Saturday, May 1, 2010

Anurag and the window

Anurag put the laptop aside, stretched and came out of the room to his small but treasured balcony. Sugato didn't have one to his room, and never complained about it. Journalists don't have much time to make good use of a balcony, Anurag guessed.
But Anurag wasn't a great lover of free air either. He didn't use the balcony as an opening to nature, and only Anurag knew that. The lazy winter afternoon was almost over, leaving behind a sleepy aroma. Anurag leaned over the waist-high railing and looked at the almost complete construction of Bikas Chandra's north window. The wooden frames and the doors were set and the cementing around the frame was complete. They would probably start coloring the window the next morning. The window was not like this even only a couple of weeks ago, thought Anurag. Bikas would never know that he was not only going to change his window, but also a major part of Anurag's life which, everybody thought, a completely normal life.

Everybody...except Anurag himself.

Anurag woke up at nine every day; had a cup of tea over the newspaper and waited for the bathroom to be empty. At 9:45, he started getting impatient and shouted at his flat-mate to get out of the bathroom. He had to run to catch a bus and jostled his way into its overflowing crowd with his enormous laptop back-pack drawing thousands of angry comments towards himself. He was late almost everyday to find Avantika impatiently waiting for him in his cubicle. For about an hour, he answered her questions about the programs he had written, and then went to canteen to have his lunch. The other half of the day passed as dull as it could be, and Anurag hovered around his supervisor's door with an 'Away' notice on it knowing that he wouldn't be able to meet him just like the last couple of months. When the clock ticked four, he abandoned hope and returned to his cubicle to go through the problem in hand yet again as he had been doing for the last two years. After about an hour and a half, he locked his cubicle, put the key on a hook behind the almirah so that Avantika could open the door and wait for him again the next day, and left.

But life was not like this even a couple of years ago. The journey through the carefree and joyful student hood was the best time in Anurag's life. Anurag had very few friends, and they were wonderful friends. Arun, Alok, Anurag and Sharmishtha - classmates called them 'the gang of four' in college. Anurag was a little reserved in opening up to others; but to his friends he could be completely himself. They continued their journey together to the Master's degree. Five long years of togetherness made Anurag think that they would go on like this...forever. Alas! He wasn't right.

Even the loveliest movie comes to an end, and so did the student life of Anurag. Unfortunately, all of Anurag's friends joined other institutes in other cities all around India and Anurag got a chance in an institute in the same old city. That, Anurag knew, was something they could do nothing about, and he had to remain alone in this city . But it didn't make much of a difference, since Anurag was sure that nothing could come into the way of their friendship. And keeping contact was not a problem...everybody has internet these days. Like an ideal young researcher, Anurag started his Ph.D with great passion and enthusiasm. He had his dreams to become an eminent physicist, and started working hard from the very first day.

Soon Anurag realized that devoting oneself completely to research was not that easy. One has to have his or her other priorities too..and family is one of them. Anurag's parents were happy that their son had made it to somewhere, and now they expected him to be settled. And settling in such cases, make no mistake, has only one meaning...But Anurag had no plans to be married..not now at least! So Anurag started using the same old tactics he used while playing football with his friends. He used to play striker and whenever he came across a defender bulkier than himself, he passed the ball without going into confrontation. His friends laughed at him, but could not deny the fact that he was the one with a clean game and least number of bumps and bruises..always. Every field is linked..both in Physics and in life! You can map one onto some other.

But slowly, Anurag started to hate his life. As the time progressed, he was getting hinged to an abnormally ordered schedule. The high spirit, after these two long and painfully frustrating years, had worn off almost entirely. He was not making much progress through the problem he was assigned to, and started to grow impatient. His life in the city was confined within his institute and the rented flat he shared with Sugato. He had almost none to talk his heart out in the city. He was missing his friends more than ever. He could talk to them, of course, thanks to the internet and mobile services. But that was painfully insufficient to his desperate need of a friend..a friend of flesh and bone..a friend with a presence.

Anurag reduced talking alarmingly. He started going home more frequently than ever. But he only spent time with his laptop writing codes while at home. Naturally, his parents were worried...but he wouldn't talk to them either. He even started avoiding long conversations with his research-group, which, in turn, affected his work. He was dying to get out of this open up to somebody...but to whom?

One evening, while back from the institute, he was staring idly to the ground of the housing in front of their building. Suddenly he sensed someone staring at him, he could see him by the corner of his eye. He turned around sharply to find none except his own reflection on the glass window of a flat just opposite to theirs. Laughing at his own fear, he told his image, "that's some shock you gave me, you know that?"

And it started. Every evening, back from the institute, Anurag spent a couple of hours with his new friend..himself. He would cancel all his works for that meeting. There were none to disturb them, as Sugato usually did not stay at home at that hour. Nobody knew what did the trick, but slowly he started being normal again. His performance in work improved remarkably. His parents were relieved watching him converting to the same old Anurag. Everything came back on track once again.

This continued for over a year. Anurag's secret remained to himself. Nobody had a clue what was happening at the balcony of Anurag Banerjee's room for an hour or two every evening. Anurag came to know that the flat belonged to someone named Bikas Chandra - a retired bank employee, who usually stayed at his daughter's. He saw him only for a couple of times over the year, when he came and stayed at his flat for a day or two. With him in the flat, the window remained usually open. And even if it was closed, Anurag had to postpone his evening chat...what's the point of drawing attention of old Mr. Chandra!

But Anurags evening venture came to a stop about two weeks ago when a kid from their housing hit a sixer and broke the glass of that very window. Anurag's world collided with the shattered window and stopped. He was alone once again..and the feeling, as before, was not comforting at all! He became edgy. He could sense the same old loneliness creeping back in himself. He tried to use some replacements - his reflection on the mirror for instance and realized that somehow he could not relate himself to if there was something special to that particular window. He hoped against hope that Mr. Chandra would replace the glass and his friend would be back soon untill two days ago when Mr. Chandra called for a carpenter and ordered for a window frame. Anurag witnessed the entire conversation from the balcony. His friend was not going to come back..ever again.

Anurag woke up with a start from his thoughts...his mobile was ringing in his pocket. He took the phone out . It was his mother. Anurag braced himself..he had thought about it for the past two days, and the time has come..
"Ani.. how are you son? "
"Ma.. I was thinking... I need to tell you something... "
"Err.. Ma.. I think it is time I get married.. what do you think?"