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.
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.