Today is the 26th of January. This is the day when the entire country is supposed to be celebrating Republic Day. I was at the Metro station, waiting for the train to arrive. The television screens were playing a version of the National Anthem. It was at a pretty high volume so that everyone there could hear it. Strangely enough, people could not be less bothered. Some of them just slouched in the chairs, while others even stared at the TVs and watched it being played without taking the effort of standing still for those few moments. A few were generally walking around, chatting and laughing while the song went on in vain.
When I stood stock-still in front of the screen, some men turned around and stared at me, as if to wonder at what I was doing.
This is probably one of those inexplicable incidents which happen to people every other day in their lives. Some you forget, and some you don't. Often, we end up forgetting certain things because they tend to rankle. This happened to me yesterday and I still cannot figure out what bothers me so.
I was walking home in the afternoon when I realized that I had left my door key in the house before leaving that morning. I prayed that there would be someone at home or I would be locked out . Being tired, I wanted to crash for a while as I had a birthday invitation that evening. Subject to the infuriating bad luck which sweeps down on the already downtrodden, I reached my house and found the front door locked. Desperate to enter my apartment, I wondered how the detectives in the novels unlocked doors with hairpins. It was then that I went looking for a locksmith.
He was sitting on the pavement, draped in a shabby grey shawl. His feet looked tired and old. He was sitting on the pavement, staring vacantly at the feet of the countless people who passed him by. I went up to him and explained my dilemma. The old man came with me and inspected the lock on my front door. Within a few minutes, the new key was ready and I entered my house. He was still gathering up all the tools of his trade when I paid him. I got through the front door and was about to shut it when I realized that this tired old man was still on my threshold picking up his things. For some strange reason that I cannot yet fathom, closing the door on his face somehow became a task of immeasurable cruelty to me. I was unable to shut the door on his face. Awkwardly, I peered at him and asked him if everything was fine, and he simply nodded , shuffling around. When I realized that I could not stand at my door staring at him without seeming weird, did I shut the door on his face.
While I was filled with extreme relief at being able to enter my house once again, I could not rid myself of the feeling of guilt at the fact that I had shut the door on the face of the old man who had provided me with the key to my own home.
Aldous Huxley would be so proud of me. While travelling, I did lose my spectacles just like he said I would. The road teaches you the strangest of things, and I did land up with some strange proverbial "pearls" when I went to Himachal Pradesh with my friends this time. Here are some of the gems:
There is nothing like cricket as an ice-breaker. Forget alcohol, nothing gets strangers bonding faster than a fallen wicket or two. On the train to Delhi, everybody was minding their own little business until news of the match started trickling in. India and Sri Lanka were having one of those "make-or-break" matches (aren't they all?) and it was nearing a nail-biting finish. Suddenly, there were these little cliques being formed underneath the upper berths and in the corridors. Folks who hadn't even acknowledged each other's presence for the last twelve hours or so, were now bosom buddies. The only words that I could make out from the babble were "wicket", "last ball, dada", "herey jaabe" (they will lose), among many others.
If you are a fan of Chinese cuisine, never try it at an unknown place. I tried chili chicken at some obscure restaurant in Dalhousie(the hill station) and will probably rue it till the end of my life. Or, if you still want to try it, choose a place which can spell the names of the dishes correctly, at least.
"The Picture of Dorian Gray" makes for a great train read. I finished it in a few hours while returning to Kolkata.
Gloves don't make your hands warmer. They just prevent your hands from getting cold-ER. This in itself is not very helpful if your fingers have already been rendered comatose. Ask us, we KNOW.
Don't snigger, all ye backpackers. Carry a small electric kettle when you are traveling to colder climes. The kettle is a boon for all the moments when you can't force the icy water down your throat.
The mountains can be an ideal place until you need to find an tetanus shot for a friend who just cut himself. The journey to the chemist shop, to the doctor's chamber(which did not keep the medicine) and the interim is like a "hideous dream". It was the technical equivalent of a mini trek.
DO NOT trust the locals when they tell you that your destination is just a few minutes away, or even one and a half hours away, for that matter. These folks probably took their baby steps on the cliffs which you are huffing and puffing your way up.