The month that was…
As I write this at midnight, my loved ones are busy beating the heat and dust in the land of daytime.
Tonight is special; I have completed a month in this land of nights (and knights in jacket and
boots).This possibly is the farthest I could be from them while living in the same planet and not
having to add LATE before my name. Here, the restroom lights turn on instantly on their own as
soon as you enter, the toilet seats get flushed automatically, the recycle bin opens coolly with a
whoosh as soon as you have crumbled the wet toilet paper and just about to toss to dispose, makes
me wonder if they would unzip your pants as well when you are in a hurry to relieve yourself! Out
in the roads, the cars (presumably without horns) screech to a halt half-a-mile away, every time
they see you scampering across the road (Bonus: the drivers don’t yell at you). The day(s) I forgot
to carry my TTC pass I got away without paying for the tickets (no conductors you see) and as I
arrived at my stop, I thanked the driver as always, wished her goodnight (who wished back) and
merrily strolled back to my home, whistling like one of those spunky Twain characters. Mischief
Managed. I admit, not a respectable way to start a monologue and the intended audience might
accuse me of having scant moral compunction to which I would argue but rather feebly.
Statistically, Toronto (The second ‘T’ is silent) is a big city with a population over 2.5 million. It’s
also a very international city. In fact, just over 50% of Toronto’s residents weren’t even born in
Canada! In a city with so many foreigners, it shouldn’t be surprising that Torontonians speak all
together over 140 different languages. All the facts make me wonder if Ray would have based one of
his Feluda stories in this city, would it be named “Ebar Kando Toronto?” The possible suspect list
would be rich, dynamic and diverse in characters – right from the black-belt teenager from Seoul,
the semi-bald widower from Buenos Aires, the Nigerian gym trainer or the banker from Persia.
(Well, these characters are not fictitious, I know them personally, just running my imaginations
amok!) Lalmohan Ganguly, might find the Indian immigrant surnamed Meghraj as highly
“suspicious” in nature.
Irrespective of the count of Hollywood movies I have watched or the pictures in social-networking
sites of friends settled in the West I have liked, the first glimpse of the overwhelming skyline and
the egoistic high-rises (who think themselves to be clouds), transfigured me into voyeur. The
pattern was repetitive; You have a father skyscraper, the tallest of the triad, the one with the curtain
wall of plain glass without any distinguishing feature, the mother skyscraper, the attractive one
with glazed polished stone, in-between the two, the adolescent child stood, craning his neck in an
attempt to match the height of either parents’. As evening progressed and flurries of snow fell on
the empty railway tracks outside my window, akin to the loneliness on my weary soul, I started to
become apprehensive – the higher the buildings, the lower the morals? Within a few days my
misgivings were proved to be horribly misplaced.
Every day, back from work, I meet Mrs. Davis, a widow of 80. She lives alone in her condo in my
building. The old lady is always all smiles and even the chilliest of breeze fails to ruffle her charming
spirits. She moves around in wheelchairs, without any help and buys flowers from Loblaws. My
building, in fact every building, shops, departmental, subways, buses and trains are equipped with
doors which are designed to facilitate the entry and exit of people who move about in wheelchairs
or require special assistance. Mrs. Davis’ red lipstick and colored printed trousers exuberate zest
and buoyancy. Back home, as I pictured my Didon’s image – that of a frail, aging and compassionate
woman draped in white saree with little or no social life, I suddenly feel enraged. She has been
sulking ever since my Dadubhai passed away. On the scales of joy, could even the best husband
equal the weight of everyone you’d love as far as you could remember?
I forged a friendship with David, a Canadian guy of my age and when he asked me out for a baseball
match, I said yes; it was too tempting an offer to resist. I had played baseball during P.T. classes at
school and to my astonishment, I remember most of the rules. Well, there’s no need to tax one’s
brain, as the game is as simple as ekka-dokka. You need not possess the sharp cricketing acumen to
understand the intricacy of a close LBW or the dubious offside foul of soccer. It’s like what Bhuvan
of Lagaan would say – “GilliDanda”! You strike the ball as hard as possible and then it’s Bhaag
Sasoora Bhaag! The Toronto Jays supporters, clad in their blue jerseys were gulping beer and pizza
and cheering loudly for the home team. Nostalgic of IPL (something which I have never craved for
back in India), homesickness twists my insides.
Standing atop the CN Tower, when David asked me how my city is compared to his city, I was silent.
I have never had a bird’s eye view of Calcutta so I had very little idea about it’s expanse and the
shape it took. On the ground, I knew it was a city full of contradictions: Lavish wedding halls where
opulent wedding reception are thrown, behind the same walls, the beggars jostle for leftovers; The
red-bannered slogan shouting protestors marching past a house where a musician is performing his
evening riyaz of classical music. But I have no words to encapsulate the vibrant spirit of the city of
joy to someone who has never lived there. “Complicated” – was my monosyllabic reply.
In the evening, while returning from office, as I passed reception, stopping by to say “Hello” to my
security guard of my building, a Guyanese man of my father’s age, he asked me to wait for a few
minutes. I was visibly annoyed as I had to stifle the rush to pee and my brows furrowed. When he
returned from the multi-purpose room, he carried a box and an aluminum foil wrapper. He had
prepared kheer for me and puri with it. His ancestors were from India and he loves to cook Indian
food. He has seen me returning late from office and I had once made a passing remark that if I am
late from work, I am usually sapped of all my energy and go to bed willfully skipping dinner. Today
as I mentioned earlier, is a special day – one month anniversary. Indeed I wanted something
“meetha”, my sweet tooth was aching! This generosity threatened to push me perilously close to
tears. The Universe never seizes to amaze me and more so the people of this country.
I have seen and felt the notorious brutality of Distance which distanced even the best of
relationships. Love, he says, require physical presence to nurture. I slighted him only to be proven
wrong when even the best of my locution craftsmanship could not recreate the moments where
wordless glances were enough to stimulate the rush of the adrenaline. Paradoxically, the cruel
words became powerful and transgressed mountains and oceans to stab mercilessly at the
listener’s heart. I battled with all my might against the ambush of the deadly gruesome Distance but
in the end valiantly accepted my defeat. Echoing the lines of his song, “Juddho here joddha phere
kaar kaache?”Those dark days I longed for a shoulder to lay my dejected head on and arms to
fortify from the brutish world.Post the singular defeat, Distance, which once scarred, scares me no
more. There is so much more here – unbounded and bristling with possibility. What happens here
is no longer an interlude, it’s my LIFE.