Thursday, April 15, 2010

Stories from the Kal Bench

Touching the Sky


Far away from the bustling traffic of Bangalore, deep in the heart of Nandini Layout, sat a huge piece of land which was cut into two by a green fence. On one side lay lush green grass with well grown bushes strategically planted on them. A small board stood between them all, threatening people “Stay away from the grass.”


Around it ran a wide cement path, on it were a few benches parked beside well grown trees; which acted as resting points to the walkers and joggers who thronged the place. Beside the lush green lawn, within the circular pathway was a small clearing which served as the laughter club’s workout arena. Retired fathers and in service homemakers tried to laugh away their frowns every evening.


The other part of the land was a stark contrast, with light brown ground, loose mud, no hint of grass anywhere; it wore the look of barren. Most of its mornings and evenings were spent hosting numerous cricket matches, the afternoons though was mostly in company of the hot sun, the light breeze and the occasional rain.


Both the pieces of land had in common, the people and their laughs and watching it all, across the road sat silent in the company of a tree whose name nobody knew, our Kal Bench.


Ashwin and me were first to arrive, we sat waiting for the other two to join us. Now 17, all of us had spent most of our evenings on the Kal bench. Sharing our heart breaks, rejoicing each other’s success, exchanging amma made sweets, resting after hard fought cricket matches and on those rare lonely courageous late nights sharing a cigarette. Kal bench our adda stood witness to many our emotions from our normal middle class life.

"Where is Pradeepa?" Krishna joined us excited.

Ashwin and I both looked towards the empty road mumbling "He'll be here in a minute."

The three of us sat waiting with curiosity for Pradeepa to come join us. Pradeepa had acquired almost star status by becoming the first guy among the people we knew to have traveled in an aero plane. His father's Ltc had covered their family trip to Mumbai.

Metallic golden Top Gear cycle skid to a forced halt.

"Oh Pradeepa" we welcomed him.

Well combed hair wearing a faded red t-shirt and a proud smile, Pradeepa walked up to us and stood facing the bench.

"How was the trip?"

"Which aero plane?"

"How many hours did it take?"

We pounded him with questions.

"Oh it was beautiful." he punched the air softly

"Jet and it took almost 1hour and some twenty-thirty minutes." he spoke like it meant nothing to him. Just brushing dirt off his shoulder.

But we hung onto to his words amazed.

"Tell us everything in detail." Krishna commanded

"Oh you want the details, uh?" Pradeepa started out

"The journey has no words; the experience was better than I had imagined. First we sat in our seats..."

"Was there a cute girl in the seat beside yours?" Ashwin interrupted.

"No maga some uncle sat next to me." Pradeepa lamented.

"Continue" Krishna gestured with his hands.

"So then three air hostess walked in and stood in the passage between the two rows of seats. They started explaining things but it looked like they were doing P.T exercises. But I tell you, each one was more beautiful than the other, and I couldn't decide who was the most pretty..."

"Were they like sexy-beautiful or beautiful-beautiful?" Ashwin cut him again with his unique terms.

"They were beautiful loafer." I hit him softly on his head.

"Yes they were beautiful Ashwin, now continuing. We all strapped our seat belts, the plane hit the run way, a few seconds and it was off the ground. It took off at some 200 or 250 kms speed, full high speed. First it was like full inclined." he explained with his outstretched palm. "Then it slowly became straight"

"I removed my belt and looked out of the window. We passed over the clouds, all I could see the was the blue everywhere. I looked down and the roads looked like thin lines and the vehicles were almost invisible, the buildings mere dots."


We listened patiently to everything he said, opening our mouths only to utter a soft "wow".


"Twenty minutes later, they announced, 'It is now safe to remove the seat belts.' I had like removed them five minutes into the flight. What safe, bloody." he let out a soft laugh, and we smiled trying to imagine, what would have happened if they had found out he had removed the seat belt before the announcement.


'They can't throw him out or stop the flight, it’s not a bus. May be they would have shouted at him.' I thought to myself.


"The captain then welcomed us and told the height at which the plane was flying and the temperature outside. The temperature outside was some -30 degrees. I thought to myself, if the door blows open no need to worry about the parachute, we'll freeze to death in seconds anyway." Pradeepa laughed out and we joined him with a soft clap.

"Was there free food, chocolates?" Krishna asked interested

"Oh Pepsi, the air hostess served me Pepsi."

"Lucky bastard." Ashwin let out his feelings loud

"Oh free Pepsi!" Krishna spoke confirming the theory that free stuff be it small or big is always welcomed with joy.

"Not just that Ashwin, she also smiled at me like six times. Not just a smile, a beautiful smile." Pradeepa patted on Ashwin's shoulder with a teasing grin.

"Was the smile like sexy-beautiful or beautiful-beautiful?" Krishna mocked Ashwin, bringing an instant wave of laughter.

"Ha ha, very funny." Ashwin tried to take the high ground.

"She even gave her address to pass it on to you Ashwin." I tried to join in.

"Ya, but Siddharth stole it from me." Pradeepa betrayed me.

"Bloody perv, Sid" Ashwin tried to trip me in further.

"Look who is talking." the three of us blurted out.

"I'll tell you all something, but I am quite sure you'll not believe it." Pradeepa spoke with confidence.

"No we'll believe you, come on maga." we tried justifying feeling a little offended.

"Guess who I met on the flight?"

"I don't know." I gave up without a try

"Karishma Kapoor." Ashwin grinned.

"Close but not very close." Pradeepa motivated.

"We give up." Krishna spoke on behalf of us.

"Hrithik Roshan." he spoke to our surprise.

"Hrithik Roshan." Krishna repeated out loud


Kaho Na Pyar Hai had released couple months back and Hrithik Roshan was our new Demi God. He had taken up most of our wall space and stood frozen alongside Madhuri Dixit, Kajol, Karishma and Sachin. All of us behind closed door secretly tried copying his dance moves but ended up with only a sprained ankle.


"Did you talk to him? Did you get his autograph, photo?" were all we cared.

"No maga, he was sitting in the front end. Surrounded by his people, we were not allowed near him." Pradeepa spoke dejected.

"Hey but you got to see him." Krishna tried to lift the spirits.

"Hrithik Roshan." Ashwin repeated his name a couple times and shook his head in disbelief.


Our conversation suddenly stopped on seeing Shilpa jog towards us. Soft fingers clenched into a fist, sparkling eyes which looked to have a star studded in them, pink glow on her cheeks, straight silky hair tied into a pony, she was the one that would make anyone look up to the heaven and say "Job well done". She ran past us as if we didn't exist in her world. None of us had the guts to walk up to her and talk to her.


We sat there looking at her run away, like we had for the last one year.


Silence engulfed us for a few minutes; minutes were spent deep in thought and some in imagination. I turned away trying to bring myself back to the reality.


The Sun clearly tired of all the travelling around the sky had now silently slid into the horizon. The sky a soft orange and red now was slowly turning grey. The thunder of laughs from the park was heard no more, joggers and walkers made their way out of the park and onto the road.


Most of the cricket matches had reached a fighting finish, kids walked back to their homes with some still swinging their bats' in air. Some lamenting their choice of play in the lost match walked with slow pace, shaking their heads.


"Pradeepa" his younger sister came looking for him.

He ran up to her to enquire her visit.


The three of us sat silent looking at the people walking out of the park. Our heads suddenly turned skywards on hearing a loud sound. A white dot with wings darted across the grey sky; we looked at it with just one single thought in our head,


"When will I get to touch the sky?"

------------------------------------------------------------------


Story dedicated to those insignificant nothings, those ordinary moments of life whose beauty most of us have turned blind to. Those evenings spent with friends discussing anything but important.


Glossary

Maga: A Kannada slang equivalent to "dude".

Kal Bench: A mixture of Kannada and English words meaning a "Stone bench".