evenings are for heavy drinking
. So we collect, a small society of new friends, and we drink. Almost always some Ghazal
plays in the background to create the ambience
(Ghazals, for those who understand them, form excellent background music
for drinking.) and there is some idle and pointless argument
in the foreground. Surya loves such debates - "Define what you mean by 'Sharaabi
'? Where do you draw the line?
'Where do you draw the line?' is his favorite; almost every other sentence Surya says after getting a little mellow is the same - "where do you draw the line?" Its like a physical line for him. At times he starts marking an imaginary line on the carpet with his finger, "Where do you draw the line?"
'Baat niqlegi to phir ... door talaq jayegi ...', Jagjit Singh's evergreen classic plays on the stereo. I start to hum with it, and start to realize slowly that this is the first time I'm listening to this song in last about two years.
I recall Mansi and me sitting in the campus café of our Institute discussing Fifth Normalization of databases; Mansi was concerned that her younger sister is sexually active.
I see Mansi of the dusky skin tone and myself sitting under the shed at a roadside dhaba sipping chai watching it rain outside. The radio was playing this song and she started humming it ... 'Baat Niqlegi to phir ....', her most favorite song ever, she told me.
My last evening in Ghaziabad, sitting with Vikas, my only friend in that city-and world, in his car parked by a Gas Station, drunk and smoking Wills, discussing why I am or am not stupid to decide to move to USA for work. "What are you running away from?" he had asked, "Mansi is not this city, this city is not Mansi". 'Baat Niqlegi ...' was playing on his CD player.
"I can't live here, this city brings back all her memories", I said, "The streets, markets, ... the weather, I keep finding her every so often. I have to go away for some time to make new memories I guess...and its not like I'm going forever...I'll be back in six or seven months".
"No one returns from America", Vikas had said.
"We would never know unless it happens would we? Just change the song before anything else please..." I had asked him.
Mansi with the moist voice, telling me goodbye from other side of the phone flashes in my mind again. It has been three years I last heard from her. She was asking me to say goodbye, a final one. I didn't, "I would never tell you goodbye Mansi...never" I had told her. Not that it made it any easier for her or me; not that it helped change anything.
"... Where do you draw the line?" Surya is asking Srini; they are discussing terrorism v/s revolution. Some nights start seeming infinitely long even before they start.