The I-specialist from US

Old habits don't just die hard, they often take new forms. That's what a cricket match on a desolate beach showed us last night.

We always knew him as the aggressive kid with a penchant for self-praise. But we never knew his academic stint at a US university would make matters worse. The moment he stepped on the cricket field, he lost his sanity. As the self-appointed captain of an hopelessly unlucky team, he marshalled his "troops" on the field, as if this was Dhoni leading a bunch of under-19 aspirants.

That he is a poor bowler and average batsman is no reason to condemn him, but even his sporting mediocrity paled into insignificance before his savage behaviour. It was fun playing the gullible jack before the "great" one...the more you showed your vulnerability, the more boastful he became. His gestures could have put Rohit Sharma to shame - the way he was advising his players on the field at the slightest provocation. While it was fun watching his antics, the most irritating remark was how he had lost his "old touch" of his playing days (as if a Tendulkar-in-the-making did not bless a fulfilling cricketing career by choice)

This insane self-love did not spare even a child aged nine who was seen as any other competitor. How foolish can one get - and he calls this brazenness "killer instinct"

You can't converse with him anymore - he's keen only to pass judgements, give verdicts, analyze, probe, advice, teach, guide, coach, bless, patronise, predict, foretell - anything but plain, simple conversation.

There's not a single reason why our hero should hold himself in such high esteem, but he actually dares to consider him God's gift to mankind...and now the most eligible bachelor on earth. And to applaud his self-assertion are a bunch of few comic yes-men - always at his feet...suffering the wrath of his dictatorship for reasons known to them.

Our friend otherwise has many positive traits - he's enthusiastic, sensitive, sharp and witty...but it would be great if he stops playing the I-specialist - throwing nauseauting sermons on just about anything in life - sport, religion, education, films, culture, crime, music, literature, employment, business, politics, philosophy, logic, sociology, psychology, human values, animal instinct ...the list is endless.

Instead, he can learn how to play a caring host, how not to expose unsuspecting guests to the choicest hazards of ill-kept native homes, in the scorching summer of May. And some of his impotent disciples can try and find their own voice, rather than parroting his diktats, as if their very survival depended on it.

Uneasy Homecoming

I was born in Arunachal Pradesh in a rundown clinic masquerading as a hospital - in far-flung Roing. For want of a better alternative, I was dropped in a Tea Tray, seconds after I was born. Obviously, this trivia of my trivial existence does not emanate from memory - what does though is the living album of my schooling years in Shillong - a scenic hill station in Meghalaya, popularly known as the Scotland of the East.

Nostalgia took me back "home" on work, after 30 long years, to the place of my simple yet colourful childhood..this time with my wife and kid. While the Mumbai-Guwahati flight was pretty bland, the helicopter journey from Guwahati to the spacious ALG base near Shillong's Elephanta falls was a joy ride. Hotel Majestic near Polo Market proved just the right den to celebrate my homecoming.

Shillong has changed, for better or worse, I am not sure. Though I am not among those who invaribly shun the present to glorify the past, but I could not dismiss the tinge of disappointment at the pace of commercialization here. Though not yet a concrete jungle, the Mumbai-brand appartments seem to disturb the beauty of the prim and prime cottages atop hillocks. And the vehicular traffic is a nightmare, what with no pavements for pedestrians to breathe easy.

The only saving grace comes in the form of Maruti 800 - the little machine is the perferred taxi car here, just what the doctor ordered for the narrow lanes and bylanes of the place.

It was not difficult to find Upland Road on Laitmukhrah, once the place of my residence. Faint memories guided me to Asgard Cottage - and ironcially, it was my wife who spotted it before me - someone who had never been there before. I was thrilled to meet the landlady - now in her late seventies. She manages the show with the same gusto as she did years ago. Her children, once my dear mates, are thankfully all well placed, leading the typical urban lives in Mumbai and Delhi.

The reunion was pleasant all right but the nostalgia was lopsided, far from mutual. The lady had all the time to recount the well being of her folks but very little space for tracing the waves on our shores. Precisely why, I never felt the need to reconnect with her children after coming back to Mumbai. Something inside tells me that the bond is lost.

I searched in vain for my school near the bustling Police Bazzar but only learnt towards the fag end of our sojourn that it was shifted elsewhere some years ago. This was painful as I wanted my kid to walk on the uneven grasslands of the bunglow-converted school that housed the best years of my school life.

The visit to Mohni Stores, the shopping joint of my mom's choice once, proved a big let down. The generation that runs it now has no place for the bygone, eager only to sell their merchandise - more the merrier. The stony faces over the counter dissuade you from even making an attempt to recollect the past.

The trip down memory lane was personally satisfying but the numbness of people interaction was disturbing. I don't care a damn for the folks - kith and kin included - who condemn such explorations as "waste of time" but I am deeply pained by the growing disregard that we now seem to have for other people's lives. Shilong was no exception.