Siddhartha

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So I went up to the Summer Hill Hotel (shh) last night to watch the All Blacks play England in Hamilton, NZ. It was kind of discombobulating, sitting at a corner table in the main room with the ABs to the west of me and, over my shoulder in the east, on a second screen, the Warriors playing Brisbane in Auckland. About ten minutes into the match ( the match in Hamilton ) a fellow asked to join me at the seat opposite. I couldn’t really say no, even though he had just, politely, obscured with his presence the lead up to Savea’s second try . . . anyway. It’s just a game. He was only interested in the Warriors, having wagered some amount of money on the chance that they would beat Brisbane. The Warriors always beat the Broncos, I said and he nodded then corrected my ‘always’ to ‘usually’. Fair enough. We both settled back into watching our respective contests and thereby, in the way of blokes, became mutually respectful, even accommodating. He ascertained that I was NZ born and I learned that he was from Kolkata, that used to be called Calcutta: The worst city on the globe, he said, in a heartfelt manner. I was just there. Sigh. Introductions followed. I am Sid, he said, in a doubly melancholy way. I must have raised my eyebrows because he felt the need of clarification. It is short for Sidhhartha. I took a good look at him then. Small, dark, over-coated, wearing glasses, deep shadows under his eyes, with a habit of looking down even when he spoke and seemed to be gazing right at you. Age is an imponderable, I thought he was probably older than me, but I have a habit of thinking myself to be young in whatever company I am in. Gautama, I said. You are the Buddha! It amused him at the same time as he dismissed the speculation – though not entirely. Strange synergies developed, our boys ( ‘our boys’ ) scored tries, at their different venues, in their different games, at what seemed to be the same time ( ‘times’ ). Half time arrived and I went outside to smoke a cigarette. When I came back in, between screen excitements, he told me a long story about the financial complications that had following his recent separation from his wife of 43 years. The perfidies of one of their two daughters. How the elder had married a man called Martin and the consequent divided loyalties thereof. The screwed alignments and the betrayals. There were many figures quoted, some of them quite large. $1.3 million, that sort of thing. Disputed properties. It is always about property, he said at one point. You know? I didn’t, not really, though I understood (1) he felt aggrieved (2) he was not in financial trouble (3) the deficits were primarily emotional and (4) he was actually not an unhappy man. Besides, the Warriors were winning. So were the All Blacks. It was only towards the end, when both victories were secured, that he really turned his attention upon me. What do you do? he asked. I told him. Oh, he said, I love language even more than numbers. Numbers – he gave a dismissive wave of his hand – are always there. I am an accountant after all. A pause. Tell me do you know the word ‘nadir’? I did, I do. We spoke of the zenith that is its astronomical opposite, drew cosmological signs upon the air. It was our best moment of communion. There were other words he asked me if I knew, and I did, but I have now forgotten what they were. Pretty soon the games were over and our time was up. He asked for my contact details, I gave him my card; stood up to go. But Martin, when were you born? he said. What is your nativity? I told him . . . day, month and year. There was the briefest of pauses before he said: You were born upon a Wednesday. Well, yes, I was. I will call you, said Sid. Goodnight. Goodnight. Hmm, I thought, as I walked on home. That’s what I could call the thing I’m working on now. Wednesday’s Child.

 

 

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