It was those rock n roll college days and I had adopted the lifestyle of Lucknow quite well. Lifestyle of Lucknow doesn’t include much fancy aspects unlike other trendy cities like Delhi, Bombay or Kolkata. Rather it includes more of a ‘Desi’ touch… Yes, I came down to ‘present tense’ because till now I find it unchanged. Being a college hero in Lucknow doesn’t put pressure in pockets too- just get into a ‘Tempo’ with loose shirt, jeans and a pair of sneakers… wait, you haven’t qualified for the tag yet… you need to stuff your mouth with Masala/Puria (chewable tobacco) and keep spitting the red excess saliva on the streets and footpaths in the most artistic way. Today's narration is not a tale, but the recollection of a memorable moment that had enough impact on remodelling my habits.
I was in Lucknow railway station, actually waiting for my train back to Bardhaman. I was restless with the same vigor of a teenager returning home in college vacation and already well burnished with the essence of Lucknow- “Hum to aise hi hai”. Waiting for the train in waiting room was never a pleasant moment. Waiting room in Lucknow station didn’t have the present day air conditioning bliss in those days but Lucknow in May was no less hot. Added to that, long distance train used to delay like anything and passengers used to contain tremendous patience to bear with the repeated railway announcement “… running late by 6 (to infinity) hours… we’re sorry for your inconvenience”. It was nearing noon time and the mercury of my impatience was rising. I stepped out of the suffocating waiting room aimlessly and headed to a magazine stall. Buying a magazine (which I wanted to buy) was easy but reading it in a public space was equally difficult, so I dropped the idea of grabbing my copy, instead engaged myself on watching a group of foreign backpackers. I was not the only moron in the platform number 1 to stare at them like a man who has paid for a movie ticket… even there were other worthless souls to satisfy their eyes. Honestly I wasn’t that pervert to ogle at an Western lady’s provocative bosom or exposed thighs which I’m sure my Co-viewers were busy in. I was more interested in watching their reactions to various Indian stimuli (like, some carefree guy pulling up his lungi and pissing onto the railway track right from the platform etc). The large but ‘cool’ single backpack carried by foreigners in their trip to India was another attraction for me… I tried hard to find them in Bardhaman but never managed to get one. Only later I had realized that they were too pricey for tinsel town market demands.
While watching them I kept my teeth and tongue in continuous motion of chewing the masala and spitting the royal red excreta on the platform floor in periodic intervals. Suddenly I noted that one of those tourists, little away from his group with an empty plastic bottle in his hand, looking here and there as if searching for something. I understood that he was looking for drinking water (you must be thinking what a fool I’m right?) and went to his rescue. I offered my help to him but he didn’t seem to catch my words. So, I quickly spitted out and repeated my words again. He told me that he was looking for a dustbin to dump his empty bottle and made a quick survey of the fresh red mark I had made on the floor. In a fraction of second it deflated the hot air from my head and I felt like digging a hole and diving deep into it. What a shame… being an outsider he was so keen to take care of my soil/environment while I was totally indifferent towards it! From that day I promised myself not to throw any garbage on roads or public places like a retard. Previously my mind was negatively conditioned with- our roads and public places are too dirty to be cleaned up, so why not litter? But that incidence had impacted me with optimism and new hopes for a cleaner future. I became a firm believer that if we want we can keep our places clean, just by changing few small yet sick habits. Later I had divorced with tobacco with the grace of almighty but never forgot that trivial, yet very important lesson from a westerner.