Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Two Conversations

"Hello? Asif?"
It's been quite a while since we discussed his exploits with the latest girl, but I could hear someone panting on the other side. Did sound like Asif, but couldn't tell for sure.
"Yeah, it's me all right. Why do you call at such odd hours?"
"Nothing unearthly about 3.00 in the afternoon...I thought you would be at work? Are you like...at it? Right now? WITH WHOM, MAN!"
"Don't be crazy, dammit, am on the run, boss, am on the run. And all because of you."
"Yeah, had you not asked me to target Sunaina, I wouldn't be in this position today."

Sunaina is hot. And of course beautiful, intelligent, his colleague, a divorcee, and someone I'd helped him set his eyes on. She had short hair when I saw her last in Bombay, well-endowed, and pink. In this age when all the girls are trying to go zero, Sunaina was proudly extra large and loving it.

"What happened? I thought you enjoyed every moment with her? She was lonely, fantasized about making love to ghosts, and you were a flesh and blood person, her colleague, and handsome too. Single even! What was the problem? Why are you on the run?"

"Oye, you forgot about my girlfriend, did you? She got to know. And am on the run now, will talk later." Asif disconnected the phone.
We have always kept our conversations very focused till now, only both of us had forgotten that he was officially seeing someone else, another friend of ours from the college, Jasmine. How could we forget about her when we targeted Sunaina? I felt responsible for having landed Asif in a mess. It was I who made him notice what Sunaina was made of, how she was all about the sun, scorching our eyes, and waiting for someone to come to her life. Why did I notice her and why didn't I go for her instead? I've always sacrificed the best girls for Asif...always...and ended up playing Cupid for him. And he managed to screw up every bloody relation! Takes some caliber to do it, man!

I thought of Jasmine. Sweet, good-natured, and loves Asif with her life. I accept she is a little pushy at times, but which woman isn't with her boyfriend? Jasmine is the kind of girl you wouldn't want to hit on if you knew she was already seeing someone else. Unlike most of us guys and girls from college, she believed in sticking on, in commitment, and all that old-world romantic stuff that books are filled with. I often want to associate the term morality with her, but can't call her names, can I? After all we shared many coffees together growing up. Calling her a girl with morality might make her look like a geek in the eyes of the others. Even to you guys who are reading this. (Frankly? I changed her name. Her name is not Jasmine.) When I got Asif introduced to Jasmine, I really believed he would change his ways and stick on to this sweetheart of a girl. What business did I have showing him Sunaina's charms three years down the line?

Ashamed at myself, a feeling that usually lasts not more than a few minutes, I hung my head down in shame. My shoes shone brilliantly in the late afternoon sun. Calcutta, in December, is the place to be. I longed for the company of Asif again, at least on Christmas eve, to be on Park Street together. I remembered the time we had seen Victor Banerjee and Lillette Dubey shooting for Bow Barracks. It was Christmas eve too, and we were headed to Someplace Else in The Park.

Right now, I was on Park Street again, walking up from the graveyard toward St Xavier's College. I took care to shine my shoes this morning, but didn't end up at the venue of the interview. I do not want to work in the services sector, no matter how enticing the money sounded. I do not want to ... work. Not that I have to, really. I don't have a dire need to take up a job. I can waste my degree walking on the streets, or perhaps pass on whatever I learned to the kids. I stopped in front of the yellow building of St. Xavier's college. Teaching here won't be a bad idea. But they don't need me. Asif, on the other hand, needed the job. He and Jasmine were planning to get married, and probably have kids too. Shucks! Asif... kids... just the thought made me cringe for him, empathizing with his pain. But Jasmine made him take up the job in Bombay and took him away from me, putting an untimely stop to our numerous escapades with the marwari and bengali girls that we had constant access to. Without Asif, I don't feel complete. When is the bugger coming back?

I sat on the ledge of the wall. It's uncomfortable and not really meant to rest your bum on, but then, I was lonely, hadn't gone for the interview, and could think only of Subhasishda to make a call to. No point going home now, too early to get into Peter Cat for a beer, and what's a beer unless you have friends with you? So it was the uncomfortable ledge of the St. Xavier's College wall for me.

"Hello? Subhoda?"
"Arre, tell me man, nice of you to call. I would have called you anyway tonight."
"So, what's up? How was your day?"
"Oh, very, very fulfilling indeed. I could make Eamon count the beats with me today."

Subhoda has set up his own school for the special children in a village called Adisaptagram, and is the music teacher there. He keeps telling me about Beethoven's 9th, Vivaldi's Summer, and all the other music that he has tried as therapy on his kids. He treats all the kids as his and exults in joy every time there's some significant improvement as the result of his therapy. I sometimes wonder why I can almost feel his joy sitting out here. Maybe because I love him so much.

"Eamon doesn't usually respond to his dad. And today, when I tried the scale of C on the keyboard, he sang along... hummed really."
I keep listening when Subhoda speaks because an inspired dialogue shouldn't ideally be interrupted. And gradually I could see the gleam in his excited eyes as he talked to me over the phone.
"Did I tell you about the guy who plays the chand-sarangi on the Bandel line?"
"No, you didn't."
"That man plays old Bengali songs so soulfully on his sarangi, you would think someone's actually singing them. And he seems oblivious of the surroundings. Who notices him on crowded trains? He goes unnoticed just as Joshua Bell went unnoticed playing his violin on a NY subway. But for Bell it was an experiment on the human psyche. Apparently some children wanted to listen to him play. Whereas, our man here, who is perhaps as talented or as passionate about his music, goes unnoticed every day. How much money does he make by pursuing his creativity? By being a mendicant whom people sympathize with? I mean, couldn't he have ploughed the land or pulled a hand-cart for sustenance? He probably could have. But then that wouldn't have made him happy.
Adi, if I am doing this here today, it is much like that. Pursuing what my heart has sent me for. Every time a child responds to my music, I feel I have earned a few millions."

Maybe I will think like him some day too. Learn to pursue what my heart sends me for.

After we spoke for almost an hour, my battery ran out, and I got up from my uncomfortable seat. Got up and walked back to where I came from, not transformed or enlightened, not a changed man, but toward the graveyard on the other end of Park Street.

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