One of things that I miss in India is calling cities by the names christened by the British. I love cities being called as Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. It can be argued that a name does not change anything. Ahem! Name changes everything. Bombay to me died the day it became Mumbai. Bombay was much more secular, patient and accommodating. Mumbai is a city now which is burdened with dreams and strained with the sweat of its people. Continue reading “What’s in the name?”
So I was walking down the street with couple of my friends and we were all new to the city. We called one of our common friends and he suggested we should go to ‘Toit’ which is a micro-Brewery in this city. My friend said, “We haven’t been to any micro-brewery. After one we will have our own house party. Let’s rock!” Despite traveling across the world,whenever I think of a beer place I always have a picture of an Irish pub in my mind. Nevertheless Toit was just what we needed.
It was 5pm and the place was already packed. We thought we have to be in this place! Even if it means that we get the seats only after thirty minutes. The music was great; people looked as if they were having a good time. We were excited.
Now I still have not introduced you to my group. My husband has stayed in different parts of India, including Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkata. I am from Mumbai. Our other two friends have stayed in London and Detroit. Another friend has never lived anywhere outside Delhi/Gurgaon. By fate, we all found new jobs in Bengaluru. All of us were drinking together in Bengaluru for the first time. This was my first-hand experience in tasting cultural differences among us desis when it comes to drinking.
We stood around the bar for thirty minutes. We were slowly drinking our beer.
The guy from UK started the conversation, “When I was in UK, We went to this great place. The beer is not so chilled but it was mild and goes easily down.” We nodded in approval as if we understood what he meant. I could see the Delhi guy tapping his foot. My husband who is primarily from Kolkata was having an intense discussion about Sharukh Khan. “Sharukh is not about acting, he is about living the dream. Something likes the American Dream.” I was like – “Huh, a discussion on Sharukh. Really? I sometimes get amused because people from Kolkatta have this gift of portraying everything including Bhojpuri movies like an intellectual enlightenment.
The Delhi guy was already four beers down by eight in the evening. He looks at us and tells us – Yaar beer kadak nahin hain. The guy from UK goes, “In Uk, we have this beer…..” The guy from Delhi yells “Benchod chup baith. Man Liya Uk ka Taj Mahal bhi accha hain”.
When it comes to me I sat around and judged the furniture, décor, Ac, tube light, drinks, and bulb with all the bars I’ve been to Mumbai. “Umm… Mumbai women are far pretty, na shona”. My husband simply grunted and then burped to my comment. “Mumbai people do not know to drink and your Bandra babes are plastic,” told the girl from US. I took this on my ego and ordered one more drink. I forgot to mention that after living in Mumbai for so long, I realized that I had turned into snob. Like every other Mumbaites (Bandraites, To be precise), I too started believing that there is Mumbai and then there is rest of the world.
It was eleven in the night and we were all high and I was drunk. We were an excited group of people where the Delhi guy and I wanted to dance. My husband was now talking about platonic love in Indian cinema and life. The guy from Uk switched to Hindi and wanted the bartender to play some South-Indian music. The bartender replied – Define south- Indian. Ouch!
I looked around in my drunken state and saw everyone else in Toit were calm, sitting down and enjoying their drinks. As we sit in the Taxi, I ducked my head out. I gazed at the street lights. They looked large and bulbous. My husband, turned at tells me, “After six drinks down, all the women look same.” I laughed as the car stopped near my gate.
While Tinni was walking back from the river and wondering if she was really a hypocrite, she came across the bridge filled with love locks. Names of couples written on the locks were hanging on the bridge. ‘Oh my!’ she thought. ‘I bet half them will end up in a break-up. But this will make a great picture’. She stood there clicking photographs so that the picture was perfect with good lighting. She was trying to create love through her camera. As she stood there, she saw a woman putting a lock with only one name written.
She saw her staring at her. She smiled, “Wondering what I am doing?” Tinni was embarrassed. She was embarrassed but she was caught red-handed. “Do you hope of love?”
“I am cynical. I don’t really believe in soulmates”
“That’s not cynical. But do you hope of loving? Loving anyone, with complete heart which is continuous and never-ending.”
She was pondering if this is actually possible – feeling endless love for a friend or mother or even someone special. It was awkward for her. She avoided people who were into sentiments of love. “I think it is rather taxing and sad. I think we like someone and then focus on building the relationship and nurturing it. It’s simple.” ‘There a good and conclusive answer’, she thought.
“Then why do you like someone. Do you really think that we like someone because of our upbringing or our past? Have you not wondered if you did not have a past, you wouldn’t like the same set of people?”
“I think we have few habits which are innate. For example I am a foodie. I think I always be that way. But I don’t like Death Metal probably because I have not grown up that way.” By this point Tinni realised that she was completely clueless.
“Say you do like Death Metal because of your friends, there wouldn’t be a slightest chance of liking the same people you like now. Even love, would there be no chance of falling in love with the same person?”
Tinni thought for a moment and finally answered, “There will be a chance of liking or loving the same person, but sustenance depends on the past and the environment we live in”
She smiled “Finally logic. Well then stranger let this lock be unnamed. I shall name it the day the relationship has been built rather than having a relationship”.
The sun was setting down. The faint yellow rays were falling on the love handles. She thought it was a perfect moment for a photograph. But some moments can’t be captured just like people who cannot be taken. Not a friend, family or even a foe, people are there, people are everywhere. All we have to do is meet them.
It was one sunny evening when Tinni decided to do nothing in Paris. She had no one there. She had no friends. She went to Paris only because it was her dream to be there one day. Yet, she still had no idea why she wanted to go there. When Tinni saw you, she was not too fascinated by you. You seemed so meek and piddling compared to others present where she came from.
She was sitting and looking at the tourists and some locals sitting and reading a book. A woman approached her. She was old and fragile. She sat beside her and she spoke in English, “You are Indian”, she said in thick French accent. “Dam!n Do I still look Indian? Why couldn’t I look Spanish?” she thought. “Yes, I am Indian”. When Tinni looked deep in her eyes, she looked a loquacious kind of person.
“Yes, I can tell because a man passed by you, your feet touched him by mistake and you touched your head”. I have never seen anyone else do it. I visited Delhi 20 years ago. I will tell you one thing though, you were not even sorry when you did that gesture.”
“It is a habit I guess, like most other habits we have in our culture.”
“But your habits are governed by tradition and culture. Most of them have lost meaning today”.
“I think most habits do not have meaning. Like I when go to the States I hear ‘Thank you’ from so many people. Rarely do they mean it. It’s just a habit. However, I think the mind is more complex than we think. It knows that it needs kindness and deserves compassion.”
“My child, habit without reason is dangerous. Most of your habits are sanctimonious. Why do you need to be so hypocrite?”
Tinni had rarely met someone who could really vex her or get her riled up. She looked at the calm river. She remembered Joan of Arc, her ashes and thought it was better to be polite and not judge people by just one encounter.
Suddenly, everything around became white noise. She saw the river still and quiet. It was a beautiful sunset. He was calling her to enjoy the warmth. The old lady might have many complexities like the city itself.
But, she is Ganga and Ganga is compassionate yet proud. She realized, she did not have to hear the woman anymore. “We touch our head when we brush our feet accidentally as a sign of apology. It is good to question a habit or tradition but to say they do not have meaning is wrong. Each day we are breaking and making tradition as time changes. But you and I are bound by logic which keeps us moving. Apology need not be loud. Thank you need not be compulsory. But they are essential. I have a sunset to catch. It was nice talking to you”.
She might have been rude. But should Tinni have let it go? She couldn’t. But she started thinking – Am I really hypocrite? She walked by the river looking at the sun set. The night was going to be unfolded, with new thoughts and new people.