Monday, July 02, 2007

Travelling Home

I was in India for the better part of last month. For all the hullabaloo... India is after all just a 20 hour ride in several air conditioned containers away...not too much, the trip from Pilani to Hyderabad was perhaps more arduous. In any case, I m not too fond of flying, so I just close my eyes and try to convince myself that the terrifying slip n slides that an aeroplane performs in the air are infact the reassuring rockings of a good old train chugging away. The images of bloated and bruised legs a classmate of mine had shown in a presentation on Deep Vein Thrombosis, which I had attended in a half drugged afternoon stupor and had no clue I remembered, suddenly reappeared in all their glorious red n black... and each time they did the dude sitting in front my cramped economy class seat got a juicy kick on his ankle. He was either a sound sleeper or a thorough gentleman...bless his heart.

When the plane landed in New Delhi I sighed, both with with relief and with a certain curious feeling of exhilaration that I ve not felt before. Certainly better than my landing in the US, when I had to use muscles in places I didnt know had muscles not to throw up. I was in one of the queerer seats on an Air India flight then - and instead of the reassuring back of another seat in front of me ( with a pocket holding the Barf Bag) was a rudely nonchalant (or is it nonchalantly rude?) airhostess, facing me but looking listlessly away. She ll never know what a close call it was - she was a whisker away from a tepid(??:)) shower and a stiff dry cleaner's bill. I returned in a Lufthansa - going by AI and returning by LH, I guess that makes me a success eh??...heh.

I visited a few of the cities that I know to varying degrees of familiarity. My first morning in the country was in New Delhi, and the place was nothing like I remembered. Its true that nostalgia makes you forget the dirt and the grime and the paan stains, and if not to forget, to attach a romantic nostalgic tint to them. The tint was brusquely wiped away. It took me a little time to return, in the truest sense - something that is bound to happen when you journey between two worlds that have nothing in common except (varying amounts of) personal freedom. Although I hated (and still do) Kiran Desai's beautifully vitriolic book there are certain things that I agree with - now that I have the perspective. It truly is wonderful to live with your self all in one place, and I feel sorry for the many many people who choose live with half their selves all their lives. If I had the book I would have fished out Desai's words to say this - but I have left it at home. I have also felt, many a time in America, what Desai says in an interview - " It feels as if one will never be able to tell an entire story ever again. There'll be an aspect of living half a life, having only half a story to tell."

In any case by the time I landed at Hyderabad, I had trouble imagining I had been far far away for a whole year - it felt like the vacations from Pilani - when all of us used to get off the train in an excited gaggle - and to my Mum's outward horror ( but I secretly suspect inward rejoicing) the same grimy oily smell emanated from my suitcase as had always done then. Hyderabad hasnt changed much - for a city thats weathered 400 years, another year is just another year. Some of the billboards even had the same adverts as when I had left.

In any case, I drove around the city with a vengeance, with excellent company I may add(:)), proudly clocking a 1000 Kms in a couple of weeks. I was also overjoyed to find that the Hyderabad autowallahs were still the most honest and upright group of public servants in the country - and with their impeccable Hyderabadi hindi and amazingly insightful directions (seeeeedhhe chale jao) are the very embodiment of the Hyderabad I love, and miss. A thought has occurred to me since. Those of you who have lived your lives in many different cities - and are faced with the dilemma of which to call "Home" - think of the city where no diabolical autowallah can take you for a ride - and you have your answer (of course I refer to cities in India - a Western parallel escapes me).

It was on one of the several walks in a reassuringly timely indian dusk, that I caught a glimpse of Christiano Ronaldo and Steven Gerrard walking arm in arm - not a care in the world!! I followed them with a cell phone camera for a good while, all the while apprehensive of accosting them in fear that my long dishevelled hair, incongruous goatee and in general my dubious appearance would remind them of all the warnings of "dirtly old strangers" their mums had plied them with. (My chief childhood fear was the "chheledhhora" - who in my imagination looked then very much like I look now). My most excellent companion was amused at my hesitance and eventually snapped them up while they tried hard to take their pick from a kwality walls freezer (above) .

Calcutta was given a miss this time round...although it is true that I used to call this city home once - and haven't visited it for much longer than whats good for me. Next time round. Although I did (to my amazement more than anyone elses) spend some time listening to Robindro Shongeet, while whiling away time in an endless Hyderabad traffic jam.... maybe theres hope for the Bengali in me.


pitamagan_5 said...

ah home ! captured very well

Hari said...

Reminds me.. There was some dialogue in Before Sunrise or Before Sunset.. One of the two, don't remember which..

The gist of the conversation was something like this.. that if there are, lets say, a billion people in the world now.. Thats a billion souls.. And 10,000 years back there was about a million.. So where did all these souls come from.. Whether you believe in reincarnation or energy conservation.. You still have to answer the question..

So the female protagonist says that is a modern soul only a fraction of the souls that existed earlier.. Which means that all of us are not complete in ourselves.. Thats why we're scattered.. And even maybe, specialized, she says..

Basically, none of us have a complete story to tell.. Not a theory that I believe in.. But I found the parallel amusing..

Glad your India trip was good.. A 1000 kms in a coupla weeks eh? :) . I guess a pit stop at my place was too much to ask.. :)

Sujan Dhar said...

@ surya
thank you

@ hari

i think it was before sunrise...the first one..sort of makes mathematical sense - which is appealing..but i still have hope..

Saikat said...

Nice one man. Came back to blogsphere after a long break.