Sunday, February 18, 2018

Welcoming Christmas... In a T-shirt

Dear Reader,

I have a request for you before you read the following piece. It is a time-traveler request. Imagine yourself transported to Christmas 2017. Do you remember how all the malls, hotels and restaurants were adorned by giant Christmas trees? Can you recall the warmth of fresh waffles and mulled wine against the harsh winter? You can? Then we're all set:


I’m a Delhi girl.

Why do I begin with this?

Because I’ve never seen a December that isn’t cold. Christmas has always been a time to sip hot coffee through chattering teeth. But this Christmas is different. I’m in Mumbai.

Why am I here, you ask? Well, this is the City of Dreams. Isn’t it? I came here looking to make a name for myself in that most glamorous of industries. True, I haven’t made much headway yet. But I did manage to meditatively gawk at all of my favorite celebrities’ homes, trying to bribe the guards to let me sneak a peek at what lies beyond those massive doors.

Wait. I hope you didn’t buy that! Because I am none of that.

I’m just a regular girl, whose job, like thousands others, has brought her to the city. I work for a company that proclaims itself to be the entertainment provider for our country. And that’s about as close as I can ever get to Bollywood. No, I didn’t want to be here. No, I didn’t ask to be here. No, I don’t yet hate or love the city. But yes, I am here nonetheless.

Coming back to Christmas. It is the Twenty Fourth day of December, the last month in the Two Thousand and Seventeenth year after Christ (24.12.2017). Christmas evening. And I’m sitting here, with the fan speed turned to maximum, with no plans of going out anywhere, turning all my attention to this white sheet of paper that I can’t even touch.

Seems like the perfect time to go into a flashback, right? Don’t worry, it’s only about three weeks. After all, I just arrived!

Caution: It might get a little too depressing for some, but remember, it gets worse before it gets better… the night is darkest before dawn… or some such wise words.

Week 1:

I came with a heavy heart and even heavier suitcases. I’ve never been unhappier about landing in a city. The one-way ticket from Delhi felt like I was going away on a cruise, but didn’t know how long it will be before I see land again. To make matters worse, sea-sickness is a close friend.

That first evening here, my friends made sure I had no time to be homesick. The terrors of house-hunting were still a dim possibility. The possibility of not finding a decent place to stay non-existent. Yet from the way I’m trying to build this up, I’m sure you’ve guessed what’s going to happen yet.

Cut to the next evening, and we’re stranded in the rain. Cyclone Ockhi welcomed us with its arms wide open. Walking in the rain, trying and failing to hail a cab even as I felt the rain slowly drenching me through…the panic I felt rising in my throat…the helplessness and frustration at having spoiled my best office shoes right on day 1… the anger at the entire Ola/ Uber infrastructure just collapsing… I think I’ll remember that evening for a long time to come.

In bed later that night, I couldn’t help but wonder about what has life come to. I questioned myself as to why I was even doing this. What good could this job possibly do if it kept me away from my family? True, in hindsight it sounds a little extreme. But those few hours alone were enough to turn my world upside down and shake it all over.

That week I was staying on the 19th floor of a building that touched the sky. That’s about sixteen floors higher than any floor I’ve ever stayed on. While this effectively laid out the city below my feet (barring a few proud buildings, who just wouldn’t bend no matter how much I willed them to), it also isolated me (lonely at the top?). I could see the rain fall, but not hear it pitter-patter. I could see the cars crawling around in the streets below, but only hear the loudest of horns. I could see the people, tiny and insignificant as ants. By the way, have you ever seen ants? They are always so busy. Working so hard. But to what end? You don’t know. Neither do you care. That is what I felt for those people. I felt nothing. Now as I write this, I’m left wondering if our politicians see us the same way. Ants?

**Zoom out cinema style; from the girl typing on her laptop, to a view of her from the window, to a shot of the neighborhood she stays in, to a picture of the city all lit up at night, and further...**

(To be continued)

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