Thursday, May 19, 2011

Beer, Paharganj & Lost Love

“Yesterday somebody was talking to me about The Namesake,  and I was reminded of that day, sometime in the first week of joining college, when I sat with him on the stairs of the hall and we talked about names. You know, those stairs in the corridor that leads from the mess to the staffroom, that’s where we sat. Something made us talk about names, and we discussed mine, his, and his old name.”

“I didn't know he’d changed his name.” 

“He did,” she said, sipping her beer, sitting across the mica topped table, gazing at the empty chairs to my left. It was late noon. Then, turning to me, she said, “Let me tell you something creepy. While thinking about that day, I could see exactly what I was wearing and what the color of his tee shirt was. Isn't this unnatural? Two years of this college roller coaster and my brain has the freaking space to store such a mundane detail from one of the least exciting conversations with someone I can’t imagine talking to anymore. Isn’t this crazy?” 

Before I could think of the right thing to say, she resumed her tone of self reproach, and said, “The scariest part is yet to come. Listen to this. After I’d recollected things about that day, I just tried to think of any other day in college before the last few months- time spent at the café, the dhaba, and I realized that almost every recollection of the time spent outside class had him, in full vividness.”

“Well, that’s because your absolute time spent with human beings is less, much less than normal, and consequently the number of people you end up knowing well, is less. So, if you spend proportionally more time with someone, then, since you spend less time with people as such and there are very few people you spend time with, it would seem that you are only spending time with this one person,” I tried to reason, while realizing that I should have rephrased what I wanted to say.

“Bullshit,” she said. “It’s scary. It’s scary because as such I don’t remember when I thought about him last. But one fine morning when I sit and recall whatever happy memories I have of college, there’s not one that doesn't have him.”

“Listen, it’s alright,” I said.  The beer hurt my tongue where I’d accidently bitten it at lunch. “Life has an inherent forward momentum, and you’ve been doing so well. I don’t know what got you today after so long, but believe me, it’s no big deal. You were happy then, and you are happy now. And about the vividness of your recollection, it’s a gift. Don’t you realize it? It’s amazing that you are so perceptive.”

There was a pause. She took a breath. The bar was beginning to fill.

She smiled, looking at her hands, and said, “Sometimes I think being perceptive just makes life difficult. I know you don’t like it when I refer back to him, but I haven’t told you this. Once, when I was still with him, somebody had called him and I could faintly hear the other person. It was a female, with a slightly high pitched sing -song voice. He was telling her that he can’t make it before three. Eventually, I realized whose voice it was, and I cursed myself for knowing it.” She was smiling in a frenzied sort of way.

“You know, if I were you, I’d write something about it. Don’t you think it’s extraordinary how the truth about someone was bludgeoned down your head? I think it’ll make a great piece!”

She laughed, for the first time since we came. It was a sonorous laughter. There was still some color on her cheeks and ears from talking about him, but it was beginning to drain.  I thought she was perfect, and he was a jackass for not realizing this.

“You’re a bitch,” she said, and then, resting her elbows on the table, leaning and whispering, she said, “Sometimes I think that deep down, we’re the same material. I’d have loved to date you if you were a man.”

“Me too.” 

It was getting late for Paharganj. So we got going before people came to ask us if we wanted a room, or two rooms or whatever.

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