Nostalgia, Cabs under the sun, and Trivandrum.
The psychedelia simmers in the lower tropics when the sun is out, which I love and would die for otherwise, but which somehow restrains my hedonism from going haywire on papyrus extracts, distracting me out of much needed windows. Out of the seven hundred things crossing my mind right now, there is only one of the other kind, and that is red bow restrain. I, and I hate that word more than anything in the world, I become one of those traders in the Brussels underbelly, you know what I mean? So I am awake, maybe too awake for my own liking, I don’t know, you’ll have plenty of time and snacks to judge.
Out of this night now slowly spreading out its velvet tentacles, out of the huge beams of light lighting the night sky across parabolic suspensions in the distance, out of me stuck inside this soft couch, with muscle pain and longings I am not allowed by myself to speak of, I understand there are things that deserve more attention. Irrespective of who opines what. Now, stepping up into that reality in a sentence span, I want it to be about journeys, like I always have. And I want it to about a book, synonymous with journeys. I had to get one back in heady Trivandrum, and for once, I was as interested in the backdrop as I was in the book. We were driving inside Trivandrum in a white suv of some make and model that’s not important enough. To my curiosity most of the vehicles were white, as were the clothes on people, unless they were black, of course. I remember thinking at that point how the colours people wear often symbolises their cities. Kolkata is all dull, plain colours, in stride with the strict history of austerity of the city. Bombay is all way too colorful, you can’t put a finger on it, just like the city, vibrant, and full of joie se vivre. Hyderabad is all garish, extreme colours in some quarters, and extremely plain clothing in others, reflecting a sense of devotion and anarchy, side by side.Delhi is all khakis and kurtas and things around them, tedious colours of bureaucracy. It’s unique in the sense that Delhi has come to define those colors as of deceit and nastily gnarled propagandas, unlike the other cities where things are the other way around, obviously. And the other thing I could not help but notice was that how green the city was. It was as if we were driving in the lower trenches of an ancient Asian monastery, with a damp and verdant settlement shimmering above us somewhere. There were not a lot of young people to be seen, apparently working somewhere else for foreign currency for a state with a long history of overwhelming communistic fervour. It was like the communist party was here forever. It was either them or the church or mosque goers and the guys into garudan thookkam. There were fewer moderates, and all the people at the extremeties of the spectrum had no reason to believe that fancy clothes were important. Not that I agree or disagree with any of it. The work was called The Great Speeches of Modern India, an old timer book, you might imagine. But it was actually written recently, and presented an intimate and hitherto largely unexplored window to the Indian psyche, society, and leadership over the years. It was a book I had enjoyed reading very much, especially after getting back home from the rain or while being stuck in hotel rooms in unknown towns in India. By now the medications are going overtime, and I am half perched on a dusty rug on a wooden floor in a lonesome perch, I have no clue where. I remember the day I landed at Bhubaneswar from outside the country. It was like falling back into a soft, crisp bed after years of unyielding hardship. But soon I had found the bitter memories making eye contact in the dusk with the good ones. There was the friendly heat and sweat and the undescribable twinkling lights in the distance, but I would also see us arguing and fighting underneath those, spiteful. The truth is I would take a good argument or fight any day, but maybe it was the lack of it, the lack of a botheration of a divide, that bothered me anyways. People become so unquestionably important to us sometimes, and when they leave you can’t get your head around it. It’s the inconsistency of the reality, of the algorithm, that plays with your mind, rather than it’s inefficacy. At this point I was not the least bit affected by this, but I decided to fly down to Trivandrum anyways, not just for the book, but for a change of scene.
As we were turning inside to the SEZ I could see the old Rajasthani dhaba, and man I could taste the heat in the curry still, and it made my head scratch a fair bit. I could see the sidewalks, which I never thought would finish. They went on forever. And I could definitely notice the belting sun. Even in Winter, it was so much different than anywhere else, it was like a hot, green, glittering, blinding paradise. Shireen ma’am was instructing a bunch of new joiners when I got there. She was so smart she would sometimes pick out answers or say no even before someone said something, the company knew they had a definitive talent, and they had given affirmation to the music. But she was also very subtle, and humble. You could think of it as a very Malayali quality, but although I never quite knew her that well, I sort of felt a lot of her personal qualities came from the reading and a general sense of balance that comes from being around good people. She was courteous and warm as usual when I greeted her, we talked and had coffee during her short break, and she informed me that the book was lost. She had put it in a cab in the city and left, it was gone, her whole bag. I fiddled with the idea of giving it up for a few minutes, before I decided on the inevitable. I had to go for it. I think that’s how it is in life. If you really like a woman or a book, you go after them.
There are 5,000 taxis in Trivandrum. And although I would say they make for pleasant viewing, they were not helping my cause. Why the obsessive neurosis about the book when I could get another one at the store? Let’s say it had sentimental value. Substantial sentimental value, of someone’s handwritten message on the front page. Like a gift. Like the air coming in from the Hudson on in the summer nights on to Baldwin Avenue. How the fuck do you find a cabbie in a pool of 5,000 cabs hustling around a city of more thana million? Have you ever heard of the flow theory? She had taken a cab from Ulloor to Kazhakuttam on the 22nd of October. What if I followed another cab on the same path at a similar time of the day? What if followed 3? 5? The average has to go somewhere? It had to be somewhere. Shireen ma’am reached for her shift at 2. That means the cabbie would have picked someone up from the SEZ who had finished her/his shift, which had just the one company by the way. They would have posted on the company mail had they found the bag on the back seat. So they wanted to keep it, whoever found it. I had to fish them out. Now, if they really read the book, and it was a reader’s read, it meant they were readers. And readers would never,ever not return some else’s stuff. However superfluous it might sound, I had a feeling they had to put it up for sale. And since the bag and also the cards were missing, they likely sold it hand to hand at a used bookstore. All I had to do is get a map showing all used bookstores in the city and hit the big ones in different areas. So I played along and found the book in the third store I visited. As for the person, I had to stand in the morning at the nearest company bus stop and just look at the people who were mounting, and I matched the guy with the store owner’s description, he said he had forgotten to give the bag back when I pulled him up. I wouldn’t have fucked around with him if he was a reader, I couldn’t have. Now I had to turn back to the city. Not the city of the melting beliefs, of the evenings under the purple horizons, or the perfect turnabouts or the cacophonous quiet. It was a place I had come to let go of the things I could not let go of, because of the contentment they presented along with the obvious, obvious misery. I could see it straight now, I knew it was going to be alright.