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Punekar Memories II

The cool breeze swept his hair back as he drove down the Wadia College bridge. He had done it several times since he was a teenager. But today was different. Without any reason he stopped by the Mohanish snack bar which had been closed down to make way for a new shopping complex. He leaned back to look at the monster that now housed Cafe Delite.He thought back of the times when the place was full of trees. With a wry smile he started his bike and took a right turn to get to his office.To a casual observer nothing had changed and yet, so much had.

Three years had passed since his friend has asked him the meaning of nostalgia. Now he knew what it was all about. As he booted up his machine, he looked around at the place that had been his refuge, nay temple for the last two years. As his 33 Mhz machine went thru the laborious process of memory checking he let his mind drift.

It was raining hard that morning. Like many other hopefuls he had queued up outside the American consulate, hoping to get a visa to the land of milk and honey. It all happened so quickly. He pushed his papers into the tray. And before he knew it the Reject stamp was imprinted on his application and he was out on the road dejected, despondent, shattered.

Days turned into weeks. He found solace in his work environment and his exercise schedule, both of which became a religion to him. Slowly but surely the pain of rejection turned into a hazy nightmare of the past. He liked the work.People respected his hard work, and technical skills.Life was on a roll. He still had his Pune where he was very comfortable. Sinhagad was still a good climb on weekends. Rajgad was still a good night trek. He felt secure in the familiar environs of Fishers club. The US stayed in his life as a source of blonde jokes, surd jokes, ajit jokes and occasional tales of oppulence from friends returning after years.Every one wanted to know why he wouldn't move out of Pune." Out there the world's yours, man" his friends would write. He would merely smile. As the years slipped by he was known in office and outside as the quintessential Punekar. He felt proud.

But he felt a strange emptiness growing within him. What started as a mere curiosity soon became an obsession. He kept telling himself, as others had told him before, that he was young,talented and this was the time to move. The MADNESS had returned with a vengeance, this time landing him at the door steps of that great deliverer of dreams, "The Body Shopper".

A tap on his back brought him back to reality. He looked at the screen which read "General Protection Fault" in module USER.EXE. How true he thought. A strong filter coffee at Madhuban did no good to his depression which was growing by the minute. He went for a walk in Wadia college.Unmindful of the stares he was getting he walked around the place where he had studied girls and discussed chemistry and plotted the outcome of many a college election. It all seemed so far away.

The H-1 was a lot more easier than the F-1 And the visa officer actually gave him the visa without asking a question. Thru the days of hectic shopping he tried to silence a little voice that told him that something \ was wrong. He had heard of ABCDs, but here he was, a PBCD(Pune Born Confused Desi) groping for direction. And he started his bike to get back home for the last time, he admitted to himself what he did not want to all along. It was time to leave the nest. It was too late to back out now. (A few feeble attempts had got the Shopper really worked up). It was at that moment the stupidity of whatever he was doing dawned on him. No more hanging around at the chowk after dinner. No more discussions on who would be the next Poona shree. No discussions on local coperative politics. It was all over.

As the Deccan Queen pulled out of platform 1 the next day he knew what the little voice was trying to say. He was leaving a place where everyone knew and accepted him (Come to think of it his house was a land mark for many a lost stranger in Hadapsar). He was too much of a "ghati" to ever accept everything of the place he was going to. And worse when he came back he would no longer be automatically accepted in local circles. After all that "Phoren hun aala aaahe pattya" tag would be there. In other words the little voice was about to die. His life as a pyjama wearing townie was over. Almost instinctively he pulled out his Marathi-English dictionary to look for a word that matched "TRISHANKU" . Now that wouldn't be in the GRE word list. Would it?

Sudhir Menon

P.S BTW this is not the story of the author's life.

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