Growing up in a small town, the illusions of big cities always left me and my friends bewildered. Me and my friends, together we formed the Cycle Gang. We thought of naming our gang ‘The Famous Five’, but that did not apply as there were 6 of us and none of us were that famous. Since our most prized possessions were our bicycles, Cycle Gang it was. We never left a chance to brag about our occasional jaunts to the neighboring city. I admit we were not very honest, while trying to outdo each others triumph. The kind of things we said to impress others can put a politician to shame.
One of my friends bragged that she has held a gun which belonged to her uncle who is a dreaded don (he was actually a security guard for a bank) in the BIG BAD City, another claimed she had sat in the big ambulance with the red light and siren which was her uncle’s bus (he turned out to be the driver of that ambulance) that his company gave him to go everywhere faster than the speed of light. Even the police gave way to him.‘Even the police?’we chorused mighty impressed. Everyone seemed to have an uncle who did great things in the city. Not to be outdone, I declared I had stayed in the big house next to the old temple with so many televisions that you lost count as that was my city uncle’s home. Now that was huge, nobody had stayed in that house. They had just visited once or twice. I basked in the glory and awe of the rest of the Cycle Gang until one day they came to know that house was actually the Railway Station of the city. You get the idea right? We all loved the city and left no stone unturned in claiming to be a part of it.
For me, the best thing about the city was the chance to wolf down all kinds of fancy food. Burgers, cokes and pizzas. Especially, the pizza. I caught a glimpse of this amazingly glorious Italian food in an old episode of TailSpin cartoon and went crazy about it. That night I dreamt about it with lovely cheese and toppings. It was just within my reach, but the moment I got hold of it, it turned into a rubbery dosa with sand on top of it, which flapped when I looked helplessly turning it around in my hands (I know, I see really weird dreams). Since then, I am in search of ‘that pizza’ which made me feel what love really is. I used to look forward for the occasional treats in the city, though the closest it could offer to a pizza was a flat bun the size of my palm, with a slice of tomato, onion and hardly four or five pieces of shredded cheese. I was happy and content. Then I saw a magazine which had a photo of an Italian pizza on which cheese was overflowing like a river during monsoon. I felt betrayed. The city had failed me and the bun it offered was an insult to pizzas.
It regained its place in my mind when my sister went off to the city to complete her studies. I remember listening to her stories of eating pizza at the Pizza Hut with friends and how she just got only a slice since they had to share a pizza. She drew this circle and lines on it to explain how her slice looked like. I took in all the details with so much of passion that you could float a boat in my mouth. That was it! My only aim in life back then was to complete my studies, go to the city and eat a slice of Pizza Hut pizza.
I did do that, but I never found the pizza of my dreams. I finished college, got a job, moved to UAE, married and one fine day was plotting on ‘how to change the world’ with iWoz and ZK.We have huge issues with how things currently are. We had ordered pizza from Papa John’s which we had never tried before. Change can begin from fast food joints too, I pointed. iWoz collected our order and the moment he placed the pizza in front of me, the world went mute. I had a moment like Anton Ego has when he tastes Ratatouille made by Remy in the movie ‘Ratatouille’. All of a sudden, I was this little UR, longingly eyeing the pizza in the magazine. Everything had gone to black and white, I felt blurred movements of iWoz and ZK, but my eyes were fixed on the colorful image of my beautiful love who had eluded me so far. My heart was somewhere on the floor doing a waltz. Washed with emotion, I gently lifted a slice like a baby and kissed it. Gently stroking it, I asked ‘Where were you… All this time?’.
Though iWoz and ZK are used to my mad ways, they were gaping at me and looking at each other almost certain that I have lost my marbles. I was crying and laughing and bowing and sniffing all, at one time. But they let me be. I was in another world. A world where everyone loved each other and ate cheesy pizzas. I don’t know to describe how it tasted by elaborating about the texture, crunch, color, smell and what not they use to describe food these days. All I can say is that it was one damn good pizza.
My smile lasted the whole of the weekend.
Now, iWoz makes sure that he gets me a Papa John pizza and potato wedges every weekend. There might be other pizzas like the real Italian pizza which are way better.But for now, this will do. I am one happy lover until I go to Italy and meet my real love.