Sunday morning: After a long time, one whole year, it has meant togetherness to me. A far cry from the lonely Sundays in Chennai, where I wake up to the smell of mustard spluttering in one of the neighbouring kitchens and doze off again late in the afternoons, waking up to realise it is already dark and lights need to be switched on.
But there are exciting Sundays too -- a full round of yoga, great afternoon-long sex, invigorating walk in the park, and a few drinks in the evening to make up for the lost sweat. And if a burst of creativity strikes in the night, the Sunday is made.
Sitting in Kanpur, surrounded by all the comforts one can think of, it feels good -- and safe -- to recollect those miserable Sundays as well those exciting Sundays. In fact, I think of Chennai most of the time -- my work, my books, the people I love, the people who love me, my friends, my supposed friends... That's the safest thing to do. Because if I think about Kanpur, it would be like staring at a stark reality -- the irreversible progression of life.
One neighbour has died, another neighbour's son has got married, another family in the neighbourhood have sold their house and gone away -- the standard bunch of news that awaits me every time I make the annual trip home. Then I go to the cigarette shop in the corner of the street: that's the street of my life. There, I see people -- people I had last seen a year ago, the year before, five years ago, ten years ago, even twenty... Grey hair, more grey hair, a limp, loss of weight (possibly because of diabetes), falling teeth, the general 'old' look -- these hitherto-unseen features make them unrecognisable at first. And when you recognise them, images of what they looked like in their hey day flashes in front of you. And you think: wasn't it just the other day?
At time you wish certain people went unrecognised. At the office of a small but newly-opened newspaper in the city, I saw an old, frail man -- he must be about 75 -- holding a paper close to his eyes. Occasionally he would put the paper down to make corrections, and then hold it close to his eyes again. He is the proof-reader there, hired only recently because too many mistakes were going into the paper. He spends two hours a day there, for which he is paid Rs 1500 a month. He comes there because he needs the money. He was my first chief reporter, a big journalist in the city when I started as a trainee journalist 13 years ago. I sneaked out before his eyes could meet mine.