Dad's job, my education and then my job, took me to various pincodes in India. Each time, a different bunch of strangers. And strange moments with them. They still linger in my mind and like pickled olive in mustard oil, lined somewhere in memory's backyards ,today i let them out to sun.
Theres this pleasant anecdote about strangers i fondly recollect. It was the evening we received a call from our uncle that our maternal grandpa had expired and overnight we had to go to Guwahati, a distance of about 300 kilometres. We had hired a new driver for our Maruti 800 and off we started at around midnight. Now the driver , being talkative by nature and unknown to the cause of our trip, started to tell us how he was brought up in a small village called Nelli( It was also the place where my grandpa spent most of his life industrialising the business of handlooms) and the hardships his family dealt with until they started their own textile co-operative. Almost evryone in the car was already so overcome by tiredness or grief,that his story went on like the drum of a wasp in the background, until he brought the car to a halting stop and told my dad ,"Saab Nelli aa gaya. Yahaan thoda ruk le? Madam aur bachcho ko chai paani chahiye hoga. Aur waise yehi mera gaon hain."
It was 2 am. Cold, foggy and unknown. We sat in a nearby dhaba whose owner turned out to be our drivers' acquaintance.
"Chaar cup chai", he ordered to the sleepy waiter.
Suddenly he pointed out to me a photo of Jesus Christ hung on the wall and asked," Baba, Jaante ho ye kaun hain?". I thought to myself , how stupid, who doesnt know anyways. Then he pointed to the other wall where, to our utter surprise, a photo of our grandpa working with the villagers of Nelli was hung high, and asked, "Chalo baba, pata hain ye kaun hain?".
Whatever he said then, stayed with me even today.
" Ye hain Jeesu, ye bhagwaaan insaan ban ke aaya tha... aur ye( pointing to my grandpas portrait), ye insaan bhagwaan ban gaya."
And for the rest of the journey, this stranger and his stupid stories actually started making sense.
Its said that strangers are friends you have yet to meet. On the otherhand, sometimes you spend a lot of time to get to know someone to realise that you are really strangers. Eitherways, its a walk worth taking. Tushar, Monil, Darshak, Swati, Gulshan, Aparna, Vijay, Abhishek, Gargi...in the beginning there were days with all of you when i had the freeze and fear about getting accepted. I had to flash that extrra smile, crack the extra joke, walk that extra mile. We all do it with strangers i guess.And look how the years in between melted down everything that was extra , and the only thing extra left with us ,is the extra ordinary friendship that i share with each one of you. I dont think twice about calling Tushar Monil or Djjay at any time of the night to discuss nothing, I can pant with excitement like a dog when i hear Swatis voice on her return to India, i can say without any thought how much i miss our "fake-romancing" with Appy, i can be blindly led by Gulshan through my worst worries, or sit in different parts of the world and still feel joy with Abhishek and Vijay. Some strangers never go out of fashion. My friends clearly top the list.
Though i guess these lines brought in a little joy in what i was writing, but i really started on with a not so happy note. I havent written for about four months now. Damnit. Pretty much because i had nothing readable to write. I made no new friends (except one Mr S Bapat, the new senior manager at the office who sent me an orkut request yesterday and which i could not deny:(:(....), had no great food ,read nothing kicking , went nowhere exciting. All that i have done, is flip flop my steps back from office each evening for the past half year,with the lost day and the laptop hung around my shoulders , through groups of kids playing gully cricket and the womenfolk taking an evening stroll , and somehow, it hurts when i think that these evenings i am not the one who peeps in from the window at the stranger man walking down our neighbourhood, these days, I am the queer guy who passes by the neighbourhood with a sack full of stuffs on his shoulder and an unknown urgency!!
I am the stranger man!
True when they say, every man dies,but not every man really lives. And this piece is my birthday resolution to live till i am alive..Welcome me back!!