For almost a year now, I have not had two back-to-back holidays. You know how it is working for a newspaper. Finally, Diwali fell on a Saturday (small mercies) and then there was the regular Sunday off. However, you can plan all you want but reality can be a little harsh sometimes. Last night, I received a call from the other editor (somebody called us “rewrite specialists”) asking a favour of me – whether I could come in on Sunday (today) and give him HIS two back-to-back holidays. I had told him that I’d get back to him today, taking some time to think whether that would indeed be possible. After all, I had planned to go out with my wife and her cousins, generally going around town. She was probably looking forward to it as well because, caught as we all are in the midst of our day-to-day work, we hardly find time to be in the company of the people who are close to us. And by this, I mean not only my wife, but also relatives and friends. I wish at times that all those afternoons and evenings of carefree banter, laced with cigarette smoke would come alive again. But that may yet never be.
Indeed, I might have just lost a friend forever… I’m quite sure. I had promised her several times that I would visit her place, a quiet lovely nook as good as any you will find in Chennai. With trees all around, the occasional sound of the temple bell and the twittering of birds, it's an ideal place for lazing and having long meaningful conversations. And if you have a glass of chilled beer in your hands, the experience might almost be heavenly. In any case, my promises remained just that – promises. Not that I intended to hurt her, but something or the other would always turn up at the last moment and I would not be able to make it. This time, she was clearly annoyed and minced no words – if you really cared for people and for what you say, you would have found the time to be here. It just shows how important a friend I am in your life, she blurted out. I was, of course, apologetic. Tried to pacify her with soothing words, but somehow, there seemed to be a finality to her words. And, judging by what I had done, there really was no reason why she shouldn’t be annoyed with me. So mush for carefree afternoons of banter and chilled beer and wisps of cigarette smoke... I, of course, left the smoking habit for good years ago.
Which brings me back to the day ahead. As I key in these words, it’s almost lunchtime. In a few hours I’d be in office, rewriting and editing monotonous stuff, most of it crime stories that interest me the least. Not that anything else interests me much these days. Politics doesn’t… you see the condition of roads in Chennai, the number of unnecessary flyovers that have been and are being built, the garbage piled up at places, the flouting of traffic rules, drunken driving… the list is endless… and you detest the politician and the administrators. This is not something Chennai-specific; it’s the same story across India. Perhaps it’s better here in the south. Sport doesn’t interest me as much as it did when I was younger. There’s such an overdoes of cricket that you simple don’t care who’s playing or what the tournament is. Yes, I do try to find time to watch the odd Federer brilliance or the Usain Bolt magic. But that’s it.
Now, I wonder why life has to be like this…. Not quite the way I had wished it would be. Personally, once you cross the 45-year mark, you sense almost daily that your dreams are all over and the best will never come. It takes a lot of courage then to face life head-on, especially when a sense of despair overwhelms you, when you know you are not really doing the things you ought to be. But there is always hope. I remember a book my sister used to read and quote often from, when we spent our childhood days together in good old Calcutta years ago. Spring always comes, she would say, and I find myself echoing those very words when I reach a point of no return.