There were faint traces of winter on the campus today as I walked around in Delhi School of Economics in the evening. There were the usual signs of change; people talking about the next semester, new couples and then the smell of the leaves burning in the distance. I have always considered that one of the most potent signs of winter.
I walked to campus thinking that it would, in some magical way, reinvigorate me, so to speak. Talking about the status of my non-existent academic life on campus till 3 am meant that I had to postpone my reading session from 3 till 4:45 am. My roommate who had to use the washroom in the middle of the day looked surprised as I sat reading/completing my reading list for the semester. I woke up later than I usually do. Waking up at 11:30 am has a strange languorous effect on the body. It shuts down till your brain feels like a jelly throbbing inside an equally incompetent leaking container. I have seen hangovers. But there is nothing as wretched as a late night gone wrong. I have always been a nocturnal soul. But the Masters program has made me a hermit of sorts. When the people ply their academic trade in the day, I am usually trying to survive my late night; take a shower, eat, read a little novel and feel normal. These days I have been re-reading Teju Cole’s Open City. The protagonist’s own propensity towards walking charms me. I know how it feels to walk around in a huge city. Sometimes the anonymity itself can be a very intoxicating thing. I would like to write about this book soon. Soon…
When I entered the Delhi School of Economics, the J.P. Tea Stall looked crowded. It is nearly always crowded; but not at 5 pm. Dipu bhai, one of the tea-stall patrons, who got married in the second year of my college had just become a father. There were sweets being distributed. Grabbing a kaju-barfi (or two?), I asked him it was a boy or a girl. He shyly replied that it was a girl. Dipu bhai was the one with the sterner demeanour. I had always found talking to his brother Raju easier. Raju always smiled and cracked jokes whenever we came to claim our ration of five rupee tea. Today, however, Dipu bhai was a different person. I did not see Raju at all.
Once the sweets got over, there was the game of carom. I have only seen them bring out the board and being a bad player at all board games, I have never wanted to know where they play. It is always the sight of the board being brought out that I have seen. It was the same today. There was more curious thing to look at, actually. There was a man, clad only in a veshti, who came out of the Sociology department. A thick notebook under his naked armpit, I looked on as he began to speak to two other people. He spoke in a manner in which someone distinguished would. Then he went towards his car with a lady and man in a blue shirt. I imagined him in the middle of the heavy traffic – driving a car and clad in a veshti as the red light came on. It seemed odd – and also for some reason, highly inexplicable.
I was in DSE till the 6:34 pm. Once I started walking, it came back to me. There is no respite from a line that has taken hold of you. And I have not written for a long time. I cannot remember the last time I had written a poem. And since then, a line, no, a phrase keeps coming back to me.
The lovers wait…
Just that. Nothing else. I wanted to wait for the line to complete itself in the middle of the Kamla Nagar-Malkaganj turn. But I walked on. Hoping to buy bread and settle quietly at night. The night would be long. Especially for the men who were buying alcohol near the wine and beer shop beside my apartment. I always found the shards of glass you see on the steps of these little shops as little tragedies. Not as accidents. But as tragedies. Something you cannot prevent. Something that has to befall some poor man who has just paid for his alcohol. The expectation of seeing one never disappoints me. We all find solace in the suffering of others. Witnessing it in others makes our own a little more theatrical. A little false.
It grew dark very soon. By the time I reached my apartment, the lights were already on. And there was a stale smell of vodka on the threshold of the Govt. Wine and Beer Shop.