He had done stints in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Pune for many years now. Marriage, a lovely daughter and strenuous projects had kept him wrapped in a tiny cocoon. His parents visited him often, he never let them stay more than a week. He had a funny explanation for that, he always said that he had become a creature of habit and that they didn't fit into the scheme of things. They didn't mind, they loved him to death, they were glad their son and his family were doing well.
He had setup his employer's Mumbai office. He was their star. He loved being in the spotlight for them, he defended them untiringly on many occasions in the face of dire litigations. He had given his weekdays to his work, and his weekend to his wife and child. It was always what he dreamt of, when he walked those cobbled, tree-lined roads of his business school.
But as in all stories, this one had its shady characters too. While he was busy giving it his all, there was this man, lets call him Mr.Shady . He plotted, with a few dim-witted colleagues to whom he offered key positions, to usurp the Mumbai office from our protagonist. A plot was hatched, large amounts of money were illegitimately transfered, and cutting a long story short, an honest man was framed. The top bosses naturally looked for scapegoat,and he was their easiest way out of a huge media debacle.
He felt quite disoriented at what had happened. Its like that feeling of moving on a fast boat and suddenly being jettisoned into the water. You don't quite know how to react, but your instincts atleast tell you to swim ashore, and thats what he tried to do, prove his innocence. His friends, who had vociferously tried to state his case in the board meeting had but one choice. To help the man that they admired, recuperate and maybe fight back.
The wife and daughter were on put on a flight to Chennai, a few days earlier. He left after that fateful day. He arrived in Chennai, to the chaos of the airport that he remembered distinctly from his flying visits to city for meetings in the last few years.
But this time it was to be different, he told himself. As the cabbie pulled closer to his ancestral home in Mylapore, he was quite surprised at how much the city had changed. Where was the Madras that he had left behind ? The political slogans on the walls now made way for wonder murals from the rural landscape and Tamil literature. All the roads were flanked by magnificent posters and hoardings. The buildings all bore smart signs of multinational and big local brands. The old British names of most roads still remained. He liked that. A huge number of new snazzy restaurants had popped up. It was almost a different city.
Secretly he wondered, what all he might have missed in his days out of Madras. He reached home in the wee hours of the morning. When most cities look at their gorgeous best, the orange splendour of the rising sun, the cool air that lingers and the few people that are scampering about doing their morning chores. That being said, Chennai was an early riser.
The ghosts of the last few weeks had taken their toll, he resembled a man who had come back from a war, a war that his side had lost. The wife and child were still asleep. He left his bags near the bed, and decided to head out to have filter kaapi (coffee) at one of the many stalls on the main road which were crooning Ilayaraja songs from the 80s, a sound that he could easily relate to. Now this seemed more familiar territory to him.
The grand Kapaleeshwarar temple that stood over the area of Mylapore unflinching and majestic for centuries now, still instilled in him the peace & calm that it did during his quick pitstops at the temple during his examination days. He decided to take a trip down memory lane, quite literally. He quickly went home, asked his neighbour if he could borrow his Hero Honda Splendor, which the neighbour, a family friend for many years obliged with a smile while warning him of the bad brakes. He nodded and in his excitement, zoomed off. He quickly made his way to what can be only be described as something that everyone who ever visited Chennai would relate to, the Marina beach. The Marina beach brought back a great many memories to him. This is where he had first discovered his talent as a batsman. This is where he had first brought the girl he had a liking towards for a walk and some cut maanga. The place had been through a major makeover, it was now a swanky promenade, and there were people old and young going about their morning walks.
He took a turn at the Ice House junction and headed for the bylanes of Triplicane. Triplicane was where his closest friend from his college days ,Ram lived. This is where most of the "combined studies" sessions happened. Triplicane, it seemed to him, had frozen in time. The bylanes were still narrow. The buildings were still cramped. The cows still took first right to stray along the roads. He felt a little disgust with himself not keeping in touch with Ram and wondered where he could be.
He drove past the Zam Bazaar market & the road took him to Bells Road and Chepauk. Ah ! Chepauk, how many test matches had he begged his father to take him to, before finally the dream came true on his 15th birthday. He remembered the entire match very vividly and made a mental note to himself to thank his father as soon as he reached home.
He quickly remembered that Ratna Cafe was also nearby, so turned out and headed there since he felt some hunger pangs setting in. He ordered some idlis, and looked around as everyone seemed to be busy conversing in hushed tones. As he sat there, waiting for his idlis to arrive, a flurry of thoughts rushed through his head.
His work had kept him occupied for so many years. Apart from that his wife and child were the only things he thought of. What he might have missed in over a decade he could not imagine. But the early morning trip down memory lane made him realise that things were not that bad. Yes, he was screwed by a company that he had given a good ten years to. Yes, he was unemployed and disgraced. But he was in familiar land, among familiar people. People who knew who he was and would support him through everything. He decided to start life afresh. The meeker side of him held him from fighting back against the big bad corporation, but the Forgotten Home seemed to give him strength.
And as history would have it, he fought back and successfully at that. But success had a whole new meaning to him now.
Mylapore - A locality in Chennai, known to be a cultural hub for many centuries.
Cut Maanga - Slices of Raw mango with some chilli powder sprinkled on them, a snack often sold on the beaches in Chennai