The Festival of the Early Morning Light Bulbs

I stood in the doorway of the terribly slow Kushinagar Express which hails from Gorakhpur, as it pulled out of Kalyan station in the and chugged (nice word na?) into the dead of the night, I could not but help notice the number of lights burning  in the apartments close to the railway station and probably the railway quarters as well.

It took me back many years, to early 2003 when I guess the concept of having to stretch yourself to study was dawning on us. So during final exams staying up until 12 am, 1 am had been discovered. Of course, Aai would not approve and urge that it’s always best to wake up early in the morning. “I’ll wake you up!”. (Somehow mothers never find it difficult to wake up early in the morning). So you’re shaken out of bed, finally wake up after the customary “5 minutes, 5 minutes..please!”, groggily brushing your teeth and stumbling to the table in the dark by which time a cup of milk is readily pushed under your nose. Attempts to read while you’re constantly being prodded everytime you nod off. And then of course, going half an hour early to the school to get someone to teach you something. These were pre- mobile phone days in these parts of the woods (and by that I don’t mean mobile phones were not commonplace, it means that even many ‘elite’ people did not have them!). The first time I joined a coaching class for SSC, I still remember that dashing‘ Prof. who carried a cellphone and how everytime he whipped it out, he immediately got a few ‘ohh’s’. And if you had a colour display wala cell phone, phir toh instant respect – for you must have ‘made it large’.

Anyways, I digress. What I did remember that night in the train was this lovely article that I’d read then in those days by Malavika Sangghvi (Yes, she of the SoBo Page 3 columns and I’m sure there was no double ‘g’ then, but anyways) titled ‘The Festival of the Early Morning Light Bulbs’. It spoke about the exam seasons – that part of February which leads into March, the long long month of March and the early part of April – and how you could wake up early morning and find out in which apartment students lived based on the lights early in the morning. It was a really nice piece which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be archived on the Internet (those were her Bombay Times days, when TOI was the ONLY newspaper in town).

There seemed to be so many lights switched on though! At 3 30 in the night. Someone up to study very early? Or studying late into the night? Someone with the early morning train to catch, who needs to be downtown by 6 am? Or the early morning flight? The housewife with dabbas to make for the day? Some yuppie who’s stayed up to watch a football game 5000 miles away in Europe? Someone suffering from insomnia and unable to sleep? Someone with a deadline for tomorrow hunched over a laptop and an excel spreadsheet? Or just someone enjoying his holidays and watching a movie late into the night? 😛

Waking up early in the morning is such an ‘event’. Especially when it’s still darkness outside. There’s always a reason, a story behind it. It’s an experience which isn’t commonplace or ordinary.  It seems quite fascinating to think about all those possible reasons. Damn you XL for making being up at all times of the day so routine 😦

The romance of early mornings is thoda bahaut toh lost due to the MBA. But I still believe that har ek jalte hue diye ke peeche ek kahaani hai…

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Thoughts from Tirupati

Today I am at my pretentious travel-writer/blogger best, showcasing my thoughts to the world:

  • If you listen carefully, really carefully…among all the din and chaos in the temple chambers, one sound which stands out is of little kids and babies howling and sobbing. Poor things have just had their hair shaved off for the first time, scalp burning in the midday heat (anytime of the day heat for that matter) and are being jostled about in their parents arms in a crowd which might just be able to compete with the ones found in Mumbai’s local trains.
  • Outside the temples as well, there is one sound that stands out. The vehicles in these parts have the most awful horns….like wailing banshees. And they don’t shy away from honking either. I sense the culture is that you honk to announce your presence: ‘I’m here, so now clear the road dammit’.
  • Posters for movies are plastered all over the place! They aren’t that omnipresent in other parts (or maybe I haven’t travelled all that much) but you’d be hard pressed to find a large wall without multiple ‘Superstar’s’ or ‘Megastar’s’ starring on it. I find the lack of reality, the larger than life depictions (which I gauge from the posters and stray viewings of Soundhindian TV channels) well for lack of a better word, interesting. Movies seem to be a fantasy or an escape from real life. While a lot of us who’d be categorised as urbane and who’ve been bought up on a staple diet of Hollywood fare tend to appreciate that part of Bollywood which goes for grittiness and realism. Someone should do a project in BRM/SRM for Prof. Israel and look at the correlation between standard of living and preference in movies.. If only I knew SPSS :-/
  • Everyone seems to drive like a ‘Mega-star’ as well, with buses, autos and everything else veering dangerously across the roads in a manner that’d leave Jason Statham at his Transporter best with a complex.
  • I know this is very…umm, regionalist (?) but are some languages just easier on the ear than others? Somehow even 2 people having a normal conversation seems like an angry argument. And even what I assume is ‘I don’t understand what you’re saying’ seems like someone has snapped at you.
  • Vegetarian food in Andhra Pradesh is restricted to idli’s, dosa’s, uthappa’s, vada’s, rice (curd, tamarind, lemon etc) and vegetarian biryani. Bas.
  • Despite spending 80 bucks on a guidebook, a 10 minute gesticulatative conversation with the hotel receptionist and straining my neck all day to try and read the haphazardly arranged boards which tell you about the story behind the holy temple, I am yet to understand the Legend of Balaji. So Google it’ll have to be…