Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Nomad That Is Me - Part 5 [Final?] (The Story Of My Homes)

This shall be the last of my post on The Story Of My Homes. A lot of people think that this is the one statement i have been waiting to make. But that is not how a series finale should end. It should be happy. It should end on a positive note. So I will try to hold onto my better senses and not try to take it out on anyone, thereby making a statement in this series finale. So here goes:

I had to come to Delhi quite a few times, before I made sure that this is where I would be spending my post graduation days. First for the exam, then the interview and then for the actual settling down. And it all began in the summer of 2009. Trust me on this, Delhi in the summer is not a place you would like to be. I really didn’t like Delhi the first time I came here, basically because I had no friends here and I had to build my base from scratch out here. The first time I came to Delhi was when I had to write the entrance exam for the much sought after Mass Communication and Convergent Journalism courses at AJKMCRC in Jamia Millia Islamia. I stayed over at the International Youth Hostel in Chanakyapuri. Now that is one hell of a locality. Since it was smack in the middle of the diplomatic enclave, the streets were clean, the lawns were manicured, the roads were wide – it was like living in a foreign locale altogether. But then that wasn’t home. I stayed there once again, when I had to come down for the interview for my admission for Convergent Journalism (yes, I didn’t get through Mass Comm.) So it was decided a week later that I would be one of the lucky 20 odd people who would be part of the 2009 batch of Convergent Journalism kids at AJKMCRC. So now I was sure I would be spending the next two years of my life in Delhi. And that is when I started seeing Delhi, in reality. The first two trips were just glimpses of Delhi.

My mom always gets paranoid when sending her sons away anywhere. Even after me telling her that I would not require anyone’s help to go to Delhi or get me admitted to the institution, she called up my cousin who had come down from Dubai to accompany me till Delhi. And accompany me he did. We started off from Kochi, took an accommodation at the Pondicherry (now Puducherry) house, on the recommendation of a local politician, who was also a relative (one time, when politics does come to good use.) We went and did the formalities at the institute. And within three days had traversed wherever the Delhi metro could take us to. The first impression you have of Delhi is – it is a mega city! I mean the expanse of the city is so much, that it is difficult for a small town boy like me to actually fathom living here. It is scary. But I survived, and here I am writing the city’s story from the city itself. On the fourth day of my stay at Pondicherry house, an army jeep came for me from the 5 Signal Corp at Dhaula Kuan. My first home was to be in an army cantonment, due to a kind friend of my Uncle, Lieutenant Colonel Vinod. The Signal 5 Corp is the communication backbone of the Indian army and Lt. Cl. Vinod was an engineer there. It was a brilliant stay. There were small villa sort of things inside the gigantic gate that led us into the camp. And Mr. Vinod had a large room due to the post he had. There were trees all around the camp, small cobblestone paths that lead to different centres, canteens and houses. It was quite boring living there, since I had nothing to do out there, except read, was my clothes, have food served to you thrice a day. Mr. Vinod had personal assistants who would cater to his every need, right from polishing his shoes to serving him beer at night. It was the laziest I ever felt, while staying there. I didn’t have to do anything at all. So for almost a month I was holed up in there. But then I realized it was time to move out. The first couple of days I headed to college which was at Jamia Nagar from Dhaula Kuan, which i considered quite a distance to cover (it was barely 10 kms) (little did I know that it was not that great considering people travel hundreds of kilometers everyday to work and study in Delhi.) But then I made friends in my new classroom. I still remember, the first friend or human soul I introduced myself to in MCRC was Akanksha. Both of us had come in late, and we were frantically searching for our classrooms. But then it was in the auditorium that the inauguration was taking place in. So we headed out. And the convergent journalism part of my life began, starting that day.

After a few days, lot of us became friends, and it was Saiam, who offered to share his room with me. If it wasn’t for Saiam I would never have headed out from the Army Cantt. So one fine morning I left with all my baggage (which was quite a lot) to Batla House in the army jeep. Now to explain Batla House, you don’t need much. Just imagine a 2000 sq. foot place. Now imagine a million people in it. That is Batla House for you. Placed on the banks of the river Yamuna, Batla House is a predominantly Muslim locality and has the feeling of the rush that you get in a Purani Dilli (Old Delhi) or any old city for that matter. The first room I shared, was a very modest one, with a shared bathroom, at Nafees Road, with water to bath and make ablutions on a constant threat of being depleted by the hundreds of others living in the same building. I still don’t know how I survived there, but I had begun to live. The best thing about living in Batla House was that you could get some awesome food, straight from the chicken achari to kebabs to biriyani to rabri faluda and what not. So food was not a major problem here. But I barely stayed with Saiam for a month. I then shifted in with Neyaz, another classmate of mine, who surprisingly has been staying in Delhi for the past 10 years. He has his own place. A modest building in between a lane of like a thousands of them. His place is the only place that has does not go beyond the ground floor. The rest of the building around him have built floors after floors, making his house feel like a David among Goliaths. His place was filthy dirty the time I got there, but over time, I started shifting stuff out, made some changes here and there, the dim fluorescent bulb shone brighter and the place breathed a bit more. And it was nice and cozy, since we had always somebody over. And in between, Furquan, another friend of ours also moved in. So there, we were, three bachelors in a 'Delhi Belly'-ish set up. And that was what it was for almost around the end of December 2009. And Delhi winters – woah! I tell you this is a city of extremes.

At the same time, Furquan and me were contemplating moving out of Neyaz’s place, because we wanted to give Neyaz his privacy and we were paying like very little for the stay he offered us. So then, we teamed up with two other friends – Samir, the eccentric and Alex, the Frenchman and went in search of apartments. And it was Samir who found us one - in Sarai Jullena, which was close to New Friends Colony. And it was to the east of Batla House (the further, the better.) That three-bedroom apartment would be the starting point of my life in Delhi. We had proper rooms to ourselves, a huge kitchen, good washroom, separate toilet – it was beautiful. Furquan and me shared a room, while Samir and Alex had a room of their own. Samir took the balcony room, while we had the corner right one. We very sparingly furnished our place, with two cots and carpet, which we bought from Batla house. It was in this very apartment, where i would say i found my first home in Delhi. And it was brilliant. It was in this very apartment, from where we received a weird bird as a house warming present (that actually dissappeared mysteriously after a couple of days), relationships began, good food was cooked, parties held, wi-fi's shared, where the fan worked only in our room, and so much more. This first floor apartment will forever remain a fond memory of my time in Delhi. But alas, all good things must come to an end. Our first year of college was coming to an end, and Alexandre was heading back to Paris. We could no longer afford the apartment. Since it was the vacations we didn't need a place to stay for almost two months, but we still had our stuff. Before Alex left, he gave away whatever stuff he had with him. Me and Furquan got the sofa, the toaster and a few things here and there.

So me and Furquan started roaming the length and breadth of Jamia Nagar looking for a decent room to keep our stuff in. After almost a week's search we found a relatively nice room in a not so relatively clean locality of Batla House. It was the topmost room, alongside ample tiled terrace. The only thing that was bothersome was the water and the paan stained toilet (thankfully we didn't have to sit on them, it was the Indian-squat type.) And it was on the fourth floor. So we somehow mustered up all the muscles that were not visible at first to take up all our stuff to the penthouse (yeah, it was a penthouse) and left Delhi for our respective homes for the summer vacations.

It was only after we came back in July, that we realized that the home that we took, was not quite the ideal home. It turned filthy dirty by the time we got back. We could not also keep it clean for an entire day, coz the dust settled quite easily and quickly inside the room every time we opened the window. So it was back to house searching once again. The only plus of living in Batla House as i said earlier, is the availability of some real good non veg food (especially the ones from Munis Kada and the small dhaba sort of shops that sold kebaabs.) But we could not stay there for long. While on our quest once again, through the gullies of Sarai Jullena, we ran into our old landlord. We were kinda scared asking him for a room, because we thought we had left the last place in not such a great state, what with all the bottles in the kitchen and stuff. But somehow i mustered up the courage and asked him - "Remember us?". His reply was quite friendly - "How can i not?". But not in the sarcastic tone. So by the time we finished talking with him, our newest home was found. 

It was a single room in a newly built floor of an old building. It was picture perfect. It had large windows, nice ventilation, ample light, built in kitchenette, built in cupboard and enough for space for two people as tall as myself and Fruquan to adjust in. And it was quite cheap too. We didn't think twice. We got the room -- on the fourth floor, and this time it was worth it. The tough task of getting all our stuff from the fourth floor of one building to the fourth floor of another was the only tough task that we had. We bought ourselves a carpet to go in the centre of the room, while i bought a bed and a table. It was all nice. One of the nicest homes i've lived in. And i take this opportunity to tell you that Furquan is the best roommate that i have ever lived with. There was an unsaid dealing that both of us could get, for as long as we stayed at room no 708 in building no. 58. I used to cut the veggies, while he used to cook. I used to have the net connected to my computer, while he used the wi-fi. There was equality, there was fun, there was brotherhood, there was a looking out for one another. Room no. 708 will forever remain my favorite home in Delhi.

But once again, good things came to an end. And it came in the form of my well planned stupidity. I got myself a job in Bangalore. I said my goodbyes. I had friends over, we had a crazy last day together at room 708. I made up my mind. I was to leave Delhi. But its true that you only know what you miss, when you are no longer around them. But i had made up my mind. I decided to take a small, deserved break before heading home, and headed to Mumbai. It was from here, that i get to know that the job in Bangalore had a catch (through a phone call from the company), which i didn't like one bit. I didn't even go to Bangalore. After some soul searching (read - rummaging on the internet for like hours), i got a job in Chennai. In a newspaper's tabloid edition. But i didn't feel like the zing there. And plus, i had no clue about who's who in the Tamil celebrity list, which was an essential part of the job i was part and so I decided i had to head back. I had a lot of unfinished business in Delhi. I missed Delhi. (which could also be a metaphor for the life that I've lived for the past two years.)

So after a hiatus of around two months, i was back to Delhi, back to room no. 708, but little did i know i would have to get out of there before i could say -"Look who's back!" Turned out that Furquan had invited his old roommate to stay with him, considering the fact that i had said i was not gonna be back. I was a little late in letting him know. How late? A week. If i had told him a week earlier, i could have still stayed with him. But Furquan is a man with a heart. He allowed me to stay at his place. And it was in room 708, that i sat for almost two weeks, without a job, without hope and without a darn clue about my future. But it was also here, that i found my calling, my job and my life back once more - when i got a job with Sports Illustrated India. I tried to reason with Furquan regarding staying along with him, but then he had already promised his friend. I felt it better not to tamper with other people's promises. So a fruitful year and a half relationship with the best roommate i ever had came to an end, with me finding a new place, a new roommate (my junior from college - Ratnendra) and a new future.

Well, it was this very departure from the room that i loved so much, that prompted me to start off with this series about my homes in the first place.

The new room was more like a hotel room, and it used to be where our friend Samir used to live before he headed out for greener pasture. First thing you would notice in the new place, which to reach you had to go through a narrow gulley and then walk just two flights of stairs - there is no ventilation whatsoever! And my new roommate couldn't stand the heat. He wanted an AC. We got an AC on rent. The place was infested with cockroaches. Water would basically start to trickle after 10 in the night. I hated the new place. And after a fruitful roommate relationship, i was not able to warm upto the idea of a new roommate, because the old give-take relationship was not working out (I hope Ratnendra does not kill me, after reading this), but i am one who always likes to give it a shot. So it was a long three months that i stayed up at the non-ventilated room, while i was frantically searching around for a new place. My old roommate did fuck me up once during these three months, when he shifted to a new place, while i could have taken up his room. Unfortunately, he didn't inform me, and somebody else took the room. But he made it up to me. He informed me of the room his landlord's brother had, and that is now my home.

On 22nd of October, while all my friends were wishing me happy birthday through phone calls, facebook message, mails, e-cards and sms-es, i was getting my own place for the very first time -- on the fifth floor. I have a window in my room. Nice kitchen, nice bathroom (i always make it a point that the plumbing is good wherever i go, i don't want another paan stained toilet ever again my entire life) and to top it all i could breathe. Finally. And while i write this, i am settled down with my bed, table, sofa and fridge (courtsey Mizaj), my ever growing collection of books, magazines, my laptop, my net connection and an end to my nomadness (is that even a word?) at room no. 14. And there is a sense of feeling that i have finally found a home -- for now that is. I hope it will be long before i bore you. Peace.

1 comment:

Vishnu said...

I honestly hope that you dont stay in room no.14 for long dooodey.. I want another of this.. I want The Nomad that is me 6, 7,8,8.5,9.....