Monday, July 22, 2013

Saat bata Battees, Daryaganj

The train chugged off tearing me away from my family, conspiring to take me away from home. I could sense that the distance between me, inside the train and my ammai, on the platform was increasing, but the tears welling inside my eyes blurred my vision. I was heading towards Dilli, to try and learn how to become a journalist.

Delhi welcomed us with with a warm (read: extremely hot) embrace; we felt like sticky roshogullas. With the quest of finding me a ‘home’, appa and I headed towards Daryaganj, where my college - The Times School of Journalism was nestled.

Saat bata Battess (7/32), Daryaganj was ‘home’. Sneha and Tista, my two new room-mates were ‘family’. And Saat bata Battees witnessed fun, madness, tears, hunger, fights, arguments and never-ending concern. My first taste of freedom couldn’t have been better without you, girls - Tista and Sneha. Thanks for making my stay at the haunted house bearable, fun and memorable.

From accomplishing Mission Impossible - waking up Miss-Hap Tista - everyday, to wrapping up a hard day’s work with late night chats accompanied by piping hot ‘wee hours’ tea, creepy discussions and gossip sessions, there wasn’t a day (or night) at saat batta battees that would be boring.

Saat bata battees, owned by Ashok Jain , whose number on our phones was saved under names like ‘khadoos’, ‘khoosat’, ‘tharki’, did eventually become ‘home’ where we lived, laughed and cried; where we shared an experience of a lifetime; where we did learn how to become journalists.

If life at saat bata battees was fun-filled, it was also full of hospital visits, thanks to miss-Hap, Tista. Ligament tears, severe tonsils, fever, some of this and a lot of that had become regular, petty affairs for us. The aap ke zamaane mein baap ke zamane ka ‘cooler’, that promptly converted itself to a heater in summers and cooler in winters, was a convenient way of keeping thieves at bay - the noise it produced use to keep buzzing in my ears even during classes.

And talking of classes, at TSJ, the power-point presentations, meant ‘nap time’. I would snooze off to glory, in the dark room, to compensate the sleep lost to squeeze in time for our ‘chat sessions’. And then the soups, maggies and Kishan Bhaiyya’s special ‘bade cup ki coffees’ and jeera rice we relished at the canteen wouldn’t have been half as delicious without the company of Sandeep, Aaheli, Dipika, Shweta and Kumari. Thanks a bunch people for making breakfast, lunch and tea-time the most-looked forward to time of our days.

Dilli darshans with Aaheli and Sandeep, chat fights with Karthik licking our fingers and closing our eyes and going ‘ummmmm’, relishing street food near Golcha, watching movies, converting reporting assignments into fun-trips, photo sessions, beating the deadlines, surviving hunger and so much more - memories of Saat bata Battees will always remain ones that would make me break into warm smile...

Misty (Tista), Chena (Sneha), Bunny (Shweta), Jhumi (Aaheli), Sandy (Sandeep), Toothpick (Dipika), Kumari (Priyanka) and Karthik...thanks for the memories!!

PS: There’s so much about Saat bata Batees I’d like to share. here are a few more you’d maybe like to read :)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Thank God, I was wise enough ;)

They say we can’t choose our family, but we can choose our friends. Thank God I was wise enough!! ;)

***Gimme oil inmylam, gimme burniburniburni,
gimme burni till the late of late***

Neatly formed lines of kids trying to sing “Give me oil in my lamp, keep it burning, burning, burning....” swallowing half of the words and mumbling the rest incorrectly. Dressed in crisp white shirts and peacock blue pinnofers, all that mattered was to retain the shine on the shiny, black, spotless shoe till the end of day, enjoy the tiny morsels that friends ‘shared’ from their lunch boxes, and getting to sit near your best friend.

I was no different. Hair braided into two plaits, blue ribbons neatly bowed, bundling the plaits together, I would hop into school, praying the teacher doesn’t change my seat. As soon as I would walk into the classroom, my button-like eyes would search for them - my girls, my persons. As soon as one of them walked in, I would wave, and shift my bum slightly, to indicate with a wide grin that I’ve reserved a seat for her. I would be worried if they didn’t turn up before the assembly bell rang. ----- Thank you Anki and Bana, for sitting next to me, for sharing your dabbas, and for being there.

Classes meant communication through chits. One-liners and little messages that used to get circulated all around, a slight nod of the head indicating the message has been received. ‘The stand up on the bench’, ‘catch your ears’, ‘get out of the classroom’ were the times I enjoyed myself the most. --- Girls, you made the classes bearable, laughable, and the punishments enjoyable. Without you, the ‘catch your ears’ moments would have been embarrassing beyond words.

I was already old enough for college, things changed, and I was scared of how my ‘new’ life would be. But as it happened, Charlie’s Angels got together again, and college life was way better than I had ever imagined. Sitting on the last bench, coming up with the most hilarious stuff, laughing, learning, and growing up together, playing pranks, forcing lecturers to say, “Ae you girls, you can’t sit together,” splitting us up into three different corners of the classroom ------ We have shared more than tiffin dabbas, we’ve shared our deepest, darkest secrets.

We’ve shifted bases, headed into different directions, but even today, when we meet, we laugh till we can laugh no more, till our insides start aching, but the giggles, the giggles never die down. Crossing roads like ‘goyas’, window shopping, eating out, bunking classes and making front-door exits, christening people with ‘special’ names -- we’ve done all of this and more ----- Thank you for not growing up, and still remaining the gawky schoolgirls that we were.

And with these school friends, it would be a sin if I don’t mention my other partner-in-crime, Rashmi, who was my first best friend in Guwahati. The dance rehearsals, the ‘Kerala Samajam’ picnics, the weekend get togethers, the bargains with shopkeepers --- Rash, you made them all worth remembering...

They say we can’t choose our family, but we can choose our friends. Thank God I was wise enough!! ;)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Salaam Bombay!!

Bombay, if you were a guy, I would have married you...but since you’re not, I’ll settle with the privilege of having you as my best friend.

I was like a grown up toddler when we first met - unaware of the ways of the world, naive and way too emotional. You gave me stability, strength, confidence and freedom. You were the one who stood by me when the times were rough, you held me when I tripped, you embraced me when I was low, slapped me hard to wake up from my misconceptions.

Standing on the edge of the train, I, for once, stopped worrying about my hair that the beautiful wind was caressing; conversations with fisher women and the office-going junta alike, scripted in beautiful chapters of my memory, forming stories that I’ll probably entertain my grandchildren with.

You sent the breeze at Marine Drive to cheer me up when I was down in the dumps, the early morning shots of tea at Ghatkopar, the lovely people were all there to walk by my side, silently, to make sure I was ok. With spicy munchies and the soothing breeze you gave me, I became oblivious to everything that was hurting me.

You taught me how to be street-smart, how to protect myself, how to live, how to laugh. how to have fun. Despite lost friends, lost wallet, and an unemployed status that would have made some people suicidal, you taught me how to be strong, how to brave the tough tide and sail with it, how to dance in the rain, how to be happy despite the million things that could depress...

You made me the woman I’d always wanted to be, something that I ache to be today...

You were my constant companion, you had me and held me, from the day I met you, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until circumstances did us part....

We might just be physically apart, but you are, and always will be the one who taught me what life is, you will always be my best friend. Hope to meet you soon, magical Mayanagri, till then please remember...

Bombay, if you were a guy, I would have married you...but since you’re not, I’ll settle with the privilege of having you as my best friend.

P.S: This post might seem a bit weird to people, who would probably think, “Doesn’t she have a human friend, why is a city her best friend?” Yes, I do have ‘human’ best friends, but Bombay is special! Salaam Bombay!!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Goddess of Small Things

It’s not the big things that make me happy. I don’t crave for diamonds or expensive gifts. Little things, tiny gestures - they touch me, make me feel loved. I am the Goddess of Small Things...

I was looking at the mysporepa, sitting proudly inside the glass case, while my husband was paying for the mirchi bajjis we had bought. Its colour, its shape, the texture - oh, everything was inviting me. I was lost in a sweet world, imagining, how it would melt in my mouth, lacing it with a sweetness divine...”Bhaiyaa, yeh sweet zara ek plate mein dena, madam ke liye,” I heard my husband telling the shopkeeper, handing me the one thing I wanted, taking me down beautiful memory lanes.

I vividly remember a little me, dressed in a cotton floral frock, two neat fountain-like pony tails sticking out from my head holding on to my dad’s finger and hopping along with him, trying to match his pace. I remember how I would try to synchronise my footsteps with that of his - right-right, left-left, and raise my head to see if he’d noticed that we were walking in sync. I remember how the bazaar frightened me out of my wits - the scores of people with bundles of plastic bags, the pan-spitting shopkeepers, the bikes splashing jets of slush, the din, the stench of fish...

I remember how my dad used to carry the veggie packets, using one hand to hold them together, the other hand reserved for his darling daughter. I would sense the weight was troubling him, and I would happily shift to the other side, hopping around between mom and dad, holding my dad’s hand on the left, and my mom’s on the right. The fear of big bad bazaar would suddenly disappear...It seemed I had a wall to protect me from the pushing and pulling..

I remember how we had gone to a sweet shop to get some paneer - mom, dad and I...I was looking around, bored, when I noticed a tray of neatly stacked sweets, inside the glass case. It was beckoning me to taste it - the rich, mild golden colour, the glaze of the ghee - it pushed me into a trance, where I imagined how it would feel to take a bite, how it would melt inside my mouth, the sweet taste lingering...

Dada, paneer,” said the shopkeeper to my dad, handing him a packet, waking me up from my reverie...My dad hadn’t taken the packet, he was looking at me. I looked at him, our gazes met, and he looked away, telling the shopkeeper, “Two of this,” pointing to the thing I was looking at with wide eyes. In a minute’s time, I was holding a little paper plate in my hand, the taste in my mouth, way better than the one in the trace...Maybe it wasn’t the sweet...maybe, it was my dad’s love that made it taste even sweeter...The child in me couldn’t stop grinning...

And today, the child in me grinned again...not because of the sweetness of the mysorepa, but because of the sweetness of the gesture and the sweetness of the memories it refreshed...

Yes, it’s not the big things that make me happy. Little things, tiny gestures - they touch me, make me feel loved. I am the Goddess of Small Things...