Saturday, January 24, 2009

Alone in the crowd

We got the corner seat with a good view of the DJ, the dance floor and the bar. Being the first Saturday in the New Year, Chrome, the pub, was bubbling with crowd by 10 pm with lot of eye candies.

I wasn’t too keen on hitting a pub a few hours after a day-long journey. I wanted to catch some sleep after an early dinner and a lazy stroll on the beach. But anyways, here I was. The theme of the evening being Techno, I couldn’t enjoy the music for long. My eyes strayed to check out the crowd. The bar was jammed with people waiting for their drinks while the bartenders had their hands full.

As I watched the groups engaged in animated discussions, New Year hugs and wishes, I felt like a stranger in my hometown. I didn’t know a single soul other than my family. My friends, just like me, left the city after studies. My gaze kept going back to a guy in his late 30s and probably approaching the 40 mark much sooner than he wanted. I am sure he was not too happy with his receding hairline. He was dressed more for an executive meeting than a Saturday night party in a light blue shirt and a navy blue trouser, rimless spectacles and black leather shoes. He desperately wanted to be a part of the young employees of HSBC. He laughed louder than the others, cracked a joke that turned out to be a damp squib and hugged everyone he met for the first time. He was such a misfit!

His desperate measures reminded me of a middle-aged lady in Hyderabad. While partying at a pub, she wanted to join us on the dance floor. We said yes, and she gunned for one of the guys in the group. She shooed me away with her heavy make-up, strong perfume, tights and a tacky halter neck top. Gyrating to the beats with all the "moves" she gave the oomph look to my friend. His girl friend gave up and decided to join me and so did the rest. Though I felt sorry for her, we had a good laugh looking at my friend who was put to so much unease. By the way, I spotted her a few more times at different pubs everytime with a different group. Nobody noticed when she came and went alone always.

Back to the hero of our story!

Sensing the pulse of the crowd, the DJ decided to change the music. We hit the dance floor and were having a good time. I saw the “executive” dancing too but without a company. He was with the crowd but still not one among them. After a while he opted out of the floor and contented himself by joining the onlookers.
Tired and sweating after a good half-an-hour dance, I decided to call it a day and headed home.

A frozen moment...

She said bye to her mother, sisters and brother while her father asked her to hurry up. Mother was breathlessly giving her instructions to be good to her grandfather; she was going to stay with. “Remember your every action will speak of your upbringing and us,” mom said umpteenth time. “Tinku, study well and take care,” she hugged her brother.

It was a full moon night. The tar roads, the big water tank, the TV antennas standing on every roof top were drenched in silvery moon rays. She hurried behind her father who was walking fast with the cycle and the lone suitcase tied to it. “We should reach early, remember we have to talk to K.G. Rao uncle,” he said. He was the TTE who had promised to get them a berth till Vizag. While she took long strides to meet her father, she turned back one last time at the end of the street. She saw the silhouettes of her mother and her frail sister who was waving at her excitedly. She felt empty and confused, not sure if she was doing the right thing by deciding to complete her higher secondary in Vizag. She was too young to understand what it was like to leave a sanctuary and be on her own.

As she passed the familiar sites, she thought of the 7-day long Goddess Bhagwathi festival every year; the school annual function and sports day; the evening chit-chats with her siblings and friends and the undisputed attention from her parents. “Never mind, I am going to come here on every vacation.” Lost in her thought, she didn’t notice Bappi, her neighbor. He was more of a rival than a good neighbor. Felt exhilarated whenever he made a sarcastic comment on her and siblings; probably the symptoms of a confused teenager. “Hey, are you leaving today?” he asked with a grin.
“Yes.” She replied.
“When are you coming next?” he asked.
“In Dusherra holidays” she answered and didn't wait for anymore conversation.

Unaware that with every step closer to catch the 8.30 pm Konark Express, she is leaving behind the 10 years of the most precious and carefree life, she misses even today.

Even after so many years, that moonlit night has been frozen in her mind’s eye and feels as if it was just yesterday.

That She was Me, when I left home for the first time.