Monday, October 15, 2007

The People I Meet : Robin

Well it is time to experiment with some caricatures. I have been a fan of some of the writers who describe people. I think it is a great skill to be able to paint a person using words. This is going to be some sort of a series. Please forgive me however for making this blog a potpourri of various things.


Robin is my next-door neighbour. He comes from South India and speaks singsong English.
There is something really peculiar about this man. I talk to him everyday trying to pinpoint what it is but it cannot be put into words.
He is tall and he is skinny with oiled hair that goes in about every direction that hair could go if you never bother to keep it neat.
His voice travels through a series of valleys and mountains before it reaches you. Sometimes when he is trying to be particularly emotive, it turns into a squeak. At others, it slides down a glacier and disappears into an incoherent mumble.
When you approach him with a bright "Hello Robin!!” he tilts his head at an awkward angle and gives back a damp "umm hullo" with downcast eyes.
He works in the railways. His job is to make drawings. From what it looks like, it must be a really boring job but you can find him trotting off into the elevator every morning at eight and trotting back exactly at five. Then he deposits himself on the couch and watches television indefinitely. He was too lazy to walk out of the non-smoking apartments so he used to smoke out of the window. Then one day, the landlord came in with a written complaint and asked him to get out of the premises if he wants to smoke. This kind of slowed down his smoking but he is still seen going down the fire exit with a pack of cigarettes and a mug of coffee a couple of times a day.

I believe people are like compounds and elements. We have our own reactivity and energies.
Some of us are highly electronegative and some of us are volatile. Robin would certainly fall into the class of inerts. He is just there. You can use him as a harmless and reliable carrier material whenever you want to. He will not opine, interfere or assert. He will never pick up a fight or even get along really well with anyone. He will just be around but sometimes he might turn out to be a big help. He is not detached for being detached needs some attachment too. He just is.

We often end up having a chat with him.
Being away from home makes you think about your parents very often. We all have rosy ideas about getting our parents to visit us. On one of such days we all were talking about our plans to get our parents to Brisbane. We asked Robin if he ever plans to get his parents to stay with him.
He went into this long contemplative silence. Then he said that he would prefer going back to India than ever bringing his parents to Brisbane for a long time. He has an unusual dream for a man like him. He wants to own a restaurant back in India where he can invest all the money he makes drawing plans for the Australian railways.
We asked him why he was so reluctant about getting his parents here and after a long intellectual looking gap he said, " What if I get them here and one of them dies? Then I would have to look for a place for burial"
Three minutes of complete silence and all of us burst out into peals of laughter.
Then we told him that the rate at which he smokes, it is more likely that his parents would have to look for a burial place for him.

He is a woman's nightmare coming true. He has already decided that none of the tourist haunts anywhere in the world is worth spending time and money on. He spends his weekends coiled up on the couch in the living room and only bothers to get up when he is hungry. He never goes out. He never works out. You get up in the morning and go for a jog. You come back and vacuum the house, clean the dishes, do the laundry, call up your parents and speak to them for an hour, you make your bed and go out for guitar lessons, you come back and cook dinner and all this while you will find him doing exactly what he was doing in the morning. Sleeping. He comes out of his shoes and they just wait there for Monday morning so that their rightful owners can get back into them and take them along the same pavement to the same building at the same time.

If by chance (yes it is really only by "chance") you meet him at the grocery shop and walk back, he would insist on crossing the road following all the traffic rules even if all the white people take it a bit easy. When you ask him why he is so finicky about it, he would reply in a solemn voice," Saee they would call me a bloody Indian if I cross it in a wrong way". As a matter of fact, no one will. None of us have ever come across anyone who would want to call us that!!
He talks about his early days in this country and he does have some really shocking stories to share. Stories about being left out and alone. Then making it on his own and being grateful to God. Finding his own way that led him to the kind of life he wanted to live. A life full of peace and pirated Tamil movies. Where there is no one to stop him from being himself.
At times you agree with his take on life. At times it puzzles you.

I meet him on my way back from the jog sometimes and he asks me what I am up to. Irrespective of what I say his reaction is always the same," You are the rich Indian girl with an attitude". I try to fathom what it means but then I always give up. Even if I tell him that I cleaned and mopped the kitchen floor today he still insists on calling me the "Rich Indian Girl with An Attitude".
I am amused by the word "Indian" in the description.

Robin is the kind of guy who teaches you that you can live your life using the bare minimum energy from what you can produce eating your food. He teaches you that you can exist on the screen-saver mode for all the forty-eight hours of the weekend and shake yourself to life only when your input is going to help your bank balance. He teaches you that there are back alleys and secret tunnels around your existence that can take you beyond the urge to move around and have fun. He teaches you the joy in being in a state of rest or of uniform motion as and when applicable. You realize that the peaks and valleys that you add to your everyday life by running around listening to your stupid iPod or by comparing the rates of vegetables in the grocery shop next door to the ones you get in the farmer's market are essentially not essential even though they make you feel like you are doing something really valuable with your life.
He makes you feel good about yourself when you are having a good day because you sympathize with his coiled-up-like-an-overfed-python state and he makes you feel really sorry for yourself when you are having a bad day because of his coiled-up-like-an-overfed-python state. In any case you are variable. He never changes.
Sometimes you wish you could inspire him but sometimes he almost inspires you!


शिरीष said...

Sai I could visualize Mr.Robin smoking and having his cup of coffee
lazily on his couch, and I also have a feeling that if I meet this gentleman in reality I would recognize him and say "Halo Mr.Robin!". I liked your screen aving mode and requirement of minimum energy.It reminds me of the frog's hibernation period.

Keep it up!

sameer said...

hey chubby...quite a take on that poor inert material haha..material wud not be wrong i guess ,to such a description.well wat a contrast.. here i am,just raving abt robin uthappa,who i think is a young sachin in the making and here is a robin who seems like an uthappa..spread on an old sticky pan,fried without oil,masala or other tasty ingredients and which will appear more n more ugly as u try to forcefully scrape it out of that pan.the best thing is not to probe such personalities and leave them alone in their world.
cause at the end of the day,its the entire process of making this uthappa that has gone wrong,as is this guy robin..and once its served ther's no way u can make it tastier..haha.but ur write up definetely provided the chutney and sambhar to complete the delicacy..hehe;)
so here's one uthappa..saee special for every1 haha:)..luv ya

Saee said...

@ baba
Thanks baba..always the first one. :)
Sorry had been a bit busy so could not get back to the comment right away.
hey sweetheart!!
What a nice way to put it. :)
you should write some yourself.
Love ya too

शिरीष said...

Hats of to you for such a contemporary comparison. I loved your Uttapa with Sai's sambar and chutney!

sameer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jay said...

wow! that was great. interesting everyday characters! keep writing such and we will bind them together for vyakti ani valli - 2 :)

RagingMars said...

yeah... lookin fwd to more such characters for Vyakti and Valli part 2!
Amazin one! Kept me thinkin abt Robbin and "Robbin type people" for a long time!
Very good description! :)

Saee said...

@ ameya and jay
thanks folks..I was wondering if this could click with you guys. Glad that you liked it :)

Vasudha said...

It is impossible for me to imagine this preparation without a mixer.An idea of adding spices as whole is making me restless.Add at the beginning as follows
If you do not have a grinder /mixer first go and buy it.
You are a grand daughter of Kolhapur which is globally famous for this dish.Please do not make such alterations.Hamare ijjatka sawal hai bhai.