Thursday, October 26, 2006

I miss me

Today, I sat alone at my regular old coffee bar. By my table, was the one more often than not occupied by haunted children who never grew to be men, for over a year now.
I am usually accompanied by three friends and four coffees in my regular sessions that last for over three hours.
Today, I sat alone at my regular old coffee bar.

ordered my coffee before discovering it was already smiling at me with all its pleasant filtered aroma. I watched the froth of the morning's milk brew into my hot cup of caffeine and puzzled, I stared into the little hot bubbles that brimmed to the sides of the chipped ceramic cup. I counted one hundered and twenty two bubbles before I was bored. Again.

This place was familiar; my table, my cup, my broken chair, almost like how you carefully stepped to your right, groping in the dark or you knew you would bang into the red couch you insisted on having in the centre of the room, even when the lights were off.

I was comfortable, but uneasy.
I decided I had to stay to find out why. I am used to being alone in coffee shops, in bus stops, at home, in my head.. this was least different.

I realised I was missing something. I was missing someone. It wasn't my friends, those who accompany me and my four coffees everyday over arbid conversation. It wasn't the air, the sleeplessness, it was me. I missed myself.

The other side of me had gone off on a vacation with my ambition, my passions, obsessions for over a year now. I realised I missed my reason to be, who was off praying by a lake enveloped by mist by the stone of old temples.

What remained, was longing, life, and a chipped cup of now lukewarm coffee.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Kabab Magic

Five years ago, I washed into this city, lost in new freedom. I had no idea what it was going to be like from here on, and I was aware of the fact that I was never going back to what I thought was home. I remember walking down this dark street in Mohamaddin Block, canoped by trees and wires of light poles infested with bats, trying to find the main road, thinking to myself that the light at the end of this tunnel must belong to civilization.

It was seven, or so, and as I reached my destination, the light (which was far from blinding), the air around me suddenly smelt different. It was full of this divine aroma.. of my mother's pampering, somehow. What was it?! Oh, how my mind hath turned with no will! What was this smell.. the scent of love.. or life.. of GRILLED CHICKEN!

Like in a Disney movie, I turned around, I remember, flabbergasted something this heavenly could land right before my being on this dark and lonely evening. I can't remember what I was thinking.. but I walked to the establishment on my right. It was like a doll house. An open restaurant, with plastic chairs and tables set on the road, with nothing around it. Not a house, not shops, not another hotel in that space of 100 metres around. "My very own presonal oasis!" I thought, as I looked up to catch the neon sign that flashed in my eye.

Kabab Magic.

Like in a trance, I let my nose lead me the way in. I followed everyone around me to precision. I hypnotically checked the menu and registered the first thing I read. Then I hypnotically went to the counter and paid my Rs.25 for a Shavarma. Then I hypnotically went to my table, holding onto my little white coupon like it was my pardon from life imprisonment.

I watched in awe as the guy with a weird chef's hat flung the dough in the air, twirling it aroung, as it grew massive in size to plop onto a round cooking pan. It flew in the air, swirling like a space ship as everyone around watched him perform his dough-defying stunts.

When his naan/khuboos (still no idea what that was) cooked, he flung it to the guy next to him, and it landed exactly, I have to add, at the spot he most wanted it. This next man began to slice like a conductor in a concert, at his tandoor with two sharp, long knives in a frenzy, and chunks of meat, supple and fresh with green lime and hummus dropped onto a silver disc.

My shavarma brought to me, I hypnotically bit in. And then, i broke out of my trance only to land in a higher state of unconsciousness. It was an orgasm!

My memories of what happened after that, are very vague. I think i just went back home, content with not doing whatever I was supposed to and just surrendering to my nose and rumbling stomach.

Today, years later I passed by my haven for one night five years ago. I felt funny and I didn't know why, so I stopped by to figure. (Wallah! A poet is born!) Nothing much had changed, except that, the guy at the tandoor grew a white stubble now.. or was it always there? The trapeze artist didn't play with his dough like he did that night, either.

I followed the same ritual of buying my coupon (it was now for Rs.30) , and thenI took my prized roll and walked down the dark lane I once lived on. Trying hard to recollect what my thoughts must have been like that night, I realised with a smile in the dark that I was now free.

Walking down the lane to nowhere from nowhere, I had grown up, in some ways, perhaps, from that seventeen year old confused glutton to a twenty-two year old sure glutton. Home was where I wanted it to be, and right now, the canope of old trees and poles infested with bats suited me just fine.