As Srinivasan walked down the lane, the entire neighbourhood seemed to notice the sexagenarian. Why wouldn’t they? The person doing the promenade was one of the icons of Indian journalism. One of those Indians who managed to add many feathers to his cap – colourful feathers!
Last week his autobiography was released and it exceeded expectations. The previous year, he was unanimously elected as the chairperson of the All India Journalists Association. This ‘Times of India’ veteran was a famous novelist too. His books inspired three award winning films. Srinivasan also donned the scriptwriter’s role for two of them. Only a short stint in the filmdom, but which earned him the name, “Modern Gulzar.”
One of the highest points in his career, however, came when he was chosen as the Indian Ambassador to the UNICEF. His service through media against child labour made him a natural choice.
Every single person – who passed by – rendered a friendly smile. When Srinivasan gave it back they felt proud and happy. As the journalist walked on to the middle of the lane, some known face waved to him from its portico. Yeah..It was the old friend Panchpakesan. Panju came out hollering, “Dei Srini, how are you?.” There was so much warmth in that small question.
If Srini had been a regular stroller all these years, his friend Panju wouldn’t have been so excited. He would have just stopped at his portico with just a wave of the hand; or would have had something mundane to talk. A warm embrace from him was a wonderful compensation.
In his childhood, Srinivasan had relished the routine of walking down the same street holding his grandpa’s hand. As he grew up, the habit had died down. And then he had moved to different cities. Now that he was retired from his job, he was back to his ancestral home. He felt like the Milton who regained his Paradise.
What the Rajachar street made Srinivasan feel, only he could know. His ancestral home was part of the street. To him, the Rajachar was a living thing – the tall and broad neem and gulmohar trees, the cricket ground, ‘Velu’ grocery – every place reverberated with fond memories. When he was a boy, he used to brag around that the street was his second house and he was the only owner. His friends including Panju, used to ridicule, “No Seeni, you are the watchman!”
His joys, his blues opened there under the very same neem trees. Whenever he felt discouraged, a walk down the Rajachar gave him consolation. In fact, quite a number of creations in the early part of his writing career had taken birth in such strolls. In all his life, this writer had found his tranquillity in different sources. But nothing could match the Rajachar…
“Ayya, it’s time to close the office…”
Srinivasan was interrupted by Kuppu’s voice. Just then the clock struck ten. Too tired to speak, he just nodded in response, closed his diary and rushed to the bus stop. The last route bus for the day arrived. As he boarded on, the bus conductor offered his greetings.
“Hello sir, another new story?”
“Hmm..,” Srinivasan nodded in acceptance.
“Don’t forget to give me the story once you finish it”, replied the interested conductor.
“Sure,” Srinivasan smiled back.
As he reached home it was ten-thirty. His house looked like him, old and very weak. His wife Leela was already asleep. So were her feelings towards him all these years. His son was there, but only on a photograph. Last month, he had eloped with a girl.
He had a dream and the talent, but nothing else. However, Srinivasan gave his best against all odds and rebukes. At one point however, he realised it was worth not to try, not to fight his unrelenting fate. So, with all difficulty, he sacrificed the dream he so fondly nurtured. Just to run the family, he started to work as a clerk at a business concern.
Nevertheless, writing was something he couldn’t shed off him. After the working hours, Srinivasan spent the next five writing, on anything his thoughts led him to, till the watchman Kuppu came to close the office. All those creations had few warm receptions, like the unknown editor from an unknown magazine, and Selvam, the bus conductor.
Recently had he started, to write about his dream-life. In the coming days, he would write about his wonderful wife and his even more famous son…Hope they were his. It was eleven. Srinivasan finished his frugal meal and set out to walk…in the Rajachar. He and the street alone were real.