30.9.08

Are we really sensitive, 'hypo' sensitive or simply 'hyper' sensitive?

I have been thinking about it for quite a few days now.

I know the blasts happen to be quite a clich├ęd topic for most of us. I mean they are happening so often that you would be forgiven for describing them as ubiquitous.

What made me actually start gathering my thoughts here is coming across two things today.

First of all, I had a packet of food with me this evening to give away to some needy person on the streets. As usual, whenever I have such a packet, I never meet anyone to hand it over to. So I gave it to my auto rickshaw driver and asked him to pass it on. Now the packet very obviously contained food, it smelt of food and was kind of squelchy soft. But given that he seemed so suspicious, I even asked him to check it. But the man wouldn’t just take it.

I mean this is exactly what the bastards planting those bombs want. They have succeeded.

But then at night I was reading Sunday’s paper (I sometimes do a Mrs Thurlow – the ox-like character from Bates’ short story The Ox if you happened to have read it – who in her leisure time read up old newspapers) where there was a guy’s account of the September 13 blast at Connaught Place. Of how he saw people coming out to help the injured. Of how he saw a sardarji with his brand new car giving a left to the blood-soaked injured. Someone apparently pointed out to him as to how his car was getting soiled to which the sardarji replied that he would rather give it up 50 times over than not do what he had decided to do.

In the meantime, I have had friends whose reactions have absolutely stunned me. One of them actually said this to me that the day the bombs went off in the GK market, she was 40 minutes away in the Priya market complex. The next day she was getting drunk and announcing to me on the phone, “AB, I am celebrating the fact that I am alive!”

There also remains the fact that while I was very shaken that Saturday about the blasts and getting very hyper about my conversation with the above-said friend and others like her, this Saturday I was calmly taking in the news of the fresh blast in Mehrauli. Is it a calm acceptance of things as they are or it it about losing sensitivity somewhere?

It's weird to look back at myself then and myself now.

I am rambling. The midnight-effect.

21.9.08

It doesn't sink in...

It’s been four days since Mr S died. He of the sandwich-that-everyone-I-know-has-had-it-swears-by store, he of the lender-borrower of David Baldacci thrillers and Amitav Ghosh novels, he of the one always eager to discuss everything from the blasts to the crisp burgers he specialises in.

On Wednesday morning I stepped out to buy a pack of muesli loaves for my colleague. N store but was shut. I was astounded. Never had I seen it closed before except on sultry afternoons. ‘Oh god, is it something to do with Mr S?’

The owner of the store next door happened to be standing outside. I asked him, ‘Uncle, what happened? Why is it shut?’ To which he said, casually, ‘Oh the owner, that old man, he is dead.’ His helper boy gave me a grin.

I walked away.

Today, the same next-door-store uncle informed me it was a heart attack. ‘You know it happens. People die all the time. And heart attack is such a common thing really. Which is why I say, let us all be as de-stressed as possible,’ he smiled as he looked askance at this delivery man who kept nodding his head vigorously in agreement.

I met Mr S two years back when I shifted to this current flat of mine. My colleague’s husband, a food critic, had ranted about his sandwiches and described it as a local Pop Tate’s kind of a hangout. So soon I met him.

An ageing, portly man with round-rimmed glasses and a mustache that was curiously balanced midway between his nose and upper lip; it was trimmed so well that it did not actually touch either of the above mentioned features, it hovered between them oh so carefully (Ignore this weird fascination if you will. But I have this thing for observing different kinds of mustaches. If any of you ever read this short story while in school where in a particular village the caste and importance of the men were determined by the mustaches they sported -- lion mustaches, tiger mustaches, mousy mustaches and the like -- you would pretty much get the crux of what I am babbling about right now).

The moment he heard about what I do for a living he was respectful. I mean I was touched. You can see when one is genuinely nice.

With time I realized that he was an ardent reader. We became book pals. While initially I was just the lender, soon he started lending me books after he had taken permission from their owners. If a particular book of mine appeared to be in not great shape, he actually got it bound nicely so that the pages wouldn’t pop out. Further the covers were always in well wrapped in transparent plastic with no brown cover or so to take away from it. I remember the day I got back an Amitav Ghosh copy in a better condition than I had sent it out, I consciously deemed Mr S worthy of my books.

The last book I had borrowed from him was A Song for a Pagan. A travelogue by this fellow called John Bealby on his journey across Delhi, Pakistan and Afghanistan to discover little known places like Nuristan and Kafiristan in Afghanistan. Mr S had started reading it I remember when I spoke to him last on Friday evening. Did he get to finish it?

The store hasn’t opened till date. I wonder what will it be like to enter it when it does. To not see him at his usual place by the counter inside the store. To know that he will never be there.