The new-found freedom

It was only the last evening while talking to a friend on phone that it dawned on me that I’ve been away from home for nearly 6 months now. Which, of course, in the larger scheme of things is kinda like a drop of water in the ocean. It’s just that I absolutely loved these last few months. And I find that amusing ‘coz if you were to call me up at this moment and ask me to educe my memories of Bangalore, I’d probably come up with more rotten ones than the other.

Huh.

On second thought, that shouldn’t surprise me so, should it? En masse, we humans have this tendency to highlight the bad over good, haven’t you felt? Trashy movies, shoddy books, third-rate politics, mediocre celebs, their sub-standard tactics…all this makes us have collective mini-orgasms. The good stuff usually makes us go “Damn, why didn’t I think of that? And now I have to sit through others praising him. And smile while I’m seething with jealousy.”

And so, it is a truth universally acknowledged that bad experiences end up being a damn good story. And yes, I realise it echoes of the first line of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. And that, keeping in with the tradition, I’ve drifted off the topic. Focus, Navmi.

So yeah, Bangalore. I keep saying Bangalore ‘coz even though I’ve been here for just 3 months, life in Gandhinagar had been a breeze compared to that here. There, everything was handed out to us in a platter – all we had to do was to shell out a few bucks to keep ‘em coming. Here, we had to start everything from scratch. You know how you watched Ayesha paint her cute little apartment in ‘Wake up Sid!’ and told yourself “That’s how it is gonna be when I move to a new place”? Well, I really don’t want to rain on your parade, but THAT is utter bullshit. When YOU move to a new place, you’re probably going to end up in a P.G which advertises free wifi, “homely” food, and a bunch of smiling owners only to realise by the end of the month that (a) it takes an hour to load Google, (b) you can only have so much dal in a day (c) you are the little Red Riding Hood and the owners may as well be the big, bad wolves in your Grandma’s clothes. So there.

And then you are going to realise that life is bloody expensive. I’m not talking about the ‘No cash for petrol’ kinda crisis. I’m talking about the one where you realise a packet of Surf Xcel costs as much as a king-sized Diary Milk Silk! And once you realise the number of chips packets you consume in a month, you’ll start wondering how your parents could afford to stay off the streets. Seriously. But hey, jokes apart, there is nothing like being completely in charge of your finances that helps you grow up. A few of us taste the first spurt of this growth in your college days. For a few others like me, it’s a completely new arena. There is nothing as baffling as watching your carefully scripted monthly budget plan falling apart in the first week of the month. From then on, it’s like increasingly depressing cricket match. Theoretically, there is hope till the last over is bowled. And yet, you get a picture of how things are gonna be in those crucial initial overs.

And somewhere between all these, you’ll start getting hounded by a newfound worry that you are not doing enough for your parents – financially or physically, whether they need it or not. There’ll be times when you’ll be astounded by the heights of your selfishness in choosing to put your life, your dreams, your independence above that of theirs. You are gonna fret over those calls that start with “I have this headache for the last few days…” or “Cholesterol level is quite high…” When they call you up to inform you about the demise of an acquaintance or a friend or are uncharacteristically silent on the phone, you are gonna catch yourself wondering “If only I were there, we could have talked about this…” You are gonna brood over that for a while and will, almost certainly, try and shake it off by watching a movie or reading a book. After all, you gotta do what you gotta do.

And in between all these, strangely enough, you’ll relish the life you live. You’ll enjoy that you can go out at 9.30pm to buy a jar of jam. Or that you can go jogging in the morning just because you felt so. Or that you can blow off a good portion of your salary on books and no one is gonna give you THAT look. Some days you’ll go up on the terrace, look at the stars and simply lie there, listening to the distant rumble of traffic, the impatient horns and wonder where everyone is going. You’ll gaze at the apartments nearby and wonder what they are doing. You’ll have the luxury of being at your whims and fancies…

Some days, most days, that’ll be enough.

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Could’ve..

It was killing her. Literally killing her. She didn’t know where it was coming from, this fist that was squeezing her chest. This burning in her eyes…oh the burning…if only she could put it off with a flood of tears. But she couldn’t. That she was sure of. It had never been in her to ease the pain with tears. The irony was the pain had an audience within her. A part of her that was standing back, slightly amused, saying “Hmm…so this is how it feels to have loved and lost.

Loved? Is that what she had been doing for the past few days? If that was so, then Gautham Vasudev Menon sure as hell had it wrong. There had been no violins or stolen glances or even a lingering smile. There as sure as hell were no proposals or ‘I’ll-love-you-till-the-end-of-my-lifes’. Not even an ‘I-have-a-thing-for-you’. Nor had she know, by some inexplicable cosmic suggestion that he was in love with her. In fact, to this day, she had no idea if he was.

However, it had all begun in a fashion that was the baap of all clichés – through a common friend. This ‘common friend’ (let’s call him – for it is a he in this particular story – Mr.CF for the moment) is the most evenly distributed species that has ever walked the earth – every gang has at least one. He is the most cheerful, vibrant guy you’ll ever meet. He has been in a relationship, a very exciting relationship since you’ve known him which is probably why he thinks his mission in life is to match of the people who are ‘meant-to-be’. And he is good. Almost 90 % success rate he has, even though his methods of connecting the people who are ‘meant-to-be’ is often questionable.

Regardless, it came as a surprise when Mr.CF came in one day and told her that someone has a thing for her. “Uvv…!” was her reaction, for that sure she was that he was pulling her leg. “No, seriously. Swear to God”, he insisted. She grinned at him and shrugged it off. A few days passed. Every time he passed her in the corridor (the CF i.e.), he’d ask her “Have you thought about what I told ya?” and she’d smile at him and wave it off.

To nobody’s surprise, as days passed on, the idea started growing on her. Curiosity came first. What was he like? What did he like in her? Did he find her gorgeous? Was there anything about her that he didn’t like? Did he notice her when she walked into the room? To find the answer to the first question, she did the obvious – landed up on his Facebook profile. And there, between the books he liked and the music he loved, she realised that she and he bowed to a different deity. Uh oh. A casual mention of a ‘hypothetical situation in which she falls in love with a guy of a different religion’ was presented before her parents. Negative.

“So..did you think about it? He’s really into you, you know…” CF told her.

“Religion scene aavm”, she told him.

“What if we work around that?”

“Na…you can’t work around that. At least, my folks can’t.”

“What if his folks can?”

“They can’t. No one can”, she responded.

“He’s gonna ask them. He wants to, but should he?”

She didn’t know what to say. The logical part in her, the realist, knew well that no good was ever gonna come out of it. It was one thing to spout “religion is bullshit”, another to practise it. After all, one’s life was never truly one’s own. What she didn’t anticipate was the part in her that wanted it to be true. Like the camel that crept in to rest its hump, he had crept into a corner of her mind and before she knew it, he’d carved out a cosy corner for himself.

Which was why, when CF turned up one evening and said “It’s not gonna work out. He asked his family. They said no. He’s devastated, but that’s just the way things are, I guess. You guys’ll be friends, right?”, all she could do was smile and say “Of course! I told you it’ll never work out.” She pretended that she couldn’t feel the tightness in her chest, the piercing needle of sorrow (or was it regret?) that threatened to burst her heart. It wasn’t his fault. He hadn’t mentioned, much less promised her anything.

And it wasn’t like she was in love with him. You couldn’t be in love with someone over a week’s time.

No, she definitely wasn’t in love with him.

But she could have. Over the week, she had realized that she could easily fall in love with him. It’s almost like the bud of a flower, ready to blossom but it’s just not quite there yet. And she liked him a lot, she really did. She thought about him often, but she didn’t love him.

She could, though. She knew she could.

Goodbye Gujarat

“Why does one person need so many cloths?? How many t-shirts and salwar could one person wear in a span of 3months?? What in the world was I thinking when I bought all this stuff?? How the hell was I going to get all this stuff across 5 states?!”

These were just a few questions that were going through my mind as I sat in front of a suitcase that was looking increasingly puny in comparison with all the stuff that is supposed to go inside it. So I decided to do what many a genius has done time and again when faced with such daunting tasks. I decided to procrastinate.

See the thing is, I am moving out from Gandhinagar in less than a week. Wow… hurts quite a bit to think about it! In a little over than 3 months, this place has become as much a home as is possible. So many memories…walking down the memory lane, I am jotting down some of the most vivid memories I have of this place.

  1. Wandering through Manek Chowk

Manek Chowk is a street food bazaar which opens at around 10.00pm every night. Known for the mouth-watering variety of food it offers, it is the perfect place to have the BEST dosa you’ve ever had (I’m a South Indian. So when I say The Best, I mean it), lip-smacking pav bhajis, kulfi with raita, faludas, hot jalebis, and reasonably good pani puris among other delicacies. Key in the 1980s Bollywood music streaming in from speakers to experience life in North India at its best.

Street Food at Manek Chowk (Photo Courtesy: www.ahmedabadgiftshop.com)
Street Food at Manek Chowk (Photo Courtesy: http://www.ahmedabadgiftshop.com)
  1. The day of hailstorm

This is truly an unforgettable experience. A few friends and I had set out to visit the Adalaj Stepwell as few kilometers away from Infocity. It was a very hot and cloudy day and we were expecting (or rather hoping) for a strong drizzle at most. Imagine our surprise when the sun who had been playing peek-a-boo barely a second ago, suddenly disappeared and wind strong enough to overturn roadside carts and uproot age-old trees appeared. Initially we waited a while, hoping it would abate as abruptly as it started. And then it started to rain with such ferocity that we wondered if this was a replay of the 2001 earthquake. Somehow we managed to find an autorickshaw. It took us a moment to realise that half the ferocity of the rain was because it wasn’t raindrops that was drenching us – it was sharp, pebble-sized pieces of ice! My first hailstorm! And then, as if it were a Bollywood movie, the rickshaw broke down. How we got back to the hostel with our wits intact still eludes me but once we did, it made a hell of a story!

Caught in the hailstorm (Picture Courtesy: www.skymetweather.com)
Caught in the hailstorm (Picture Courtesy: http://www.skymetweather.com)
  1. Strolling through Sabarmati Riverfront. At 12.30 am.

Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project is an initiative by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation to develop the Sabarmati riverfront in the city of Ahmedabad, India. . We reached there at around 12.30 am, only to be sent back as it closes at 11.00pm. Neverthless, the short walks outside the entrance were enticing enough to make me want to come back to this place as and when I can.

Sabarmati Riverfront at night. (Photo Courtesy: defence.pk)
Sabarmati Riverfront at night. (Photo Courtesy: defence.pk)

It was also the place where I got the first glimpse of how dangerous the seemingly safe places of North can be. The fact is, in the Southern parts of India, people rarely venture out after dark, with the exception of metro cities. We don’t have night bazaars or street shopping. However in the other parts of India, night is the time everything comes alive. There is something about seeing multitudes streaming through streets going through their lives that make you put your guard down. It makes your forget all that you’ve read about how unsafe a place it is for girls. Which you should never, EVER forget.

  1. Sunset at Somnath

Somnath is an ancient temple located in the Western coast of Gujarat. We were on a trip to Diu and stopped there and ended up visiting the temple at the best moment possible. The evening aarthi was just starting and the ambiance inside was amazing. But the best part of Somnath was standing on the deck there and watching the sunset across one of the most beautiful expanse of sea I’ve ever seen. Experiencing that sense of peace and tranquillity – very difficult to put into words.

Somnath temple at sunset. (Picure Courtesy: Shobha Kamath)
Somnath temple at sunset. (Picure Courtesy: Shobha Kamath)
  1. The day Modi won

How can that day not be memorable? Hearing about Gujarat rejoicing over Modi’s win is one thing – seeing it person, feeling that joy and sense of triumph vibrating through passers by…unforgettable. Needless to say, by the night of 16th May, there was not a single sweet shop not empty and there were policemen stationed every 100 metres. (Erm…I just realised that those two facts have nothing in common!) Brushing aside my personal emotions, it was amazing seeing so much faith in one man’s vision.

Celebratory ladoos on the streets after Modi won (Photo Courtesy: indianexpress.com)
Celebratory ladoos on the streets after Modi won (Photo Courtesy: indianexpress.com)