I can remember that day as if it were yesterday. About a year a half ago I was waiting to take the left turn connecting Ballygunge Phari to Mandeville Gardens. There was a traffic jam and it was one of those lazy slow afternoons Calcutta is famous for. On tap, was a cold Coke while The Quartet played Take Five.
An elderly gent walking by my car pauses and come back to shake my hand.
This was a year and a half ago and I never saw this man again. There was something in the way he walked – like a schoolboy to class, a young girl after her first kiss, a young man getting his first job. His face was unforgettable, round, with those black thin frames – he could have well been Dave Brubeck himself.
“I love how you keep this music alive”- he said.
I LOVE HOW YOU KEEP THIS MUSIC ALIVE.
My head repeated the words all day long. All year long. Echoing in my brain were pseudo Dave’s words. Today, whenever I drive by – I make sure to try and stop at that spot for a second. Just to keep things in perspective. To see how far I came.
Another alternative place to start this essay would be my ex’s place in Bangalore. After two years of hearing all about the city, I made it there. There I was, in her huge apartment which she shared with her dad. Time and space seemed to have stopped at that instant. Occasionally I’d be brought back to present day time by her shrill voice, but then again I was used to a lot worse.
She said she got a mail from some girl telling her to stop playing with my feelings and she felt guilty, wanting to apologize to me. I stared at her.
Then I realized I loved plot twists. Here we were at our lowest, in a now stranger’s house -happy that I seemed to have found that singularity in the black hole.
This forced me to reevaluate my past – the good , bad and ugly. It forced me to look at myself not as a victim, but a critic.
I felt like a food critic eating myself to see what was missing.
Or a judge to a heavyweight bout – beating up on myself TKO or KO?
When I was growing up, I would go to workshops. Writing ones. They would promise to be creative. They would be strict and you had to be punctual. They were ridiculously expensive too. The food was horrible. All they did was talk about Enid fucking Blyton.
Everywhere I looked I was intimidated. Kids older than me, more mature than I was. But when it came to writing, they couldn’t write. They could act yes, a lot of guys in school with me sucked up to every single teacher and could act, they could sing, they could perhaps even dance. But not one of them could write.
In college, studying finance I remember having one Business Communications paper which I topped. Eyebrows raised when the results were out. Class Clown topped?
You could even say when I worked in journalism for a while, they made a lot of fun of me behind the scenes.
Quiet nods of approval when I finally got published.
Everywhere I look, its unfortunate that I need approval. From old Dave to my ex, to school & college and now work. You could just ignore it, put it out of mind – but ain’t it funny how the past won’t let anything slide?
It isn’t destiny or fate anymore, this isn’t standing in assembly in school getting inspired so you can get better grades – all plot twists.
As a child you think plot twists are a sin, a misnomer. If you’re writing a story about a dream you had about Star Wars in Grade Three you have to end the story the way Ma’am De Silva said to, not how you want it to end. Or you don’t get a good grade. Used to make me feel guilty, my good ending is wasted.
My father discouraged me when I read Kafka, he said it isn’t going to help you make money. What was money? What was life? How did he know? How did Kafka feel?
I wake up to the crying of a baby. Its the First of April, I’m on a flight home from Bangalore. You’ve traveled to Ballygunge, Yelahanka, La Martiniere, St Xaviers’ and Work in one sitting. I tell myself to get over it. You’re older and wiser.
” I love how you keep this music alive” says someone sitting close-by, but I can’t recognize him.
I smile, my work here is done. The perfect end.