Thursday, June 21, 2007

1041 B: A house that was home to me

You may think me a sentimental fool, after all it was only a house, but that house was a home to me for four years. I feel like an exile, leaving my abode, an abode it was, in this foreign country. Here is a personal blog, part of it is about people, part of it is about me, most of it is a shrine for memories associated with 1041.

In 2003, I moved into 1041 B a week after turning 24. Emails about quarter life crisis were circulating then (and must be making rounds still). I was starting in the graduate school again, (after getting an MS from Akron, where I had set and left a house, 365 Power street people, raise your hands). I arrived with a car full of stuff, and moved in with three people. One of them was Chinese; when he cooked, we three Indians left the house for few hours. When we cooked, he cursed and choked.

My Indian roommates were a few years older; one had been in same hostel in Delhi, another had taken a sojourn like me before coming to Atlanta. One put three sticks of cinnamon to make food tastier (he was pleasantly surprised when I had him put 1/20th of that amount, and his food tasted less bitter and much better). Other cooked only Malka Masar and Tea. We lived happily ever after. Not quite, but almost. The living room computer served as TV, occasionally I would cook for a dozen people, we had weekly duties (assigned and implemented by the Chinese President).

First my senior left. We had gelled together very well. There were too many interesting evenings we shared with a bunch of other guys who drank and partied hard. There were deep discussions about nothing, and everything under the American sun (and moon). A Bengali, A Rajput, and a Bareilly guy (my neighbor for 8/past 10 years) formed our close circuit. We went to Smokies, to Florida beaches, to Hindi and English movies. The Senior left and the Ping Pong (and Billiards) expert replaced him.

Then the Chinese guy left and the Chinese girl who replaced him talked only to me (first few days), and that too in Sign language. Her hands danced like butterflies, and we all joked around her. She laughed most happily and would try to tell us something, "Hey Vivek, how do you say it, it is not black, it is (her hands are showing its spherical), it cooks, (meaning it can be cooked), how do you say it Vivek" "(Does it have an upturned umbrella on top?) "What was that" (Nothing nothing. Are you talking about eggplant?). Yes it is like egg but not plant (You call it brinjal I suppose)"Thanks. So the brinjal is popular, no no, is brinjal popular in Hindi people?" and so on.

My old roommate and PingPongChamp joined hands to become best chapati makers and sweet specialists in town. I turned into a weekly cook for dozen and a half people. The food was tasty, conversations were laced with laughter. The Chinese girl moved out when her husband made it to US. The first Sardar arrived. Hilarity prospered.

Then PingPongChamp left, I wrote a blog, saying he cannot be replaced. He gave me a legacy of Amitabh Bachcan dialogues ("Tumne Mukhtaar Singh ka naam suna hai?" "Tumhara kya naam hai Basanti?" ) He taught me Ping Pong all over again and later sent me a bat to play with. I really liked the fella, and he stuck to his plan of returning to India. It was two years ago. 2005.

He was succeeded by a Mridangam player. My own music collection had prospered by now, circle of friends had expanded, two dozen people would appear on my cooking turn, and at least half a dozen people (other than our roommates) could be found on most of the other days. Then my oldest roommate also left, promising to come back (we all do that, but hardly anyone comes back). Another Sardar replaced him.

When brother of Sardar 1 arrived, we had Sardar 1, 2 & 3 at our place. I felt as if I was in Punjab, Punjabi became our national tongue, my songs played louder and louder, Jimmy Cash arrived, Banti and Babli came, Swadesh, then came Bob Dylan, Hard Rock, U2, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, Dil Chahta hai were always there, then Jal, Fuzon, Silk Route, Indian Ocean, then Indian and Western Classical, Hindi Movie classics were always here. Occasionally my flute fluttered (I ensured no one was home at those hours or was it my flute that caused it?)

The oldest roommate left with a promise of coming back. His guitar was still there yesterday as were some of his clothes, cassettes and stuff when we packed that too and moved out. When he left, chapattis fled our house. Sardar 3 made only green daal (moong) sardar 2 only masar, sardar 1 only chole. Mrigandam player made awesome South Indian food that was wasted on us highly noisy and picky North Indians.

Tea-time every night, dinner for twenty-five people every Wednesday (when I cooked), Football on Sunday followed. The circle expanded with several households coming here every so often. Americans, Chinese, Korean, Italian, Slovene, French, German - we welcomed all from Mumbai, (some insisted they were still from Bombay), Delhi, Punjab, Rishikesh, Indore, Bhopal, Lucknow, Chennai, IITs, and Marathi, Marwari, Telugu, Mallu, Bongs, all languages met under the roof. Some people had to be convinced to come (they wanted to invite us in return to every invitation, so felt a twinge for the weeks passed quickly, and my dinners piled up in their records). Same came without guilt every week (and some haven't seen me since the dinners ceased). Some came uninvited, some wanted to be invited. The circle expanded to over three dozen people. The house was full of people standing, sitting, chatting, laughing every week, and people came here to say goodbyes, announce things, meet each other, get bumps, gossip about, introduce their peers or new found loves, and well, what can I say, I cooked and cooked and waited the walls to resound with voices and voices and laughter.

We created a community outside India, we created an India inside US.

In words of Majrooh:
"Main akela hi chala tha, janib-e-manzil magar,
Log saath aate gaye aur caravan banta gaya..."

[I started alone towards my destination, but
People kept coming along, the caravan kept growing]

We all change over time. Love affairs came, went, came again, went again. Heartbreaks were as common as kitchenware breaking (we all were quite careful though). Marriages. Almost marriages. New jobs. Highs. Exams. Illnesses. Football, Ping Pong, Racketball, Frisbee. Cards. Cricket in living room. Beer. More Beer. Bottles and bottles of Beer. Cans of beer. Tea. A cup of tea. Tea for twenty people. Graduation. Graduation for some. Dreams, philosophical questions, religious questions, national and international conflicts, reservation issue, Saurav Ganguly, cricket.

In last few months, we had started moving out. Our lifestyles changed. One got married, one graduated, and one started worrying too much about graduation. That one, me, wanted to leave 1041 B only after finishing PhD, and yet I left - I have few more months to go.

When I moved out yesterday, I realized that I had stayed longer in that room, than any other room in my entire life. Memories, and poems, were scattered in every corner. I found I owned so many things I had forgotten about. I moved about two hundred books out of my room. My room was a regular music and literature/science library. I moved at least 1000 journal articles. I threw memoirs, tokens gathered from my visits to different cities, countries, conferences. I kept poems, handwritten ones from 1995 onwards, Hindi, English, Urdu poems. I wrote several hundred in IIT days. That wasn't even my prolific era. Unfinished and finished poems. Lots and lots of poems.

As I packed stuff, I realized how much I have changed since I moved in. I realized my world now is very different from what I could have ever imagined. I wanted to thank everyone who visited me in that house, and everyone who helped me to feel at home.

As a roll call, I hope 1041 (and I) will remember these people, and they will remember the house that was perhaps home for all of us: Hemabh, Nitesh, Gagan, Ishwar, Bhavdeep, Santosh, Gurpreet, Tian, Hua, Rishi, Rakshita, Matija, Akbar, Farminder, Guru, Sanjoy-Urbi, Amit-Shilpi, Vani-Chirayu, Radhika, Gayatri, Abhinav Saxena, Abhinav Singh, Vikas Tomar, Prateek, Ajay, Pooja, Anne, Vishakha, Vijay, Nivi, Arpan, Ranjith, Gautam, Dominico, Romain, Deepak, Amit, Chotu, Nithya, Smita, Nikhil-Arti, Arun-Sreeja, Harjeet, Abhishek, Gaurav, Geetali, Puneet, Neel, Amin, Navin, Shikha, Pankaj, Rishi, Sukanya, Arun, Shantanu, Sandeep, Rohit, (names not mentioned for reasons, and names that I will remember later), and all you other good people.

The House, as if, lived like a man. It was born in 2003, when I moved in. It was young and restless during first few months and then went through a crazy teenage of chappattis, movies, tea, gossip and mithai, led a joyful and famous life, with Wednesday dinners and plans for all events/trips starting and ending there and in last few months, edged to its death.

We close the chapter of 1041 now. It was a decent place, made worth living by everyone who came into that house, made lively by friendships that will last longer than either houses or people will.

June 21, 2007

अब कहाँ वो शौक़, वो फन, वो मामला
है छूट गया लम्हा, बीत गया,
किस तालाश में फिरते हो जनिब तुम,
बस याद है लम्हा बीत गया !

(Now where's that interest, that talent, that situation
The moment is lost, is past
In what search you wander, o Mister
'Tis only memories, the moment is past


parikrama said...

Can totally relate to your sentiments about your "home away from home" . It brought back memories of 135, #01-02 , an apartment where I spent first 2 years of my stay in Sg'pore. But I must say, 2 to 3 dozen dinner companions, thats too too wild. The max we ever had was about 10 to 12 guyz.

Hope you moved to some place equally friendlier and warmer.

bilbo said...

loved reading this one and no nits to pick . Reminds me of the whole process of making a house, a home ,
that I've had to do over the yrs.

Good luck on getting done with the PhD.

Vivek said...


Good to see your comment:)
I always liked to get your nits;), after all they are aimed at making me a better writer. So please please please return more often with your advice and criticism, which I value as much as your praise.

Parikrama (IW boss)

Its the year of toil, so days of entertainment are over:) One needs to graduate, after all!

Ishwardeep Singh said...

bhai senti ker diya yaar tumne toh! btw how r things in ny?

bilbo said...

I guess you're gonna have to wait for the nits. Even us two-bit editors have to work for our PhDs. Am aiming to get out by march 08 and thesis submission looms nearer than I'd like. I got my deadlines .
As an aside, 1041-B is way too similar to 1042-S the tax forms/info I got from the payroll office. Man the memories and the networks they exist in.
Take care and good luck.

G'man said...

you have been tagged!


Psycho said...

Awwwww ....

Our posts .. were entirely different... i wonder how u landed on mine but while mine is starting to be a home... u .. were moving out! :)

I might have d same memories when i get outta here.. sadly mah roommates barely speak english... forget any other (read hindi)!

But u know what .. dis wouldv been mah post when i was leavin home.. back in India!.. Mah room... 24 yrs of mah life ... tons n tons n tons of me in dat room... in form of letters... posters... music... papers... junk! .. :)

Indian Oceans gonna be here dis July :)

I hope u find peace soon :)

Psycho :)

P.S. My writings have a language.. d language i think in... n m sorry they arent usual slangs but i think faster than i type n hence d short cuts :)