Monday, August 3, 2009

Memoirs of Noida: 1450 Park View Apartments

15th July is the birthday of my career. In fact both I and my career are Cancerians. I was born on 12th July and my career on 15th. Cancerians are supposed to be emotional (read irrational). I know about myself, but I’m yet to figure out how much irrational my career is. Anyway, what so ever be it, I went into a nostalgic mood recently and started reminiscing a lot about those days we spent in Noida in our first job. In retrospect I do feel that those fifteen months were indeed a very interesting part of our lives. First job, like the first love, is always a very emotional thing. Had we been to, say, Jhumritalaiya for out first job, then also, I believe, we would have felt equally nostalgic after thirteen years. Being in Noida, so close to Delhi, indeed had its added charm.

After vouching for good characters and guaranteeing that all of us are from respectable families, we finally managed to get this apartment - 1450, Park View Apartments in Sector 25. We’d a harrowing experience with the land lords because most people were reluctant - and I believe they are still now in any part of India - to give rent to bachelors citing many moral and social reasons. Luckily our land lady used to stay in Pune and might be she was not that bothered about the social implications of four bachelors staying in a locality where she anyway didn’t stay. The series of interactions with the landlords, in course of house hunting, turned out to be quite interesting. Apart from telling tons of lies about our characters already tinted heavily in the past four years in KGP, and taking totally unkeepable oaths like not drinking in houses or not using loud music in nights we also had to cope up with our terrific proficiency in Hindi. For the first time we all learnt that the lingo that we used in KGP is not actually a usable one, not at least when we’re giving character tests. Talking with aged uncles and aunties, who anyway have so much suspicion about our characters, was not an easy one with our the vocabulary of Hindi words – most if which were slangs and unutterable at most places of the world. Tanujoy, the most ordered one among us, came up with an idea that we should take a flat that had a garage attached to it. He had the furthest foresight and wanted to think of some day in future when we’d all have a two wheeler each. Now when he was asking for the garage, he mistakenly told that we’d have two four wheelers - instead of four two wheelers. The landlord became very suspicious of someone who wanted to fit two four wheelers into a single garage!!

We liked the Park View Apartments at the very first time we went there to check the flat out before taking it for rent. It was a spacious two bedroom apartment with a very big living room and a total of five balconies. Any part of the house opened on a balcony. There were enough windows everywhere. The flat was open in two sides and got enough sun light and air. When shared between four people, the rent, 6.5K per month, was not much for each of us, even though our take home turned out, much to our surprise, to be something around only 6-7K per month. One and a half decade back, when we’re offered the jobs in the campus we’re not at all smart and well aware as the fresh grads now-a-days are. The salaries were at least four five times lower than what it’s now, and also we never knew how much of the salaries actually go for taxes and ‘allowances’ which inflate the salary figures to a great extent.

The first thing we noticed, to our satisfied surprise, was that unlike our engineering days in IIT KGP, there were too many girls around. The initial euphoria, something similar to hikers seeing water in a desert, got the immediate shock well within a day when we found that almost every girl was accompanied by guys, who were no less than bouncers compared to our starved physique. Moreover the bouncers had at least a fashionable motor bike. The more affluent bouncers had the then newly launched car Cielo. We, on the contrary, didn’t even have the money to buy a bi-cycle, at that point of time. I remember that my dad had given me ten thousand bucks to manage till we got the first salary – that also for a partial month – in August. The initial excitement of seeing so many girls around – almost each flat at the Park View had eligible and quite attractive girls – converted into a frustration very soon when we understood that starvation due to non-availability of food is a much better scenario than that due to non affordability. The frustration gradually gave rise to a philosophic outlook. We seemed to appreciate Keats – a thing of beauty is a joy for ever. So even though neither we had the guts nor the means to approach any of the so many girls in our apartment complex, we still kept a track of each of the girls – when they returned from schools, when they went out with their dogs (these does were something that we’re very envious of), with whom they went out regularly, which color of dresses they preferred to wear and many other minute details. The problem we faced was that we didn’t know the names. Hence it was not easy to discuss about them later as we couldn’t make references to them. That’s when we christened them as M1, M2 and so on – where ‘M’ stood for a Bengali slang for girls. I don’t think algebra came to us so handy ever in the past!!

Off course the girl on whom all of us had a huge crush was our neighbor, Prarthana. She was also the only girl whom we knew by name. And very interestingly she was perhaps also the only girl who used to listen to us, come to our house and spend time merrily with us. We used to take her out also. But the only problem was that we’re not very comfortable dealing with her on roads – because you really need guts and nerves to handle girls of Prarthana’s age – she was just three years!!

One evening we had a visitor – the aunty who stayed in the building opposite to ours in the third floor – we’re on the first floor. We’d seen her number of times in our apartment complex, moving with her Doberman. Hers was one of the very few houses where we didn’t locate any girl. It was quite a surprise when she came to our house – she was the first visitor we had at 1450 Park View. Our drawing room used to have just a B/W portable TV, placed on the floor and nothing else. The attached dining hall had a huge dining table that could accommodate at least ten people but we’d only four chairs. Hurriedly we brought one of those chairs for aunty. She smiled at our condition, asked a few questions about our families and then asked us to go to her house and collect a set of window curtains. We tried to explain to her that we’re quite fine without the curtains. But then she tried to explain that not all our neighbors might be fine with that. Anyway, we couldn’t mind accepting the first ever invitation to anyone’s house in Noida. On her departure we started speculating why she was so keen to help us. We started nurturing a feeble hope in our minds that perhaps she had eligible daughters (thinking that she had only one daughter would put four of us in quite a competitive situation) and wanted to check us out!! This very thought made us all wait with all eagerness to go to her house. Finally it ended with an anti climax. Aunty had two boys of our age and both were out in their jobs. We reminded her of the boys and that’s why she had generated a soft corner for us. We’re both sad and happy – sad because she didn’t have eligible daughters and happy to get a motherly person close to us.

That’s how passed the days in 1450 Park View apartments – with meager means in today’s standard but no less fun in standards of any age. Few months later, on the day of Holi, we finally solved the algebraic equations with ‘M’s!!

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