As I gathered my books and stuffed them into my recently cleaned bag, I glanced at my watch. Yes, I had the pre-decided half an hour to walk. Scooting out of the classroom always had its pleasures, but today was one of those occasional times when it was accompanied by the self-appraising feeling of a definite goal.
Meeting what’s-his-name for a poetry recital program was not something I would be truly fond of, for the simple fact that poetry recital never happened to be my cup of tea. Standing up to a melancholic crowd and pouring out my heart was something I never fantasized, seldom tried, and always avoided. Writing poems was altogether a different matter. My paper stayed with me, and it didn’t judge what I wrote; it did not crib over my vocabulary, my diction, my handwriting, and God knows it never tried to explain to me what my poem meant.
And yet, I was crossing over to the street from the hind gate of my college, in a frenzy that surprised me as much as the collegian masses milling about, relishing the joy of having nothing to do, and having all the time in the world to do it. I had a job to do, and just less than half an hour to do it, so I set out.
Walking has its own benefits. The health benefits are best explained by the glossy health magazines we find in self-obsessive spas and beauty parlours, but a layman can discover more relatively unnoticed benefits provided he explores this understated joy. Walking (at least for me) is the best way to orient myself to the winding roads in my city, which has grown despite the lack of blessings of planned urbanization. It helps me spot the intricacies of the so-called mundane daily life, and wonder where the launderer buys his shoes, or what the old woman who just walked by would be doing with all the chocolates she was carrying. Walking slows me down to marvel at the world speeding around me, at people scuttling about, a myriad of colourful emotions wrapped into a blanket weaved out of green-hued foliage and a healthy January sun…
I walk fast, but thoughts gallop, and by the time I reached the meeting place, my thoughts were far ahead of the horizon I had not set for them. I pulled the reins and halted, a quick glance at my watch again and I knew I was a good fifteen minutes late, but being punctual would not have helped; there was no one around me anyway. I called up what’s-his-name again, and found him arriving at the corner, a clean, untucked shirt, hair brushed up in a somewhat dubious fashion, and those scholarly looking glasses which make a person seem to be one of the illuminated, especially when he is not.
The restaurant looming over us was still in its yawning stages, so we crossed over to a broken wall for the formal discussion.
As I handed over the freshly written poems to him, I couldn’t help wondering why I was getting into the poem reciting business. I repeated to myself all the formidable arguments I had against this performing phenomenon, arguments which shut people up and lapsed my parents into unfortunate sighs at my stubbornness. And yet, as I looked into his dark brown eyes, and talked about what-not, I felt all smiles for him, a nice warm feeling of gulping down hot chocolate with marshmallows. In short, I liked him.
He was talking. He, no, a colleague of his would let me know if my poems would be selected and I would be informed of the practice schedule. I nodded. Not that I would feel very bad if they weren’t. Would he be there during the practices? Yes, he would be (God please plant the idea of selecting my poems in their head) and he might look after the English poems (Thank God for the British who brought English, and my mother who made me learn it, and my brains who just dished out English poems)and that the program was just 6 days later.
An unproclaimed end was brought to the meeting. I gathered my stuff and looked at the watch. Ten minutes was all it took. He got up, took out his keys, and looked around. I began the walk towards the bus stop; he began walking to his bike. As we hit the noisy civilization, about to part, we smiled a goodbye.
And the rest is history.