Memory Lane

It’s a Sunday…the only day of the week I get to myself without having to worry about office (when I’m lucky, that is). I awoke in good time, took a while over the morning newspapers before deciding to take a shower. But as I stepped into the bathroom, the sight looking back at me worried me…the uncouth shock of shaggy hair on my head! The ‘mane’ reason why I immediately set off for Tip-Top Hair Dressers (For Men) about a kilometre away! 

Life’s been a bit strange lately (by lately, I mean to include over four years!)…when you are a child, you yearn to earn as an adult. You don’t think about the things that you’ll end up losing out on in the bargain. I find that often happens to me…

 For starters, I don’t know anybody I live around anymore! Even up to five years back, a casual walk along the colony would bring you face-to-face with at least three different people you know. You stop, have a short conversation, promise to catch up (which rarely happens, though) and move on. But today, it was like taking a walk in Papua New Guinea for all I knew! Perhaps it’s me…but I’d rather blame it on the mentality that exists among us these days, principally in south Delhi. The only time you know thy neighbour is when thy metre box has a fault, and you need to call an electrician to fix the issue! People are beginning to keep to themselves like never before (in that sense, Delhi has never had a great track record for social grace) and it brings a cold anonymity that makes me a bit uncomfortable.

As I skipped across the main road, timing my jaywalks to perfection as Zens and Sonatas zipped past ahead of and behind me, I remembered the walks we took as children. It’s rained overnight, so there was this constant odour of petrichor and cow dung (somehow I never minded it, and I was happy to find I still don’t) as I made my way past my old school bus-stop and walked past Ram Bharose, the mobile Chinese food vendor (one of those old vans). I mischievously wondered if I should give the proprietor a name and number for my friends in advertising…inventing a suitable ad for Ram Bharose the Chinese joint would be an assignment to remember! 

Down the road, I saw our Music Teacher from school. Rita Ma’am was a hot topic of the grapevine in school, but my most vivid memory of hers was being ejected for talking too much the only time I was up on stage to join in the singing (we must have been loud, because we were in the last row…separated at least by about 8-10 feet from the first row where she sat). 

“Rita Ma’am, how are you?” 

She took her time to crinkle her eyes, before recognition seeped through. “Oh, hello Debayan…how are you? Where are you these days?”

 “I’m with a sports channel…working as Producer.” 

“Really? That’s great…why don’t you come down to School sometime and give the kids some encouragement on taking up sports?” 

“Sure, that’s a great idea. I only keep in touch with School through the Reunions…would love to do something other than that…” 

“In fact the Surendranath Jauhar football tournament starts in some time…why don’t you come for that?” 

“Ok…I will see what I can do…” 

As I bade farewell, I thought to myself…why not get the Indian team to pay a visit to MIS during their stay in Delhi for the Nehru Cup! I must personally request the Coach Bob Houghton…maybe he can come along too…

 As I continued my walk, I saw Mr Jetley (I think that’s how he spells it!). Mr J is a character…he’s your embodiment of Captain Haddock from Tintin. Foul-mouthed, renowned across the colony for his love of alcohol, and quite a grump. But there’s something charming about him that always made me curious to get to know him better. Unfortunately our only interaction those days was restricted to arguing about playing cricket near his house, or parking our car in front of his own! Nevertheless the septuagenarian Mr Jetley looked hale and hearty as he stepped out of his car and carried on (presumably to the bank) and I managed a wry-smile at him that bounced off like those numerous rubber balls that once fell into his backyard and were subsequently confiscated! 

Tip-Top (For Men) was unusually empty today. As a kid, my father usually accompanied me…and we’d always have to wait for a while. Now for some vague reason, the elderly Punjabi gentleman who owned the place couldn’t think beyond Filmfare for magazine subscriptions for his saloon. As you can imagine, my old man and I often wondered how interested we should appear in leafing through the glossy magazine while waiting our turn. That was until the day they got a TV inside (yay!), and usually tuned it to a sports channel (double yay!). 

They have three regular barbers, and today I got the gay one. At least I think he might be…he’s the only one who approaches his craft with some tenderness…and also throws in a free head massage! I don’t mind it at all even if he is, provided he does his job well, and keeps his hands to my scalp area! There’s another guy, with curly hair, who has always detested my hair. Never one to keep quiet anyway, there have been some ‘interesting’ discussions on hair care between Curly Guy and myself…but moot point is he’s not as good as the other two! 

As I paid up (and Anil Kapoor started using words like “maska” and “chaska” on the TV set, apparently he was chief guest for one of the voice of India shows!) and made my way out…the feeling of déjà vu just got stronger. There used to be a snack shop down the road which made amazing aloo tikkis and samosas, and it would have been a sure-fire detour during the rains a decade ago! But these days, those small pleasures are gone (for one thing, I don’t think anybody at home should be having that stuff!). We all live our life the way that our employees/family/circumstances have laid down for us. Phrases like “live for the moment” and “go with the flow” are reduced to just that…phrases!  I was engulfed with these thoughts as I walked back…carefully avoiding the lumps of dung and mud…and wondering if 26 footballers might be a bit too much for manage for the Physical Education department of my school… 

PS: Post by Debayan Sen

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