BANGALORE: ‘When exactly did you say you came from?’ Manoj asks me, the moment we're out of the house. I don't hear his question at first because I've stepped outside the house for the first time since yesterday and it feels wonderful.
Bangalore in 1982 is simply beautiful. There’s no other word to describe it. I can understand what my mom means when she laments about how much this city has changed with all the concrete apartments coming up, taking the place of all these lovely trees.
‘Tamanna?’ Manoj says and I turn to look at him and beam a smile in his direction. He looks taken aback.‘What?’ I ask him, for the first time not feeling upset about having travelled back in time. The air is cool and sweet even at 10 am and I feel so fresh and clean. That’s also because Ajji has insisted I take a bath before leaving the house. Pouring mug after mug of hot water on my body after soaping it down with sweet smelling Cinthol soap is a lot different from taking a five minute shower. I'm not even annoyed at the clothes I've been given to wear. A slightly tight maroon kurta that is paired with deep blue flared pants. I only muttered something about people being colour blind back in the 80s before donning them, and here I am walking with Manoj, going to meet his grandfather.
We haven't discussed anything in the house and I wave a bye to the girls as I leave with him. If all goes well, I might be back in my own house and will have a lot of explaining to do to my mom about my clothes. I already feel slightly nostalgic about leaving these people and all the lives they have to lead ahead of them.‘I asked you a question,’ Manoj says and I nod.‘2012,’ I tell him and he gasps.‘Thirty years! Oh my god!’ he almost looks as though he doesn't believe me. I smile at him happily as we pass a park that is so lush and heavy with the fragrance of flowers that it takes my breath away.‘So you know our future then?’ he says and my smile freezes. I don't want to do this. I don't want to tell him what is going to happen in the world. And I sure hope he won’t ask me about what he’s doing back in 2012 because there’s absolutely no sign of him there.I shrug and look down. We’ve walked past old style colonial bungalows, the kind that have given way to monstrous and ugly apartments-now. The traffic on the road is minimal.
There are a few strange and huge cars serenely making their way and many bicycles. I spot a few funny looking scooters in interesting colours as well.
‘What’s that?’ I ask Manoj hoping that he won’t continue his line of questioning. He looks in the direction of a vibrant yellow scooter that is parked on the footpath and he looks at me in surprise.
‘That’s a Lambretta,’ he says. ‘They’re on their way out but don’t tell me there aren’t any scooters in the future!’‘Oh there are! There are!’ I say quickly, hoping to veer him away from this line of questioning.
‘So, you never did tell me who you are and how you found that photo,’ he says, crossing his arms as he walks beside me. I think we’re almost near his house and so he’s slowed down a little.
I look at him uncomfortably. ‘I’m Suma’s daughter,’ I tell him and he looks at me disbelievingly. Then he grins so widely and gives a whoop of laughter that shocks me completely.
‘What’s so funny?’ I ask him, trying not to notice those dimples or how endearing he looks when he’s laughing. He slaps his thigh and shakes his head at the same time.
‘Suma’s daughter! I cannot believe it. And she has no idea!’
I shake my head. ‘Obviously. I don’t want to freak her out!’ I tell him.
‘Suma keeps telling me very importantly that she never wants to get married. Good to know that she changes her mind in the future,’ he says and I look away uncomfortably.
Clearly he has no idea about the humongous crushes all three girls have on him. Guys can be so totally dense. ‘Here we are!’ he says and we stop before a house that is smaller than my Ajji’s house.
‘What did you tell your grandfather?’ I ask Manoj out of curiosity. ‘I told him that we have proof his time travelling camera finally works,’ he says and smiles at me apologetically. I nod as he unlocks the door to his house.
‘You stay with your grandfather? No one else?’ I ask him. His face falls a little and he nods, his head bent.
‘My parents died a few years back. My grandfather and I have been living together since then. We moved to Bangalore recently. We’d been living in Mysore all these years,’ he says.
‘How old are you?’ I ask him, even though I feel sad about him not having parents. I just get tongue tied when faced with occasions where I have to offer condolences. I don’t know if the people receiving them really appreciate it or not.
He looks surprised and relieved at the change of topic. ‘I’m 18,’ he says with a smirk and then we walk into his house.
The house is a little bare of furniture but there are lots of books everywhere and plenty of newspapers. In fact, there’s a tall pile of newspapers near one of the doors. The hall has a couple of chairs and a radio. Once again, I notice there is no TV. Apparently, it hasn’t made its appearance in middle class Indian homes yet.
From the hall, I can see a narrow corridor leading towards two rooms. Manoj asks me to sit down and he goes towards one of the rooms to call his grandfather.
I sit down gingerly and look around with horrified interest.
It’s obvious that Manoj and his grandfather are not too house proud. They’ve gotten used to living in all this dust. The part of me with cleanliness OCDs is almost desperate to take a cloth and show them what I can do with it. Then again, the room is so dreary and dull that mere cleaning up will not be enough. The room needs to be painted, windows need to be opened and they need to use more lights.
A man emerges from one of the rooms followed by Manoj.
I stand up instantly, wondering if I will recognise him. That just might solve the mystery of who Manoj is or why he’s so significantly absent from the present.
This is an excerpt from the book No Time for Goodbyes by Andaleeb Wajid, who has written other titles like More than Just Biryani and My Brother's Wedding