Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Languid Afternoons

It is one of those languid afternoons. The Delhi winter ones. The two rods of the electric heater glow orange and then red in one corner and we all along with our books and huge mugs of tea and tiny plates piled with chocolate Bourbon biscuits are scattered around the room discussing language. Not a leisurely meditation upon tricky linguistics ala Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry but the more mundane one on semiotics and semantics and the inevitable death of the old unwieldy ones. You know the kind when minds are full of books and theories and postulates. When everyone tries to sound much more solemn and profound than they really are. And everyone is so earnest.

And then it happens. A sentence or maybe a word casually placed among a group of words and we are suddenly reciting “Khub ladi mardani woh to Jhansi wali Rani thi” and before we know it someone starts singing a Dev Anand song. Yes the same one about the forlorn moon and sleepless nights. And the kettle is empty.

No one can quite tell exactly when twilight obliterated the hazy afternoon. But when the singing stops the sounds of the crickets seem to testify to the rueful end. A kind of melancholy descends upon the room. Suddenly the conversation becomes awkward. People start mumbling about dinnertime, tutorials to finish and so one by one leave. And all is quiet except for the crickets.

Almost fifteen years later the possibility of a languid afternoon wiled away in intense discussions and cheerful banter seems almost preposterous. What can we possibly talk about? How superficial we all are. And how utterly banal.

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