What do you do when you’re stuck in a city far away from your home with no company but a pack of cigarettes and a handful of old, Jazz numbers? Well, that’s what I am wondering too.
Today marks the thirty-sixth day of what it feels like a long exile. The good thing is that I’m surrounded by good friends who took me in and who happen to be away from the house as I sit down and write this. My parents are a phone call away. But I’m as blue as I knew I’d be the moment I climbed that elevator in the airport that day. It shattered my heart the way Simon and Garfunkel songs always have. This is the longest time I’ve been away from home in twelve years.
I miss it all. The long walks on the Southern Avenue were never lonely (except sometimes). Listening to Ella Fitzgerald sing Cole Porter as the dusk fell upon the city was exactly where I’d love to be. In the summers, when days were humid, you could always enjoy a slushie at Fillers. I remember going there in my college days. I bet the streets won’t change in the next twenty years. Nor will those series of duplex houses with concrete floors polished with red paint and swirl-patterned bars on the windows. I hope they don’t. For when I was a kid I used to visit my aunt’s place often who lived in one of them. She still does.
I remember once, when I was a kid, we were driving through Southern Avenue in a taxi, like we frequently used to—my Dad pointed out to a house and said, “You know, that’s R.D Burman’s house.” I was psyched even though I had no clue who R.D Burman was apart from the picture of a round-faced man with gleaming eyes behind a pair of thick-rimmed, black glasses on the cassette cover that he had at home. Now that I can’t get enough of his songs—especially his collaborations with Gulzar—I can’t recall how his house looked like. (Mental note—visit that place and see his house when you go there in April.)
I wish I could bring my cassettes from that cupboard behind my room door. I know I have more music in the seven inches of my phone than I ever had in a thirty-inch wide, seven-feet-tall cupboard. But putting on a tape and waiting eagerly for the first fifteen seconds for the leading to end, contained more soul.
It’s funny how life changes. The more you move forward, the more you realise that you hanker for the simpler things that belongs to those simpler times. Times which you’ve left so far behind. When you’d eagerly wait for someone’s phone call on a pale green landline telephone. Someone who you haven’t spoken to in a long time. Getting a letter addressed to you in their scrawly handwriting on the envelope. Meet someone new by accident.
Sitting beside the window, writing my Saturday column as a cool breeze blows on an ordinary day in March, I’m somewhere else entirely. Somewhere bittersweet. Somewhere luke-warm. Somewhere blue.