Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fear and Loathing in Chandigarh

Towns. Small cities. Tier-II-up-and-coming-metros-whose-‘you will see’-awe-inspiring-awesomeness-will-leave-me-in-awe-by-the-year-2031. Please bugger off.

I abhor you.

I am not being proud of my big city upbringing. Neither am I being presumptuous. I speak from experience for my work takes me places; small places to be precise. For the past two years, I’ve spent 2-3 months, at a time, living in shitholes like Kanpur, Hyderabad and Bhopal. Yes, shitholes. The kind that little boys from Dharavi are prepared to voluntarily dive into for the sake of an Amitabh Bachchan autograph (as vividly depicted in the factually correct, phenomenally logical and thoroughly Oscar deserving cinematic masterpiece Slumdawgg Millionaire. Err… sorry, Anil Kapoor uncle, was it Millannairre?).

Bhopal, especially Bhopal. It is a city so devoid of life, character and fun that the longer you live there, the more you die within. It is so monumentally boring that if you Google for ‘fun’ and ‘Bhopal’ you get 0 results. If you’re cheeky and you click on the ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ button instead – Google takes you to a page that says “No you’re not. It’s fuckin’ BHOPAL you idiot!”

I’m not kidding around, try it. Google; not Bhopal!

I detest these microscopic ink blots on the Indian map. Apparently they’re ‘quaint’.

Bollocks. They ain’t.

The point I’m trying to make is that when I was asked to move onto a project in Chandigarh for 4 months, I died. And rightly so. The city is bloody unlivable.

But I had to move.

Fortunately, I wasn’t going to move alone and wasn’t going to live (or die) alone. Or so I thought. As unfortunately, the said accomplice is a woman. So an unmarried, non-couple finding a house together, in a small city, was as easy as the Pope helping this guy out with his problem (click click).

So during the house hunt, we obviously expected a few raised eyebrows, ruffled feathers and tirades on morality from balding landlord uncles and their queerly hirsute and mustached wives. We got more.

Foxed by our ‘peculiar’ living arrangement a seventy year old retired army officer wondered – “So, you’re really not related?” No. She is Sharma and I am Gogol. Do we sound like we’re related? Are you retired or retarded? “But how will this work. A lady needs her space! You have to give a lady her space!” Dearest fake handlebar moustache uncle, after four back-to-back vodka shots, the said lady threw up all over me last Saturday. She is as lady as Gaga. You can’t read her,
can’t read her,
no you can’t read her poker face.

And the only bloody SPACE she needs is a brown paper bag with ‘Puke Here’ written on it.

Reluctantly, he proceeded to show us around the house. It looked perfect, or so I thought. The woman… sorry the lady, had issues – lavatorial issues. There were no attached bathrooms. The loos and the bedrooms were on either side of the hall. So? “Dude, I need my very own bathroom.” Yeah, okay. Pick one. Any one. “No dude. The thing is I have a habit of walking naked from the shower to the wardrobe. Absolutely no clothes on. It’s my thing. So I need an attached bathroom.”

This was TMI*; way too much information for the war-veteran to handle. I swear I could almost see his eyes well up. We left before he could die.

The next place we stopped at was being guarded by a man well into his afterlife, a Gollum like being. He did not care about our living ‘situation’. Clearly all he cared about was the rent which was to be paid in a mystical currency known only to him as ‘the monies’. “I need the monies on time.” “You give me the monies, and then do what you want.” “I want the monies in cash. I don’t keep the monies in the banks.” Obviously! How can you let go of my precioussss?

The house tour involved Gollum, the lady and me, each clenching 4 feet long wooden sticks to defend us from ‘the doggies’. “I have many doggies. The stick is for your protection if the doggies get naughty.” Gollum was honest. He did have many doggies. And they were being very naughty – but, to our relief, only with each other. The doggies were being naughty on the sunshade, on the rooftop, in the garden – in the middle of the day. It’s a doggie’s life after all.

The lady felt she would have teething problems with canines. She after all did not want the doggies invading her space. We moved on.

We then saw a house owned by an army-wife who had clearly assimilated the ‘defence’ culture into everyday parlance. She punctuated every sentence, filled every conversation gap and responded to every query with the same pair of verbal artillery – ‘Great Guns’! Is it okay if we have whores and meth-addicts over for sex de addiction therapy on the second Saturday of every month? “Great Guns!” Can the lady boisterously frolic around in bed with your sixteen year old once in a while? “Great Guns!” We urban yuppies say ‘Fuck’ during orgasm. What, aunty, is your choice of words during climax? “Great Guns Son! Great Guns!”

While the army-wife had a strangely elegant demeanor, there were a tad too many guns and rifles hanging on the walls for our comfort. Not so great after all, eh.

At the end of the day we were strongly considering a reply to this ad -

Chandigarh, I loathe you.

Note to self. When a ‘To Let’ newspaper advert says ‘suitably furnished in a safe locality’, it’s to be read as hospital beds, white ceramic tile floored hall, gentle electrocution sources and alcoholic Chucky Sr. standing guard.

*@SP – This is what aptly can be classified as TMI.