A Quickie!!! (No More)


I just came by to archive my last day. To the point this time. Without explanations even though I am explaining right now. Ah!

I woke up early yesterday. Early enough to go to college. But I didn’t, because I wanted to prepare for my entrance exam on 10th February of next month. I opened IIT-JAM website to see my syllabus, got stumped by the contents a little and then started solving some questions. Until…

Until my father asked me to submit an application to a TV channel’s website over his complaint that some policemen on night patrol sleep in his bus depot all night. This is happening for some months now. Incredible as it is, I was delaying it for some days now. I finally submit it anonymously. Now it is odd to detail my anonymous behaviour, yet it doesn’t bother me much. It was just a fun exercise. Moreover, I am already pseudo-anonymous here, though the details here are enough to pinpoint to me directly.

Just as I was sending my complaint, I noticed my sister juggling through the rooms, searching for something. It had something to do with bank. I clicked ‘Send’ to send my tip to a media company hoping it would respond and then told my sister that I too am coming with her. You see, I have an account in SBI for months now, without a passbook. They sent two letters to me but I lost both of them. They wouldn’t hand me my passbook until I confirm that I have received their correspondence, thereby confirming my address in their account details. I knew all this correspondence fluff only after going there. Till now, I only knew that my Rs. 4000 were held hostage with SBI and I would have probably angered them by losing the letters.

With as much knowledge I took my time to get ready but my sister didn’t have time to wait for me. She rushed out to SBI. I followed her 5 minutes later. I live in a market area and SBI is literally across the street. So, I knew we would meet there. Her account was dormant for 2 years and now she needed it urgently since our mother wasn’t home. Schade!

So I get there and learn everything I told you before. Rather than going through the pain of giving them an application for another confirmation letter, she asked me to file for an ATM. A letter would arrive at my home for follow-up. That would open my ATM account as well as give me my passbook. Easy enough. First I pick the wrong form; I didn’t know it then. I am just generous to give you the knowledge in advance. Then I find I don’t have a pen on me. I try to call my sister (from inside the bank, away from the guard since it is not allowed) but she has used up all my balance. I am stranded in a crowded bank with a form and no pen to fill it. I go out reluctantly and reach the stationary, again across the street (different from mine, it is a complex network). Come back with a pen. No glue to stick my photo on. Groan. Look at my phone with zero balance. Send her where-are-you-?-! message. Go to the stationary again. Buy a glue. Get a call from my sister. She is in a hidden corner of bank only. Curse her again. Oh, I haven’t cursed her the first time, have I? Insert some well-chosen murmuring curses to her every time I have looked at my phone since learning that it has zero balance.

So when I enter the bank the third time, it is not the end of my inconvenience. I stand in a (small) queue where I learn for the first time that the form I filled up and stuck my photo on is the wrong one. She searches through the stack of forms herself and apologizes for not having the form. Then, she directs me to her neighbour. Her neighbour looks at me as I stand out-of-queue; I am lucky to be recipient of her graze. Time freezes.

She is a plump lady with round body, round cheeks and round eyes. She is not fat but small. With her shawl wrapped around her, she looks like a serious old Cosco ball. My sister calls her a machine since she works at a constant speed, whatever the rush in front of her is. “How can you be angry at a machine?” my sister explains. To be fair to the lady, her constant speed is quite efficient and actually machine-like and her attitude is indifferent. Going back to the current moment which has lasted a lifetime (relative to life of a moment) because I had to explain the lady in question, I am standing outside queue ignoring the mass of people beside me; are they looking at me? I must have a look of confusion because the previous banker lady had told me to go to this one about five seconds ago and it certainly takes me more than five (10? 15?) seconds to process any event. She has just raised her head from her stream of paperwork, probably after overhearing the first lady at her side, and is still registering my face. She is expecting me to say something. We both are fully focusing on each other at the moment, while the people in front of the queue are looking at me scornfully, people at the back of the queue don’t know what has happened, people behind me in my previous queue are looking at me thankfully, other people including the previous banker lady, my sister, my parents and all other people on the earth are in the process of doing whatever they were doing a moment ago. Maybe they are pissed that I froze the moment out of selfish reasons but most probably they are not, because electrons shooting in their brains’ neurons are also froze and when they de-freeze, the moment itself would pass away giving them no reason to be pissed off at a moment that is already past. Let bygones be bygones, they would say. Earthmen are unconscious of this sudden stop in time, but earth is happy. It is taking a rest after going in circles about the sun for far too long. It is wishing fervently that I also describe the angry sun, velvet sky and the Milky Way galaxy which seems quite milky from earth high in the mountains away from the sun. But I don’t know much about the Milky Way galaxy having never seen it with naked eyes. So let us break this dam on the flowing river of time. Time goes on again. And so does the bustling in the bank.

As the time to say something passes me by, I ask the round lady for a form. She hands me a form sans a word and gets on with the next person in the queue, before I broke in. I am grateful to her for quickness, now that I think about it. But at that time I brazenly took the form without thinking and ticked all the right checkmarks, filled everything in capital letters and signed my clumsy signature at the bottom. But when I went back to submit the form, lunch hours came up. Oh noes! I had to wait for another 30 minutes now. So, I jutted out of the bank for the third time. I had another bag inside my bag, which I was carrying all this while without telling you a bit about it. The outer bag also had a folder of all my important documents, all my German books that I had to return later, money, IDs of various places, my bus pass and several other stuff. It is a giant laptop bag, since the chain on my main one doesn’t work. The main one is a Reebok bag, too expensive to be bought by me but perhaps my sister knows the vagaries of inflation and didn’t bother to stop for a second before buying it. She might have thought it would work for another 2-3 years. In a year, it is in tatters and folded inside my laptop bag waiting to be repaired. I went out to get it repaired. First I went to the Reebok store, this one too across the street and asked them if they know where I can get a good Reebok chain since the local ones give up in two weeks. He directed me to another person. I started all over again when the next person directed me mid-way to an invisible man at the very back of the long store. I was already feeling silly with my question, taking the question all the way to the back seemed the height of my foolhardy. So, I gently explained to the man at the back that I bought the bag here itself and so I expected them to know where should I get my bag repaired from. He shook his head. I asked him, a little flushed with embarrassment, about anything; they should know about this stuff. He shook his head again. I went out, smiles and sunrise. On my way the salesman asked me if I found out but I shrugged my shoulders with mystery and shared a very special and friendly disappointment, in a hope that he wouldn’t think of me as a weird creature. When I exited unscathed, I saw my sister exiting the bank too. She needed an ID to reactivate her dormant account. When I asked her of a skilled local man, she told me to walk along with her. I became suspicious. I thought it was a mere ploy so that she won’t be alone on her way to cyber cafe. I prodded her for the location of the said tailor and she told me about the ‘same one who sits opposite to the tailor with whom our mother once fought.’ Oh, I said, that one is no longer there. My constant barrage of questions exhausted her and she shooed me away. I walked beside her nevertheless. She entered our building (our flat is on the third floor) to my surprise. I thought she was going to the cafe which is in the same street as the tailor she told me about. Having walked all this way (taking two minutes at most from the bank to our home, though we took a little roundabout way), I went to her said tailor but he wasn’t there as I expected. And this meant I had to go to the tailor near Pakshi’s shop.

Pakshi is a family friend who has a shop in the market and whom we siblings call Pakshi (a bird in Hindi – his real name is Bakshi). He is a spineless, buttery man who hasn’t personally wronged me, but I just don’t like his ways. So I ignore him whenever I pass his shop; I greet him whenever our eyes meet each other. When I reached the tailor, I realize that Pakshi’s shop is some steps ahead, I wouldn’t be meeting him after all and then I saw that there is no tailor in his seat. The tailor sits in the open by the side of the street, with his sewing machine perched prominently, his seat behind it and bundles of clothes lying about it. I stood and waited for him. It was 2 pm and a healthy sun outside and shopkeepers were engaged in friendly banter since the market was empty. None of them budged when they saw me; so none of them was a tailor.

There is a doctor across the street who gives Unani medicine to patients but is not an authorized doctor himself. He just prescribes medicine using the knowledge of his father. My sister went to him some years ago for the cure of pimples but when we knew he wasn’t a real doctor we didn’t go to him again. But since it was only pimples, my sister continued to apply the paste he would pack for her in small boxes. To our horror and relief, we came to know that the paste was nothing but the Himalaya face wash I bought a month later from our chemist. He passed off Himalaya face wash as medicine!  At least it wasn’t a mumbo-jumbo “magical” cure. At the moment, there was a crowd of shopkeepers inside. When I looked at it for a sign of tailor, a Sardarji† who was standing at the door with her back to me looked at me. I looked around and then saw him again. He was not the tailor I know because I vaguely remember him as the owner of the sari shop behind the tailor where I am standing. He tells me the tailor would be here in five minutes. I mouth “aah, okay” but realize he is just playing with me. The tailor is inside the clinic only laughing along with the Sardarji right now. I wait a little more and then plead him to send him out. Our across-the-street talk doesn’t concern him much but it certainly concerned the tailor. A bench is set up along the wall inside the clinic right in front of the door. Since the clinic a little ahead in front of Pakshi’s shop, I only see a hand holding a cup of tea, the rest is a man sitting on that bench and hidden from me because of the angle. This hand is the tailor who hurriedly puts down his cup and shoos away Sardarji and asks me what I need. He repairs the chain quickly to get back to his warm cup of tea and hot friends in the cold weather. He is unsuccessful because he is popular and a scooty comes after me asking him to alter the length of a pajama. I turn my back, hoping he gets to have the tea while it is still hot.

I got back to the bank and sat there to read ‘Dark Matter’ by Juli Zeh (translated from German to English) since there were still a good fifteen minutes to go before the half an hour lunch ended. My sister was still busy in the invisible corner. She was a little baffled because her laziness has ensured she hadn’t really entered a bank before; I used to be the labour of the house when it came to encash cheques every month. Thankfully bank started rejecting cheques from me because signatures of my mother on cheque didn’t match their database. When it happened a couple of times, I stopped going altogether. But all those days have ensured that I know how the bank nearest and most intimate to our lives works. But not my sister. She was looking helter-skelter as to where she should go next. When she came back to me, she was all: “Shall I ask this woman?” “That gentleman indeed!” I wanted to laugh a little at her desperate manner but I let her be because she is capable to manage herself, she hates being dictated and I wanted to read. Bank people took an extra 10 minutes but I was not complaining. Except for maybe the fact that a child behind me was kicking at my bench from behind. At last they came. I went to the round lady at the tail of a long queue of people wanting to update their passbooks. Thank God it is a trivial task. In no time I was in the front. She wrote a small number (919) on the upper right corner but left my rest of the form unscathed. I had to go back to the initial friendly banker lady. Shifting six inches to my right I was in front of her. She looked at my form and kept it with her. Was that it? Yes, she said. “Hurrah!” I think and “Yay!” I mouth silently. But no tap dance. My sister was still in a corner, another corner this time. She was standing with a cheque with her own banker lady who was behaving weirdly. She was looking at the screen, jumping up and down. Was there something horrible on the screen? Blood, gory or numbers? She looked at us people outside, then looked at the screen. Looked at the money at her side, then looked at her screen. I am used to bank personnel who sit like stones. I expected her to too, but she couldn’t sit down properly like there was a needle under her. It looked like a restless child was sitting in front of elders who is afraid they would know she had done something very bad. It is very much possible something had went wrong but she didn’t want us to know. Flashes of various face expressions on her made me smile. Schadenfreude. I asked my sister what her deal was, but she hushed me and I had to suppress my smile to seem innocent when she looked up to see us. At long last, she gave my sister a hundred rupees. A cheque of hundred rupees! They had told her that it is what she needs to reactivate her account but it still felt odd for a single note passing hands. My sister later told me that the banker was merely eager to give me a single hundred rupees note after handling requests for thousands of rupees every time. This time computer proved slower than her in extracting the required amount; maybe she just wasn’t used to it.

So I bid my sister goodbye and was on my way to Max Mueller Library in CP. It was the last day and one book was already due for three weeks now. At bus stop, I was lucky to find 85. It is a direct bus to CP and a rare one at that. Seats were lying vacant in the back. Perching in te last very last row in the corner-most seat, I opened my novel and drowned in it. When it got a little uncomfortable with the heavy bag, I turned a little to also occupy the next vacant seat. Nobody tried to claim it for most of the way and thus left me alone in my sideways pose deep in the book. When an uncle came to sit there (is he a policeman? the jacket and trousers both are khaki), it was Karol Bagh already. The novel is a page-turner indeed. So I shifted aside to the corner and continued. In a little time, CP came too. I de-boarded at Barakhamba Road.

The breeze was a lifesaver. It was so hot in the bus that I put back the muffler in the bag despite the fact that the pink sweater that I wore beneath the t-shirt would show at the neck. The sweater is handmade and very warm. Why did I have to wear it today? As soon as the light wind hit me in the face, I felt good after a long time. I opened the chain of the jacket. It felt even better. Me against the wind. Probability of the sweater peeking through shot up. But I was comfortable and wished the weather to remain the same. After a pleasant 10 minute walk to Max Mueller Bhawan on Kasturba Gandhi Road, I finally was there. It felt so troublesome to travel for 2 hours just to return books and pick new ones, taking 15 minutes at most. The bag was unusually inflated which I deposit at the gate, enter my name in the register and get the key for it (not in the same order). I panicked a little when I saw at the door of the library a sign that said “Closed on Sunday, Monday and holidays” but then my third hand slapped me lightly on my head when I realized it was Thursday yesterday. The other two hands were busy holding the 2 CDs and 4 books, barely balanced against my chest. I pushed the door open with relief.

There is the beautiful library flooded with yellow lighting. A whole wall of the library is made of glass giving a good view of outside. The natural sunlight and yellow bulbs mix harmoniously; I like it here. Clean and barebones. Barebones library seems like an oxymoron who are familiar with them. A library is supposed to be choke full of books with walls and shelves and wall-like shelves, all stacked with books. The library seems itself very old, as old as the books itself. You can witness some new paint or new furniture here and there, but still it gives an aura of a past long gone. The books are bound with the same colour and ordered meticulously. Not here. Everything is 21st century: the librarian’s counter, the large sitting area with white tables and ultra-comfortable chairs which seem to take the weight off you the instant you sit on them. The selection of books are thin; I expected German literature at its best but it was a shock so big that a disappointment settled inside me the first time I entered it. I am thankful that I don’t know enough German because even a book of 20 pages cannot be read by me without the help of dictionary. So whatever books there are, are beyond me. It gives me confidence that given enough time, I will outgrow them all. Not a good feeling in a library, but at a beginner’s stage it is more than enough for me.

At the desk, there was a different librarian than I am familiar with. I was told that I didn’t accompany a book with me. And it couldn’t be extended. Something had told me I had lent 7 items in all, not six. So, I would incur another fine. Oh noes. I returned four of them, extended the deadline for the other two, and went at the back for more. I always randomly pick books, based on intuition and how well can I read the introduction at the back. So I took out a book the instant I enter fiction area. Picked another book on Kant on my way to children’s section. I picked this book from the trolley where the librarian keeps books while putting them back. She was just the one I am familiar with and whom I quite like. I smiled at her but she seemed to ignore me. Heartburn. I put on my formal mask and asked her if I can take the book. She said okay and I went to children’s section finally. I was on a rampage of the section when she came here to put the last few books she needs to stack. I ignored her. It feels odd to have somebody else in the same area in a library. She seems a friendly sort generally but right now a foul mood radiated her face. Her lips were pursed and she kept on doing what she is best at, managing the library. I found a book that looked good enough and returned to the desk where the other lady was. When I asked her about Hans Christian Andersen (“Hans Christian Anderian. Or, Christian Anderian Hans. Hans Christian… Christian Hans… I am not sure about the order of the word. Do you have him with you?”) Yes, there was one book. I left all the five books at the counter and followed her hurriedly. She checked the relevant section but couldn’t find any. She seemed like a computer gone awry. Her sure hands didn’t remain sure when the exact gap where the book should have been wasn’t there. Not to her left. Nor to the right. She searched through three shelves in the neighbourhood but the book just wasn’t there. She asked me to volunteer in the task. I, of course, was already. She resumed her search for the book. I took a pity at her and told her it was okay, I would get it the next time. Maybe she was waiting for it, that’s why she got up at once and went back to her desk, me following her again. I took the remaining books and bid her goodbye.

My way home was just as comfortable. Buses seemed to wait on me personally. I boarded the 450 just outside the library saving me the 10 minute walk to Shivaji Stadium. There I saw 990 ready to depart. It took me to Britannia. The next coming bus was 85. Aha! If I am not whistling, I don’t know who is. Even better, every bus had a vacant seat in it for me. Even when I gave my seat to a middle-aged woman and stood up, another one got empty just where I was standing. God just wanted me to sit and enjoy the book I was immersed in. The only problem was that my bag seemed to be bursting at its seam; some of it literally came off. It was wider than me, and thicker than me. People jostled past it uncomfortably and I would have seemed like a terrorist with the big, black bag of bomb. Thank God, I repaired my other one in time.

So, I came back, talked with my sister, till it was 1905 hours. I asked my sister if I should sleep. She encouraged me to be awake but I ignored her and asked her to wake me up at 0000 hours. I have an alarm set up for that time, every day. When it rang in my sleep, I turned it off and went back to sleep. I remember as much. The next time I woke up, it was 0700 hours already. I slept for 12 straight hours! I had taken the day off to study for exams but I didn’t do it for a second. Guilty. I opened my laptop anyway. No notifications on WordPress. No important notifications on Facebook. Waded through the entire timeline of a friend to gather the number of her statuses. 3 in total. Commented about it. Went to stackoverflow. A question about inheritance in C++ that I can obviously answer. Took half an hour to answer it or maybe more. Comments have already been commented, answers have been answered and one of them has been chosen as the correct one. All my effort, down the drain.

I suddenly felt the urge to document my life. “It would take just five minutes.” Here I am sitting after about 5 hours with the end finally in sight. I am so exhausted that I don’t even want to change the description above that says this would be a short post. It is over 4500 words already! I would just pass everything through a spelling check. And be done with it. I promise though that the other posts documenting my life would really take less (much, much less) than this. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have a life remaining at all to write about. This is just a monstrosity. *Shake my head*

†Sardarji is a fond name for any Sikh person. Typically, they are brave, bold, happy-go-lucky people. The man has a customary turban on his head; it defines their religion along with the other 4 Ks: Kangha (comb), Kada (metal bracelet), Kachera (cotton undergarments) and Kripan (strapped curved sword). Turban is the fifth one which wraps the long Kesh (hair – uncut). Here is a general Sardarji:

A comic of Sardarji beaming with eyes closed
He is just the Sardarji that I imagine when I talk about one

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