Au Revoir Milwaukee

sometimes, life just does it for you. So here I am, ten days before I fly back home, sipping a glass of wine and waiting for a fillet mignon at a restaurant I have found comfort over the last three months.

Milwaukee has been good to me… good food, better beer and fantastic people. The weather, well, it grows on you a bit I guess. I mean how many places have you heard of where a perfectly bright morning can be followed by a rainy afternoon..giving way to a balmy evening ! Folks here at Milwaukee never run  out of things to talk about, if nothing else, weather is always there !

This trip has been different for me, in many more ways than one. I had a good time, a really good time.  Enjoyed my work, and am returning home with a pretty satisfied outlook at life.

If only, she could have been around as well.

Anyway, perhaps the reason I appreciated this trip more … and this is going to get me killed when I come back to India, is perhaps that this was the longest period I have spent alone since I ceased being a single guy in an apartment in the middle of Hyderabad.

Being alone makes you look at yourself in ways that you would not have considered possible otherwise. Perhaps, with someone around to love you and indulge you, you overlook basic truths about yourself that  glare at you when you are alone.

So did I have soul turning moments drinking beer at a rock concert by the river, or while walking down the promenades in downtown…. well yes , and no.

It was liberating to know that I could just walk out of the hotel room and be a new person every day. Meet absolute strangers and share times that make them friends for a lifetime. When I knew that all i had were the few clothes hanging in the closet and the money in my wallet to take care of. Not worry about parking a car or standing in a queue to buy petrol… so in big ways and small, being away from all that I hold dear back home, was liberating.

Back home, I carry the weight of my past wherever I go, for people know me, at least to some extent. At Milwuakee, when I walk into bars where the old mustachioed bartender swore that I was the first Indian he had served in thirty years, I need to start from scratch.

Isn’t this what so many of us crave for all the while. The chance to start all over, to be the man we always wanted to be when we read those books and saw that movie that made us cry private tears out of sheer joy…

and to think, we all have that chance in someway or the other, everytime we say hello to a stranger…

I have said a lot of hellos on this trip, and now that its time to say my goodbyes, I cannot help but feel, a bit sad… leaving this town , nestled along the folds of lake Michigan, full of people ready to smile, and make a Indian guy, feel wanted so far away from home. Au Revoir Milwaukee… until we meet again… the next time though, I will bring her with me…

The Free Gift :)

makes you feel a bit lonely isnt it…. imagine this… a silence punctuated by falling snow… a darkness highlighted by an inky sky, and a music distanced by a touch of melonchaly…

Yet another evening alone in the vast urban wilderness on the shores of the lake Michigan…

As Salman Rushdie would say… its a moody lake… lake Michigan. It smiles in the Sun and weeps in the rain… and contemplates amongst swirling waves on a windy day. I see the lake every day as I walk down to work. Reminds me of a lot of other constants in my life… like love and affection, and books and dreams.

I have been here at Milwaukee for a month now… battling snow storms and clients difficult to pursuade… and yeah, food at Indian restaurants designed to kill any existing vestige of affection you

may have for authentic desi food !

Did you read the post down below? She talks about her birthday there, the one on which i gifted her a

pair of coral studs. Corny as it sounds, there is a story behind that…

it was in March, and I was joing my family for a trip to Goa. I was fresh out of placements and was

feeling good about my life. I had met the girl I wanted to be with for the rest of my life and she too

felt the same way. Now the only thing remaining was to tell my meat eating, beer swilling hard core

north indian family that their latest daughter-in-law would be a vegetarian south indian brahmin who

usually does not drink anything stronger than buttermilk !

My family, then, it comprised of my father, my elder brother and my bhabhi. I told them, all of them, and they were all quite ok with it.

It was a long train journey from Delhi to Goa… made all the more irritating since my bhabhi had taken

to teasing me about her all the while. My brother and my dad being the men they are, chose to not talk about the subject at all.

It was crazy…. neither me or her, had any free money, the status of college students with jobs beginning  3 months down the line isn’t really different than a regular broke student pilfering favours

off his family and friends. We could not afford to talk to each other on the cellphone all the time.

SMS was the only way out… it was cheap, and un-intrusive. Or so we thought. I had never sent so many SMSes to anyone in my entire life, I described Goa and whatever we did on the cellphone, typing one silly message after the other.

Makes me grin really hard to think that two supposedly mature adults could indulge in such a teenage

notion of romance, but then, thats what it is all about isnt it.

We stayed at the Baga beach, my first trip to the place, and a place that we have visited again and

again since then. I wanted to buy a gift for her, and my bhabhi just wanted to take a walk, so the two

of us went on a long walk along the Baga beach. She helped me pick out something which would be just right, a pair of coral ear studs. And obviously, since i did not have the money to pay for it myself,

she bought it as a gift for both of us. Thats how, even the first real gift I bought for her, was not

really paid by me…

Funny isn’t it, that the things you have not paid for, may turn out to be the ones dearest to the

person you love !

Happy BirThday Radhika.

 

 

For Her… written on April 8th, 2005

Its her birthday tomorrow. My best friend, and also the one I am about to marry this June. I have known her for three years now. Its been an interesting phase in my life. My first year of MBA, the monsoons had been in full swing, drenching the landscape with wet greenery. We had a busy schedule at college… but whenever things got too much for me to handle, or when I simply wanted to be alone… I used to go out on long, long walks.

On one such walk, as aimless as it had been purposeful; I found her. Not that we had not met before, we had… but we never really progressed beyond the “Folks in the same class” kind of nodding of heads.

That rain swept evening; we decided to walk together, for just a while mind you. I was supposed to be a taciturn guy, I suppose in some ways I still am, but that evening I found myself telling her all.

It was not ‘Love at first sight’ .. no, not at all. More so, because I had been involved with someone else then…. And she was too concerned about her career to even think of an idiot like me.

But we did find a lot of common interest. Fans of P.G. Wodehouse, both of us and Oh! So totally. Come to think of it, a Comic writer probably played a major part in bringing me and her closer. Reading is a great hobby they say…

So it went on…. Two years of college, lectures, assignments etc etc… then one fine day, I found myself a part of my college team participating in a management festival, she too was there. I been a last minute entry for Western Solo… she spent the entire afternoon selecting a song for me and hearing me practice. I sang, “I Can Go the Distance” by Michael Bolton. Won the first prize, and as she tells me.. maybe moved her a bit as well. Thanks ! Mr Bolton.

Then came the most anticipated and dreaded phase of an MBA grad…. Placements !! I did not make it to the first company I was interviewed for… trust me guys I was shattered… I had always believed that no company can ever reject me… well the first one did. She had been around…. Worried about her own placements yet found time to reassure me.

Then I got placed.. in one of the finer companies… She? Well she never even applied to 99 % of the companies. She wanted only.. Advertising/Brand/Product Management… I was skeptical, openly so. Anyway, since I was placed, I was free to go home.

It was then I realized, that I was missing her, and then it struck me, through a haze of drunken stupor on 31st December 2003, I was madly in love with her… She complains about my drinking, but I guess I did one sensible thing when drunk!!

So I think for a few days, and realize that I was sincere enough. So I meet her, take her for a walk (again) and tell her that I miss her in a way I never realized I could… The world ‘Love’ was never mentioned anywhere.

She lapsed into one of her deep silences and two days later, her smiling voice on the phone confirmed what I already believed in.

Then she got placed… and the lady proved me wrong. She is now a Product Manager, and Boy ! Am I proud of her !

Last year, her birthday found me broke as the Berlin Wall, hope I do better this year. Am off to Bombay tonight to be with her tomorrow, trust me…. Sometimes… life is beautiful