Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Drawing Parallels

Kaushik woke just after six to the cawing of crows sitting on his bedroom window ledge. Off late, his body seemed to have timed itself to wake up at this time. There was still a long time before he needed to get ready for office.

Outside, sunlight was still frail. The sky was clear but ashen. It would take a brighter sun for it to become blue again. It had just turned June. One of these days, he would wake to a sky, grayed by monsoon clouds. A train honked (not many whistle these days) as it passed by on the tracks next to his building. From where he sat, he could see into the compartments. A few passengers sat scattered between empty seats, mostly milk and newspaper men, he surmised. In a couple of hours, there would be hardly any space inside these same compartments and he’d be sitting in one of them.

The newspaper lay obediently outside the apartment door. He picked it up and deposited it on the living room table, after having cursorily glanced through the headlines. There wasn’t much in it that interested him. The novel he was reading lay on the dining platform where he’d left it the previous night. The dining platform, a thick glass sheet held in place by two clamps on the wall and a thick steel column under it for support on the outer side, stood between the living room and the kitchen. The absence of a wall between the two created a pleasant illusion of more space than there really was. By the French windows in the living room were placed two large cushioned chairs, part of a sofa set. On one of these, Kaushik lowered himself and began to read. He liked the place. It wasn’t his of course – apartments in the centre of Mumbai were for Billionaires to own. He and Suresh had rented it together.

Suresh only woke up when Kaushik was almost ready to leave, more than an hour later.

“Yes Suresh, feeling better now?” Kaushik asked, grinning widely.

The previous evening, bored with lying around for several hours and unable to find alternatives, the two had decided that whiskey was the most appropriate response to the problem. Ashish and Ritankar had left in the late afternoon, having spent the day watching an Iranian film and then discussing it, after they’d come back from Café Ideal. So, anyway, a bottle of whiskey had been ordered, finished in due course and another ordered. This too was well on the way to being emptied, when Suresh’s stomach eventually gave out and poured out its contents through the wrong end.

The conversation had been interesting too.

“You know, my sister is coming to India for her summer break next month. I’ve asked her to get me a cell phone.” Suresh’s sister had enrolled for a Doctorate program in the United States, the previous year.

“Hmm. You’ve asked for a specific model?”


“Then? How will she know which one to get?”

“I told her to get any phone that slides or flips open”

“Ah. So that’s what you like, eh? A bit of style in front of the women?”

“No man. That’s not my style. That’s not my idea of coolness.”

“What is your idea of coolness then?”

“You know man”, Suresh shrugged, “Just like that”

Kaushik found the one hour train ride to office quite pleasant. He travelled, first class, on a low traffic route which meant he could almost always find a place to sit, often by the window. The IPod sang faithfully into his ears – eclectic music from around the world. Each week, he spent time on the internet searching for new artists and downloaded music from the most promising ones onto the IPod. Over a period of time, he had built up an enviable collection of alternative independent music this way. He was astonished to find how much of it came from Sweden. He also carried a novel with him – usually something light and breezy - there were too many distractions on a train for serious literature. At some point during the journey, he would close his eyes and doze off.

His office was a large elaborate building covered with tinted glass on the outside. It was lonely where it stood; there weren’t any structures of comparable dimensions around it. It was located a little outside Mumbai where the intense development of the city fell away into a more serene, intimate environment. They called the town New Mumbai. Kaushik worked on the topmost floor, the ninth. From it, he could see clusters of small barren hills on one side. They would be covered in green once the rains arrived. A month hence, on a clear day after a spell of monsoon, he would see the clean blue of the sky dotted with white fluffy clouds behind these hills, lush green then, and think of Tuscany. In another direction, he was also afforded a view of the creek which separated Mumbai from its poorer cousin. He liked to think of it as Mumbai’s Bosphorus. He’d never seen the real one and could only visualize it as much as his imagination and Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul permitted.

Kaushik hated his colleagues. There was not one in the entire lot that he could ever strike up an enjoyable conversation with. He’d tried it initially and failed miserably. Since then, he’d limited himself to short functional verbal exchanges with them.


“How was the weekend?”

“Was good. Enjoyed”

“Anything interesting?”

“Not really, just relaxing.”

It didn’t matter which side said what.

Ashish worked in the same office. After a couple of hours of taking care of the most pressing issues at hand, Kaushik descended to the fourth floor, where Ashish sat. The two of them spent some time at the cafeteria, undisturbed, for nobody else seemed to use the place during office hours. They exchanged notes from the remainder of their Sundays, cribbed about work and discussed ways of getting out. As always, the discussion eventually veered to Europe and its many charms; they recounted incidents from their brief visits to the continent.

Kaushik left office at six in the evening, leaving behind him another uneventful day. The Ipod sang and he read. Back home, he ate dinner with Suresh while watching TV. Later, he watched a film – a wonderful French film called ‘La gloire de mon père’ – (My Father’s Glory, translated in English), while Suresh continued watching TV. By midnight, he slept.

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