A Conversation Between Friends
Manu: Our society has never felt as alien to us as it feels of late, has it?
Varad: With us ruling the roost, it never did.
Manu: I would not have imagined that trite phrase, “Good old days” to be relevant in our lives so soon. Had it not been for the reassuring familiarity of these buildings and that of the frequent greenery, I would not have as intensely felt this nostalgia, for this is but a ghost of its former mirthful self.
Varad: It is but natural; it used to be our own younger siblings back then. None of the ringing laughter of today is familiar to our ears. And there are new ones coming in to fill the homes vacated by a few of the old ones. I was quite amused the other day when some nouveau asked me, “Are you new here?”
Manu (imperceptibly swelling with pride): I should have responded with some English equivalent of that famous Paresh Rawal line, “sabse pehle main hi aya”. Probably, “I am the primordial being.”
Varad: Who but you to befuddle others with vocabulary?
Manu: ‘Primordial’ is not an obscure word. But then, I do not accuse most people of being industrious in perfecting their English.
Varad: Speaking of which, my younger sister has lately been reading your essays with more diligence than she would devote to anything else.
Manu: Indeed? I must confess I did not expect this. I do not write for an audience; I write to amuse my linguistic predilections. The rare reader beseeches me to write more simply, and I revel in my unconveyed refusal.
Varad: That is but half of it. She sends them to her friends, and one of that group swears that your essays have helped her write better sentences, besides having improved her grammar.
Manu: Ironic. I, who have forgotten grammar lessons from school, am imparting lessons in grammar to others, without being conscious of it!
Varad: She is stunned by your prolificity, and wonders how much you read.
Manu: Now, how do I convince anyone that I read for sheer fun of discovering better ways of writing sentences? That reminds me, I am going to compel Bhargav to start reading books, lest his brain rot over excess engagement with Skyrim. I want him to read The Lord of the Rings.
Varad: He accidentally sent me a message yesterday, intended for one of his friends. For an Indian boy of his age, it was quite well composed. I would advise alertness — he probably reads your essays furtively.
Manu: His parlance is slum-tier internet slang in my judgment, but I generally rank him well for grammatical accuracy. But you raise a good possibility — maybe he is indeed reading my essays. Good for him, I say.
Varad: I happened to view a photo on his Instagram account. It must have been his trip to the hills with friends from school. The first thing that came to my mind was, “What a scraggly beard!”
Manu: What can I say? He is indolent, unlike me. I shave everyday. But then, I am indolent in most other matters.
Varad (slyly): Which probably explains why you do not come to the United States to see me.
Manu (with pretend arrogance): I could not care to walk those three hundred steps to that mall near the society. The United States is a tad bit further than that. (normally) This shall be the last instance of your going back to the United States, I gather?
Varad: Yes. I will be back here in six months. The United States is good — I do not pretend otherwise unlike some of our mawkish NRI friends — but how could it ever replicate Aryanagar’s homely vibe?
Manu: I would not blame you even if you did pretend otherwise. Our picturesque Aryanagar is most unlike the squalid swathes of much of our country.
Varad: I will be looking forward to lunch at Barbeque Nation with our old-timer society friends after I return. You would be glad to pay, wouldn’t you?
Manu: If I refrain from spending overmuch on books until then, I believe Dad would not mind.
Manu (casting a glance in the distance): That must be your mother calling.
Varad: So it is. Have to get going.
Manu: Be a little more active on WhatsApp, and do not adopt a horrisonant American accent!
Varad: Careful! You might end up on a State Department list of individuals not allowed to enter the U.S. after that comment.
Manu: They have naught to worry about. I like being in Aryanagar, like I have ever been.