After having lied through my teeth to my very Bangali parents for the last five years, I have finally accepted that I am addicted to smoking.
Not passing the buck here, but when you have had an ex roommate and colleague who hands you a drag in the middle of deep sleep – you don’t have much say left.
Of course, withdrawal can be challenging. For example, when I returned from work one evening to find him in a foetal position in the corner of the bed, with a deadpan expression on his face. So, without much ado – we resumed smoking that evening.
Then there are those days. The temper-tantrums thrown by Mama at three in the morning. When all has failed and Zomato is the only recourse.
And this is where the real story begins. The delivery boys of Chennai.
There’s a delicious, dripping box of pizza that makes its way up the stairs. At three in the morning, you are either too drunk, or hungry – to notice the tiny, hoary man making his way up the dimly lit stairs. Because of Modi and technology, the bill is paid already; all you have to do – is open the door a crack, slide your paw out like a thieving cat, and grab the box. No words exchanged – swift, impersonal and efficient. That’s until he gently reminds you about the bill.
And there he is. A tiny man, almost half your size. You notice the sun lines, as he holds out his emaciated hand. This is it. Your first impression of the man you’ve so been so quick to dismiss as convenient; you’ve been so eager to hang up the phone on. He apologises for having taken a few extra second off your busy schedule, for having dragged the conversation longer than it should have usually lasted. With palpable embarrassment, he explains that he’s new to the dry, punitive city – hence the unwarranted extra seconds, asking for directions in such an obvious part of the city – you feel. You are clearly getting uncomfortable now – you aren’t used to looking up from your cell phone for such long stretches of time. Neither am I.
(Well, that’s what we do mostly – pray to the notifications during the protracted, boring speeches at the meetings. Or at the dinner table, with those relatives you long to be able to not see for another decade or more. Especially when you are out on that date with your partner, and you are congratulating each other over the raving number of pings (on that new display pic of yours) – almost as if your phone were orgasming, while the pork sticky runs cold. I mean, I do that. All the time.)
You aren’t used to small talk with strangers, especially when there’s no business or pleasure value involved. That’s the cost of our expensive degrees and jobs. There’s only that much time for ourselves, considering we end up investing most of our hours (and our moments) – ironically, to ensure a comfortable bed and an abundant fridge that we spent most of our hours, out of and re-filling as the contents keep withering, respectively. The conversation with this tiny man, is proving to be a formidable task in the early hours of the morning.
There’s a bunch of impatient, hungry mouths back in your room, groaning noisily with every passing second – desperately hoping that the tiny man picks up the hints. The scorching midday sun, the punishing city miles, have rendered his senses incapable of picking up insinuated insults. He is relieved that for once, his conversations are not just limited to Google Maps or rabid outbursts of rage. He is now gushing about how well his son has been performing in his board exams, and how he longs to see his family after months of scurrying between restaurants and homes, on that borrowed scooter of his. He has begun to breach the boundaries of his village, when his phone rings: you can almost hear the next impatient customer bark from a mile. He snaps out of his reverie, apologising profoundly for the minutes wasted in conversations high on hope, but low on possibility. He picks up his bag wearily; he’s overstayed his welcome. You almost catch that rare twinkle behind his creased, dusty eyes. Well, almost. He bids goodbye, and disappears into the darkness.
You are wondering over the conversation for a moment, until someone calls out your name from the room. The party, is just getting started. Well, you’ll think about this later, you tell yourself. A bleak maybe.
(You will also occasionally come across the young sophomore who attends class, and puts in extra hours at night, to pay for his college. Or the older gentleman, whose family has conveniently cut off ties with him. This particular account is slightly dramatized, to fit the circumstances. Still, a shout out to these underpaid, proud servicemen who are mostly always on the clock.)
pic courtesy: HuffPost