Thursday, April 02, 2009


The movie Red Cliff is in Chinese.

Please check if your theater is showing English subtitles.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


It's 7:30 and the weather is cool and balmy and with that smell that says darkness is nigh. Unfortunately, I am stuck in my office, working on some deliverables for the next day.

I remember my college weekend nights - many of them would be spent outside, on one of the many lawns scattered throughout the campus with friends, talking about stuff I don't even remember now. In the summers, we would pray for a breeze, and then, sometimes our prayers would be answered, and a light whiff of dust and flower scented gentle wind would flow - it'd seep through our sweat-drenched shirts and trousers and fill it with coolness and life and we would all shut up and just savour it.

I remember the nights spent at home - I think I spent most of them in the company of a book. I would start at 9:30 and go on till 11. I look at that image - me, curled up in my rajai and reading and smile.

Life is never idyllic - I might probably look back at this time now and say - it used to be great and how I had many friends, and travelled a lot, had the time to write a blog and ate so much :) - but the point is not that.

What I am trying to say is that all the hard-work and midnight oil burnt is more to minimise the sadness in one's life, than provide it happiness. It is important to know that the things that really give us pleasure come fleetingly, unasked for and go away as quickly.

So, we need to always have that space in our minds, and that ability to relax and enjoy when they come.

So, even though I have to work this evening - next Friday evening is going will be better. I'll go with some friends to the neighborhood park, take some good wine and (hopefully) watch the sun rise. That's a plan.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Tipping Point

Reporter - How do you feel about the manner in which your paper has been received?

JB - Well, to tell you the truth, I am a bit surprised by the rather extreme reactions it has generated. And I think the most popular interpretation of the paper - and I hope you understand what I mean - has been a tad surprising. My conclusion has been restricted to saying that there is an inverse correlation of the GDP growth of a country and the inversion of the population pyramid. And I have restricted this study to a period of the last 20 years - which I have made pains to explain - can not be extrapolated as a general trend.

Reporter - But you must have had some idea of how it would be seen particularly by the Youth parties, right?

JB - Well, what can I say? I didn't even know about these parties at all - I just came to know about them last month when they invited me to speak at their gathering.

Reporter - And did you go?

JB - No, of course, not. I am not an ageist.

Reporter - But doesn't the main message your paper give consistent with their philosophy

JB - Please let me make this clear - it was an academic study to see the variation in the growth rate and how it can be attributed to the population growth rate of a country. It has taken me and my team two years to come up with this and there are several useful conclusions to it. Examples of how countries who have structured their pension plans better, have increased their retirement ages have done better. And there are several recommendations that can help a country shape its policies.

Reporter - But you do know that they are using your paper and your image to promote their messages.

JB - Yes, and let me use this opportunity to categorically say that I strongly condemn their philosophy, their messages and their hate campaign. My father is 70 years old, alive and kicking and in my view, a very important and useful member of the society.

Reporter - I am sorry to keep coming back to this. But, their interpretation, as far fetched as it is, doesn't it have a kernel of truth, a logical connection to what you have written.

JB - Please. I don't want to talk about this any further. I would be really happy if you could restrict your questions to academic matters. Politics has never been of any interest to me, and I have no relation or connection to these murderers masquerading as a political party. I am sorry, but this interview is at an end.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Her Story

(A different narrative - part of the Retirement Plan)

I married very late. Growing up, I was fairly shy with girls and somehow nobody really took my fancy for longer than a while. I didn't really know what I was looking for, and after a while I gave up trying.

It'd be inaccurate to say I fell in love with her the first time we met. But yes the glance did linger. I had gone to give a lecture at the university she was teaching in. We had exchanged mails when she invited me - and I had accepted. The lecture didn't go very well, I was distracted. For some reason, I kept wanting to look on my side where she was sitting - more out of curiosity, to tell the truth. And yes, I did notice that she didn't have a ring.

We went out for dinner that night - I was nervous and earnest. But the conversation was easy and she smiled a lot. A week later, I kissed her. At 40, I fell in love for the first time.

For 20 years, I kissed her lips and smiled at everyone. Those were the best years of my life. Most of all, what stay with me are the Sunday afternoons. The afternoon sun would keep the room bright and warm, and I would sit in my armchair reading. She would always sit across to me, correcting her papers. From time to time, we would look up at each other and smile. That's the memory I want to die with.

She wanted to live with me. As the clock ticked and she clung on to me, I came to realise what she couldn't do, and what I had to do to her. Did I flinch? Not perceptibly, but I would have gladly destroyed half the world than push the needle into her.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Coming of age

The group of Indian friends that I have here are all older than me. I am 24 and they are all between 25 and 29. A few things are common between all of them - well-educated, good jobs, all pretty successful in the conventional sense, and yes, all single and desperate to get married.

A lot of our conversations focus around marriage. I sit quietly, uncomfortable.

A few days ago, I received a weird mail - a girl had accidentally mailed the marriage bio-data of her sister to my address. I forwarded it to some friends for a few laughs. I was scared for a bit - it could be real one day, and not so far in the future. But I didn't fret too much about it. It'll happen and I'll take it as it comes.

I feel so much older these days. Last night, I and a friend had planned to go on a pub-crawl. I went to his place - we had dinner, and at 9:15, we looked at each other and decided to call it day. We had a couple of beers at the apartment, talked and then went to sleep.

When I was 21, I had a lot of time, but didn't have the money to go to fancy places. Now I just get tired so easily. I don't think there was ever a good balance between these two things.

I have also gotten very quiet. I fly into fewer rages, and yes, am less passionate about more things. It's just very sedate these days.

Don't know whether this is just a passing phase or a final maturing. I still hope to fall madly in love, and find the passion of my life, and do something that leaves a permanent legacy.

The only thing is, I would be fine even if these things didn't happen.

Monday, March 09, 2009

French Watchmen

The world will look up and shout, "Save us", and we'll whisper,"No. We don't work on weekends, alternate Wednesdays, before 10 and beyond 5, all bank holidays and 1 month of skiing vacation"

Monday, March 02, 2009

Retirement Plan

(Some initial thoughts on a book)

My son was retired yesterday. He didn't resist. They never do. I wish I was like everybody else.

I am used to the attic now. For the first few years I resented it, I even tried to crawl out and move about the house. But S caught me doing it once and thereafter he locked it. Slowly I got used to it. I hardly moved out, I had my books, my movies and my writing to keep me busy.

Self-sufficiency is so under-appreciated. It's so true - before I came upstairs, I had never understood the hikikomori. I thought they were weird, but I get it know. There is so much within each of us. 40 years - I have spent 40 years myself, alone, hidden, with nothing else to think about but myself, and how it all came to this.

Very few people know about this but the "retirement plan" was first talked about in 2010. It came from what was a broader macroeconomic paper looking at different ways of resurrecting the Japanese economy. It concluded that the inverted population pyramid was THE cause of the slowdown, and that they needed a retirement plan that would be economically viable. I was doing my MBA then, and it was a paper I came across then. I remember thinking there was something wrong somewhere but I couldn't put my finger onto it.

I remember many events from those days very vividly, but I still find it difficult to piece together all of it. Not that I had a lot of time to. I was working very hard. Still, I travelled quite a bit and I heard people moving from an academic discussion on the plan to more implementable ways of getting there. They only talked about it with their best friends, and were very discreet about it. But slowly and surely, the idea was gaining ground.

I think the event that took the idea over the hump was the results of the euthanasia trial that occurred in Norway in 2020. Euthanasia had been legalized in 2012, and retrospectively, they had seen applications for for euthanasia jump to as much as 60% for people over 80. The Norwegian government took lots of pains to emphasize the success of their decision, and the positive effect it was having on their economy.

People took notice. And they thought about it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Secure Under-Achiever

One of my favorite books is "The Outsider" by Albert Camus. For me, the most striking part about the book was how self-assured the protagonist was about his limitations - his inability to worry about his mother's death, the nonchalance with which he kills the man at the beach due to his natural instincts, how he calmly accepts the sentence meted out to him et al.

In the real world, we are almost always very affected by some sort of a world-view on our abilities, and the expectations arising from them - everybody is expected to get 90%, 95% and become the CEO of a company (well, not everybody, but, you get the point).

I tend to get very stressed when I under-perform. It is a feeling that invades my entire body and makes me want to bust my head against a wall. This has happened often enough in the past, and as much as I don't want to get stressed, the only way out has been to burn the midnight oil and toil.

However, things are changing.

Today, I had a performance evaluation, and it didn't go well. Several areas of improvement were pointed out to me. Normally, in such a case, I would get very stressed, argue with the evaluator, get in a blue funk - as I have many times before. But today, my response was different. I calmly heard him out, explained my side of the story, and (in my head) accepted that 80 times out of 100, the situation would repeat itself.

Looking back at the last 6 weeks, improving upon how I did would, in my opinion, stretch me to the seams - and as someone who is a fervent believer in the 80:20 law, it's not worth it.

So, I guess what I am trying to say is that I have now come to terms with what I can do, what I can't - keeping into account my happiness and general well-being.

This doesn't mean that my plans for world domination have in anyway lessened. Just that I wouldn't screw my life over it, and probably not chide myself for not getting there.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


There is this tag on Facebook about 25 random things or suchlike. Somebody tagged me recently, and since I had nothing better to do (and only need a chance to talk about myself), I made the list. But it turned out to be very personal, so I have decided to put it up here:

I grew up in a small village called Simra. I have lived in many places since, but there is no feeling like going back there. It's home.

When I was 7, I took some money from my father's wallet to buy some gum. My sisters came to know of it and told my father. I tried to pull a stunt refusing to apologise and threatening to leave the house. My father asked me to leave. I went out, circled the neighbourhood and came back crying. Thus ended my all-too-brief career as a rebel.

Blue is my favourite colour. As far as possible, I only wear light blue shirts and dark blue pants.

I hate making slides - the only part of my job I really hate.

Growing up, I had to go to a school in a town far away and it'd take 2 hours each way in a cramped bus. I used to get headaches almost everyday.

I know the entire Hanuman Chalisa by heart.

I plan to name my son Vardhman, and daughter Varsha. I know this is pretty silly.

I like what are called girlie drinks.

Growing up, there were no kids in my neighbourhood. Since it was such a small place, everybody sent their kids to study in the bigger cities. So, I grew up with books. My school library was pretty small - I think I must have read all the books twice by the time I left the place.

My biology teacher died while in labour, when I was 11. After school, the entire class went to the hospital. I saw the body. I still remember the entire thing very vividly.

Unlike most of my friends, I love South Indian food. It is very difficult for me to convince them to go out to a SI restaurant. It'd very easy for me to fall in love and marry a woman if she can make great sambar and curd rice.

I think I sing very well. If people tell me I don't, it's very difficult for me to like them.

I find it very difficult to work under people whom I don't respect intellectually.

In Class XII, in the hostel, there were three of us - we were nicknamed Cutter, Killer, Jahar. I was Jahar - apparently because my jokes could kill or something stupid like that. It was my first group. We are in three different continents now.

When growing up, there were two teachers who heavily influenced me. There was Pasang sir - my class-teacher in 5 and 6, who encouraged me to read. And Sahib Ali sir, my class teacher in 8, 9 and 10, who got me interested in Science. I owe them a lot. I have no clue where they are

When I came to Delhi to get admission in school, I didn't have my board mark-sheets, and so the school wasn't letting me in. I made an impromptu senti speech to the Principal (replete with tears and a litany of my intellectual accomplishments) and it impressed him, and I was admitted. One incident I am really very proud of.

I was robbed a few weeks back and lost my passport. Currently, I am stateless.

I can't understand maps, I don't have a sense of direction, ergo I get lost easily. That's why I don't drive (I paid 2000 rupees for the license). While travelling, I rely on asking people for directions. It works.

I went skiing a few weeks back - go up 20 minutes, come down 2 minutes. Complete waste of time.

I want to enter politics at a certain stage.

I spent the entire morning and afternoon today watching the entire LOTR series (extended edition). I was blown away when I first saw them, but after today I admire them at a completely different level. There is a lot of depth in the series I hadn't noticed before. (This is not strictly about me but I wanted to say this anyway).

I hated Delhi and Delhiites a lot, until one day I realised I had become one of them.

There are three things my mother tells me to do every time we talk - pray regularly, brush twice a day and drink a lot of water. Somehow, I am not able to do any of these.

Something happened (and it' still too personal to talk about) when I was 15 which turned me off organized religion. I am fairly indifferent to the entire religion thing now, don't even think about it much.

I like to think I am interesting, conflicted, different, insidious - the stuff dark characters are made of. But in my heart of hearts I know I am fairly conventional, boring and nice.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Speech Defect

I have been told on a few occasions that I tend to speak English very fast. In India, it didn't really matter - if someone didn't get me, I would switch to Hindi. Only while giving presentations would I consciously slow down, but that was not very frequent, and so, quite manageable.

Here, compounded by the accent, it became a big problem. So, I had to slow down. Now, I find myself talking (in my opinion) painfully slowly, in a weird, high pitch, emphasis on every syllable, way. It sounds really phony to me, and it really upsets me, thought nobody else seems to mind it.

I don't want to sound phony to myself, I want to be able to speak naturally, not dam the words coming out of my mouth. But I have to speak slowly to make sense to these guys, and every bit of it is painful.

One more reason why I won't settle down here.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

State of Affairs

So, I recently got Ad-Sense installed on the blog. It promised to put ads related to the content on the site.

Excitedly, I visited the site to check out the first ad. My smile faltered as soon as I saw it:

100s Pretty Ladies
They are looking for a Husband Marry a Latin Beauty Queen!

Damn, these Google guys are good.

Friday, January 30, 2009

What is life worth living for?

Listening to "Chandni Raatein" in the middle of the night

Eating banana walnut ice-cream at Big Chill

Watching Monty Python

Slipping under a blanket when it is slightly cold

Going to a half-sleep on a weekend afternoon

Reading Douglas Adams

Talking to a friend after a long time

Saying hello to the cute girl at the sandwich shop every afternoon

Waiting for the weekend to begin...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Political Identity

Over the last four years, and increasingly in the last 6 months, I have spent a lot of time in trying to analyze who I am, where I think I belong, what does everyone else see in me, what am I to myself and the world. A significant part of these thoughts have been around what my political views are. I have always followed Indian and world politics fairly closely, and in wake of the brilliant coverage of the American elections last year, ended up reading a lot of political literature too.

I have a very strong sense of identity. Whatever differentiates me with most others, brings me closer to those of my own kind. Or, to try and put simply, I tend to group myself with people with whom I have a similar differentiation. Where I was born, the colour of my skin, what I studied, my alma mater, my profession, my firm, my hobbies, my caste, my nationality and several other things, with different emphasis over time and location, have defined my identity. When I meet someone, I categorize him/her across several of these labels, and see where they match or come close to. That is how I develop a conversation, a rapport and a friendship.

For instance, when I meet someone who lets say belongs to my region of the world, that is what we bond on. When I meet someone, who has the same interests as I do, that's what we talk about. One implication of this is that most of my friendships are fairly compartmentalized and I don't spend much time celebrating diversity, but that's not the point of the post.

I have always considered myself as a liberal sort of a fellow. What people do in their own time is their own business, and as long as nobody troubles me, I don't give a shit. But this runs into conflict with my earlier sense of identity. What do I do when what I believe is my group, is under a perceived threat? How do I reconcile my tribal bonding need and my liberal value-system?

What do I do, when people of my nation, my religion are under threat for being different. Do I sit on the fence and laugh at the infantile behaviour of the extremists, or do I take cudgels on behalf of my side, even as I know that what I would end up doing would definitely be unpalatable and probably wrong.

And my answer has always been to join the fight on my side and try to win.

Ideally, one would want to know the right or wrong. The problem is, sometimes, things stand so far back in time, one doesn't really know how anything began. But that's not the real reason why I choose to take a stand. I would probably stand by my group even if they were wrong. The reason is my innate need to survive.

I don't like saying this but ethnic cleansing works. We only have to look back at the 1500s and see that in the last 500 years, in almost half the world, one group of men have annihilated another. Both the American natives and Aborigines have been removed from the face of the earth and Africa has been screwed beyond possibility of quick redemption. Yes, men can do bad things to other men, and the earlier we recognize it, the better. Some would call it paranoia but who is to say it can't happen again.

In everyday life, we are used to being safe and protected and sheltered, and fed on a diet of Page-3 newspapers and escapist cinema, forget that outside, wars go on, people kill each other, and sometimes, the bad guys end up winning.

In the comfort of one's arm-chair, a libertarian ideology is very attractive. It gives us a moral high ground - when we are safe, we can afford to have one. However, with such a mentality, if and when the barbarians come at the gates, we'll probably end up being spiked.

And I would rather fight, kill and survive than stand aside.

The other problem with the libertarian utopia is that would imagine that everybody would love everybody else, and live happily ever after. But there is no example known to me that suggests that no chink will appear in this vision - people have always become greedier, nastier and given the variation in temperaments, there will be some bastards at any point of time. What do you do then?

When I ask people whether something is black or white, and I hear, gray - it makes my blood boil. The purpose of information is to take action, and saying gray doesn't help. Decisions need to be made - and one has to take guesses in real life, and hope for the best. One of the biggest sins in this world is inaction - because of absence of 100% evidence. And, I would, any day, prefer efficiency over precision. It's like the debate I was having with someone about global warming - the other guy said, "There is still not sufficient proof that global warming is happening," and my reply to him was, "If we keep waiting for proof, there'll probably be no earth left". Survive first, ask later.

So I am asked - are you right-wing? And I would have to say yes. As long as there is someone ready to shoot me, I will carry a gun myself. In the legendary words of Dinkar:

Kshama shobhti us bhujang ko, jiske paas garal hai
Uska kya jo dantheen, vishrahit vineet saral hai

Liberalism is a luxury only the powerful can afford, I would rather watch my back.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Do Take ka Aadmi

I follow all the cricket action very diligently on Cricinfo, and it was difficult to suppress a chuckle when Bangladesh got a new bowler called, Dolar Mahmud.

The Cricinfo guys had a field time with this, and there were a bunch of jokes floating about him. But after 4 matches, he was hit out of the park by Jayasuriya, and was removed from the team.

And guess, who they got in as a replacement

"Rubel Hossain"

And the jokes continued...

Thursday, January 08, 2009

An Easy Man to Please

It had not been going well.

I had had to get up early, at 5 AM. It was freezing outside. I had neglected to pack stuff the night before and it was taking way too long. I knew there were regular trains to the airport, but I didn't know long it would take and how much I would have to walk carrying the luggage, which was getting heavier every minute. Since the washing machine had broken down, I had run out of fresh clothes, so I had decided to carry all my dirty laundry back home, where they could be washed/ironed peacefully, giving me a few more days to get the machine fixed when I returned. But all that meant was that my pack was really heavy.

I got out, and the chill hit me. Bad idea, this, I thought, going in the train, trying to save 40 bucks, rather than take a taxi. I also suddenly realised that I hadn't eaten anything since last afternoon, and wasn't likely to get anything for the next few hours. The snow was slippery and I had to keep watching my step to avoid falling down. So, there I was, a hungry man, trudging slowly in the chill, carrying a heavy pack, and muttering angrily to himself.

I got to the station, and after changing a couple of stations, got to the airport. By this time, my shoulder was aching, and I had a 9 hour journey in a cramped seat to look forward to. I took my boarding ticket, and sat down for the boarding to begin. I never really understand why we need to arrive 3 hours in advance for an international flight - it never takes more than 30 minutes to get through the process.

I don't usually complain about such things, but that's because I have something to do, usually, read a book. But English books here are so expensive, I could never bring myself to spend on them. Everything said and done, I couldn't help myself keep converting prices into Indian rupees, and defer all the buying to when I got home.

I started cursing myself for having paid so much for the ticket. I had ended up booking late, and the prices had zoomed by then, and now, I would also have to reschedule my return, and pay some late charges on top of that. After skimping on small stuff, to pay so much for an uncomfortable ride. It hurt.

I also started thinking about all the things I still needed to do when I returned here. Get my commune card, get my insurance papers, and yes, fix the damn machine. Here, I have to bloody get everything done. Nothing is simple, no handymen, no agents. God, I hated my life.

And then the flight started boarding. There were a couple of cute girls in front of me, and I hoped I would get a seat next to either of them. We crossed business class (those bastards!), and onto economy, and halfway through, they were still with me. I looked down at my card, it said 21A, and we stopped near 20. My heart was beating faster, but a second later, both stepped into 20, and I looked across to see a middle-aged man in 21. Grumpily, I sat down next to him, and thought to myself

"This is great. With no sleep, and no food, and an aching shoulder, I will spend the next 8 hours in a cramped seat next to a middle-aged man with mild BO, and nothing to do but read the inflight magazine".

I was, you could mildly say, in a blue funk.

And then the miracle occurred.

I heard a voice, it was a god-sent angel, in the form of the airline stewardess:

"Sir, would you mind stepping out. We have upgraded you to business class".

Suddenly, the pain disappeared. I found myself grinning stupidly.

"That sounds perfect", I grinned.

I am a very easy man to please.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Strangers on a Train

(Genre: Semi-Autobiographical Fiction, Warning: Long)

We had met earlier.

That was on the train going home. We didn't "meet" really. She came to the compartment I was sitting in, to meet a family she knew. From their conversation, I understood she came from the same town as I did, and was doing an MBA in Delhi - that was rare, and hearing that, I looked up from my book. I could see only her side profile - she looked nice. She was wearing a fairly conventional sweatshirt and jeans. In a minute, she left and I returned to my book. I didn't even know whether she had noticed me.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of some spare time will fantasize about the girls he meets. I have spent countless hours daydreaming of a life with several different girls, some whom I might have only spent an hour with. There is just too much of Bollywood in me to resist it. But coming back to the story, in this case, there was nothing to go on with, I hadn't even seen her face. So, I had to return to my book.

Three weeks later, we met again.

I was going back to Delhi, as was she. My parents had come to drop me as had hers. As it turned out, they knew each other, and our seats were in the same compartment (this is not such a coincidence actually, the business community in our small town is pretty well-integrated, and all seats from a particular station are booked in the same compartment). I didn't recognize her at first - didn't have much time to.

We were supposed to catch a connecting train to another station, where we would board our train to Delhi. Usually, it is a simple affair - we catch a train at our station, and it drops us at the other station in 30 minutes or so, with more than an hour to spare. But, on this day, due to the fog, the train at our station was delayed, and the onward train was not. So we had to take a cab.

I quickly went outside, bargained with a driver and came back to pick my luggage. By this time, like all self-respecting small town businessmen, our parents had agreed that the two of us would share a cab, to split the cost. "Pretend that you know each other so as to not arouse the driver's suspicion", her father laughed. I smiled politely, paid my respects and left. She was already on her way to the taxi.

We got in. I smiled at her, she smiled back. She was not bad to look at, darkish, well-rounded face, and big eyes. Slightly plumpish, but as Snoop Dogg would say, "I like ma woman with sum meat on 'er". Some pockmarks, but a very nice smile and an overall pleasant look. I asked her what she did - an answer I already knew. I told her what I did. She was impressed, I was glad that she was. She asked me about my job, I asked her about her studies. I had my practised lines ready, and they rolled off smoothly. We smiled a lot, and laughed a few times.

I have this habit of advising people on matters concerning their careers. It is almost an addiction, a bad one since it makes me appear condescending, and I have tried to kick it several times, with sporadic success. This time, however, I waited until she asked for some advice. And then, I was short and to-the-point. Evidently, it was good, since she asked for some again on a different matter. I thought, "Wow! This girl likes to hear me speak."

We reached the station with an hour to kill. I got some moongfalis, and we continued our chit-chat. She asked me about my job; I talked about it for a while. We talked about the economy and its impact on the job market. The train arrived and we got on.

Besides us, the compartment had two elderly couples on their way back home and a middle-aged man. We settled down, and were quiet for a while. I took the opportunity to analyse her. She was nice-looking, was a good conversationist, but what I really liked, was the smile. It was full, and was completely participated in by the rest of the face. And most importantly, she showed it often enough in my company.

It was almost two and we decided to have lunch. She opened her pack, I mine and we shared our food. She confessed she didn't know how to cook, I said all I knew was dal-chawal and khichdi, adding a while later, that I could do pasta too. In this way, it continued, I don't remember half of it. We finished our lunch.

We talked of movies, I said I was really hoping to catch Ghajini and Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, she said she had seen Rab Ne... and hated it. She had always been in South Campus through grad and post-grad, so we talked of South Delhi. I said I loved going to Priya, she said she hated it. "Because it is so full of guys", she said. I disagreed, but kept my opinion to myself. She loved going to IHC and Dilli Haat, and even though I thought IHC was too pretentious and Dilli Haat too cheesy, I smiled and said I liked both the places, but had been there only a few times. That got her enthu, and she went on for a while about them.

By this time, we were both feeling sleepy, and she said she had been awake till 3 the night before searching for some papers. I got the hint, and suggested we lie down for a bit. We climbed on to our respective seats, and I said sheepishly, "Good night". She smiled.

When I got up, it was 6:30 PM. I looked at her, she was still asleep. I read for a while; and heard her get up. I didn't react, she got down and was busy for a while. After a while, she called me, "Come down". And I did.

We continued talking, among other things, about common friends in our town. Both of us had left several years back, and people whose names sounded familiar and whose faces were a blur, were brought into the conversation. We talked of our town and the changes it had undergone, and what the future heralded.

She was smart, and well-articulated. With most girls, my conversations have been very monologue-like. Either I go on and on, or am too tongue-tied to speak. With her, it was different. I waited my while to speak, she did too. I was funny, and she laughed. There were gaps in the conversation, but were broken naturally. It was comfortable.

It grew very dark. We had our dinner. After a while, the lights were switched off. The train was due to arrive in Delhi at 5 AM, and the entire train went off to sleep for the night. We tried to continue talking, but slowly became aware that we were disturbing others. Then she asked if I wanted to watch a movie; I said, "Sure". And she took out her laptop, and a pair of earphone. I browsed through her laptop, and came across South Park. I looked at her incredulously. She smiled, and said she had just started watching the series and loved it. I grinned.

We started watching Season 3. She had one earphone and I had the other. I was very aware that we were next to each other shoulder-to-shoulder, but she was comfortable, and slowly I forgot too. We laughed silently and kept watching one episode after the other, finishing the entire season. By that time, both had started feeling drowsy and the laughs had become infrequent. I suggested we go to sleep, and she agreed. "Good night, sweet dreams", I said.

I couldn't fall asleep. In all these years, I have hardly "clicked" with anyone. Most chances have been disasters, and even the few that went ahead turned out to be false alarms, eventually. I blame myself for it, sometimes the person overawed me, sometime the occasion did. But mostly, it was my own nature. Regardless of what I truly thought I was like, I came across as insensitive, creepy, dishonest, and it pained me. So, I had given up trying; resigned to let my parents find some girl for me, whose life I would probably go on to destroy.

But now I decided to retake the initiative. I would ask this girl out. I liked her, she didn't seem to despise me. I would wait for the right moment in the morning, and do it. Maybe, I could drop her to her hostel, and arrange to meet again. It could be done, why not!

And on that note, I went to sleep.

I woke up and looked outside. It was very foggy. It was 5, but the train was nowhere near Delhi. It had been delayed by a few hours. She was up too. I said "Good Morning", and we exchanged information about the train's delay. We figured we were about 4 hours late. Good, I thought, I have more than enough time to make my move. We busied ourselves for a bit, before settling down again.

She asked me what my future plans were, and I told her the truth, that I didn't have a clue, but wanted to do something good, and leave a legacy. I asked her about hers, and she said, she always wanted to run a shop, maybe get into retail now. I also said I wanted to travel a bit, and see the world. She said loved Pune and wanted to settle there.

We had refrained from discussing our personal lives as yet. I didn't have anything to say, and for some reason, was loathe to ask her about hers. I would find out eventually, anyway.

We had a bit of namkeen and biscuits. The fog was still thick but the train was making good progress, and we neared Delhi. I decided to make my move.

"How will you get to the hostel?", I asked.

"Oh! Don't worry. I'll get there", she said dismissively.

"Oh!, but I can drop you if you need me to. It's on the way", I said quickly.

"Well, I have a friend coming to pick me up", she said slowly, and smiled.

"Oh!". I got the message.

"Haven't spent 5 years in Delhi for nothing, have I?", she said and smiled.

To say I was hurt would be wrong. I hadn't invested any emotions in it yet, and the only feeling I had was the one similar to seeing Australia defeat New Zealand in a close match. Stacked against odds, to come so close and lose. That's the kind of feeling I had. I recovered quickly.

"Good", I said.


The train pulled in. We exchanged good-byes and I rushed out. We didn't even exchange phone numbers or email ids.