“Time flies” – one common phrase that almost each of us would have voiced out at some point of time. I was voicing it out once again inside my head as I reached Chennai Central Railway Station at 7 Pm on that Wednesday evening. I just realized that I was clad in a blue and white salwar, the very same one I was wearing when I left for Mangalore for the first time with my parents. Two years in time and two hundred changes in me! I purposefully walked to the same restaurant where I had my dinner two years back, I checked my weight at the same weighing machine, in short I was trying to re-live every little memory because Mangalore and mInfy together is a memory which I wouldn’t forget in all my lifetime. “Yatri kripiya gaan bhijiyeh…” The lady on the loudspeaker announced the arrival of Mangalore Mail at Platform 1, ready to take me behind in time and memories which I was very much awaiting for.
One night in the train with a ‘Window Corner‘ and a walkman was all I needed to make my transition and by the time I reached Mangalore railway station, I was the Archana who I was three months ago. I had expected myself to be thrilled at the sight of familiar places but on the contrary I was pretty much calm and sure for all I felt was a feeling of belonging. Hampankatta, PVS, MG Road, TMA Pai, Urwa Stores, Kottara…I was naming the places as the auto took me to Aekta’s house where I had planned to stay. The smile from the Punjabi Dabba-wallah as he packed my aloo parantha told me that he remembers, creating the same neighborhood feel that Mangaloreans are good at creating.
After quick refreshment, I walked to my ex-house to pay a courtesy visit to my house-owner, only it wasn’t just courteous, the surprised welcome that she gave me was genuine! When I went to mInfy, the security guard’s smiling “Chenagideera?” made me feel fine and happy. I had SMSed my friends out there of my arrival and they came to the gate to meet me. “Gandhiji, how are you?” That was from my coffee team. My God! How long had it been since I had been called so and that was the moment I realized how much I missed it. In all my life, I had been called with different abbreviations of my name but ‘Gandhiji’ could be associated with none but the Eastmanicas. My friends from my batch then came over too. As I didnt have the Infy tag anymore to get into the building, we all settled near the gate talking and joking and teasing just like we had been doing all along. Excepting Sharekhan’s fractured arm and Balaji’s wicked hairstyle, everything and everybody were what we had always been, making the lapse of time seem imaginary.
Hero, Devji, Patient and myself went to Bharat Mall to get our wedding gifts for ‘god’ while the others went to Kavitha Residency where we were to join after the purchase for my belated dinner treat. We dined for more than three hours, devouring the happenings and updates along with the food. We walked back home along the unpolluted breezy Mangalore street (hot through during the day) where I happened to handshake with a few other known faces that I met on the way. By the time Aekta and myself reached home, it was 12:30 am but that didn’t stop FD from dropping over at our house and we sat up chatting and chatting till 5 am in the morning!
I was awoken the next day after a sleepless night by Devji’s missed call, followed by Devji himself to drive the ‘sleepy me’ into the Qualis for ‘god’s wedding at ‘Puthur’. ‘god’ as a bride was no different from ‘god’ our friend. She was simple, beautiful and natural as ever that I gave a thumbs-up for her attitude within myself. “Wish you a Happy married life dear! God save ‘god’s hubby! ” The journey back in the hot afternoon was compensated by the usual non-stop compulsory pulling of legs between Hero and myself with Patient supporting the standing side and Krrish as usual the silent killer! Time was running out and it was nearly evening when we reached Mangalore again.
I visited Devji’s dad and his friend ‘Dharmu’ who turned out to be a cute, chweet talkative lady making me like her at once. A few minutes there and I was in the railway station again to board the West Coast Express back to Chennai. That being a long weekend in Karnataka for Ugadi, the train was filled with mInfy Tamilians going to their hometowns and I had a great time wandering between compartments with loads to talk till they scattered off at different stations leaving me to reach Chennai alone, the way I started the day before.
In this world, we come across so many places and meet so many people but only a few leave trials of memories in the sands of time. I remembered the moments together, movies together, the joint cooking experiments (otherwise called ‘Kootaanjoru’ in tamil), the trekkings, the birthday treats, the endless list of endless things…After my hometown Pondicherry, Mangalore was a place that has creeped into my heart to last forever. It was a place where I found friends whom I could call friends and mean it too. Its silly that I should be talking about friendship like a teenager when I have long crossed that phase and long lost faith in it. These people proved me wrong. Its not just the fun and play, it was the care and share without expectations of any sort, accepting one another as they were that bonded us, bonding beyond the differences of language, caste, creed or sex that makes me miss them every other minute. Had it not been for certain unavoidable reasons, I wouldn’t have left Mangalore at all. Like I have always said and will always say “Mangalore and mInfy was a place where I was truly myself and comfortable being that…Miss you Mangalore, Miss you so much!”