My dear friend,
Hope you are doing well. One month away from your active circle, a sense of dejection has crept in that I am slowly sliding into obscurity. Of course, I am fighting obscurity on a different plane as well, you know it.
Then Manu, baffled by the big city, writes to you. To begin with, Mumbai was not the city in my dreams. It was Delhi, the centre of power where every aspiring political journo want to be. If there was a second preference, it was Bangalore, the global gateway, which is six-seven hours away from pristine Wayanad woods. Then where did Mumbai figure in? I don't know. The pulls and pressures of life, ambition and anxiety; I landed in Mumbai Mahanagar of Money and Masala.
But, honestly I can tell you, I started loving this city. The reason is simple, personal and practical: I see an obvious improvement in the comforts of life I am enjoying. I only wish, it must not be a passing fad, a honeymoon excitement about which I made a loud comment, quite impulsively. Given the minimal means on which I have lived so far, the comforts which the new job offers me is something good.
In the first fortnight I was living on the upstairs of the office building. Day begins with a cup of hot filter coffee on your bedside and three newspapers. And the rare privilege of walking down to the office. Everything was good except the feeling that the days in this plush apartment are numbered. As in most other cases, the dwelling place also came my way when I was heading a different direction, a hostel accommodation. But a much cheaper and comfortable option of renting an apartment just came across.
A BHK flat to be shared with another malloo in an entirely different profession, an hour of train journey to office, an option to cook; there was no reason to reject it. In certain ways, I became lazier than I was, it has just become impossible to wake up before nine. By 11, I will catch the train. At 12, when I reach office, I will be the early bird. Trains are overcrowded. But in most cases, this non-peak hour commuter gets a seat in the privileged first class compartment, thanks to the company-provided season ticket. Once settled into the seat, I start reading Economic Times. One obvious difference in my reading these days is the complete shift to business dailies. Other than the ET's political theatre section, a quick glance at Hindu is my remaining association with general news, and of course rediff.
From covering Kochi Corporation to tracking Indian automobile industry; transition is not very easy. Yet, I am warming up to the challenges it offers. The other day, I made an investment; subscribed `Auto Car magazine' for a year. (It cost Rs.720, after having signed in the order form at an auto show event here, I questioned the righteousness of my action a hundred times. You never know, only the results can justify an action. Let's wait.) Tehelka and Down to Earth are the two magazines I always wanted to subscribe. Some day, I may do that.
After a fortnight of incubation, I got down to the business. There was occasional relief of seeing the name in print. My first auto story is yet to come. Hopefully, very soon, just a matter of time. The days are spent working on a story, pursuing a BSE announcement, attending press conferences, events or meeting people. The work engages you meaningfully, but it has never felt exhaustive. I only pray it to remain so, because I have got my own pace for doing things.
In the evening, mostly by 8 I leave the office. Will go strait to the VT station, my boarding point or wait for Sailesh on Marine Drive. We meet almost everyday. I don't know if two years is a reasonable time to call one a long-term pal. But he is just that. And for us, the Marine Drive meetings are the re-enactment of our Kochi evenings. The subjects are invariably, inevitably the same; quite youthful, peppered with loads of humour, philosophy and pragmatism.
By the time he catches up, I will have a one lonely round across the long line of love-laden Marine Drive walkway. It is surreal and cinematic. The mutually indulged lovers smooching and cuddling. Turning away from the crowd, the sea-faced open demonstration of love goes on in a blissful unawareness of the surrounding. Thanks to sodium vapour lamps and the anonymity assured by the urban environs. Frankly, I love a glimpse of it; don't accuse me of extracting a vicarious pleasure.
Coming back to the personal life, I have developed the habit of carrying handbag. The contents are newspapers, magz and books, may be a water bottle too. In Mumbai, I don't find the multitude of churches we have in Kochi. I can't just rush to one when I want to. Yes, in a still alien place you will feel more often than not to resort to a place of comfort. Anyway, in Dombivli, a malloo dome, I can at least have Sunday mass, that too nalla malayalam kurbana.
The triumphant feeling of finishing yet another good novel is slowly fading away. It's about two weeks since I finished it. An injured right hand shoulder gave me three idle days. Reading a novel which adopted the running of a country newspaper as its background was a pleasure. Last Juror by John Grisham.Though I was not in a position to note down the good expressions and coinage of words.
Well, it all doesn't mean that it is a perfectly happy phase of life, though on the whole, it appears to be distinctly positive. The scary incident of being in a kissing distance with a grave danger is best left unsaid. I got away with a bruised shoulder. An immediate random dip into Bible gave this message; "Don't be afraid, it is I".
And there were a mild cultural shock, occasional bouts of self-doubt and a perceived struggle for space. Yet I say, things are positively progressing, I am happily getting along.
I have no intention of making it an acknowledgement piece, so no mention about the love and care I received from every one including who dropped me at Kochi airport, received me in Mumbai, who was on my bed side during the sick days, and those who always lent an ear, who dispatched my belongings.
Hope all you will get back to me with your news. This is something special to you. Thank you and my prayers.
(Originally written on November 25)