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High Fidelity

A few days ago, my friend and I went to the local Best Buy for some window shopping. While my friend was busy checking out tablets, I headed to the music section and stopped in front of the Bose kiosk. I tapped the buttons, took the tour of the various systems, and admired the sound – clear, loud notes that you can only experience but not describe.

And as I stood there thinking, I was suddenly transported back in time.

In early 2004, I worked in Talawade – an industrial area outside Nigdi, hardly 20km away from Pune. Talawade is the local mecca for small-scale manufacturers, and is filled with tiny workshops interspersed with larger factories. If you approach Talawade from Nigdi, the road finally comes to a dead end, and then you either turn right towards Bhosari, or left towards Dehu Road.

Just around this corner, there was (is?) a small joint about 100 feet away from the tarmac. Trucks lined the empty space in front of it, and in the rainy seasons you had to watch your step while going in. From the road, it appeared to be just another dhaba, but as you walked closer, your senses were pleasantly assaulted – the smell of dal fry and the tandoor lingered in the air, truck drivers’ chit-chat was all around, and waiters scurried around attending to the patrons.

The owner sat in a corner, keeping an eye on the proceedings, and next to him was a small portable stereo. It was connected to two speakers installed in the rafters, and it belted out hits from the 70s through the early 90s. The speakers  were tinny, and the songs were always scratchy – no bass and hardly any “body” to the songs. But whenever a song ended, we would inadvertently stop chatting in anticipation of the next one.

Most of the times, you would get to hear classics from the likes of QSQT, Aashiqui and Hero, but once in a while the owner would switch gears and treat us to Kishore Kumar or even Gulzaar. Lunch would get over in about 25 min, but we would stay for longer. We would leave an hour after reaching the dhaba – stomachs gorged on dal-roti and mind sated with great music.

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