Monday, December 10, 2012

In Pursuit of Solitude

With a novel that spans over two hundred pages that I held between the fingers and the thumb of my right hand, I left my house while a ball point pen was in my right hand. The pen in my hand reminds me that I want to write. Just at least one page a day over a few months to give completion to my long cherished dream of writing a novel. And the novel shouts at me that I should return to my cupboard that is stacked with books – books that I have longed to read. “What is the excuse of not paying heed to the poor pen and the poorer novel?” I ask myself. My lips are moving prominently as I’m talking to myself. And when an acquaintance looked at me attentively, I restored myself so that bystanders don’t think I've gone mad.

I have no destination. I've now walked for thirty minutes. Still, I continued to move ahead. When I was a child I would leave my house and take a round of my entire colony.I was not into outdoor sports and my mom would therefore want me to get some fresh air. Though the primary reason was that she would get the remote control to the TV in her hand, and she could watch her favorite soaps. Ekta Kapoor was a pain for me; her serials would start at 8 pm and continued till 11:30. My mom would watch each of the serials religiously. And I had to, out of no choice, watch them. Television played an active part in my growing up days. When the TV was shut, we felt that something was missing and so much that we’d almost go in depression. There would be dead silence in the house. Perhaps we were not a family that could entertain itself by its members. We were not serious either. I think we were a bored bunch of people.

One moment please. I was telling you that my mom would make me go out so that I take a round. And I would do that every evening. I made it my habit. And it’s out of this habit I befriended with almost all hawkers who sell food stuff like Pani Puri, Kebab, Bhel, Sandwich and a lot more things. I was not an excessively fat child, but I had a very unhealthy eating habit. Therefore, often I would need to struggle with the embarrassment of polluting the air, and then explain in novel ways that it could be some environmental reaction that we have this smell around us.

I stumbled upon a hawker stall. He had a fairly big steel vessel. He throws fried noodles and uncooked and unwashed cabbage in the vessel. Followed by some dark red sauces, and if you put a drop on the tip of your finger, the stain will remain on the tip even after you have flushed out the food from your body. What I see these days on the streets of Mumbai are food items that would have not worked as a fruitful business seven or eight years ago. Chinese Bhel is ubiquitous around railway stations, colleges and schools. It’s been several years since I abandoned street food. I could not resist my urge to give it a try.

I pass by a coffee shop, Café Coffee Day; I reach out to the door of the shop. There is no handle on the door, and my mind is not in the right place. I put pressure on the side where the swings are there. And I realize how lost I’m only when the door was pulled by someone inside from the other side. I have read in tabloids that many people sit in the coffee shop not that they are coffee addict but because they get free WiFi, and a quiet place in the hustle bustle of the city. Obviously the story must have been a PR’s work. The shop had an LCD which was stuck only to one channel that was VH1. I returned to the novel I had. I looked at the cover and arranged myself in the chair. After few minutes I changed my chair as the AC was just above my head. And I wanted to sit there for a good long time – so I wanted everything to be right.
The pen I brought along with me was also a distraction. I couldn't resist the urge to scribble on the tissue paper. I am fond of putting my signature on everything around me. I have signed my pillows, my bed sheets and many things, even my body parts.

I don’t like the watery Coffee that these shops or vending machines offer. I love the coffee that I make at home with a good amount of cow’s milk. It had been only five minutes into reading that I got a call. I spoke for ten minutes on the call. And then I returned to the book. But I couldn't ignore the beautiful artwork on the cup. I moved around the Café, it had many such cups on display. The cover in which the CCD cookies were wrapped was more appealing than the cookies were. I have been there several times in the past. However, I never noticed a great deal of beauty there. I was there at a time when I was absolutely free and I wanted to read a good book. But then when you are free and if you are an observer, an admirer of beauty then you can’t ignore the appreciable qualities in the décor around you. Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist has the set up in a tea shop. And he didn't go in great detail about the beauty of the shop. Perhaps because of that he indulged in the story telling task to a stranger. I wonder if I attempted Mohsin's act in the Coffee shop, I might have been labelled as a wannabe or an Idiot. There is a difference in fiction and real life. The difference is exaggeration. Real life is glorified on celluloid. My pursuit of solitude didn't end. I had a few more calls that hit my phone. And soon I was disinterested in the book. And I could no longer keep myself in the chair. The pen dropped off the table while I raised myself pressing my hands on the table. I moved around and exchanged small talks with the staff, and decided to leave the place in some time. 

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Faraz Salat

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Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Admirer of all things that make up a global human society.