Thursday, April 24, 2008

Gurgaon say Chennai tak

I am writing on this space after more than a year. At various points of time during this period, friends tried their best to get me to write. But, the writer’s block had totally consumed me. I am especially touched to find the link to Ambrosia blog still in theirs, despite the fact that I had removed my blog from public space. I am grateful for the patience and the faith.

When I started my blog, I never wanted it to be on something specifically. My life is an assortment of various things, events, and people. With no central theme. My blog couldn’t be any different! So I continue with the same thought I started it with.

I am in a different city now. Chennai. I will soon complete four months of stay here. Most of my friends came to know about my shift after I shifted here. I am getting more into the habit of taking decisions and making the announcements later.

Most asked, “Why Chennai!?!”

Valid question. I got a hint of disbelief mixed with amusement even in the text messages. At first I maintained that I came for the ocean. Only to increase the amusement component in the tones. I think I managed to convince them that I took the decision in a sound mental state. Cut.

January 2008. Chennai. I am greeted by humid air as I step out of the plane. I quickly remove my coat. It was freezing only three hours ago. I wait for the evening. I am excited to sit by the ocean. When I reach Marina beach, I don’t notice the ocean. I notice the filth instead. I am in high spirits. I discount all of that. I join my new office. I am not exactly excited. I know it will be the same. I quickly check the number of leaves I am entitled to. I will not get more than three till June. This gives me a shock. Why did'nt the company mention this in the terms and conditions! Still, I am all set to enjoy a new city. Chennai. Mid January I am all worked up. I need to find a place to stay in. I cannot stay at the company guest house beyond a month. Ideally, I want a single room set. I travel with the blazing sun following me, looking for a place to stay. Soon I find out that the set-up of my dreams is out of question. I will need to pay a year’s rent in advance. I am not prepared for that kind of commitment. I settle for a hostel. But I terminate my search soon enough. The hostel rooms are as filthy as the beach. They are slums from inside. Last week of January. It is a Sunday. I am very tensed. I am sitting under a big banyan tree by the road side after several unsuccessful attempts that morning.

I have one of those regular angry conversations with God, “What do you want from me!!”, I ask.

I buy a copy of Freeads. I search out an ad. I call. A pleasant voice answers my call. She says she is in Kerala right now. I can come and see her place the following day.

“How many will share the room?”, I ask.

She says two.

“Will there be space to move around with two beds in the room?”, I ask.

She is amused, “Yes, you come and see”, she says.

In the last few days, during my accommodation hunting, I have seen bunk beds made of iron stuffed in small rooms. They remind me of the dingy war-time barracks. I cannot expect anything better. I can imagine only the worst.

The following day I see the place. It is a two room flat. One room shared by the girl, her two and a half year old son, and her grandma. The other is where I am to stay, with another girl, of course. There is plenty of room between the two beds. I pay the advance.

February 2008. I shift in to the PG. My roommate is a young woman from a small town in Tamil Nadu. She is a software developer, one of the many in this profitable industry. She is at least 10 years younger to me.

On the first day she declares, “I sleep at 10 pm, I want the lights off by then.”

I wonder if I heard right. Yes I did. I don’t say anything to her. I stop talking to her from that day on. I am hurt. I finish all the work I can do in the room before 10 pm. After that, I sit in the living room and read. This is my schedule every evening. The girl and her grandma are very nice. The little boy is funny. He loves to call me by my name. A M Y-R I T A, he prattles. My roommate comes to the living room. She puts on the television. The audio is blaring. I wonder if she has a hearing defect. She talks very loudly on the phone as well. And she talks all her waking hours. In Tamil. She has a booming voice, with no voice modulation. I have an angry conversation with God.

March 2008. Things happen at the workplace. I don’t remember much. It is as if I don’t take conscious notice of that aspect of my life. Life goes on amidst inane conversations with colleagues. At times, I find a connection with some. Those are fleeting moments. Guess everyone is too busy. It has got very, very hot.

April 2008. My roommate has got into a strange habit of talking loudly on phone, at midnight. I can’t take it any more.

I tell her, “Can you please go out and talk!” I speak to her for the first time I started living with her.

She is taken aback, “Ok-ok”, she mumbles and goes out.

She has also got into the habit of switching on the lights at odd hours when I am in deep sleep. It wakes me up. I wonder if she is frenzied or suffers from weak eyesight? She behaves like she is the only person in the room. She never cleans the room or the bathroom. Her side of the room is like a slum. Mincing no words.

Something interesting happened. Yesterday, I find her bleary eyed, literally dragging herself about in the room. I am shocked, I ask her what the matter is. She says she has viral fever. I ask her if she is taking medications. She says she is going to the hospital to get injections. So I tell her to take care. I am not surprised I spoke to her. As she is about to step out I ask her how she will go to the hospital.

“My friend has come to take me”, she says and smiles a sick person’s smile. I would have offered to accompany her. She had the choice to refuse.

Today in the morning, I am in the bath. There is no electricity. After a few minutes, I hear the fan in my room. A few seconds later the bath light is also on. This is a rare show of sensitivity on her part. It brings a smile to my face. Cut.

This is one side of my nearly four-month long chronicle in Chennai. There is another side to it. Probably the side that has helped me to bear this side of the story. Next post. Next time. I am glad to be back!! :)


KD said...

I will not tell everybody how I tried to warn you about Chennai in fear of being refused entry to this blog. The mothe cat purred and purred on seeing my yesterday. She came and rubbed herself against my legs and sat on my lap for some time. I hear the kittens coming from some corner of our store room. But I decided I would be kind towards the mother and save her from having to look for another hiding place. So I did not look for them.

aroop said... are back and how..!!
just went through this entry and throughly enjoyed it..i hope Chennai is treating you well..if it isnt Bangalore sure would.. :)