India Uncut

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Saturday, January 08, 2005

Despatches 46: The Urban Mint

I am back in Chennai, and will be heading back to Mumbai soon, after a week that has been both physically and emotionally exhausting. I have never felt the kind of fatigue as I have felt in the last two days of the trip, barely able to keep my eyes open, mangling my words in conversation, struggling to hold a train of thought. The things we had seen, the misery we had to, as journalists, observe closely and try to document, had become oppressive – but the company we kept got us through the trip.

Dilip D’Souza, who has also been writing about this journey in his mysteriously named blog, Death Ends Fun, was a fount of knowledge and wisdom, having done relief work after both the Gujarat earthquake of 2001 and the Orissa cyclone of 1999. Saransh Mehta, a young software engineer who travelled with us for much of the first leg of our journey, kept us in good spirits throughout. The three of us, from different generations (Dilip is almost 45, I’m 31 and Saransh is 21), found common ground in a category of truly bad jokes that we dubbed “the Urban Mint”. It kept us laughing, and one day I intend to revive the urban mint in a blog.

After Saransh left, we were joined by Nityanand Jayaraman and his wife, Karen Coelho. This was during the fatigue leg of our tour, and Dilip and I, drifting off to sleep whenever there was a lull in conversation, were struck by the energy and commitment of these two. And also their sense of humour, which, as Nity put it, “had stopped evolving in the 6th standard”. Thank god for that.

It was a trip where we watched and learnt, introspected and grew, observed and resolved. What did we resolve? For one, Dilip and I will come back here a few months from now, and revisit all the places we went to during this trip. The air that we have breathed has been filled with good intentions, and we intend to find out how much of the compassion that is so prominently displayed now remains as time passes.

So will I stop writing on this disaster now? No. The pieces I was filing while travelling were a mix of reports and impressions, vignettes lined with passing thoughts. Once I reach Mumbai I shall attempt to do some reflective pieces on all that I have seen, examining aspects of it that one can’t consider during the chaotic whirl of the journey itself. In case you’re interested, do watch this space.
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