Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The smell of time

It drizzled last evening as I ran back home from a walk with the kids. The rains have not stopped as I am writing this post at eight in the morning. Last night I decided to supplement our dinner with some punjabi protein - the tandoori chicken!

There is a new dhaba right next to the community gate that I live in and I called the guys up and ordered the fowl. As I was eating the meat in all its glory - the strange redness, burnt edges, the slight smell of charcoal, sardarjis and ajwain, goddamn, I remembered the sordid year in Delhi.

I used to live in a then suburb called Saket and my community was called Press Enclave. The place was teeming (?) with kurta clad confused socialists reading aloud Sartre and Mayakovsky to make their kids sleep. I was single then and I shared my apartment with a nocturnal friend of mine - an illustrator graphic designer. He slept through the day, woke up at around four in the evening, fixed breakfast of bacon and eggs, took it easy, made himself a drink and started work at nine in the night and worked through. This was his trick in handling Delhi. I was not blessed with such skills and I had to take Delhi head-on.

Delhi is very aggressive and if you are a sambar loving South Indian, it will stamp on you with such vengeance as if you are the runt with a sting. You have to be ready to swear or to be the victim at all times, twenty four seven. My morning to work included five minutes in front of the mirror, grimacing and repeating behanchod approximately forty times with varied tonality and pitch. You could have easily mistaken me for a method actor. And as I step out and ask the nimrod auto rickshaw driver to take me to work while he is picking his teeth with a screwdriver, he repeats ‘Klash Clooney? Nahi Jayenge!’. My Hindi was poor and gets worse in emotional distress. What I told him loosely translates like this ‘ Dear brother, you are creating a lot of trouble. You should anoint your vehicle with a board with your destination written’. He threw the screwdriver, loudly swore at me, deftly including my mother and sister in the rant. He then walked a little ahead complaining, burped, came back to his auto and put his screwdriver back to work.

The entire day was made of events with minor variations of this and me beating the retreat. The other party was either swearing at me or bragging about his diamond studded belt buckle (not one, he has three). I did encounter a one odd sardar who winked at me stressing the axiom that men are not safe in Delhi (if you drop something in Palika Bazar do not pick it up). I was plain bad at living there.

Eventually, I had no friends (with my only friend sleeping when I am awake) and I had these lonely dinners bought from a dhaba nearby. It was usually a small portion of tandoori chicken and an orange soda.

Yesterday I remembered the smell of those sordid times.
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