Thursday, July 07, 2005

Comfortably Numb

I cannot even count the number of times this Pink Floyd song from ‘The Wall’ would have played on my Walkman during my probation days in TCS, Madras. I just loved to hear Roger Waters wail and Dave Gilmour get the guitar to cry, hours on end. ‘The child is grown, the dream is gone. I have become comfortably numb’. Those were the days when the rookies like me were thrown in to do the 16 hours shifts, parsing through thousands of lines of code, debugging and fixing arcane legacy mainframe code, eyes red and the mind too tired. I was comfortably numb and it really felt like we were nothing more than ‘Brick in the wall’.

Straight out of college, transferred to Madras in 1990, for the very first job of my life, was anything but exciting. The culture shock of relocation from Bombay to Chennai was immense, compounded by the fact that I was staying away from home for the very first time. Everything around me was foreign and bizarre, the language, the people, the customs, the food and the city. It was like being trapped in a cesspool of joyless existence with no way out, except for the weekend inebriation shared with fellow non-local TCS’ites.

We lived in an area, supposedly a hub of LTTE activities, behind a restaurant called Raja Bhavan on Nungambakkam High Road. Raja Bhavan served excellent idlis and filter coffee, and many a times it was my breakfast pit-stop after a weary 12 hours night shift. Our abode was a 2 bedroom apartment, shared by three of my TCS buddies. The building was surrounded by little tin and mud houses on all sides and we had to cavort through the dingy bylanes of these houses to get to our apartment buildings. The residents of the surrounding houses would be sprawled about or loiter around in their ‘lungis’ or ‘half-saris’ (parachutes as we referred to them) worn by the womenfolk, and would glare at us whenever we would pass by. Needless to say, we would walk briskly to the assumed safety of our apartment.

Chennai, obviously looks a lot different now, that it would in the late 80’s and early 90’s. With the bevy of overpasses and plethora of vehicular traffic, it’s metamorphosed almost overnight from a sleepy little village to a burgeoning metropolis. Going to the Marina beach over the weekend was pure joy. The beach is clean, unlike Juhu Beach in Bombay, and has a long stretch of walking space in the sand. Though you miss the Bhel-puri and ragda pattice stands that pander to eclectic palates in Bombay, Chennai had its share of “sundals” and other delicacies for the quintessential glutton.

Chennai does not seem to be in the same kind of hurry that Bombay does. Rickshawallas lazily queue up along the roadside and refuse to ply their vehicles if you refuse the price they quote for the ride. Shopkeepers do not seem as keen to sell their wares and domestic helps, well just like any other place in the world, seem indolent and indifferent. Despite having hated Chennai with a passion when I first visited it, it seems to have grown on me. Driving to the city from the airport it is one of the very few metros in India which had reminiscence of the old-world and trappings of the new-age economy. Houses next to plush five star hotels are still adorned with pictures of thousands of gods and goddesses and of course, cine-star Rajnikanth. Benzes, BMW’s, Toyota and Hondas fight for road space with housewives in “pattu” saris on their mopeds, half naked priests on their motorbikes, bullock carts, autorickshaws, bicycles and pedestrians. Permit rooms and bars are dotted all across this once conservative city and so are numerous Mexican, Thai, Italian, Mughlai and pure-veg, and most of them named Woodlands, restaurants. Sarvana Bhavan, a non-assuming super-efficient, lunch dinner place, supposedly has multiple branches now. Malls have raised their ugly heads in the suburbs, where once a coconut stand once stood with acre of unused land.

Needless to say, I have become “Comfortably Numb” to Chennai.

Comfortably Numb - Pink Floyd

Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me.
Is there anyone home?
Come on, now.
I hear you're feeling down.
Well I can ease your pain,
Get you on your feet again.
I need some information first.
Just the basic facts,
Can you show me where it hurts?
There is no pain, you are receding.
A distant ship's smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're sayin'.
When I was a child I had a fever.
My hands felt just like two balloons.
Now I got that feeling once again.
I can't explain, you would not understand.
This is not how I am.
I have become comfortably numb.
Just a little pinprick.
There'll be no more ...Aaaaaahhhhh!
But you may feel a little sick.
Can you stand up?
I do believe it's working. Good.
That'll keep you going for the show.
Come on it's time to go.
There is no pain, you are receding.
A distant ship's smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're sayin'.
When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse,
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone.
I cannot put my finger on it now.
The child is grown, the dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Roger Waters dabbles with Opera!,00470002.htm


1:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

aaaah. the guitar towards the end of the song!
have you watched the video??? the protaganist walking out off a cocoon...........

10:08 AM  

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