A short while ago I was walking up and down my apartment, wondering how to get over this barrier that keeps me from sitting down to write. I had a topic in mind – “The Freedom Slave” was to be the title of the post – and I had thought it through many times over, but I couldn’t get myself sit down and create a structure around my thoughts. It seemed more like homework (“Write an essay on ‘the freedom slave’ you met in the US last month”) than an act of exploration, which is what writing should be. The mind then drifted towards the facets of life in Iran I had seen in a movie some hours before (“Crimson Gold”), and the book I had begun reading yesterday (“Persepolis 2”). Simple things about life in a foreign culture can be so interesting; what about my life here could someone be interested in? I then thought of the lunch this afternoon, and the conversation with the couple who had invited me – yes, that was it. It would be a simple act of describing a Sunday afternoon spent at a friend’s place. Years later, the lines I put down today would take me back to those few hours, and convey a glimpse of life “back then”.
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On Tuesday, I run into S & V at a restaurant. It has been a while since we’ve met, and at the end of a brief chat S suggests I come over for lunch on Sunday. I gladly accept the invitation.
On Saturday, I remember to pick-up a box of chocolates. (Since Wife is not around this year, I have to make a conscious effort and not forget such things). S has suggested that I come around noon, so I leave home at noon on Sunday and drive towards Heidelberg. The dial on the car shows 33 degrees Celsius, and it makes me wonder why anyone would want reams of data as a proof of global warming when the signs around us are so obvious.
I climb three floors to get to their apartment. It is a lovely apartment, airy and full of light. S is his relaxed self, and V looks stunning, as always. I am offered orange juice, and we start with the topic on everyone’s minds: the football world cup. S thinks it is fixed – Germany is winning too easily. I think Germany is playing good, attacking football.
The TV is on, and images from CNN keep floating by: forces kill Taliban militants in Afghanistan; US plan to move troops out of Iraq seen as too optimistic; violence in Gaza strip; Indians perform the ritual of a frog’s wedding to induce monsoon; Germany and Argentina move into quarterfinals; Arcelor shareholders will decide on Mittal’s bid…
For lunch, we have jeera rice, aloo mutter, baingan bharta, and raita. It is delicious, and spicy; I have to use my napkin often.
Throughout, the conversation flows freely; we are never short of topics. We talk of travel (Scandinavia is a part of Europe yet to be covered; taking a cruise would be fun; planning a trip to Spain later this year); German perception of India (which varies from some colleagues who travel to India each year and find it fascinating, to those who come back from one business trip to our Bangalore office and are exhausted by it all); parents in Hyderabad (how S suggested they visit a yoga class so that they could meet others to socialize with); ISKCON (how some brilliant students went into spirituality early on and lost those precious years); Shashi Tharoor (his nomination to the post of UN Secretary General; his novel “The great Indian novel”); Western resistance to eastern ownership (as exhibited by the initial reasons for rejecting Mittal’s bid for Arcelor, and other cases in the recent past); inter cultural marriage (how we had to win over parents opposing the alliance); future plans (of Wife after MBA, and in general).
S & V have been here since three years, and they agree that the years have flown by. They know that they do not wish to settle here, but moving isn’t easy: change in location implies change in work, and there is also a good amount of inertia. I mention that my dad keeps referring to his four years in Ghana as the best period in his life, and I have the feeling that I am presently living through what I will later refer to as the best years of my life. S & V wholeheartedly agree to this: S also thinks of this phase in Germany along similar terms. And yet, there is a desire to move on….
I leave around 3 pm. On the drive back, the temperature display shows 35 degrees.
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There wasn’t anything extraordinary about this lunch. But what would I not give to bring back memories of a perfectly ordinary lunch I had ten years ago: memories of the company, the mood, the cuisine, the conversation, and of course, the temperature.