Monday, March 06, 2006

Poem on the Underground wall


Seven o’clock on a darkling evening. I am a neon hermit in a deserted office. Windows rattle shut, doors close around me, footsteps fade down the stairs. Thunder rumbles far away, a tip of the hat to cliché.

Last train is nearly due / The Underground is closing soon / In the dark deserted station / restless in anticipation / a man waits in the shadows …


There was a dim lamp above a mahogany wardrobe. There was a dressing-table with a three-wing mirror that held more than reflections. Through the two doors of the bathroom lay the drawing-room with its frayed sofa and the cabinet with the television and the music system.

The music system was (then) state-of-the-art, though it would take another 15 years for the phrase to emerge. Sonodyne, with a gleaming brushed-silver amp-cum-deck, toggle switches like a ’50s aeroplane and two speakers in black wood cabinets each large enough to hold a baby. Thin black wires looped across the green wall behind the cabinet, soaring up to the corners of the ceiling where the speakers brooded.

Late at night I would sneak across from my room to the drawing room to listen to music. I was 15 years old and I had just discovered rock. In fact, I had just discovered music, from Kishore Kumar to Don McLean (and kids today know that American Pie is a Madonna number). Holiday afternoons were spent in K*’s room overlooking the Lakes, sorting through piles of carefully recorded cassettes (Sony D-90s, white with a red and black spine, are they still on the market?), checking our knowledge of The Boss’ songs.

****

I loved those afternoons. Somewhere I have a picture of K**, small dapper person in kurta-pyjama, strumming a guitar in his green-walled room with pictures of The Boss stuck on the wall behind him. I wonder what he did with those pictures when he moved to Bombay? Poor Bangali boy, he got bowled over by a … Person. Married her, too. As a result, we hardly meet even when I go to Bombay. I miss the blighter.

My wife misses him just as much. In one album we have pictures of him taken one December when he came with us on a weekend launch cruise into the Sundarbans. We didn’t get to see a thing except the track of a python in the sand, but the trip is a pleasantly hazy memory of appetites sated on good food, of in-jokes and K**’s snorting laugh, of anchoring mid-stream under a pale moon and singing on the deck “to scare the tigers away” (it must have worked).

Another picture, this one on the terrace of his apartment building the first time we ever won an open quiz, the Argus Losers’ Plate ... Scrawny smug twerps with the wooden shield on a concrete thingummy between us. Under-exposed, out of focus, even after determined Photo Shopping. But you can make out how proud we both felt. And I can remember how non-touchy-feely, intensely homophobic, faintly-repressed K* hugged me spontaneously when we won.

We met up two years ago when I was in Bombay for a bit. There was another guy there; I think that actually made us more comfortable together. K** of the carefully arranged wavy coiffe had become amazingly corporate, all gleaming white shirt and St. Michael’s tie. But after a while his snorting laugh came back. We were still friends.

We mail once in a while. Sometimes I come across something that I just have to share with him, we talk on the phone. Today he called to say he’s moving to the Middle East. For at least a couple of years.

I miss the blighter, I really do. Do you have a friend you miss like that?

I so hate that ... Person … for taking him away from us.

I suspect he feels the same.

**** ****


16 comments:

neha vish said...

These "Person(s)"... I am 24, and already I have some friendships that have succumbed to "Persons".

But the truth remains that the loss of friends is as much the doing of the "friend" as the undoing of a "Person". (This - So cryptic!)

Look what you do - evoke S&G, and then all this "Person"infication. Off I go to mailing some dusty old contacts.

tom pinkerton said...

One. A sister.

And it's made worse by the fact that I do not think highly (and that's putting it VERY mildly) of the BIL.

Ah well! At least it's mutual.

Good post.

Bit of a downer though. :(

J said...

its surprising why someone would fall for this 'someone' with whom you cant quite hang around with as a group

Loony Libberswick of Llapland said...

Damn...this post did a lot of things to me. I loved the way you said everything. I hate the thrid person sometimes...I really do too.

Kele Panchu said...

You reminded me of G*, a very close friend of mine. We used to keep in touch through letters (real ones, not e-mails), now we don't even talk(over the phone)!

Long ago it must be, I've a photograph/
preserve your memories..they are all that's left you

Prerona said...

:)

Priya said...

A post right after my heart. Of course I have the ONE friend who was taken far`away across the seven seas by the Person, who didn't even last! She never wanted to leavae Calcutta, forget about India...and we would've lived happily ever after, if it hadn't been for person. never ever will forgive him.
We also have an exclusive Friends (our common ones) album where we've frozen memories of a lifetime. Just the other day N and I were flipping through it again and feeling the pangs of sepration. But we both agreed(at least we agreed on something)that our holidays are always memorable, thanks to them!
But my one and only friend, still remains like a mirage, an unfilled desire..the one I crave for but cannot have.

Sfx said...

from a long time reader ...

thats a terrific post .... cheers

Princess said...

Aaaaah...Sonodyne! It seems to be a bengali phenomenon with their love for state of the art music systems. Is it just me or are all bengali men (and a very rare sub sub species of bengali women like yours truly) absolutely besotted with hi fi music systems?

and oh those black and red Sony tapes! AAAH ...nostalgia! Its a tangible force at the moment.

Falstaff said...

JAP: "Who is the third who walks always beside you?" Ah yes. That problem. I think what makes it worse for me is that many (if not most) of my closest friends tend to be of the opposite sex. With male friends who get married / end up in serious relationships there's at least the occasional male bonding thing that can happen (though how Brokeback mountain will effect the credibility of that remains to be seen) but if you have a close woman friend the neanderthal she marries is almost certain to look askance at virtually any contact you have with her.

panu said...

Its your private emotions/ that fills you tonight/ and the silence falls between us/ as the shadows steals the light...

Not mine... this is Ricky Martin.

These are such emotions, that can never be explained, can it be, JAP?? Its only the musings of 'lonely men in shirt sleeves', who wait for 'certain certainities' of everydayness...

sorry... its your name, you know. Inspires me enough to quote that Madman.

A fool on the hill said...

Purple prose, if I may call that.

Inkblot said...

"This is the key to the kingdom and this is the town
This is the blind horse that leads you around
Let the bird sing, let the bird fly,
One day the man in the moon went home and the river went dry."-Dylan

Jay said...

Miss your friend? Hate his wife? Want your buddy back?

Nothing a simple assasination wouldn't solve. Bet hired guns are cheap in the Middle East.

Ph said...

Agree with Falstaff, always more difficult if the friend is of the opposite sex. And *sigh* I had so many.

Patient Portnoy said...

Disagree with Fool, this is no Purple Prose

Beautiful JAP! Sometimes you have to let go of friends even when they are in the same city as you are... you still love them, they still love you, but on the way something slipped and the two of you are never the same again

This is so different from your other posts ;-)