Thursday, July 28, 2005

Taking Stock

When I segued from student to working man, I weighed much less. Much water has flowed under the bridge, much avoirdupois accumulated on the frame.

All those years ago, I could bench-press my current weight. Now, I can barely bench-press what-used-to-be-my-weight then.
My body bothers me.

On the other hand, I have achieved what I used to consider one of the marks of 'coolth', back when I was in college. I know aall the suits in all the watering holes in town, most of them by their first names. (Not just the ones who wear those brass name-tabs, gerrit?) And I'm now confident enough to send back a dish if I don't like it. Ohhhh, sexy!!
Back then, I very definitely was not part of the gang that frequented the only disc in town. At the Oberoi. It was called the Pink Elephant, and after our college celebrated its sesquicentennial (look it up), an Old Boy threw a party for us at the Pink. I think it took a week to get rid of the smell of teenage puke. Free booze for 18-yr.-olds, the man was mad.
The only other time I entered the Oberoi (“back then”) was when I was walking down Chowringhee to catch a bus, and suddenly I just had to go. Lovely marbled restroom, oh joy, but half a mile down a slippery-floored corridor. Try that some time when your innards are making like Krakatoa before it blew.

When I was 18 I tried to write poetry. Occasionally I even wrote something that could pass as poetry.
These days I post on a blog. Sometimes, on two blogs. Or even three. But I haven’t written any poetry in years.

I think I was about 22 before I learnt to shut up.
I still have to remind myself, now and again. But I’m getting better.

I was 15 years old when I first heard “Scarborough Fair / Canticle”, “Bridge over Troubled Water” and “For Emily, Wherever I may Find Her”. Also “Patterns” and “Cloudy” and the “59th Street Bridge Song”. (My first time in New York, my friend thought I’d lost it when I insisted we make a detour to see that bridge. Great guy, but he used to like ABBA. I mean, a grown man who hummed “Fernando”?)
Then I fell in love with Kishore Kumar. And found R.D. Burman, Floyd, Tull, Al Stewart, Led Zep, Tom Lehrer. The amazing voices of Billy Joel and Shubha Mudgal. Along the way I sampled Silk Route, Traci Chapman, even Lucky Ali (yes, I DO like the Hrithik number).
One amazing night at IIT Delhi started with Shiv Kumar Sharma and went on to Amjad Ali Khan. Hari Prasad Chaurasia summoned dawn with Bhairavi and I’d discovered something. Years later, thanks to SPICMACAY and Prof. Qureishi, I sat in a small room and heard Shruti Shirolikar and once Zakir Hussain.
But …
… when I hear THOSE two sing their songs again, I’m still 15 years old.

I first went to Shiraz (“Golden Restaurant” … w.t.f. is golden about Shiraz anyway? Perhaps their biryani), at the corner of Park Street and Lower Circular Road, back in 1982. Thanks to J. No wonder he was my best friend. That was when a hundred bucks was still a Big Deal. One time J and I won that much in some college fest and blew it all at Shiraz. Ran up a tab of over 90 bucks and left the rest for tips.
To put that in perspective, the average human being would have found it difficult to finish a plate of biryani and a side order of rezala for fifteen rupees. The first time I took my wife out (that same year and no, she was not my wife then), it was to Shiraz. We had 5 bucks apiece and bullied another 5 out of Rajesh S with some obscure reasoning. We sat downstairs where it was cheaper, we paid our money and we ate our meal. We were full, we were happy.
The last time we went to Shiraz was … well, last week, actually. They still make the world’s best biryani. And the most amazing tandoori roti. The bill was a ridiculous amount, perhaps barely enough for a soup and dessert at Churchill on Colaba. Some things don’t change. Mmm mmm mmmm. And in case the point isn’t clear enough, MMMMMMMMMM!!!!

I wonder which year I learnt to say Hullo to a woman’s eyes instead of her chest. I do know it must have been some years after I was 16.
But I’m proud to say it’s been several years (decades, even?) since I greeted even the hottest woman with my eyes directed a few inches below her clavicles. Even on that memorable occasion on the Long Island Railroad four years ago when, for more than an hour, I half believed that bald is sexy. Somewhere in a finer and better world where true heroism is recognised and feted, I’m right up there with Sir Galahad. Or Bedivere at the very least.
(Ummm … I must confess I still do lech at times, but my priorities are different now. Brains and a sense of humour certainly, but also eyes, hands and voice. Most definitely eyes, hands, voice.)

I used to try to help people. A lot of it was due to Enid Blyton and Richmal Crompton and all that rot about one good deed a day. (Do kids these days even know about William and the Outlaws?) My good intentions were rarely appreciated, even on the rare occasions when I didn’t goof up big time. I did donate blood several times in college, though.
I really am better at helping people these days. Or so they tell me. Double difference there. Not bad.

Back then, I never had much money, but I don’t recall ever wanting much money either. Just didn’t think about it, I guess.
These days, I do want money. A fair amount. Still don’t have much. That hasn’t changed.

There was this picnic when I was in my first year in college. Half the people who went had only one condition – I shouldn’t be part of the scene. Major popularity.
I’m still told that I’m obnoxious. But it’s usually said with a smile. At least, I think it’s said with a smile.

I was tagged on that book meme that went around. Never did respond. How does one list 5 books? Or even 10?
What was the first book I read? I really don’t remember. The last was (a minor embarrassment) The Half-Blood Prince. Finished last night at 9 p.m.
That feeling when one has a new book to read. “The keen thrill of anticipation that surpasses every possible emotion … love ambition sex music food success, nothing can compare.” Something else that hasn’t changed. Thank God.

1 comment:


Well, well, mon frere! That was a fair roundabout! And about that rezala - not that we've sampled it, being one with the mammoth and mastodon - I believe Shiraz actually holds a patent for the damn thing (this piece of trivia courtesy Sadhan Banerjee of North Star of hallowed memory)!