Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Last Mile...Deliciously Difficult.

I managed to find Velachery and due to the mad rush of thin traffic -actually traffic always is madder when fewer vehicles are rushing to nowhere... I managed to miss the signboard announcing the existence of the Regal Palm Gardens.

Now my overworked mind often plays tricks on me, especially with the sun fiercely shining outside and the car's air-conditioning behaving like a demoralized army. So I was asking for a Royal Palm Gardens, and searching for one. The local populace seems such sticklers for precision; they refused the existence of the locality giving me Goosebumps.

Was I in the wrong place? The damned place was right there under my bulbous nose, but it was not registering on my mind. Hah. So I overshot the famous RPG area and drove like mad to a flyover on the western side of which seemed to be a huge project with arches built with truly gay abandon. Reminded me of similar projects in banana republics under utterly despotic tin pot rulers. God knows what it was, a railway station? A super-duper factory with avant-garde architecture or a special new project for the moneybags returning to India? On asking some vegetable vendors, they said I had overshot the RPG project indeed, so I made a U-turn and stopped finally where I should have earlier.

Ameeta's locality turned out to be a superb clutch of condos, as our American friends would call them. All nicely designed, built with quality material, and most of all, with wide open spaces in-between. A very breezy place too. It was like a township, a small city on its own. Her husband, a non-writer and rather a non-asserting executive in the corporate world, opened the door, expecting me to turn up the appointed hour, and we gaffed on for half an hour. She was delayed I gathered.

Sandeep, with his peculiarly mellow facial features and a sardonic smile strongly reminded me of someone. I am lousy at remembering faces, however, and when it comes to remembering an old half obliterated face from my overcrowded memories, the exercise becomes a royal pain. For that matter, even Ameeta seemed very familiar, rather like a cousin of mine, but her husband, soft-spoken and very genteel person, bothered me with his familiar face for hours.

It struck me, long after I had parted, the fact that he reminded me of my schooldays buddy Gautam Desai of Baroda. Quite a character he was -rather is, since I met him recently to trade stories. Now this weakness of mine bothers my better half no end. She can never figure out how I manage to remember ten digit cell phone numbers of hundreds of friends, or complete postal addresses of thousands of business associates, and email ids of countless others... even landline numbers. I can never explain that. I have a photographic memory for trivia, perhaps, but when it comes to faces, I do incredible things.

Once I refused to recognize my own brother in law, married to a dear cousin. He sensed it, and expertly maneuvered me into confessing I didn't recall who he was... and then he went on torturing me with this lapse for years. That's one helluva low spot in familial networking, which thankfully has been dwindling down for years, now that I keep away from all sorts of relatives, and travel much more. Having gray hair, is a good excuse to tell someone I have forgotten his or her name [not likely in the least, but in reality I have forgotten the visage.] I am very gallantly forgiven every time.

The lunch was nice, and after a little more socializing I left since Hans Kaushik my theatre-struck friend was waiting in the wings as it were. His flat was within walking distance, and I found him sitting behind a screen, nursing an infant daughter.
"Come, come," he yelled and I hesitantly entered. Like a one-way mirror the cared wood screen prevented outsiders from peeping in, whilst he had a gala time watching the world outside. The whole building is one great commune, I could see, it has a round cross section. From any point you can look into anyone else's place. This principle is probably borrowed from the Bombay chawls that used to have a rectangular cross section. Some Hindi films have used that; I guess some small screen serials have also dwelled on this topic. I had the good fortune of living for a few days amidst such communes, in the heart of chawl-land, Pydhonie -the place where the Paav bhaaji of Mumbai was invented in the late 1970s. My the-then boss took me; Jayant Amin now deceased, to the particular laari [handcart], which used to appear like a ghostly apparition only around midnight. With a reverent look on his pleasantly drunken face, he showed me the hallowed precincts where the nightlife began so late, and the revered cast of three over-busy bhaiyas [guys from Eastern U.P.] who had invented this rare delicacy.

Families have been ruined by the love of paav bhaaji, and courting couples have smashed crockery on each other's heads, if one is to believe the urban legends floating around in Mumbai. PB, is a hot topic, and a fertile one -so fecund that the folklore seems to burgeon with new stories with every passing year. The other PB was Parveen Babi, another source of endless myths and fabricated stories, my poor cousin who died rich in wealth and dreadfully poor from the social angle. I guess I am digressing too much, so ciao!

More later.


At 4:50 AM, Blogger Akshat said...

A memory which remembers umpteen cellphone numbers but not faces.Sounds strange!!Maybe next time when you write dwell more on describing facial contours.

By the way what you went through is way better than getting mis-directed and then people posing as if they do know only Tamil.I have been through this. :)


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