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British physicist Tim Berners-Lee, commenting on the Web, is supposed to have said :
“Anyone who has lost track of time when using a computer knows the propensity to dream, the urge to make dreams come true and the tendency to miss lunch.”
He may be right about the dreaming. Obviously he was never part of blogger lunches. In Mumbai.
Blogger lunches, like everything else , are getting more and more entertaining
The least of the complications, is the fact that people don't know how the person they have come to meet , looks. Since this was an anniversary lunch meet for us bloggers (the first one was in Dec 2008), many of us were aware of how the others manifested themselves. But this time we would have two new additions. Of the younger generation. And as is customary in situations where the modern generation participates with such ease, these folks were joining in from places hundreds of kilometers away.
The venue, by popular demand, was the same, as that for the immediately previous lunch; a wooded place on the banks of a crocodile infested lake. It may not be out of place to say a this point that we've had leopard warnings in the last 2 days. Maybe they heard about the lunch. Leopard blogs could be next. Who knows.
One of the bloggers, the eldest , was hotfooting it to the venue as she stayed the closest , when she suddenly got a message saying , "I have arrived!". A number, not a name. Wondering who it could be, she kind of accelerated on foot a bit, (no power brakes, no power steering, just some nice windscreen facility of the nearsighted type and limited by a bag she was lugging with her.).
Turns out that the person who had arrived was the second eldest. He had recently retired, and possibly drove faster than his old company driver.
This is the wedding season in India, choc-a-bloc with "auspicious days; this place was adjacent to a wedding venue, and the possibility of guests veering to the restaurant couldn't be ignored. There was a lot of "movement" all around, prompting them both to rush to the restaurant and reserve a table. They came down soon, to anticipate the next arrival.
To their immense surprise, a cavalcade of official looking cars , all in a hurry, drove in. Red beacons on top, police security escort jeeps, guys sitting stiffly in front, with "eyes -front"; one suspiciously tinted ancient Ambassador car, and a bunch of slightly modern cars, just accompanying them ,all driving just outside unposted but specified speed limits, just because they were powerful and free. Could be a Minister, or an MP. Whoever.
Bloggers don't make such drastically grand entries. But there is certainly more variety and grace in their entries. Well, at least in some entries. And some of us look like we don't need any security as such.
While this Director General of some very powerful official security set up zoomed around for some hi-fi conference, he was followed in solitary splendour by one of our most peaceful bloggers, as her car floated in noiselessly, and came to a stop on spotting the two older bloggers. When you follow blogs, you worry when the frequency drops. She had been unwell for sometime, and they were very pleased to see her fine again.
They went up and waited at their table. The other five would shortly appear. Waiters hovering with menus were intentionally ignored. One of them almost tripped over the bag belonging to the eldest, and then prudently stayed away for sometime. Spilling something over senior citizens isn't the done thing. You never know what they would blog about.
Phones rang, folks on their way, stuck in traffic jams, kept mentioning their coordinates. The others glued their eyes to the door.
All of a sudden, a shadow loomed across the table.
It was the marathon HR type. All that jogging and exercising probably gave him a light tread, and they realized his arrival only when the shadow of the abs and clavicles fell across the table. He looked a bit preoccupied. Almost wistful. They let him be. Maybe fried eggs were not a patch on idlis. And pancakes never stood a chance versus dosas. Never mind.
All this while, the last time's virtual blogger, and founder-member of these lunches, who had earned the wrath of his better half when he called us then from Pune (so he could be there in spirit), was in reality, today, on the last leg of his arrival path, through the obstacle path that is Mumbai roads. His lateness could be excused. He was travelling with luggage and after lunch, would go 200 kilometers straight home directly, to have a wonderful dinner with his wife.
For the first time, now, the phone presented disturbing news. One of the bloggers was being held captive at work. By an ad agency which should know better. They were working on ads for Food Courts. And they didn't realize that they were keeping her away from her best inspiration. It was one thing to be considered talented, and quite another to be denied a decent Saturday lunch.
She called to apologize. Maybe the guys in her office need to learn how to value HR . Particularly female. Maybe the recently retired HR type could tell them a thing or two. But bloggers lunches apart, keeping her away from her young daughters on a weekend was totally inexcusable. Not done.
We awaited the new arrivals . Didn't know how they looked. And every time a young lady would saunter by, 5 pairs of eyes would follow. The young ladies continued unperturbed. And no one could find phone numbers. The waiters, decided they had waited enough, and slipped in with the menu lists. Fancy food wasn't really on anyone's mind. Normal traditional food was ordered, and "starters" were quickly refused.
And while the food cooked, slowly the packages came out , with little gifts for everyone. This has always been a fun feature of all the previous blogger lunches too.
Just then a young girl in a sunny yellow top, came up to the table, widely smiling. She had been asked to look for a bunch of elder types with a marathoner on the side, and she hit bull's eye. One of the new bloggers at the lunch, she immediately won over everyone by whipping out of her bag, a traditional mango delicacy from Pune from where she had just arrived. While they enjoyed this stuff, and worried as to the whereabouts of the remaining blogger, it was noticed that the marathoner's hand was slowly inching towards the mango stuff.
But they let him be. He could afford the calories. Maybe it was comfort food. He was very quiet. And contemplating about things. Absent and present.
Lunch appeared, and was dug into by the hungry folks. No sign of the remaining blogger. But Eureka ! the young recent arrival had her contact number, and as everyone dug into their assorted parathas, veggies, dal, rice and raitas, the missing blogger, maneuvered herself in a rickshaw through various northern suburbs of Mumbai, dug up roads, interesting potholes, all leading to the lunch.
Even the waiters were sympathetic. They were almost apologetic asking about the dessert, and were actually relieved when told that that would have to wait till the remaining member arrived.
The planets must have changed configuration, because soon enough , she called in from the building garden, to say that she was on her way up. She arrived , beaming, the Nuest member , finally there. The quorum was complete.
This particular blogger, strangely, is often "First !" on many blogs while commenting. The eldest blogger had once offered to celebrate that with "pedhas"(= milk based celebratory traditional sweets), and was actually carrying a little box of those, which was presented to her. Maybe she had had a late brunch, maybe it was the sudden shock and joy (maybe awe), of seeing the other bloggers, hitherto seen as pages on an LCD screen, but she didn't want lunch. Desserts were ordered and demolished.
The absent blogger, who normally presided, ratified, and divided the bill was sorely missed. They shortly left and descended into a cool cloudy afternoon with a gentle breeze. The new folks would enjoy the lakefront and they walked over leisurely across the slope.
The old banyan tree, which had made light of the swinging marathoner the last time around, looked a bit older. It seemed to have lost a few of its ravishing roots. It looked expectantly at the motley crowd sauntering by. . Hopefully, the heavyweights wouldn't want to swing. Trees had limits even if people didn't.
The marathoner looked wryly at the tree, as the rest proceeded further, to enjoy the lake shore. Glistening waters, hazy shores, some willful hyacinth floating on the lake, and the sudden turn of breeze inspired the marathoner into taking some photographs. There was something inspiring in the clump of trees protectively covering the Devi temple, as it jutted into the lake on a promontory of sorts. Unchanged, unfazed, and constant over more than half a century.
It was soon time to leave. The two newest members, left. One rushed to her folks, to visit someone 25 years junior to her; someone who appears on her own blog, toothlessly smiling at the world. And the other to take a flight 500 miles away. Back into her family's fold, but with a good chance of returning to Mumbai again, professionally. The others walked back to their cars the long way, chatting away.
The smile was returning back on the face of the marathoner. Maybe he remembered someone. Maybe he remembered something. Maybe he received a funny tweet.
Then they saw the box of the sweet mango candy from Pune. Safely and firmly ensconced in his hands.
Sort of ideal for popping pieces into your mouth, while you typed your blog, as someone arrived with a steaming cup of hot filter coffee of the South Indian kind ....
Its been an interesting year. With interesting folks, And its amazing, how the persona that a blog implies matches up with the actual person so well. Which is why whenever they meet, most of these blogging types get along like a house on fire. ........
Soon it was time to go. They all smiled at each other, waved and left. Some to their homes, and some to catch a nice snooze in an airconditioned bus on its way to Pune, 200 kilometres away.
One year over. Many more blogger lunches to plan. Who knows where everyone will be. Some may move house. Some may move jobs.
But the banyan tree will be there, like it has, for the last 80 years.
For someone to come, and swing on it and blog about it again.