Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "How I met my..." and "Somewhere"

Two weeks' worth of scribblings this time. Computer problems at work and at home to blame for the tardy offerings.

"How I met my..."

perfect red leather backpack
– not too small, not too big. It was just right for me (and, elsewhere, in a situation totally unrelated to this one and with regards to something else entirely, for Goldilocks too).

It was a long time ago, but I still have very fond memories of it. It gave me sterling service for years, and I took it everywhere – to work, to class, to the gym, on short breaks, on long breaks, just about everywhere. The leather was fantastic quality too - soft as butter but durable, and amenable to rough handling.

I was studying German at the Max Mueller Bhavan at the time, while working as a sub-editor in the Indian Express. A lot of Indian companies dealing with their German counterparts (and vice versa, too – it was always better to be recruited by a German company because they paid so VERY much better!) advertised their requirements for translators and/or interpreters at the Bhavan. I did a few impromptu translations (but alas, was too shy to ask for payment), but thought interpreting might be somewhat outside of my capabilities.

My German teacher, however, thought differently... he thought I needed the practice! He pushed me to apply for a 3-day stint as an interpreter at the annual Leather Expo in Madras, which showcased the leather products of Indian manufacturers/exporters and attracted quite a few German leather importers. Much to my surprise, my application was accepted by an Indian company. So I took three days off and presented myself at the Expo on the opening day.

I was quite nervous at the start, but apparently my job only involved sitting at the company’s stall and answering questions posed by any German businessman who might happen by. Once I found that my ability to understand/respond in German (helped by the fact that usually the Germans spoke fairly good English!) was reasonably up to the mark in real life, not just confined to the classroom, I began to enjoy myself. When things were quiet, I wandered around the other stalls and looked through the garments, bags and assorted leather products on display there. There were items I'd never seen in any normal leather shop in Madras, and the quality of everything at the exhibition was excellent, because they were samples of items meant for export. The manufacturers could not display any but the very best of their wares.

The Expo itself was meant mainly for businesses, so the first 2-1/2 days were not open to the general public. Naturally, when the gates were thrown open to the hordes on the afternoon of the last day, there was always very nearly a stampede. No surprise, considering the export quality of the items and the fact that they were available at huge discounts.

I was, however, given my status as interpreter, spared the necessity of being shoved around in the teeming crowds. No sweaty pushing or irritable shouting or claustrophobic aggression for me, because I had the privilege of reserving the two items that I wanted (and could afford). Watching a dozen people try to buy them, and being told “Sorry, those are reserved” afforded me many sweet moments. It was such a novelty to be on the privileged inside track, rather than be the one unprivileged person amongst all the rich witches.

So on the evening of the last day, after the carnage was over and there were only the carcasses of the stalls left – apart from the reserved items – I went over to my special particular stall and presented myself to the salesgirl there (whom I’d befriended with great difficulty, spurred out of my normal reserve only by unadulterated greed) along with the princely sum of Rs 400. That was Rs 350 for my beautiful red leather backpack and another Rs 50 for an equally gorgeous red leather waist-belt with two zipped compartments. It, too, was just the right size - not too small nor too big.

(That waist-belt needs a whole other post, but I’m not going to bother. Anywhere I went traveling, it went with me. As a paranoid traveler – I HAVE to check every five minutes that my passport hasn’t unaccountably vapourised, for instance - I kept my passport, travel documents, money, pen and lip balm in the belt around my waist, and I was good to go anywhere and everywhere. I didn’t have to check the whereabouts of passport or money as often – although I have to admit to checking every so often that I still had the belt itself! – and it made me a much more relaxed tourist.)

I used that red leather backpack, as I said, for years… until it somehow got a great big oil stain on the front. I would have carried it around anyway, but for the objections arising from my family and friends. As for the red leather waist-belt, it was left behind somewhere on a trip and irretrievably lost by a sibling who shall remain unnamed (although he knows who he is… heheh). Come to think of it, I'm not actually sure that the same sibling was not responsible for the oil stain on my backpack as well. Oh well, both my beauties are long gone now, but the memories remain!



(... over the rainbow? No, not really. But it was the first thing that came to (my) mind. You can blame Little Orphan Annie for it.)

Somewhere… somebody is unhappy, suffering, hungry, thirsty, torturing, beating, cheating, hating, killing, crying, dying…

Elsewhere… somebody is happy, laughing, enjoying, breathing, singing, creating, loving, flying, sailing, picnicking, living…

I’m here and there and, maybe, getting somewhere. But I know where I’d rather be.



chronicworrier said...

Tell your comp(s) that I'm very annoyed. Or, maybe not. :-)

I love your writing 'cause it throws surprises & twists & threatens to steer the word cliched into oblivion.

Radha said...

How about that lovely perfect-for-you red leather beret you got in NY and lost to one of the acid pools in Yellowstone? I was expecting that saga too :P

Bluebethley said...

I loved your rich description and the neat way external realities are contrasted with internal uncertainties. How well you capture the tentativeness of youth -- and the love of a certain red leather backpack!

Teesu said...

It was super -- the red leather bag post was. Mostly because I personally know too well the 'irresponsible' sibling who must have somewhere in the other side of the world grinned his usual lopsided embarrased grin;)on reading this.

You ARE funny:)

And.. i wasss wondering what had happened to you...

shyam said...

CW: Thank you for your support :)

Radi: Red beret has been whined about in my NY travelogue... what, you want a re-run? :)

Bluebethley: Thank you!

Teesu: I had serious withdrawal b'cos of the damn computers. That's all that happened, really :)