This post was originally written on 24 December, 2018 while I was lounging around our hotel room in Royal Orchid Hotel, Bangalore.
Today, we played hooky from work and checked ourselves into a hotel, some 6 kms away from home. This was the 5-star hotel of sorts where Nachi had stayed for a week as an employee of Samsung when he had first moved into the city and so, it was very special to him. He has been eulogizing the fantastic service, the beautiful rooms, the spacious bathtub, the exotic bath salts etc. for years now and we thought that this Christmas Eve, we would give it a shot for him to relive those moments of awe and wonder and for me to be a part of his experience this time.
Needless to say, everything is indeed excellent but probably not as much as we both were expecting them to be. The service seems standard, the room, though spacious, has a tiny patch of mold on one corner of the ceiling, the bathtub looks pretty small and bath salts are available only on request. He was disappointed at first but then we started reminiscing about the first time we ever met and things started looking up.
When Nachi and I had met for the first time in 2008, we were just virtual friends meeting in the real world and so, felt no compulsion to impress each other. We were also literally poor. I had with me an accumulation of the savings I had made from the Rs. 30/- that my mother used to give me every day for conveyance and buying lunch from subsidized canteens of Jadavpur University. Nachi had with him the little he could save from his scholarship money. So, when he asked me where we could go for a meal, I took him to Moni Da’s. Those who are from the arts departments of JU all know that Moni da’s is a tiny, semi-sheltered place right next to gate 4 where the food was cheap (back then) and the ambience was free. I still remember that we sat on the red and blue plastic chairs outside and ordered two plates of chicken chowmein. As a luxury, we had ordered for a chicken Manchurian as well and had felt like wealthy kids, albeit for half an hour. When I eventually came back to Garia Bus Stand to go home in the evening, I remember I had felt particularly guilty about calling an autorickshaw to get to home from the bus stop. “I have already squandered money on chicken Manchurian today, should I really have spent six rupees again on transport?” I had found myself wondering.
Those were the days… The days of Bhukhara and AC Canteen. The days of borrowed books and cyber cafes. The days of dial-up broadband and free sms plans. The days of walking to save auto fares and crowded 45As. During 2007-08, Nachi used to save money before his birthdays to treat his friends at IIT Kharagpur to goodies at Boudir Hotel where a delish pomfret fry cost 40 bucks. Similarly, I had once felt left out when two of my closest friends were discussing about eating at Charcoal Grill, a new fancy restaurant in Kolkata back then that was beyond my affordability. I knew my friends loved me and that my desire was impractical. So, I didn’t say anything of course, but it affected me so deeply that I still remember it.
The beauty of having lived through that time is that it keeps us grounded and makes us enjoy every little step a bit more than those who were not forced to start from scratch. This hotel is not as fancy as many other 5-stars are but when we look back at the days we have lived through, it feels almost surreal to be sitting on luxurious couches in freshly laundered bathrobes, eating/drinking unhesitatingly from the mini fridge, fully aware that it might cost us quite a bit. It’s not much, but we are grateful for it.
So, here’s to a season of cheers and merrymaking and looking back fondly at the days gone by. We all have lost some and gained some more but the important thing is to keep counting our blessings because in whatever state we are now, believe me, it probably could have been worse.