“You knew that you could renew them on 23rd November. Why didn’t you call us then?”

Because, ma’am, I am a forgetful loon and I gave up Rs 60 as fine, which was easily avoidable with just a phone call, like you admonished me ever-so-lightly and good-naturedly.

My German librarian is a sweet lady. Ever since the day I stepped in Max Mueller Library to get my membership, she has always been very cordial and friendly. When I ask her something, she explains it very slowly and pleasantly, to the point that I even skipped her words.  On those unfortunate occasions, she is patient to repeat herself. When I ask her about a b0ok or the other, she quickly moves over to her computer to search in the catalogue, or stands up to point me in the right direction. Always a step further than her duties formally require. I know I am not the exclusive recipient of this helpfulness; she calls everyone to let them know there requested book has arrived. And that makes me all the more lucky to have such a librarian. If German Embassy pays their librarians well, it sure knows the bunch to deserve it. The library with its open surroundings, glass walls, friendly guards and a classy feel can never induce a laziness to put off going there. It is surprising because I am famous for putting everything off for the future. The only stuff missing in the library is a deep selection of books but as a beginner who can’t get past the first few pages of a book, it doesn’t matter to me really; just about any book can keep me occupied for months.

I sometimes ponder whether this fascination with the German language is misplaced or not. My MCA entrance are coming up just in 6 months and they are really a make-or-break situation for me. Yet here am I, reading up German in my free time, spending thousands on its books, faithfully attending its classes except during my exams, diligently keeping every single note and page in its own folder if it has something to with the language. It is all due to a magical teacher who is 67 years old. Age is a number that seems to favour her; every moment seems to add to her wealth of experience. The way she inspires us is nothing short of ordinary. Seeing her made me realize why I wanted to be a teacher myself. She has made me want to read more books and I am on my way to Lal Quila (Red Fort) this Sunday where there is a big weekly bazaar for stolen goods. Not everything comes from thieves; books, especially, come from scrap dealers and can be had at throwaway prices. I have never seen it but it seems to be a trove of books, since my teacher found there an out-of-print book she couldn’t find anywhere in the world. For Rs 20 flat! That made a few of us gasp. A true teacher shows you the path, makes you think everything is possible and just within reach. She is that kind of teacher who has invigorated me to see myself in a new light.

Where I was feeling glum and helpless before, nowadays everything is better. I have started listening to more varied music. I have taken up writing in a more serious way. Reading is on my cards. So is a trip to Germany and a plan to get somebody sponsor it. Oh, now that I realize it, I might even try to make a small computer program. That would look good on my resume and I already have many ideas for one. I also have to make a table with my sister, as soon as her exams get over. We are also planning to go for trekking somewhere; I have finally become warm to the idea. Yet I have to insert the stuff I have to reluctantly do, things like my MCA test on Sunday mainly.

Blogging is just about the only time-consuming activity on internet that doesn’t make me feel guilty. It is never a waste of time. Any moment gone into capturing my life is a moment worth spending. I fear I over-do it, I fear I under-do it; but never do I feel archiving my past is worthless in itself.

Yesterday, I went to Max Mueller to return my books that were 20 days late. I anticipated about a hundred rupees or so as fine. But it was only sixty rupees, a happy surprise! But, let’s start from the beginning. First, I got Mittal to come to Pitampura Metro Station (the same Madhuban Chowk I talked about once before, though in a different light). She was to hand me a book issued from the library. She lives further than me from Pitampura yet she reached it 15 minutes earlier than me. Her annoyance and my shame were the black clouds that had a bright silver lining.  I took a rickshaw instead of bus to reach Pitampura and rickshaw forced me to rummage through my bag for money. It was the big-“O” moment, I had left my home without any money! It sounded even more absurd because I left my home for the sole purpose of returning books and paying my fine. With money. Mittal kindly gave me some, plus the book she had (the reason I called her there in the first place) and went on her way. Afterwards, I texted Megha (my sister) that I was going to CP (Connaught Place, as people call it, or Rajiv Chowk, as government tried people to call it). She called me instantly to tell me she is coming too. She had called me the day before too but I was home that day and it made her come back home having no one to roam the city with. We both had about an hour to reach CP. Time and venue settled, I dozed off like usual and missed a message from Megha. Her call followed, 3 minutes later. She told me she was departing Kirti Nagar Metro Station: the station from where she comes home. I forced her to go back up. “You can’t”, I told her. But while talking, she told me she had her exam the next day and that made me guilty. I couldn’t be the one responsible for her bad performance in exams. So, I asked her to go back down. And she told me she can’t; the guard would mark her as a stupid lady. That was only a stupid reason to not do what you want; a stranger’s opinion cannot change her course of life. But I knew she was merely indecisive. I was trying to talk her into going home. But she might have sensed that I was very unenthused in my directives. She often goes with people because she had given her word. Living with her, I find it to be one of her better qualities as well as equally worse in other cases. Today, she was sacrificing her exams for me. She is not the one cut out to constantly rub her nose against a dreary textbook. She is all fun and everything silly. Excitement comes naturally to her and a day in CP where she can buy cheap stuff is a day well spent for her, even though she knows there would be repercussions the next day.

So, for the first time, I took another person to Max Mueller Library with me and person with no knowledge of German at that. The female guard there pointed out to her that she had very beautiful eyes, Megha told me later. Aha! Now I knew why they were both laughing coming out from behind the curtain.† The librarian was pleasant and cordial with me as always, but for the first time I saw her annoyed. She was talking to the other librarian (whom I never acknowledge) about some guy who had dishevelled all the books and did so every day. Releasing her steam, she turned to me smilingly and I followed her to the beginners’ section. She pointed out all the details about how the books were marked here according to the levels of German we were learning. After she went away, Megha took out this giant book with pictures and German titles and pushed me to sit and translate it for her. I stemmed her enthusiasm long enough to choose some books and check out the other section of real fiction too, from which Megha chose a couple of books herself. And then we settled in the middle of library in very comfortable chairs and pored over the gigantic book. I translated a couple of sentences to her and she memorized a question that she keeps on asking to me.

Exiting the premises, we were torn where to go next: we could satiate my hunger somewhere but we could also go to Janpath. I chose latter, mostly because I wanted to be fair to Megha. She found a jacket there and also a t-shirt from the stalls scattered all over the CP. Although as the day progressed into night, I kept Megha to continue moving with increasing force, though we both couldn’t resist People Tree; it is a beautiful though expensive place to acquire arty clothes; Tantra is drab in comparison (it is drab in actuality too). We went to Coffee Home afterwards on Megha’s suggestion. I forgot it existed at all and had some bad notions of that place somehow. I was so wrong. It was as charming as the first time and I can’t figure even yet why I thought it to be a bad eatery at all. It is casual enough that I can sit with folded legs there and nobody raises an eyebrow. Overall, it was a good day for the duo of us as we were on our way home. There Funny thing happened to us.

We were at Britannia waiting for the bus. Metro Feeder bus towards our home arrived, packed with people and a couple of men hanging out. I recognized conductor. He is a vibrant man with special preference for ladies. After all, they are most prone to be left out behind if bus is full. So, he makes a point for passengers to make way for ladies first. There he was shouting at the top of his voice to make way for “Gudiya” (literally: doll, he meant it as a fatherly endearment) to enter. The Gudiya in question was my own sister. The hanging men swinged sidewards like a door and my sister entered. I tried to, but it meant I had to hang from the bus too. Never in my life. So I willed myself to stay back.

The bus departed and I instantly started walking towards the general direction of that bus because a stop further I can also find a phat-phat. Yet when I reached there, it turned out I had only two rupees with me. Deja vu gripped me (hint: the very morning). Phatphat came and Feeders went, but I stood my ground waiting for my DTC bus which would rescue this particular cheapskate. It came about ten minutes later. Just as I boarded it, I saw a man asking if Ram Mandir was the next stop to which the conductor was nodding ambiguously. So I stepped in confidently, “Yes, you are right. Ram Mandir and Samrat Enclave are one and the same thing. You can safely depart there if you want to go to Ram Mandir.” Here I was, giving directions when I know I am terrible at them. One day I was at Madhuban Chowk, this time returning from my coaching class, when a stranger asked for the direction of GT Bypass. I looked towards both ends of the road and pointed him towards the exact opposite road. His better sense prevailed and he overrode my answer and went in the right direction anyway. That made me embarrassed at myself, but at least it had a happy ending. About a week ago, I miraculously found 85Ext at Brittania. It is just about the only DTC bus that goes towards the bus stop nearest to my home and thus the only free transportation to my home. Otherwise, I have to take some other bus that drops me midway and I have to trudge the remaining two stops (a 5-10 minute walk). But not that day; somehow, comfort was woven into my destiny of the day. Just as I got off another bus, I saw green (read:free) 85 coming from behind. It made me giddy with joy, but like other fellow passengers, I kept my calm and acted to be mature and nonchalant about 85 arriving at all. I got a seat even! I was lazily enjoying my ride when my co-passenger prompted me, “Do you know where Aggarwal City Mall is?” Yes, it is just down the end of this road behind M2K. As I was giving him the directions, he tried to get my attention towards the address he had in my hand and mentioned it was near Kali Mandir (Kali Temple). Kali Mandir was a new development for me. I guess it was just the one near the park behind M2K. But really who tells about Aggarwal City Mall using Kali Mandir when you have the giant M2K near it. I laughed with myself, kept to myself and urged the gentleman to get off quickly if he didn’t want to jump the stop. But the feeling of being a good citizen was interrupted crudely a horror that crept over me. Oh noes! I had directed him to the wrong Aggarwal City Mall. The Kali Mandir he was referring to was the ultra-famous one at Outer Ring Road. It even has its own bus stop dedicated to itself. It made sense why it was mentioned in his address and why he was sitting in 85 seeing it would have taken him to Outer Ring Road. I hoped nobody overheard our little horrific conversation and felt really guilty the whole way. Even more so because I could feel his pain today more acutely; I had such a comfortable ride which he would not be graced with, wholly due to me. I hoped and do hope till today he found another route, through Madhuban Chowk most probably. I have come to accept it as an honest mistake and it felt good to give the man yesterday the right directions. It settled something deep in my pit.

After the obligatory 10 minute walk afterwards (85 is a tricky girl), I reached home. Then I watched some ‘Bigg Boss’ and completed ‘At Swim, Two Boys’. I like to think my skim-reading came in-between my enjoyment of the book. Else what is the reason I wouldn’t like a book given stupendous rating on Goodreads? I have decided to read it once more to make a final opinion about it. Either way, I liked MacMurrough enough in it to make it a worthwhile read. It might even stay with me, not in an endearing way but a curious one, as to what the heck it was. Was it really the book for which I yearned for such a long time! But let’s not be judgemental till I have the second reading I promised myself, someday. Till then, adios! Another book awaits me to wrap me in its wings. Bye! :)

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