The Unadorned

My literary blog to keep track of my creative mood swings with poems n short stories, book reviews n humorous prose, travelogues n photography, reflections n translations, both in English n Hindi.

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I'm a peace-loving married Indian male on the right side of '50 with college-going children, and presently employed under government. Educationally I've a master's degree in History, and another in Computer Application. Besides, I've a post graduate diploma in Management. My published works are:- (1)"In Harness", ISBN 81-8157-183-5, a poetry collections and (2) "The Remix of Orchid", ISBN 978-81-7525-729-0, a short story collections with a foreword by Mr. Ruskin Bond, (3) "Virasat", ISBN 978-81-7525-982-9, again a short story collection but in Hindi, (4) "Ek Saal Baad," ISBN 978-81-906496-8-1, my second Story Collection in Hindi.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Connaught Place: Whither the Cycle Begins? Part-IV

There were more to see and gather, all for knowledge’s sake.
I found the open-air bhujiyawalas of good old days still not out of business. The pushcarts selling refrigerated water in Delhi could be pushed out of business by the ubiquitous presence of bottled water but not these ancient bhujiyawalas of Connaught Place. And I concluded: if they had been able to withstand the onslaught of the first wave of liberalization, they would survive many more years alongside Starbuck and McDonald. So far so good!
Relish the Taste Eternal
And I saw the fruit vendors selling their super polished pomegranates and stuff. Felt like asking one of them as to the provenance of his fruits. ‘From Kabul,’ came the prompt reply. ‘Kabul? From that far?’ I wondered. ‘If apples could come from the US why not pomegranates from Kabul?’ quipped the vendor. That is the level of knowledge everybody at Connaught Place possesses, including the wayside fruit seller. The fruit vendor was selling not only the fruit to enjoy; he had the entire geography on the tip of his tongue. Connaught Place—a visit is a must for one’s knowledgebase.

Knowing Before Showing
And more than the knowledge there was a tone of protest in what he said. I understood it readily, for while going round the neighbourhood of where I stay during my sojourn, I had seen many posters of protest against the threat of complete liberalization. That’s why the fellow was so particular in taking the name of apples from the US. As if he remembered the days of PL-480, the days of India’s dependence on imported wheat. Wall Mart would take away their source of income from the street corner selling of fruits—that was the fear working behind his so emphatic words.
Don't Disturb, I'm Asleep!

At Connaught Circus it was a workaday world but then that was not all about it. For me knowledge was the byproduct, and fun was also to be a spin-off too. In fact there was a lot of it, not necessarily in the shape of the sponsored shows. Look, how the shoes are rotating as if inside a griller! Look at the happy dog and his antics. And look at the men at work: they were to rhyme their efforts. Yeah, it’s musical coordination of muscles. Why no musician or the lyricist, for that matter, taking idea from these workers to create a hit song? I mused. They were setting the cables right, the cable that took the image of my Costa Coffee to my kids staying thousands of kilometers away from me and elicited their sweet responses: Aaahahaaaaa!!!! Poor daddy!
What's There in a Good Book?
And there was a bookstore again—Oxford Bookstore. And I had to go upstairs for browsing and if something appealed for purchasing too. Impulsive purchase? Oh no, I should be kind to me, for all the footwork and a series of sustained self-denial. And what was inside the upstairs? Oh, it was not a bookstore alone; it was with a restaurant—well laid-out and reasonably frequented. I inquired if the shop had a copy of the illustrated dictionary jointly published by Oxford and DK, and ‘no’ came the reply. ‘How come the official outlet of Oxford University Press doesn’t keep a copy of its own publication whereas books published by other publishers were available here?’ I enquired. And a surprising reply was in store for me. The shop was Oxford Bookstore that had nothing to do with Oxford University Press. And the place I was looking for would be, as the shop fellow told, at Daryaganj.
At a Book Nook

Anyway, this time I rewarded myself. The title I purchased was Ruskin Bond—the Mussoorie Years by Ganesh Saili. It is a coffee table book of sorts, amply illustrated and interestingly annotated. It is a fascinating one as I found going through the content of its initial few pages and now on a book on my favourite author Ruskin Bond is going to get a pride of place on my bookshelf. Had I purchased the copy of Geetanjali from that English Book Store I would have supplied two great things both to myself and my shelf.
It was fifteen minutes past two in the afternoon and time I took my lunch. I was in half a mind to sit in the restaurant of Oxford Bookstore but thought better of it. Let me explore another place—and that was the mood. Then the restaurant I entered was one Ardor by name. Sometimes second thoughts are not the better thoughts—I realized it to my horror as I found paneer butter masala garishly yellow and missi roti even more yellow than that. No amount of turmeric powder would make the stuff so yellow! And the culinary secret might be found in some chemical colours—and who could deny that? But it was too late. And I continued to munch the stuff. The service fellow asked me for a feedback and I did not mince a word while saying as I felt. There was a book with me, the one on Ruskin Bond that I had bought a little while ago, and that helped me to concentrate on something really interesting rather than griping about the deplorable food. But look at the temerity! I was presented a card to record my feedback!
There was another moment of self-discovery awaiting me. That I have an instinct of a ticket collector in finding the ticketless travellers was not known to me. The waiter brought the change due after the bill was settled. And it was twenty rupees short! At a glance I knew that there was the mischief. I don’t usually count the change, primarily because I assume that this is an honest world and also owing to the fact that while paying I regulate the amount so that very little change is returned. Counting change amounting to more than hundred is tedious and less than hundred is not necessary, for nobody in this age of inflation would shortchange that small amount. There is yet another reason: If change comes in the shape of coins, I need to wear my specs to see and distinguish between coins of five rupees and those of ten and, more particularly, between those of ones and twos, since all of them now look alike…and weigh alike. But despite my inability of and disinclination to counting changes, I knew that I was being shortchanged just at a glance. Was it an honest mistake on the part of the cashier? I’m not bothered if it was really so; nonetheless it was a vindication of my instinct—a ticket collector’s instinct. As far as I know instinct really helps those who cannot help themselves. Very much like God helps those who help themselves!   
And now was the time to return. There came a light drizzle but I had the umbrella to assure me. Strangely, very few people in Delhi carry umbrella. There must be some reason behind this. One day I have to make my research as to why people here choose such a hand-free status, even in the monsoon. And then I opened my umbrella as I walked. Sometimes umbrellas frighten clouds to behave and now the weak-willed clouds of Delhi firmament sheepishly withdrew their threat. On my way back I saw a brave person enjoying his siesta—somebody was sleeping on the footpath in front of NDMC building unmindful of the fact that a rain had come in the meanwhile but got frightened after seeing my umbrella. Anyway he deserved the best. Only the brave ones enjoy their beauty sleep. 
I remembered about the key; it was time I made it sure that it was not lost. And I probed my trouser pocket. Oh no, I had forgotten something. I was to get a set of buttons for my blazer and it was the real purpose of my visiting the place, Connaught Place. All these ramblings about updating my knowledge or waging a mini war against my obsolescence were nothing—I had just been tricked into the feared domain of forgetfulness. And now I had reached where I started. Should I go back to Connaught Place for my real job? Next time: I would visit the place for a set of buttons and a few nuggets of new knowledge.
A N Nanda

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