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Vol. XXX No. No. 11, October 1-15, 2020

United India Colony Days – III

by Ramanuja Iyer (Ramanuja.Iyer@gmail.com)

(Continued from last fortnight)

I had started my B.Sc at Vivekananda college, and was still not sure of what to do with my career, but I knew that I had to make something work to get our family out of the woods, and my elder brother was already pitching in on that front. This meant that romance had to take a backseat, but I kept enjoying the eye to eye meetings. I would walk one extra stop to catch 12-B (bus route) from the Liberty cinema instead of from Trustpuram, just so I could walk via her house for a glimpse. As I was also the vegetable shopper at home, it also provided me with an opportunity to walk to that side of town. There were days when I must have walked around Circular Road a few times just to catch a glimpse; if I missed the first time I could catch her on the second or third. The road being circular helped as you could go on forever without having to turn back. I must have raked up a record number of steps, but back then we walked everywhere. Sometimes their print-shop (I guess that is what they did) neighbours, an old thatha (grandpa) and a younger guy would give me a hard look as if to say ‘move your eyes away’, but that was just a momentary deterrent as the hazel eyes held me in thrall.

Then one day I found that they had moved out and I was somewhat shattered. But this was just for a short while, as the guys assured me that they had moved to an apartment on the other side of Circular road, which meant they were closer to me. Now I could again see her going to school and back when I was around, and the long-distance eyesight helped too. I was keen for an intro to start a friendship, but those days confidence was not easy to come by, and we were in a neighborhood where people who knew our families could start some gossip. I wanted to avoid that situation.

A couple of times I did try to meet her on the road to talk, but destiny had other ideas. That was the end of any real meeting, but the eyes kept meeting. The next year I left for Kerala to do my engineering, and also felt confident that I could make something out of my life. On getting back home after the first semester, after what seemed like a very long time, I looked forward to the waiting at the balcony, and the waiting was all that happened. Maybe the distance did distance us after all. I left for college after the short break and by the time I was back home next I felt that Maya had moved on, and a couple of friends indicated this was so. I got to know that she had joined a nearby ladies college for her graduation the next year. Our family again had to move home a little away from UI Colony. With that we drifted apart and I guess moved on with life. A beautiful chapter in my life, that first crush, came to an abrupt end, but the memories of the eyes meeting lingered through. Looking back, it was all like a maya (illusion). Very soon, all of our gang were also in college in different places and we drifted apart as well.

The romantic in me did not vanish I guess after that disappointment, and I found a great friend and companion in a fellow classmate at college, who also happens to be my wife and best friend as well, and I am blessed to have her in my life. I also ensured that I did not repeat the mistake from the previous time and had the guts to ask this time around. While my first crush was limited to just the eye to eye meets, my first real love was full-fledged with interactions and a beautiful meeting of the heart and the mind. I guess college is a great place to meet friends and when you take a liking to a person you have so many opportunities to talk to them and spend time with them without having to worry about family and neighbors spotting you.

After college I was desperate to get a job and went through a brief rough spell before I hit the ground running. I was in Kolkata for a while and then in Bangalore, and then back in Chennai before I left for the US. Work schedules were hectic and I also managed to pack in an MBA from a good college along the way. Life has been good to me and all my siblings; together we were able to help with the family financials and did not have much to complain in life. We had a lot to be thankful for. Work and family became the priorities while old memories were left aside. Our gang had also spread out to do masters or to establish themselves at work, and all ended up at good places in India and abroad, with five of us spread out in different parts of the US itself. We friends drifted apart, though I met with Keshav a few times in the US, and during my visit back to India. My family also moved to the Adyar area, a different part of the city, and most of our gang in India had also moved out of Chennai for work. I guess all of us were busy trying to establish our lives, managing young families, trying to climb the corporate ladder and making new friends.

And then came COVID-19. Suddenly we had time for everything in life, especially for the old friendships and it was time to connect once again. So our UI Colony WhatsApp group became active and Arvind took the initiative to do a Zoom call. It was the first time I was meeting the whole gang after 25 plus years and we took off as if we were meeting after just a few days. And that says a lot about the depth of the friendship we had. We reminisced about those good old days, talked about the cricket, the hand-tennis, the chats on the terrace and all those nice memories of old.

And then Keshav asked ava eppadi irukaa da (how is she doing), asking if I knew where she was, and then the rest joined. I was silent for a while, could feel a slight lump in the throat, I did not even know where she was, totally clueless. I asked the gang if anyone knew and they all shook their heads. After the call, I was flooded with memories of those days and of the meeting of the eyes. I did feel a little bad that I did not even know where she is now, a person who had given me so much hope and joy for those 2-3 years when things were not going my way. Sometimes some people pass through our lives to provide positive vibes when needed and then they disappear, and to me this was one such instance. I hope she is fine and settled in her life, and that knowledge could give a good closure to my mind. Till then I’d have the kanum-kanum-kollaiadithaal (Stolen glances) memories…

The gang is planning more Zoom sessions, and also a meeting in United India Colony sometime soon after the current situation clears. Looking back, we had great fun growing up without falling fully into the rat race, and still all of us ended up doing great. We’d never want to trade those memories for that extra time with the books. Would be a great feeling to be back there especially with the gang around, and maybe play a game of cricket on the streets again, and re-live the UI Colony Dinangal.

(Concluded)

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