This is a special post from a dear dear friend Manu Shrivastava, an engineer, a brilliant musician, artist, dog lover, vegan activist, and a pure soul.
This post is what this page is all about – the uniqueness of the everyday life , which he captured oh-so-beautifully.
It is close to midnight and streets are mostly deserted apart from the solitary young couple which is underdressed for the sudden cold wave in the outskirts of Amsterdam. The temperature dropped from 11 degree to 2 degree within a couple of days. They say it is the hottest November since 1902 (that is when they started recording meteorological data). Well, for a guy who has spent most of his time in severely hot places in India and in Phoenix, USA this feels REALLY cold, especially when the 54 kmph wind slaps you on your face and passes ‘through’ you as if you were non-existent.
I, no longer listen to music while walking. I enjoy the silence or the ambient sounds of leaves rustling or train honking. I watch the play of light on the water puddle, the shadows jumping up and down, turning shorter and longer as cars go by, the moon occasionally showing up from behind the clouds and bare autumn tree branches and suddenly making up the gloomy scene to a romantic set. The girl is constantly trying to fit inside the guy’s overcoat and it is heartwarming to see them laugh. The couple and I exchange a silent smile as our courses changed. After a ten minutes walk from the station, I am inside my apartment. It is like stepping into a different country altogether what with the excellent heating of the place. As I remove my jacket and thermals I am suddenly drifted off to distant past. It had no rhyme or reason yet the end of the thought chain compelled me to pen it down.
2002 seems a long time ago, a past life. It was a chilly December, a different country and city. There was nothing unusual about that night in Delhi; bone chilling winds and 1 degree temperature. I was a college kid living in the hostel of Delhi College of Engineering. Since it was Friday most “hostellers” from in and around Delhi went home for the weekend; and the mess was closed for dinner. I had no option but to be satisfied with a lone cucumber my wallet could buy. Maybe it made me a hero in my eyes but I was wearing just a sweater. Maybe the reason was I had nothing more to wear. I had self inflicted self-respect not to request for any extra money from my parents. For the kick of it I switched to shorts instead a pair of denims and flittered from one hostel to the other shivering in the foggy night. I guess I was searching if someone was awake and had anything that they had stored. I don’t remember if I got something more to eat.
Around midnight I went back to my room. I had a decent one which only needed a few paper patches regularly to cover the broken glasses on the windows. Delhi Times provided good ‘thought’ material on those spots if you know what I mean. Apart from that they were practically useless in that severe cold. One could hear wind whistle through the gaps and make the room a freezing hell. The cooking stove would provide respite to a close diameter of a foot, for 5 minutes before it would burn away. Routine was to wait for it to cool-down and then rejoin the coil. Again respite for 5 minutes – burn out – cool it – rejoin – repeat, till the tiredness of the body and mind overpowered the need for heating. “Hum jo chalen to tum bhi chalo saath*”, Silkroute played on my PC while I drifted off to sleep, bundled up in my Rajasthani quilt mom got me when I moved to Delhi. Mornings would mean hot milk and some sun time. The day would look up again.This was a usual day of every winter of every year of my college.
I was not a special kid. I was probably there at the right place and right time to get a good home, good education, a good job. I am lucky that my parents could instil good values in me (a lot of them lost or modified into new ones by now, sorry mom and dad). Today as I stand on the 12th floor of my apartment in the outskirts of Amsterdam sitting in my shorts and a tee at 21 degrees inside while it is 1 degree outside and look outside the window I cannot help but remember the 20 year old frail me, 13 years back, trying to get warm in his room. I cannot say when was I happier, then or now. Yet I cannot deny the blessings and what I have received all these years. Thank you.
*As I commence my journey why don’t you walk with me.