The slab of rectangular sunlight on the floor looks warm and inviting. From the windows of my 17th floor hotel room, I can see arrayed masses of green.
It is nine o’ clock on a Sunday morning. I am in Delhi on work — and stuck there over the weekend.
Which is a dreadful thing to have happened to someone (especially considering the disastrous nature of the hotel — the Ramada Plaza in Connaught Place, in case you are curious). But it is a Sunday, and one must try and not whinge; one must try and make a good fist of it. Even if especially if — one’s impulse is to do precisely the opposite.
Well, I make a genuine attempt.
By 11 am, wrung out by the rigours of drinking cups and cups of coffee and filling up my ashtray with butts, I have my feet up on the sofa.
The tea is at my elbow; room service and housekeeping — should they choose to immediately take my call — are merely a phone call away; the TV is on (and Virender Sehwag is batting as only he can); it is delightfully quiet (the game is best watched on Neo Cricket with the TV on mute and it’s only because of the carpet that I am unable to hear a pin if and when it drops); without being distracted, I have done a bit of writing; and without being distracted, I am reading Colm Toibin’s magnificent homage to Barcelona (titled, well, Homage to Barcelona).
Not bad, you think? No, it’s not not bad.
Let me try and explain. In the mid-1990s, when I used to live on my own in Delhi, I would have killed for a morning like this.
Being able to read and write and watch sport in peace, not having to cook and clean for myself, have a room with a view, have food and drink on call with someone else footing the bill (in this instance, Hindustan Times Media Ltd).
But I have been a father for nine years now, and that has altered everything; our girl — almost without our noticing — has woven herself so intimately into the fabric of our lives that even an ostensibly fine Sunday morning seems incomplete without her presence.
I have now grown used to writing with someone skipping up to me, standing behind my elbow as I tap-tap away, and ask me how many words I have written. Followed by a snigger of derision if the number is measly.
Or a gasp of envy if my fingers are flying on the keyboard.
I have grown used to someone asking me — every now and then — how many pages I have read, and what the book is all about, and how much -— exactly how much more or less than the previous book I read — I am enjoying this one.
I have grown used to watching sport together, to sharing dismay and anger and joy, grown used to the fist pumping and the breast beating at the ebb and flow of the game. Grown used, I say, but it’s the wrong phrase. I have come to expect it.
When I returned from Delhi, she showed me her diary entries for the period that I’d been away.
She had been sad, she said. I was sad that she had been sad. I was happy, too, that she had been sad.