Streets of Secunderabad 

Low lying houses with large airy verandahs, behind low iron gates. A burst of bougainvillea against the whitewashed walls, spilling. The colour of crushed Indian  rose. The colour of blood mixed in gold. In tufts, in bunches, in surprises. The yards lie swept, resting under the shade of Gulmohar trees. The trees are in full bloom.  Against the overcast sky of the city, the warm red petals seem to house the sun in their tendril like veins. Now and then, a breeze rustles the calm and sends a few red petals flying into the wind, to fall lightly in the swept yards, beginning the day’s decay. 

” Look!!!”, I said, pointing out of the car’s window. 

He looks out and without turning back to face me, asks what I was pointing at. 

” That. Looks good” I say, pointing at the rows and rows of trees and vines bursting with blossoms against the monsoon sky, as if to asset summer one last time. 

” I used to live here” , he says and his face takes on an expression between the happiness of revisiting old homes and the pain of knowing it’s only a visit. 

We reach our destination. We were meeting my friends for coffee and breakfast and we were the first to arrive. I look up to see the   cozy place tucked into an old house. It looked inviting. I take a step in that direction when he stops me.

” Take a walk with me” , he says, pointing to the other direction. 

” why? “, I ask. 

” Look”, he says. 

I see a wide Secunderabad street, lonely and lovely, running brown and quiet, it was perfect to walk on it’s banks. We walk, in the shade of bougainvillea, Gulmohar trees, and the dark clouds that promised an evening rain. 

The ashes from his cigarette fall crumbling onto the piles of leaves raked in, to the sides of the street. One cigarette later, we climbed the stairs to the coffee place, picking the seat farthest from the morning crowd, beside a window that overlooked the street. We didn’t look out of the window.     Time just ripened to a comfortable lull from there on, with a game of cards and three sandwiches thrown in the mix. 

Dissenters, dissenting

Hyderabad feels like the inside of an old, damp house now. These monsoons behave like my father. Unyielding, they rain on, and I blink at the rain, giving it the same treatment I give my father, The silent treatment. Both do not care.In this glorious weather, there is a discussion about ‘ Democrats & Dissenters’ By Ramchandra Guha. I tap the screen. I was “Going” to the event now. Facebook showed thunderstorms in the weather forecast for the day in the event timings. I blinked twice at the screen. Silent Treatment.

At Vidyaranya Highschool.

I am now at the venue, with Anoora. I am surprised to find Ramchandra Guha, in front of building. I imagined at least a 100 feet distance between me and him, conditioned as I am, by the VIP culture.He was drinking chai, signing books and making polite conservations. He looked taller in real life and infinitely more charismatic.

We went in. Rows of biscuit colored plastic chairs, an eerie yellow light and scary big windows caught my fancy. I will like this show . A few people already were seated. We took our pick of the seats, aisle and view considered and Anoora selfishly picked the better one out of the two. The hall filled out slowly and Guha walked in.

I was spoilt by Jigi to not go into something with expectations. Now, it is so strong, I don’t even watch trailers before entering into the cinema hall. Though the man speaking in front of me was an intellectual through and through, I sat expecting nothing. I didn’t love the man and I wasn’t planning on falling in love this awful monsoon season. But by the end of it, I left the hall a little infatuated and a lot more annoyed at being that. 

He started his speech with quotes about India, which drew cheers from the audience at all the wrong places. I disagreed with all of it, except for the parts where the essence was to consider places as thinking muses.

In the speech that followed, his love for sociology as a tool to explain and understand society was very apparent. His book was a collection of essays and he broke it down essay by essay, carefully avoiding any and all spoilers. But, discussion at times trumped strategy and he had to divulge the why and what of it. 

One such lovely instance was when he spoke of a topic closest to my being, The lack of conservative intellectuals in India, now. That was when, I loosened up and starting nodding to his arguments. I found a stream of thought where I was as passionate as he was and there is no better audience than a passionate one, who has no idea about the mechanics of the topic. I was that. I was the raving lunatic. I was the perfect listener for as long as he spoke of conservative itellectualism. 

 The speaker too was very passionate and passion, gets one thirsty. The man drank a lot of water, and he did it so gracefully, one would think he planned it to happen, at that pause in the speech, in that fashion, and only so many times. Was the fruit print paper cup also planned? I hope not, it was a terrible looking cup.

 I admired the nonchalance with which he addressed the public, which was a healthy mix of self awareness and arrogance, but, what he spoke of, made so much sense, was such a ride, you would forgive him for not being the humblest guy on the Earth.

 

His speech ended and now, there was a Q and A session with an editor of a publication whose name I do not recollect. It was a very lackluster session and the questioner was putting a damp blanket on the atmosphere. I do not like humidity. I endured one, looked at Anoora, we both agreed to leave. Still, we waited for one more question. Nope, the questioner just wasn’t brilliant enough to exploit the best out of Guha there. We decided and made a soundless exit out of the hall.

 

It was raining. We sit in the car, and the most terrifying sound, wakes me up. The car beside us got a little ouchie as we pulled out of the parking. We do a ritual of “ What can we do” elaborately in front of the driver, in the safety of the car, and leave a distressed driver behind us, who was crafting stories to tell his “Memsaab” about the scratch on the front bumper of the car. Your cat did it memsaab, yes memsaab, you do have a cat.