I think it was in Gulmohar where I had read a Tom Sawyer story for the first time. Gulmohar was the English literature book my school had. St. Karen’s. All the way from class four to eight.
Today is a sunny lazy Saturday. When I think about sunny lazy Saturdays I think about that Tom Sawyer story. How he was asked (or rather commanded) by his aunt to paint some fence around her house. And how fucked up Tom felt about it – about getting his sunny lazy Saturday screwed up you know. So he tried luring some of his dumb friends to do the painting shit on his behalf, by offering them sweeteners such as a chance to have a look at this sore toe.
Ah, so this is what consulting does to you? It makes you use words like ‘sweeteners’ like these were every day words? Holy shit I say! I mean really, I hardly write or speak like an asshole these days. Always acting smart and serious and predictable. Yes, even on Saturdays and Sundays. Welcome to my life. No aunt around to screw up my Saturday, no fence around to be painted anyway, and definitely no sore toe. What’s around me are sets of things that combined together form the disorganized room where I am seated.
I am at Subbu’s place. This is Mumbai in late October. To my right is a single bed with two bare, thin and cheap cushions laid flat over the bed surface. Two more cushions, equally thin and cheap, cylindrically-folded, lye over the flat ones. An unfolded, unwashed, faded black jeans rests over the folded cushions. A clutter of old newspapers spread over the rest of the bed, pages flipping under the fan. ‘Knorr Soups with 100% Real Vegetables’ – reads a front page, second quadrant advert. And I am staring at all of these sitting on this extremely skin-unfriendly, ugly-light-brown coloured synthetic sofa that if I guess correctly, belongs to Bullu uncle. But has been claimed (and molested) by Subbu ever since Bullu uncle left for Canada. More than an year ago. And no, I didn’t get to meet him when I went to Canada myself last year. Because Canada is a friggin huge country. And mostly population less. Because life is long. And mostly pointless.
Sharing the sofa with me are a steel bowl with few milliliters of milk (that few hours ago also held chocolate corn-flakes, the most disgusting breakfast one can ever have), a ‘Big TV’ remote control, two shiny sealed yellow packets of Maggi noodles, a Physics booklet from a 2002 edition of FIITJEE’s Rankers Study Material and yet another remote control – this one for controlling the fucked up AC of this room. When you switch on the AC, it stops cooling every few seconds. It starts shouting instead – blurting a noise that reminds you of the background score played by the old age cathode ray tube based TV sets, when signals went off and all that the screen had to display were a zillion black and white zinging dots. I am busy when I am working. I am busy when I am making love. And then sometimes, the signal goes off. The mind goes blank. Only a zillion black and white zinging dots. Sorry for the interruption. Rukawat ke liye khed hai.
My single room rented apartment, located a few kilometers towards the south of the city, can never ever look this disorganized. This cluttered. I live with MRP and she cannot stand things lying here and there you know. She went home for Diwali and she hasn’t returned. Since she went home and I had holidays and no work, I thought let me spend some time with Subbu. I hardly get to do that. Even when both of us live in Mumbai. The irony is, papa and mummy believe that Subbu and I live together. Obviously! I mean who would ever try explaining it to them that live-in relationships are ‘okay’? Some cultural differences be better left unbridged. That’s a personal opinion anyway.
Subbu and I went for a three day gliding course. If you ask Subbu, he would say it was a six hours course spread over three days. Which is actually true. As long as you count only the effective time spent handling the glider that is.
The place was Fly Nirvana in a village near Kamshet (about 30 Km from Lonavala station which Subbu and I covered in an auto). There was a beautiful silent peaceful lake just before the Fly Nirvana guesthouse. We were the only men on the first day of the course. We had four women for company. And just like us, they had come in pairs.
The first pair comprised of a slightly overweight chatter-box and her light-weight small marathi girl friend. The second pair comprised of two young advocates. Had I been single, I could have tried flirting with one of the advocates. I wouldn’t say relationship has changed me or anything. Good looking girls still attract me. I do imagine things at times. And there is always this fantasy of having crazy passionate one night stands with random strange chicks. But yes, there is an intuitive check for sure. There is this feeling that I am pass that stage. That I cannot afford to upset MRP by doing anything silly. It has worked so far.
On day one, we put on our harnesses, hooked up our gliders to the harness and ran on flat terrain. No flying. It was the day of learning how to lead the canopy to hurl over our heads as we ran and then how to apply the brakes and bring down the flapping canopy as we stopped. ‘Turn around. Pull both brakes. Kill the canopy.’
There were a large number of unfinished buildings in that otherwise houseless, humanless flat land. ‘What are these buildings?’ I asked one of the instructors. ‘Ashram’, he said. ‘They look abandoned’, I remarked. I was explained – ‘the construction had begun 15 years ago. And then the guy who was developing this Ashram died.’ ‘How did he die?’ ‘He was flying a two-seater plane close to the lake. The lake near our guest-house. Taking pictures and stuff. And then the plane crashed. And he died.’
‘Is the aircraft still lying inside the lake?’
‘No, no. They took that out’.
On day two, we repeated the stuff that we did on day one, except that this time the ground had a gradual slope. ‘Running would be easy today’, told the instructor, ‘focus on balancing the canopy when it goes up. That’s more important.’ What we did was called bunny hopping. As you ran with the glider over the slope and the canopy swung over your head and hurled, your feet would leave the ground once in a while. Like for few seconds. Gliding in the air. And then thumph. Back to the ground. And then some more running downhill. And legs would go up again. And then back again. And up. And back. Running and hopping. Like a rabbit.
The third day was the day of real gliding. From over 100-150 ft above ground, hands pulling the risers attached to the canopy, we ran towards a hill’s edge. The glider furled open. Risers were released. We ran for few seconds. And up we were. Gliding. Floating in the air. ‘Turn to you left’, the instructor asked over the radio. The right brake was pulled down gently. ‘Pull some more’. The right brake was pulled some more. ‘This is fine, keep both hands up. Keep coming. Keep coming.’ It was pretty neat I must tell ya. Gliding in the air. So much above the ground. Enough to break every bone of your body if you fell down at regular ‘g’. Except that nobody fell down.
‘Now turn to your right. Some more right. Some more. Good. Good. Keep coming straight.’ When you were about 10 – 15 ft above the ground, you were supposed to pull both the brakes equally. And hold the brakes there. The feet would then touch the ground. And then you turn – stretch both your hands backwards, pulling the brakes even further. And there you go. You have killed the canopy. Time to coil the lines once again. And seeing the canopy take the shape of a mushroom. So that you can carry it back to the top of the hill. So that you can jump off one more. And fly. Again and again. Except that we could do it only four times. The lawyers did even less – three. And yet, what mattered was that we did it. We flew on our own. In the air. Like birds. And we didn’t shit over anyone.