i sleep late. really late. Munirka village comes alive at 6:30AM - kids run to the local school, the caretakers of all buildings turn on the 'paani ka motors', the day job people come out to have bread omlettes and tea at Tripti Restruant (that's how they spell it here), the paper boy throws up the newspapers to the 4th/5th/6th floors with sniper-like precision, and landladies curse the sabjiwaala and then bitch about the north eastern people they have rented their rooms out to, the all white wearing landlords stand in their balconies and check out office going women from the strategic angle (as if that's not disturbing enough, some of them also burp in, what I think is the G-major and F#minor scale while pleasuring their eyes and rubbing their bellies), the guy who clears out the dustbins from my building accidently wakes up the the creepy old man who sleeps in a cot in the verandah and they have their customary MC/BC session.... these are the things that tell me that it's time I crash into the mattress.
But yesterday I was more hungry than other days. My work for the day was done but I just couldn't sleep. It was 5:15 in the morning and Munirka was still sleeping.
New Delhi has it's India Gate, Munirka Village has her Pal Dairy. A boon to cockroaches like I, and some call center people, it opens everyday at 5:30AM. All I had to do was wait for minutes. But I knew that staying in the room and watching episodes of Seinfeld wasn't possible with the stomach whining and growling more than George and Kramer* put together. So after almost eight years, i decided to go for a morning walk. The shop was eighty yards away from my room but,... umm... hunger amplifies distance. I stepped out, and it was still dark. But suddenly a familiar smell took over the entire scene. I couldn't recall what it was, but I had to know. A lady, about fifty or so, had just passed by, and I was sure it was her hair oil which triggered my curiosity. I finally had something to do till the shop pulled up its shutters.
I followed the lady. She was walking about twenty yards ahead, and stopping near every ground floor balcony and plucking flowers from the flower pots and putting them on a gold coloured vessel. Must be bengali, I said to myself. The fact that I did not know what that smell was, was killing me every second. It was too familiar to just ignore. Speeding up to her, and finally catching up, I asked in my politest voice which hair oil she used. She turned to me, slightly puzzled, and semi-shrieked in proper bengali-hindi - "O Ma, hum toh dor gaya tha!... Hair oil se kya hoga? Tum toh taakla ho." She told me to use castor oil for quick hair growth, and left the scene like a pickpocket leaves a crowded bus after the job's done.
I was speechless. And bald.
And I hadn't figured out what kind of hair-oil she used. I'd like to think it's a tie between Bajaj Almond and Keo Karpin. My aunts in Silchar used these, and hence the vague familiarity.
On the plus side, Pal Dairy had opened, right when I remembered I was hungry.
*George and Kramer are the best characters ever written for television. And Seinfeld is the best show.