Writing this from a cyber cafe in Bhubaneswar. It's going to be a sentimental post, so if you aren't in the mood, read no further.
The last 30 months of my life have been as pleasant as the dentist's drill for reasons that most of you are well aware of. And yet I found the past fortnight to be particularly jarring on the nerves. As if the dentist's drill smelled of the last patient's puke, resembled a jackhammer, was sluiced with infected blood and had been hooked to a Dolby system.
In other words, I've been dealing with a nightmarish legal matter, a matter that enunciates the massive failure of another person and I. At the end of this legal battle, neither of us will emerge winners. But I must fight this battle for the sake of someone more precious than I.
Wow! I never thought I'll dare blog about this, even in a cryptic way. But hold on. This blog post, at least, gets happier.
So here I am, in Bhubaneswar, after a fortnight that offered the following:
1) Weeks of creative client work squeezed into days
2) Brief time capsules to heal the unfinished-ness of my novella
3) Long days of travel &
4) Last but not the least: legal jaw-jaw, sleepless nights & deadlines that only I cared about.
And just when I was wrapping up the humongous legal document, a day before it had to be filed in court, I lost my wallet. Just like that. It contained replaceable items like my ATM/Debit cards, PAN card, a respectable stash of dough and visiting cards. It also contained a few irreplaceable personal effects:
1) A happy photograph
2) A lovely hand-written letter that did much to nullify the pain of the legal matter
3) A one-dollar bus ticket that, in Milwaukee, would have taken me from Juneau Ave to the city library on Wisconsin & 9th.
4) A recipe that contained the secrets of my mother's world-famous sambhar
Anyway, you could imagine my plight. I would have had no option but to beg outside Bhubaneswar station to pay for the legal paper and the printing charges and the notary's fee. Thankfully, I was not alone. I was a welcome guest at the Malu household.
I've known Chandan Malu since 1997. His wife Swati is fast becoming an equally good friend of mine - just as sweet and dependable.
Swati, as flustered as me, helped me search for the wallet. We soon gave it up as a lost cause, and she called Chandan and gave him the news. Chandan, who had much work pending in the office, swiped out without another thought, rushed to the nearest ATM, withdrew some money, arrived home, searched for the wallet himself, then escorted me to the lawyer's house - on the other side of the city. He sat patiently as I indulged in the by-now familiar legal jaw-jaw. We then went searching for a printer who had the ability and the desire to patiently take printouts on legal paper. We finally found one, finished the mind-numbing chore and left in his car only to discover that some of the pages had to be reprinted. Without a word, he turned the car, back towards the printer. This time, we finished that task well and then went for a late biryani dinner. Despite being dog-tired, he then drove me to the police station to file a complaint about the missing wallet (I needed this to travel back on Indian Railways using my e-Ticket.) He then drove to another ATM to withdraw sufficient money for my use. We reached home where Swati was anxiously awaiting our return. She wouldn't rest till the Debit cards were blocked. Chandan sat through the whole thing, as I called a million numbers to get the cards blocked.
The next morning, as I left for the ordeal, there wasn't sufficient time for Swati to give me breakfast. So she found a packet of sliced cake - which I consumed on the court premises, while waiting for my tardy lawyer.
Ever since, they have been calling and ensuring that I'm doing well.
And this is not the first time that the Malus have showered their love and hospitality on me. Whenever I come to Bhubaneswar, they open their doors with a smile. I don't know what I've done to deserve friends like them.
Today, I think back about those million instances when my friends cared more than enough to help me out of a tight spot. I counted and am now certain that I have at least 34 such friends, accumulated over the years. And guess what: the list keeps growing longer! I must be doing something right in my life.
To all my dear guardian angels out there - thanks for being such beautiful people and such great friends. You are the reason the dentist's drill looks squeaky clean and smells minty fresh. Life will extract its pain. Meanwhile, there's reason to smile.