitch found some one else! I’m sorry. But I couldn’t see the man I revered, shrink in humiliation. God, at forty something he’s still quite the women killer and yet he had to go through all this. I remembered the shame I felt to my very soul when I came to know from her, my sweetheart of five years, that she was considering someone. Apparently he was an antithesis of the aberration I was. Fuck, has her lips that belonged to me been tasted by another man? Has her beautiful body made love to another man? The very thought was reducing me to an insecure shadow of myself. I knew logically that we weren’t working, this had to happen and we had to move on, but this was insulting and I just couldn’t swallow the bitter pill life was shoving up my throat.

Like Ari’s wife she was the calmer person between the two of us. All the years, I didn’t know about the implosion happening beneath that calm demeanor, much like him. The break-up, brought out years of pent up anger from their system.The roles reversed, it was our turn to bear the brunt. If he was asked to stay away from their house, I was kicked out of her church in public display.
It was strange to see a character in a TV show, going through his break-up, beat by beat, just like me. Worlds apart, we were the same lines dipping southwards in the graph of love.

What happened in the final episode put a tear or two under my eye, drew a wide grin across my face. He was heard, she took him back.  Notwithstanding the fact that it was a rerun, I was as affected by the magnitude of that moment, just like the first time. Unlike me, Ari wouldn’t become cynical about love. Unlike me, he got another shot. It was magical to vicariously live a different outcome to a similar story through an alter ego. If only, life was written by TV writers.

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 a taste of meat for the first time. 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 in 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 a push up 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 spot 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 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. 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 targeting the wall, as I discharged my bladder’s content in a blissful fountain. She was seated on the bike behind, embarrassed about my unconventional way of answering the nature’s call. As I got on the bike, proud and relieved, my comeuppance came 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. 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.Our days were in short 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.

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.

Preserving Thatha

I will sow. Then you will enjoy the fruits. And then your children. Then theirs. But the seed, I sowed.
-Thevar Magan

All families have this person, whose glory they prostrate before, eyes welled up. Family elders pass on anecdotes that made this man, someone worth remembering during dinner times, decades later.- These retellings are as much to them as it to us – a measure towards preserving a recall value for posterity in our thoughts and memories, à la image of Gandhi in currency notes. This morning we were talking about one such person, we’ve never let go under the debris of time- my maternal great grand dad. A really great grand dad he was, if I’m allowed some average quality word play.

So what is about him that we spoke, actually spoke again, to get overwhelmed? Nothing new. Pretty much the same stuff we covered the last time and the several times before, probably with the sequence changed. It started with how he played a hand, actually a big one, in us getting our first home.It was early in the nineties, dad had pulled every string that he could and stretched every bit of will power he could possibly, to build our first home. Yet we fell a little short on the final settlement to the builder. This Shylock mould of builder would see one bleed, but not part with his property till the last penny of settlement.
Like now even back then, a man’s words weren’t construed to be money or money’s equivalent. And like in most times, most friends and family had quit his side even before luck could, when they were needed the most. It was at this point that Thatha intervened, when earth below feet our feet was shrinking. Thatha as he was referred to fondly by kith and kin was an elegant elder, clad in spot free white drapes. A clean faced crossover between Bhishma and Gandolf- like most great men -he too was a man of few words and often than not was the calm in the storm to his close ones. We didn’t know at that point that life to us for the next few years or so would become –Cometh the hour, Cometh the Thatha.

 

Coming back to the builder anecdote, as soon as Thatha came to know about our situation, he descended with help wrapped in a thin piece of cloth that looked like two lakhs rupees. And this was not even the best part. He gave the money to dad and chose to wait in his car for him to get the key to the house. He wanted this to be dad’s victory alone. His very own moment under the sun. Among people who bickered for and stole credit from others, here was a man who chose to be in the backdrop as a quiet fulcrum to a young man’s dream. I could’ve been born a few years earlier. Big deal I would be a few years older now. But I would’ve been able to appreciate this wonderful predecessor of mine beyond his physical features. Remember him beyond his wrinkled kind face. I would’ve probably known the importance of the brief tenures on his weary lap. I was like a toddler, who made paper boats out of a stack of currency notes.

In dad, he saw his younger self- the same fire in the belly, the altruistic persona,arrow like ambition and a strong will. And thanks to dad, he found himself in doppelganger territory, that he was hoping to be with his own sons. In him, dad saw a dad he never had. A father like figure, a surgeon to expose a wound before. A mentor to confide in, whose concern went beyond free advices.

Thatha‘s was a fine administrative mind as well. There are truckloads of folklore in this genre like the one Amma brought up later, about how his logistical reshuffle added a few decades and life to my grandpa, who was pretty much a vegetable for medical experiments till then. Or the one where he chipped in to help dad move into his first office space.
Coming to think of it, he’s been there in every significant first step we had taken, as an invisible walker to hold on to. No wonder his funeral was such an animated day. As someone in his third grade, it just meant a day off from school. Like a blissful fool, I was taking stock of people who looked funny when they broke down.  I saw this graceful giant rested peacefully on the floor of his abode, as hundreds of people stood there in morbid disbelief. Here was an octogenarian who had lead a glorious life and died a peaceful death. But to most men like us, that day marked life ahead without a guardian angel looking out. Looking back now, we see impressions of a pair of feet in the sands of time, that had  diligently walked along with us till we made shore.

As the quote in the beginning, Thatha was the one to sow. We continue to be the fruit bearers.True story. Then, what about some good stuff we continue to do, to make lives around us a little sunnier? Probably his anecdotes were the seeds that were sown in us. Maybe these were the fruits we bore on his behalf to the world, his legacy. After all, as they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right?

 

 

 

 

Thatha– Tamil word for grandfather

Tirupati Musing

There was a personal thing which I was hoping against hope to not happen and vowed a trip to Tirupati in barter for its inoccurrence. Sometimes as rational as we portray ourselves to bd, all it takes is an uncontrollable situation to manifest, to make us seek means to mitigate it from the very space.

As cool as I felt tom-toming about being an atheist and an agnostic for a while after that, I could always sense crops of faith grow on the fields of my indifference. I felt humbled to wake up to the cry of self realisation emerging out of the pretentious molar of false ego. Meanwhile,my wish was granted and it was my turn to keep my end of the deal. So I was on the first bus to Tirupathi, an hour into the news.

I was prostrating to a superstition, finally. Was I?

To some touching the nose tip before switching on the desktop every time, to some adjusting the abdomen guard while the bowler was in his run up and to others a visit to a temple. It probably wasn’t as cool as saying stuff like, “hardwork’s my religion” with a poker face. So what?
Superstition is after all a speck of sentiment that snowballs under the impetus of emotions into existence. It isn’t chivalrous to live in denial of one’s emotional identity; for the heart derives the very fabric of empathy from here to turn this otherwise collage of organs into what is generically called a human.

A few years before I swore to never return to this cash cow of a temple, peeved by the impersonal vice of commercialism inundating its air. This time around the place was as cold as last time with fog & commerce, tonsured adults sweating it up to make a fortnightly bather like me feel secure about hygiene. But this trip wasn’t about ego satiation or ideal massage,this was for a favour bestowed upon in a timely manner-a display of gratitude.

The person didn’t change, so did the centuries old place. But what changed was the perspective. Perspective that has managed to make the holocaust of an entire race humane to some,consumption of fish vegetarian to some and fasting religious to some others.From seeing a stone in a deity , I could see hope & gratitude this time.

In Tirupati, you witness this paradox of free men encaging themselves for hours together with the enthusiasm of a draught struck farmer to the first drop of rain. Call it subservience to the unreasonable ways of  another unquestioned faith, but the meditated air of euphoria in the most challenging of conditions for just a few fleeting seconds before the deity is just contagious.

The almighty is a good place to invest gratitude, provided the faith isn’t gullible to relish indulgence in a way of life, overlooking the very reason that led to it.Every trip embarked with an open mind unearths a hidden facet from within, often than not. This one ended adding sanctity to the prayer on dad’s office wall that goes-

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Death by Ice cream

We were waiting for the check to come. The dinner was fabulous, like it always is at Ranjith. Don’t let the middle aged South Indian man’s name come in the middle of your judgement. It’s an oxymoron, in the sense that it continues to remain a relatively unexplored uptown restaurant in the heart of the city, despite creating such food.Victorian set up, cosy yellow lights, jazz music that trickles in the backdrop, tuxedo clad waiters with friendly candour- it’s almost right out of a Woody Allen movie. So, the evening was well spent till that point with tête-à-tête over some great food. Well, almost. My friend started making endearing facial gestures that resembled spasms, the meaning behind which I dreaded from the bottom of my heart. And you cant’t blame me for being disturbed, for he’s got a smile that resembles a hungry crocodile. It was that part of his weekend ritual where he starts to emotionally blackmail to accompany him to this dessert place, to achieve climax to the evening’s dinner.

Before going further, a little character sketch about him would help. He’s this kind of a person who likes to explore new places rather proudly. Good thing, right? Yeah, only till he starts becoming all Colombus about it. Then with the same self assigned authority goes on to sign off on the place’s authenticity. Next he starts recommending it to acquaintances as means to their salvation; not before condescending their existing tastes and preferences. When they check out these places, little do these poor souls realise that they’ve signed on to become unwilling guinea pigs to his social experimentation. At the end of which he would sign off on their tastes, based on their opinions about his. This dessert parlour called Amadora is one such pet laboratory of his. I’ve seen him judge people as unambitious and discourteous based on the fact that they didn’t quite take up to the chocolate mint ice cream, the way he would’ve liked them to.

In a nutshell, he judges more than he winks and opines more than he breathes.

So we both walk into this property located in a pristine locality; he with a pride of booking a Tesla and me with a reluctance reserved for a bad date. The guy at the counter recognises him excitedly, like a separated dog  and they go about ice creams on display like one acclaimed filmmaker to another for several minutes, before my friend starts to sample almost everything on the display than the fly on the glass.  How they do this with new found enthusiasm, week after week, with the flavours remaining constant is beyond my comprehension. And it’s not even like they’re in love.

My friend picks a pale white ice cream as an outcome of the quarter hour exchange with the shopkeeper. Then comes the worst part. He starts to remind me of the sucker I’m for chocolate with an anticipatory look, I’ve become familiar with by now; a cue for me to get something as well. I play the “miss my late grandma” card after playing the “I feel guilty about malnutrition in Somalia in these kind of places” card to little effect, but he just wouldn’t budge.

So I cave in.

I sample at least four different variants of chocolate before rejecting five. When almost on the verge of renouncing ice creams, my eyes fixate on an empty trey with a board that reads,”Nutella”. This can’t go wrong.
I ask for a sample of it and what I get in return instead from the over enthusiastic owner is a lecture on the unit economics behind the particular flavour, till I gently remind him about not intending to hold any stake in his gourmet boutique.
Offended by my curtness, my prodigal friend nudges me into picking a flavour compulsorily. With very little choice I pick what seemed to be the lesser devil among all, a Chocolate Sorbet that seemed bitter enough to be an imposition in school. Like this, between the two of us, we had ordered two scoops of underwhelming ice creams that only costed us a little less than our kidneys would’ve in an organ racket.

We perch on tall wooden stools that belonged in tacky bars, from where I resort to condescending patrons around the counter over death by sorbet. After all laughing at our misery was the best way to go about according to this thirteenth century Tamil poet with a knee long beard.It was fascinating to notice pretentious people discussing and deconstructing ice creams with a verve reserved to Michelangelo’s work; guessing the epiphanies which would’ve lead into creating these melting art forms. All this, while my friend was enjoying his five bean vanilla ice cream that tasted like cold horlicks- closed eyed like in a Beatles concert -from the other end of the table.

As I dared to venture a helping from my cup, I began to realise that these gelatin grenades were in fact the most military ones out there, for they almost never melted. What bends before their resilience is the spoon with which we try to excavate, as they remain intact on the tongue forever.

Finally, as we made our way out, my friend couldn’t stop drawing superlative parallels to the frozen malt beverage he had had, notwithstanding my face buried in the phone’s display. Noticing my lukewarm response to his desserted orgasm, the ritual of him condescending my gourmet preference ensued. I smiled to myself at the sight of a light at the end of the road, which was from a ice cream joint I quite liked. After all, like all good things, bad things come to an end as well.

Saturday, Shatabdi and stuff like that

It was ten to five as I woke up to the screech of my attention seeking alarm- late yet again- what with the rerun of Friends occupying hours of my sleep, night after night these days. So couldn’t do the things I was planning  to do, like a few hundred burpees or push ups to appear, stiffer and thinner in the right places to turn befitting to a white linen shirt I had bought. Screw you Chandler.
I had a train at six to catch and here I was dazed, far from ending my night’s stand with the bed. Mom and caffeine got me on my feet- barely so – as I reluctantly slid into the Uber summoned to take me to the railway station.

This particular cabbie had a twisted sense of humour if his playlist was anything to go by, which took me a while to figure out. He started with M.S.Subalakshmi going, ” Punarapi jananam, Punarapi maranam…“(One is born again, One dies again…) and I was overwhelmed by the serenity of the rendition.Well, who wouldn’t be at that time of the day.As I continued to linger a little longer in my reverie, it segued in the cryptic existentialism of the next song-“Ponna usuru vandhuruchi…“(Life that went, came back..). And the way he was manoeuvring with disdain through speed-breakers and sharp turns;  he seemed quite determined to visit the town southwards of life. And I was being dragged along like a rag doll, before I rained in his parade.
All it took was a choice few words about his lineage, a gentle reminder about the possibility of him having to face the firing end of his employment and voila, the song and the gear changed! The buildings and trees stopped appearing like blurry-fleeting images from the window. Well, nothing works like swear words in this part of the world. It’s not like he drove like he had the prime minister  behind, but at least I stopped being able to count the bumps on the road with my back till the station came.

As I stepped into the station, little did I know that there was still some ammunition left in the morning which had already expended the adrenaline of a bungee jump by then.

The friend who was travelling with me to Bangalore called up from the coach and cut the call with a wry instruction,”Come fast“.This reasonable person had booked the tickets, wouldn’t give me the coach number of the train and was reminding me to up the ante to a train with twenty other coaches.
Running in crowded places in Chennai can be quite a task at times -as daunting as running against a sliding sand dune. While the outgoing crowd doesn’t make space, the incoming one competes and hinders. Finally with a few minutes left, sanity prevailed over him as he texted the coach number.

As I wove my way to my seat, the next scheduled entertainment for the morning was staring at me. Apparently my friend couldn’t find seats together to book as it was a last minute plan. After a failed attempt at asking this person to exchange his seat, my friend had perched next to a fragile looking septuagenarian whose face had more wrinkles than the pashmina shawl around his neck. I was left high and dry with this person next to me, who had Dravid‘s first session determination plastered across his face with a tacky film magazine in hand. This hirsute wouldn’t relent to my request to switch seats as well, even if it meant depriving two friends of their company and me of some space in my own seat.Man, was he big. He held in him meat enough for an entire hamlet to feast upon.

Talking of feasts, I had a rendezvous with what Indian Railways’s idea of one was. It started with a trolley that waltzed its way into my coach, with infinite red trays arranged symmetrically. My mouth welled up with saliva at the sight of this elaborate red herring till I saw what the tray contained-A single Marie Biscuit packed to perfection!
Marie biscuit on a red tray is not hospitality, but hostility. This is one thing we’ve learnt to dodge consistently during tea times at home and have deployed as an effective weapon against out of town relatives who dropped in without prior notice. In short Marie is the Indian middle class’s silent “fuck-off”. And here it was deconstructed into as many headcounts and circulated like one of these compulsory ads on youtube, that one had to   encounter first before the video he really wanted to watch.

Before the “Marie”-scar could heal, the breakfast made its grand entrance.

If bad karma was edible, it would’ve pretty much looked like my meal that consisted of pongal that resembled idli spread across a  vaster geography, chutney that resembled sambar and sambar that resembled rasam. Little did I anticipate this when I hopefully answered,”Vegetarian” in binary to a question about my meal preference.
But there were people who dealt differently with their meal like the cute kid opposite me, who without a clue was putting to practise principles of mergers and acquisitions, albeit on a smaller scale as she combined the isolated omelette with the vacant bread that tasted like feet, when everyone around were going for jam. Smart girl steered clear from the evil trinity of pongal, chutney and sambar.

Relief came much later after the tables were cleared,  in the form of packaged juice which seemed to obviously have escaped the chef’s intervention.

Whatever sensory satisfaction couldn’t possibly be achieved through my mouth, I was attempting with the eyes. After all the Chennai-Bangalore route is quite the picturesque stretch. But how was fate going to let my redemption be such a low hanging fruit if the turn of events since daybreak were anything to go by. I was gorging on the green strokes of the creator’s artistry as the morning’s culinary fiasco was starting to dissolve from my memory,till a fateful forearm came in my viewing perimeter. The density of the forest outside the window became a redundant sight before its miniature manifestation in the  hairy hands of the person next to me. He had all of Anil Kapoor‘s body hair in his forearms alone. So long to the audacity to sight see.

My train called itself a “Super Fast Express“. Yeah, it continued to do so with another hundred kilometres to cover, twenty minutes past the scheduled time of arrival. It was like going through one of my worst nightmare in exaggerated slow motion, without being able to wake up. Rahman came to my rescue briefly, when the Railways didn’t. I thankfully had made a playlist full of his songs which helped me slip into a blissful sleep. I was musing on a million things -internal and external, like my defeated taste buds on the tired tongue, the limbs that had forgotten to stretch; courtesy of the encroachment from the seat nearby, the promises the trip held ahead, the pretty woman who was wearing a sari relevant from her grandmother’s era and whether I would go on live till seventy five.

I woke up to the sonorous screech of the train. Never had anything been more music to the ears. The train had finally arrived at Bangalore. People were bursting out in all directions like stock characters in monster movies. But I was in no particular hurry, for I wanted to take a moment to ensconce in the full expanse of my seat for once, without having to contend for a piece of the arm rest with an entire village next to me. That epiphany, I got a slight inkling of how the first few minutes of the fifteenth night of August must have felt like in 1947.

The empty seat behind

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 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.