Monday, December 31, 2007

Travelogue of a vagabond.

Its almost 3 in the morning and i am not feeling sleepy. So here goes my travelogue for the Allahabad.

A journey to delve into past and dig up that would take me to future that was the motive of this present trip.

Some say all you need is money to travel, the rest would be taken care by the same. I always believed the same. But this time I planned unlike anything else I have done before, I planned this voyage. All the tickets booked prior, in fact well before the last moment. Northern plains of ganges were shivering , so I got myself 2 blazers from friends. I phoned the professors got myself appointment . Then I send them the letter , the format, the resume everything that suffix for the objective of journey to be successful : to get the letter of recommendation from the best professors in the best format. Then I had called my juniors for getting a place to bunk . And so the journey was to be fruitful, if everything went fine…of course.

The cab came at the right time to pick me to Chennai airport. Kamaraj airport was busy as usual, I checked for any good looking ladies, none. Thank you Chennai. I got my boarding pass and went to the security check. My baggy pants with innumerous pockets made the security guard think I was a terrorist . Apparently it was on the eve of Dec 06. And all the airport across the country was on high alert. But nevertheless, the lackadaisical approach of the Indian police force was omnipresent. The guard just checked the left part of my body, I was free to go in with anything in my right pocket. Too much of security!

The ageing fleet of Air Deccan sometimes gives you a shudder across your spines when you put the first step on it.But then on that day , I never had a faintest belief that I would be another Icarus. Even before I could get a good nap in the plane, it landed in Indira Gandhi international airport.

Delhi, the powerhouse of india, had changed from what I saw three years back. A glossy metropolitan look that awed everybody, welcomed me with a cozy chillness . With flyovers that criss crossed, with cars that you could never afford , with building that roared at sky, Delhi was majestic as it was always. I took a pre paid taxi and went to station. Pahar Ganj in purana delhi was still the same, as if the god just winked his eyes when he crossed this area while horning his artistic skills. This was the place where you found the actual india, the india of bhaiyaas who don’t know how to read, how to feed their children their daily bread, who were despised without any pettiness. I tried to remember the last time here, with anish and arun. Those were the best days which are never to return. Inside the train , it was easy for me to doze off. The secret of getting a fast sleep is simple – just take a book that’s damn boring.

In winter, even Laloo can’t make the train run on time. After the first cycle of my sleep, I slowly opened my eyes to see the same old delhi station. It was 1:00 AM in the morning and I haven’t moved an inch towards “abode of god” aka Allahabad. These are the moments when you feel why you had to take all these pains. But then no pain ,no gain. Memories of old journeys began to peek into my semi conscious mind, the first time with sudeep and haris , another time when we nearly lost the connection train, when we travelled without ticket, when Eunice took arun’s cards and threw them away…..those time, will they come again? . I tried my level best to sleep, I took the book and again started reading. At around the hour of devil I finally succumbed to angel of sleep.

North Indians are early risers, so at 10:00 Am morning everybody was busy snoring under their quilt. I looked out for the station.. Kanpur. Another three more hour and I will be there once again, may be for the last time. Kanpur is one of the dirtiest city I ever seen. There is nothing to admire here except the IIT. It was a dream come true when I first stepped into this green campus. And we were there for three days. This is where we the underdogs pulled our sleeves and bet almost 50 colleges in northern india to get ourselves a 2nd place in Antaragni. I still remember that hall in which I along with sudeep, 2 mallus stopping the heart beats of all hindi speakers in the last minute and getting on to final Hindi dumb charades competition. Those were days, when you don’t know whats going to happen the next minute still success comes in the end, somehow . The train started to move slowly. I didn’t remember whether my college would pass through this track. No,it comes when you come from Banaras side. The last time when we went to Banaras, we pulled the train on the way back to get down in the college instead of the station.

Allahabad – pretty much the same. The same old crowded station, babus chewing beetal leaves and expectorating everywhere, the frail hapless looking rickshawwalas . I took a rickshaw, he asked 15 rs to govindpur, I didn’t argue for the first time. I was earning now, and no longer I am carrying my pop’s money. On the way, before crossing the civil lanes, I checked out for the old Tibetan winter market. No, they hadn’t come, instead a lot of new Indian traders had taken their place. Strange, they too have been disposed, like me. Somebody new had taken their place, just like my rooms would be occupied by somebody. We reached telarganj in no time, I was shocked when I saw the new gate of the campus. The old one had been better. But then change is a must . Inside it was better, the roads were tarred and garden renovated, a new administration block in the shape of I don’t know what.The change was evident. It was already 1:00 PM, the final years would be having an exam at 2. I could see few students busily going to exam halls. I laughed, I knew why they were going this early. If destiny permits they will sit in the same bench on which they would have written the formulas otherwise ,of course ,the roll number rules. The garden in front of the hostel was even more beautiful. I was happy that I had the camera to capture them. I never stayed in Tilak hostel, but it was no different from Patel. Room number 260 that’s where I was supposed to bunk. During the ragging time I used to get myself lost in these corridors, but then I found the trick, 15 rooms in a wing , divide the room number and you get in which floor you need to go. So I went to third floor. Room 260 was locked.

Mobile phone is a boon to the immobile (if he is a student!), But once in a corporate life, it makes you immobile. Now I was in college , and nearly a student again. I called up my junior and within 5 minutes he was there to greet me. Our greetings started without failing the tradition – the most nastiest and dirtiest introduction to each other and then a hug. Inside the room, it was a typical engg grad room. A study table with com half open and covered in dust, a lot of Photostat papers which served their purpose only on the eve of exams, and then the good old beautiful cot with Rajai : the most cherished belonging of a grad student here in winter. I had to wash my face, I walked towards the end of the corridor. The restrooms were the same, but a lot cleaner. I guess more civilized students have been given admissions recently, and the change could well be seen. The water from the tub was cold and refreshing. After splashing 2 handful over my face I looked into the mirror. On the sides there were gray stray marks, where silver had waned off, or may be ….

After changing to a presentable civilized form , I got off to see my professors. First I went to the one who taught me how to take a class. After returning from Stanford university (he taught there for 13 years) he gave us a scare by giving one of the toughest paper of all time. Out of 150 students only 56 passed, fortunately I was one among them. I had already taken the appointment, and he was expecting me. He said what he needs from me and I gave him in no time. I was happy to whatever the former director asked me to do. Before leaving from the computer science department I went to see the one thought me the secret rule of the blessed – confidence is the mother of everything. He was happy to see my face and took around to all other professors . Goose bumps were shooting all over my body. Yes I was a good student, at least. He gave me one of the best recos I have ever seen. I repented my thought of throwing him a stone in the night after the final year presentation. My intentions were not always right, but given a chance to rectify I would surely do. But opportunities are very hard to find now a days.

The winter nights in Allahabad is one memory that I would always cherish in my life
With fog making your vision hazy and smoke coming out of your mouth, it gives one the spooky feeling that you see in some of the ghost movies. I and my junior went to My Ghana at around 10:00. This is the place where we used to share our joy and disappointments. Countless treats, countless bouts all came flooding into my memory. After tasting the once forgotten spicy food, we took our way back. Far across, in the basket ball court, we could see the flood lights. Somebody were playing. To refresh my memories he took me there. Under the brightness of halogen where even the sun would get ashamed off, guys were practicing . Not very far, the volleyball court was also occupied. I remembered the times when we used to come here and play till 4:00 in the morning. I bet, nowhere in India you could get facilities like this.

Next day I was on the way to do all sorts of paper work. Indian bureaucracy is known for their laggardness. I was expecting the same here. From 10 to 2:30 I started walking from one desk to another . Finally the verdict was out. I would get my certificates on Monday. “Monday!!!” – who needs them on Monday . I wanted to protest, apart from increasing adrenaline flow, I knew, it was not solution. One of my junior said he would take care of it. I was relieved. One thing I must say is that ragging makes you closer. I don’t know how it gets undone but it’s true. Talking of ragging , there was once this funny thing that happened. In the first year because of heavy ragging we decided to boycott it. The term was called “Group out”, meaning you are not going to be a part of the mallu clan. But due to some unavoidable circumstances we decided not to go forward with it. But by then seniors came to know about it. So during the next room call , all nine of us were summoned . we were standing in a straight line. One senior in his raucous voice asked us whose plan was it to boycott. With our head down and sweating profusely, Everybody was trembling with fear, you don’t know what they are going to do. He then said whosever want to quit the group and could come forward . As soon as he said this , we all took a step back ward, except sudeep ,he didn’t see this treachery coming. And thus he became the scapegoat. The same senior was there with me in Chennai laughing at our fears and being there for everything, day or night.
Before it even started, it was the time to go. I wanted to take few shots so I took my camera and roamed around the campus. These sights would always be there in my mind, But I never knew when I would return. May be never. One thing I learned here or rather this campus taught me was how to detach myself from everything. I never felt any emotion while I left this place 3 years before. I knew it would never happen also. But yes, this place holds a special position in my heart. Well.. am I contradicting ? if not, then it’s not me who is speaking. I had to get one more recommendation letter, this was the most precious one. She was my guide. I still remember the embarrassment caused when my project didn’t get executed on the final day in front on 60 odd people. Would you call it unfortunate if you have 2 design which worked just perfectly but failed on that one moment when it mattered most. That day I stopped believing in the so called phenomenon of being fortunate. She never forgave me for that, but then I left the mark. That was the only necessary…he he. She too gave me good writing. I guess I was really a good student (OMG!) .But cogito,Ergo sum.

My train was at 9:30 PM, I left the college at around 7:30. Few of my juniors came to see me off. Alvida they said. Come to Chennai, we will have a blast, I screamed from the tempo waving my hands madly. It was very foggy and rear window of the tempo was not that clean. Vision was getting hazy and before I could comprehend everything became a far far away land. In the station ,I knew nobody. There was a time when it would be difficult to find somebody else other than the guys from the college. But today I was a stranger, a stranger in my own backyard. Just when train was about to leave I got a call . Gandu calling….
Hello, Mein Allahabad mein hoon……Has anything changed? He asked.

The train had already started to move.

Retrospection & resolutions

Umm... Can I tame the present to shape a better future ? May be yes. My grey cells were howling to get that "synaptic knob" which held the key to my present and future. 5 minutes of juggling from one unfinished thought to another , which felt like eternity , i stumbled on my resolutions of previous year. I had four resolutions.

1. To read one book per week - My total tally for last year is 53 one more than the expected.
2. To propose the girl i loved(tense is important!) - I did, unfortunately her resolution for 2007 was to say no to all the guys .
3. To learn a foriegn language - ich liebe deutsche.
4. To learn Violin - I figured where to study, now thats what i call progress.

Even though not a good year ,from the above statics it seems that i did have a great year.

Now itself, I have started to miss 2007.But then i know time wont wait for me, it never did.
Auf Wierdesehn 2007.

The convergence completed, i had my resolutions for 2008.
1. This will be my last new year in India - No its not Houdini act that i am going to disappear.
2. To learn Violin - I would do my solo before the year end.
3. I would take the photograph of a woman(not nude!) having an absolute black hair with a streak of white running from the forehead - i would name it Spes,after the Greek Goddess of Hope.

I know I dont have the power over my future but i do have the control over my present. Living in the present i would make 2008 good year(Dont count that a resolution!).

Happy new year!