Business as usual
I take Lift #15 down eleven floors from my office. Stepping out at Lower Ground 7th, I take a right under the tunnel that connects LG5 to the post-graduate residence hall. I follow the tunnel down for a minute, to the road, then turn left into the glistening night air. It's been raining again. Bull frogs call wantonly, their loud bleats full and warm on the nocturnal stillness. My head is up, nostrils snapping open to the cool, fresh air, the lidded staleness of yet another day spent squinting at the screen slapped away in a second. Yet I have to be careful as I walk -- for six months now onwards the sidewalk underfoot is liable to feature strange denizens of the underworld, winged, multi-legged, strangely-shaped insects, or sometimes just cockroaches. The large, flying kind.
The air is never as fresh when I walk back to office after dinner. Then, it's only late evening, the warmth of the day and the recent dinner both sit heavy on me. Cars drive past occasionally, the drivers of those coming from the direction of the office looking quizzically, if not sympathetically, at me. The walk is uphill, I don't notice the bullfrogs, the right turn into the tunnel reveals no light at its end. Just the odd hand-holding pair of undergrads enmeshed in each other's senses. Ever so rarely one of them will turn out to be a student of mine, past or present. Sometimes they look away, other times they greet me happily - "Po-fe-sa!" - music in their voices. While the partner looks away, embarrassed, confused.
As I wait to take the lift up, sometimes I bump into a colleague stepping out, returning home for the day. Such times they look at me boldly, defiantly, with a trace of guilt in their eyes. I return the look feeling jealous. We both smile and greet each other. Eleven floors up, hopefully uninterrupted, I step out on the fourth floor where the airconditioning is now off. Things have definitely taken a worse on the air conditioning front. The thought police now wantonly switches off the ventilation at any time of the day, and I mean any time. I've had to call them up after lunch, it's been like settling into a sauna. And every evening I call the extension - 6465 - to make yet another ad hoc request. Sometimes the guy at the other end recognizes me and sounds pleased. I hear his voice and feel his existence must be as miserable as mine. One of us has to beg to be able to sit in his office, the other has to sit in his office so others may beg. Such is the way the system works.
With a whoosh the airconditioning comes back on. Sometimes it doesn't, in which case I go to fill my water bottle then come back and call them again. Sometimes they request me to wait while they send the 'craftsman'. Sometimes the craftsman comes and fixes the thing, other times he takes a ladder and disappears from sight, the only evidence of his existence being the pounding sounds around the false ceiling above my head. Such times I blogsurf, or refresh my skills at Spider Solitaire, or reply to less important emails or converse with people over messenger. I'm always astonished how much of my work gets done over messenger. That may be one reason I don't want a Blackberry. Sometimes abstinence works. Eventually I fire up SPSS or whatever other thing I'd been doing before dinner. Sometimes before dinner I've finished off all the piddly little things that take up mindspace and distract me from what I'd really like to get done -- those days I might just get lucky on the efficiency front.
In the days before the World Cup and the Great Airconditioning Squeeze I'd given standing instructions for the A/C to cut off at 1:30 as that was a decent hour to get home, leaving time enough to unwind on the balcony, glass in hand, rig playing soft, powerful. I'm always annoyed that of all the inhabitants on the twelve stories of my building, it's only my next door neighbor who stays awake as long as I do, and from my balcony I can see the top of his bald head from over the back of his stuffed leather couch. He likes to move about in his underwear at night and that spoils the romance of the moment for me. Sometimes I switch off all the lights and look straight out to sea, just pretend he's not there. Sometimes it works.
It's a short walk from the tunnel down to the back entrance of my building -- just long enough for me to revive for this, the last, good, part of the day. As I trip blithely downhill, I contemplate what I will pour myself, and what I feel like listening to. Of late I have picked up a wonderful Dagar brothers disk with Ragas Lalit and Kambojhi, the classic recording of Bill Evans live at the Village Vanguard, and Jaco Pastorius' debut album -- all three of which make for excellent night-time listening. It's cool enough for my Morangie. Tomorrow is my last day of real teaching for the semester -- in fact till January if things work out as expected. There's a cool breeze, must be nicer up there on the balcony. I feel in my pocket for my keychain, and pull it out holding the yellow one that goes into the rear entrance lock.
Life isn't bad you know, when it leaves you alone like this.