Blog Archives

The Sunset Journey

inside-victoria-terminus-mumbai-bombay

I dashed through the dysfunctional metal detector at the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Or rather the Victoria Terminus, as it is called by people who want to assert their inherited linkage to the city. The beautiful city by the sea, Mumbai. To me these people are in denial of accepting the fact that the city, which had its origin in the colonial era, had evolved out of its colonial past. I have always been baffled by this strange tendency to keep holding to very trivial memories amongst a lot of people. They clinch to it like a creeper does to a wall. Although accepting the change would not make an ounce of difference. I mean, would the magnificent, imposing Victorian structure change if we called it the CST instead of the VT. But then, whatever the name, it hardly bothered me. I am not made for Mumbai and I never had hesitation in accepting that. As far as the standard Mumbaikar mold goes, I am a diametrically opposite entity. I am lazy and slow; I cannot remain focused for even a minute; I hate crowded places and I really, really hate humidity.  My sprint through the platform was a metaphor for my desire to escape. I felt like a lab rat put in the condition most inhospitable to its species, just to see how fast it escapes. I had already made a fool of myself when I came down to Mumbai wearing a business suit in the month of May. My shirt was already sticking like a postal stamp to my body, all drenched in the costal sweet, beneath the expensive suit.  But that annoying feeling needed to be pushed to a lower position in the priority queue, top place taken by – Make your way through the sea of humanity and board the train before it leaves. Making your way through Mumbai crowds should be a recognized globally as an urban adventure sport.

Deccan Queen, one of the most famous trains to run in India. It plies between Mumbai and Pune on a daily basis since the times of the Raj. Had I not been in a hurry to board it I would have taken a minute or two to wonder about why the name of the train, another reminiscent of the colonial era, has not been changed yet. And how long till someone notices. The insides of the coach was no different from the overcrowded platform, but it had a promise. A promise of escape. In Mumbai you would see creature of only your own species everywhere. This should be what an ant sees when it looks around in a huge colony of ants.

The announcement that the train would be leaving shortly, came like breeze of cool air in hot summer. I tried to figure out, amidst the splendid chaos within the cramped up coach, the seat number that I was assigned by the benign online booking website of Indian railways. The reason why I am talking of the website with such reverence is because the website is a living entity of its own! It is manifestation of the great Indian government machinery, which like a tribal deity needs to be coaxed and cajoled to deliver your wishes. No Indian, willing to travel through the world’s largest railroad network, would risk angering it.

’26’ I mumbled. Sitting there was girl whom I had already noticed through my peripheral vision. Without looking towards her, I started settling my bag above the seat.

“Is 26 yours?” She asked, I was still struggling with the various straps of my bag. Without paying much attention, I just responded in an indifferent ‘hmm’. But as she spoke my brain almost alarmed started sending signals that said something is happening which is departure from the usual

“Actually I have some problem sitting in direction opposite to motion, would you be fine to switch this with mine? It is this one” She pointed to the seat just in front of mine. But by this time the talk about swapping seats appeared to be immaterial.

“Anku!” I exclaimed almost instinctively

“Rohan” She screamed. Her eyes lit up with the same sparkle that I had associated so much with her. Instantly I knew that there won’t be a dull moment in this whole journey. Ankita was seating in front of me. It took me a minute to realise that it has been 4 years since I had last seen her. She was wearing a salwar kameez which to me seemed a departure from the usual Ankita that I knew.

“You can’t believe, can you?” Her quizzing eyes looking straight into mine

“What?”

“That I have changed so much. The bindi, the mangalsutra, this whole Salwar Kameez thing.” She giggled. She enjoyed surprising people.

“Well, I have seen stranger things happen. So, I would not say that I cannot believe that you changed. But what surprises me is that we meet after so many years and that too on a train. I mean, we have so many friends in common but never did it happen that we meet at someone’s place, maybe accidentally. We meet on a goddamn train.” I shook my head

“True. And look at you. All suited up. No stubble. Show your nails to me” She pulled my hands infront of her.

“See. All nice and cropped. Kya baat hai?” She threw in her usual gesture of admiration

“Yes. You are not the only one who has been hit by life. Everyone gets a fair chance. I had a meeting in Mumbai, with a publisher. So had to present my best self.” I admitted

“Publisher! So are you finally getting published?” She almost screamed

“Yes”

“What is the book about?” Going by the Ankita from college I was expecting her to jump up and down, right and left.

“Some science fiction bullshit” I tried to play down

“What!? When did you start writing that? No love stories?”

“Not anymore. And moreover there are too many idiots writing love stories. But science fiction is niche. I wouldn’t have got published for next 10 years had I kept writing those candy floss love stories.”

“Oh my God. I cannot believe it. You know when I used to tell Aakash that you deserve to get published he always mocked you.”

“Well, as it happens to be, he is the one who helped me to get through to the chief editor of this publishing house.” I flashed the information for her

“I know. You guys are like this. You would catch a grenade for each other but would always make fun in each other’s face.” The light in her eyes seemed to die as if the source of her energy had been turned down. I knew what the reason was. When I first saw her calling my name, I knew this moment would come. Could I have avoided discussing on this? I asked to myself. Maybe not. Because Aakash was the link between Ankita and me. It was because of him that we knew each other.

Suddenly both of us went quiet. Unexpectedly we ran out of topics to talk. I kept evaluating things that we could talk upon but rejected each one of those in my mind, because some way or the other each thing linked to Aakash. She kept looking out of the window. The urban landscape of Mumbai, with all the chaos and disarrangement, was getting left behind. The queen, as it is called, raced away from the city by the sea towards the city by the mountains – Pune. The distinct costal smell of Mumbai was getting lighter and the temperature lesser. Sun went down somewhere behind the cluster of concrete giants, which from a distance were looking like half made sculptures of a novice.

“So, when are you getting married?” She asked trying to break the envelope of awkwardness

“I don’t know. Maybe 2 years from now” Unknowingly she had now pushed me into a more awkward territory not that I was comfortable already.

“Why? Are things alright between you and Kalpana?” She asked with a concerned voice.

“Well. She is not there anymore. We separated.” I tried not to look towards her as I kept gazing out of the window. The sunlight still shone on the face of the distant cliffs which came closer with each passing moment.

“Why what happened?” She asked. Although I didn’t want to bring up any discussion about Kalpana with anyone, but the simple fact that Ankita didn’t think twice before asking what happened made me feel glad. It is only with people who are really close to your heart, that you can ask anything without the fear of hurting your relationship. I had always felt that I was the closest to Ankita, among all of Aakash’s friends.

“The irony is, I don’t know.” I shook my head as I half smiled and half did god-knows-what.

“She simply left. And it appears that she doesn’t want to have any contact. Although she never told this to me and when I asked she just said that she needs some time by herself. She seemed to be intimidated by the fact that I knew her too well. I stepped back and it has been two years since then. So many times I think of calling her but then I don’t. We were not in a relationship where we could not have talked if there had been a problem. I mean, she could’ve told me what the problem was.” I just stopped abruptly there were so many things on my mind that I simply could not process the whole chunk of thoughts.

I turned to her. Her eyes still fixed on me. She had a look of a mother who had just seen her child fall down but would not help the child, just to let it learn.

“Don’t worry.” I tried to brush away her worries with a smile

“I am alright now. I am over her now” I assured

“Are you?”

“Well, that’s what I tell myself everyday”

“You know Rohan, people say that all the time that they are over some person. But actually that never happens. I know how it is. Once you are with someone, completely into the relationship you allow that person to touch your life and alter your life like no other. If and when that person goes away the impressions still remain. Like even the sculptor leaves a work incomplete still the work speaks of the sculptor’s art. That incomplete statue will always be there even if the maker has gone away. So don’t tell me you are over her”

“Maybe you are right. But there is no other way to overcome. You know, when this happened I would not sleep for days at a stretch. Everything in my life was a mess. I could not remember even the slightest things. Sometimes I would keep staring at the mirror in the bathroom thinking whether I have brushed or not. I realised how important she was to me. She was the one thing that stablised my life. For a very long period of time things stopped making sense at all. There was no real value attached to anything I did. All seemed worthless

Without her my life was like a plane without a wing, somersaulting on its way to a crash. But then one day I questioned myself – how long would I be living like this? Either I end everything or I get out of this mess. It was not just me but everybody around me who was getting affected by this. And then I think I decided to move over her.”

She smiled as if rejecting the whole justification. I still remember the day when I was leaving for Aakash’s wedding and Ankita bunked her office to see me off. It felt so strange at that time. But now it made complete sense. She would never meet him again. I still remember that wedding, it lacked the euphoria, so characteristic of any Indian wedding. I remember Aakash sitting on the mare staring into a distance while his kin and friends, fuming with alcohol, danced around him. He was unmoved, only if the baratis took the effort of looking at his face.

“It is not that you forget someone or get over them. You just get used to living with the void in your life. Months after Aakash’s marriage I would go into these strange moods where I wished that a car runs me over the next time I cross the road. I would carry on with my life like everything is normal but on the inside I could feel the burn.”

“I know how it feels. I still do not have a routine, you know why? Because there is no one thing that holds my interest for long. I would start off with a thing and by the time I would get really interested in it the thought of Kalpana would strike. How this would seemed if she was here? And boom. I lose all the interest.”

“Is that why you started writing science fiction? Or rather why you stopped writing love stories?”

I was speechless. I was amazed how well she could understand me. It was scary but at the same time, soothing. Close friends always remain close no matter how much time you are away from them.

“Never mind. I know the answer. But yes I know the feeling of restlessness and disinterest. During our courtship, Anirudh expected me to talk to him daily and be excited about our marriage. Initially I had no interest. But then I realised that, maybe I need make him feel that I am interested. Because what I have lost in Aakash is already gone with him. I cannot keep holding onto it.”

“You are contradicting yourself. You just said that we cannot get over a relationship but now you are saying that you realised holding on would not help”

She smiled again as I her follower and she was a seer who knew what I sought.

“Life in itself is a contradiction, isn’t it? We are not born by our will nor we die by it, still we call it our life. Now how contradictory is that?” she quizzed “Also I didn’t say I was able to forget him. It was just that I was able to fake my happiness.”

“But how long can you do that?”

“I don’t know. It has been four years and here I am. You get up every day and put on a mask. As you said, you tell yourself every day that you are over her. That is what I would call putting up a mask. Like an actor training yourself to behave in a manner which announces to the world that you no longer live in shadow of the one whom you loved. You are over her. You change yourself, your habits, your routine, basically anything and everything that people, or even you, associate with her. You stop listening to the song that the two of you sang together, stop going to that restaurant, that book store and even stop eating ice cream of her favourite flavour, even if it was yours favourite too. And you keep doing it every day. You create the mask. But beneath the mask you still are the same. Till the point that everyone else starts believing the mask to be the true you.”

“…And then?”

“Then what? It continues that way forever. You are confused that whether the mask is the true you, which all believe to be or you have lost yourself somewhere in the past.” Her brown eyes were now moist and her voice shrill. She wiped her tears with the end of her dupatta

“Leave it. Thoda zyada funda ho gaya nahi?” she tried to put a smile on her face. Perhaps her mask.

Nahi yaar. I think you are right. Things that hurt us in life change us more than things that make us happy. The fire in the furnace moulds the tool and not the water in which it is quenched. You remember college. How optimistic we were, perhaps over optimistic. We believed everything would work out and we would have our way with life. And look now here we are crying over the memories of people we lost.”

“You know, I no longer die to watch a Shah Rukh movie first day first show. Shah Rukh, Salman they are all the same for me now. I simply do not feel the excitement. Sometimes I miss it but then I do not see the point of that. Maybe this is what people call maturing”

“Somewhere inside I feel that this change that we go through, which you just called maturing, teaches us to adapt. It teaches us to respond to the circumstances and to face this world in a better way, but it drives us away from our true self. We may be best suited to take on the world but we are not the actual us. For example you losing the excitement for a Shah Rukh movie, that’s not the actual you but you have learnt that getting excited earns you nothing. It is survival of the fittest. The fittest version of you lives!”

She just smiled and somehow I knew it was a real one. We just crossed Monkey hill. The train curved on the edge of the beautiful Sahyadri range. Sun went down in the distance, it was orange and almost touching the horizon. The haphazard urban landscape was far removed and the slopes of Sahyadri dried in the sweltering heat lay around us. I my opinion the Western Ghats had the best sunsets in whole of India. I often rode to a small mountain near Pune on the weekends just to enjoy the spectacular summer sunset from there. I loved sunsets. Kalpana hated them. She always considered sunsets as moments of parting, but I detested any such categorisation.

DSC_9067

“Sunsets in Sahyadri are so beautiful” I spoke in its awe

“Absolutely” She concurred

“I think this is the second best part of the whole journey” I told her as the train curved through the mountains towards the tunnel.

“What’s the best part?” She asked

“Meeting you” and we both broke into a laughter which only those would understand who have really close friends, who share a relationship where words are secondary or maybe tertiary.

“Trains always mesmerised me since I was a child. Not just the machinery, but the whole concept of travelling with completely unknown people for lengthiest of distances.”

“Is there any specific train journey that you remember?” I asked her

“Not in particular, but yes there are many”

“I had this one journey cemented in my memory. I was travelling from Indore to Bangalore. And there was this couple from Rajasthan who had a very beautiful baby, just above a year of age. The baby was very cute, but sadly it had a hole in its heart. They were going to the Sai Baba hospital in Bangalore of baby’s surgery. They had just got a phone call and had started from their place without thinking twice. It was really heart breaking. And there was this Bengali gentleman. He would have been around 60 years of age. When you talked to him he was all negative about life. He told me how when he was young his family astrologer had predicted great achievements by him but he didn’t. He just turned out to be a mediocre medical salesman. And in the night when everyone was asleep I kept thinking that will I be the same as this old man towards the end of my life cursing everything and repenting how I spent my life. In the same compartment I saw despair in that old man and hope and optimism in the young couple who were traveling for getting their baby operated without any guarantee, just on basis of a phone call. The sheer emotional expanse of life overwhelmed me. And I cried that night, for hours.”

She listened to me with a radiant smile on her face

“I think, you should start writing love stories again, Rohan.” She suggested

“Maybe one day I would. When I have a name and people would by any bullshit with my name.”

“Oh come on! You would write great love stories”

I shrugged. The train rolled in an out of the tunnel and had covered most of the mountainous terrain, now reaching the plateau. Pune was not far now. Our beautiful journey would come to an end soon.

“But you are right. As we grow up the way we see life keeps on changing. I feel it is because of the experiences that we accumulate throughout our journey that shapes our view of life. And somewhere it is up to us how we treat these experiences. It is like, various combinations of same set of musical notes give us different tunes.”

“True. I think it would be a good idea to just note down our current perspectives so that four years later when we meet again, we would be able to compare how things have changed”

“Shut up! I need to get going. Anirudh will be picking me up at Shivaji Nagar.”

“What? Are we already there?” I asked and looked out of the window and I couldn’t believe we were already in Pune. Sun’s light had almost died and the road running parallel to the rails was full of vehicles, like fireflies in a field at dusk.

The train pulled on the platforms and we bade goodbyes. I would be going on till the next stop. She waved from the platform as her husband stood politely behind her. Would she tell him who I was and how she knew me? I asked to myself.

In the last few years I never had felt as contented as I did that day. Neither she nor I asked to exchange numbers or addresses. Maybe we would meet again, like this, in one of the sunset journeys. Maybe…

काल

 पिछले दिनों सामाजिक कर्तव्यों और पारिवारिक संबंधो के चलते कई जान पहचान वालो के घर जाना हुआ| यूँ तो अक्सर ही ये मेल-जोल लगा रहता है मगर इस बार कुछ अलग सा था| जहां भी गया वहाँ एक सवाल तो हर किसी ने उठाया, मगर अलग बात उस सवाल में नहीं थी| “शादी कब कर रहे हो?” इस सार्वभौमिक सवाल के बीच मेरा ध्यान दीवारों पर टंगी तस्वीरो पर गया और कम से कम तीन घरो में मैंने पाया कि जिन लोगो को मैंने अपने अभी तक के जीवन काल में अपने सामने चलते, फिरते, बोलते, हँसते देखा था, बस अब दीवारों पर उनकी तस्वीर मात्र ही बाकी थी| इससे पहले भी परलोक गमन कर गए लोगो की तस्वीरें मैंने दीवारों पर देखी थी पर न मैंने कभी उन लोगो को अपने सामने उतना करीब से देखा नहीं था| क्योंकि वो वे लोग थे जो या तो  उस वक़्त गुज़र गए जब मन में स्मृतियाँ उतनी गहरी नहीं उतरती है, या तो मेरे जन्म से पहले ही गुज़र गए थे और मैंने बस इनके बारे में किस्से कहानियों में सुना था| इस बार कहानियां सुनाने वाले ही खुद कहानी बन गए थे| ये वो थे जिनकी बातें, यादें एकदम कंचन की तरह साफ़ मेरे मन में अंकित थी|

मैंने मन ही मन हिसाब लगाया तो पाया कि ऐसे लोगो की संख्या तीन तक सीमित नहीं थी| और इसी विचार के साथ एक ऐसे बोध ने मुझे चित कर दिया कि मैं सोचने समझने लायक नहीं रहा| बात कोई नयी नहीं है, रोज़मर्रा की ही बात है – म्रत्यु| जी हाँ, म्रत्यु यानि की मौत| बड़ी ही आम सी बात है और क्यों न हो, जो भी पैदा हुआ है उसे एक न एक दिन मरना ज़रूर है| और मरने का मर्त्यु के सिवा कोई और तरीका नहीं है| जिन लोगो की शादी हो चुकी है वो इस दावे पर मुझसे एकमत नहीं होंगे, पर खैर|

म्रत्यु और उसके साथ जीवन की समाप्ति एक अटल सत्य है| युधिस्ठिर ने भी यक्ष को यही कहा था कि विश्व का सबसे बड़ा आश्चर्य यह है कि रोज़ लाखो स्त्री-पुरुष दुसरो को मरते हुए देखते है पर खुद कभी यह स्वीकार नहीं करते कि वो खुद मर सकते है| सोचिये तो कितनी देहला देने वाली बात है यह| जो लोग कल तक आपके जीवन का एक अभिन्न अंग थे, एक चिरकालिक सत्य थे, साक्षात् उपलब्ध थे, आज नहीं है| और ऐसा नहीं है कि उनकी मौत से आप अनजान रहे| लेकिन जब आपको इस बात का एहसास होता है कि एक दो नहीं पूरी की पूरी पीढ़ी ही साफ़ हो गयी है तो मनो धरती डोलने लगती है|

फिर ध्यान जाता है छोटी-छोटी बातों पर| हर पीढ़ी एक-एक सीढ़ी उप्पर चढ़ गयी है| जो कल तक जवान थे, स्वस्थ थे आज वो बूढ़े और कमजोर हो गए है| आप सब जो कल तक बिना वक़्त की चिंता किये अथक क्रीडा करते रहते थे आज समय के पिंजरे में कैद पंची है| है न!

 

एक मिनट, क्या कहा मैंने, समय? हाँ सारा खेल समय का ही तो है| अब जा कर समझ आया कि ‘काल’के दो मतलब नहीं एक ही मतलब| और काल का चक्र अपनी निर्दयी चाल से अनवरत चलता ही जा रहा है| आज तो हिस्सा उप्पर है कल वो नीचे आ जाएगा और जो आज नीचे है कल वो उप्पर| और इस पहिये की गति में फँसी है हमारी जान|

और यही बोध मुझे हुआ जब मैंने उन तस्वीरो को देखा| कहते है न कि एक तस्वीर हजारो शब्द कहती है, मुझे भी कुछ ऐसा ही एहसास हुआ था| हर कोई मनो कह रहा हो कि बेटा इस चक्र में तू तो उसी दिन फँस गया था जिस दिन तेरा जन्म हुआ था, बस इसका ज्ञान तुझे आज हासिल हुआ है| उस क्षण ऐसा लगा कि बस उठू और दौड़ लगा दूँ, जब तक कि उस जगह न पहुच जाऊ जहां दुनिया अभी भी वैसी ही है जैसे मुझे याद है| सड़क का वो मोड़, वो पेड़, वो लकड़ी का दरवाज़ा, वो चौराहे का टुटा सिग्नल, वो चाट की दूकान, वो गायो का तबेला, कहाँ गया वो सब? काल के उदार में|

 

तो क्या ये सिर्फ मेरी मनो स्थिति है जो मुझे परेशान कर रही है? शायद हाँ| मैंने अक्सर यह अनुभव किया है कि जैसे-जैसे हम उम्र में बड़े होते जाते है, काल में पीछे देख कर दुखी होने की प्रवृत्ति हममे उतनी ही बढती जाती है| इसे नास्टैल्जिया या विरह भी कहा जाता है| बड़े-बड़े लेखक इसके चक्कर में चुकता हो गए तो मैं किस खेत की मुली हूँ|

तो मुद्दे पर वापस आते है| इतना सब सोचते हुए मैं एक ही निष्कर्ष पर पंहुचा कि मनुष्य उससे कही ज्यादा शक्तिहीन है जितना वो खुद को समझता है| काल और उसकी शक्ति के आगे न तो कभी मनुष्य की चली है न चल पायेगी| मनुष्य की महानता वही तक सीमित है जहां तक काल उसे सीमित रखना चाहता है| और हम चाहे जितना भी रो-पीट ले काल हमे एक बहेलिये की तरह अपने साथ घसीटते हुए आगे ले ही जाएगा| तो भलाई इसी में है कि काल के साथ आगे चल दें| पीछे देखते रहने से कुछ हासिल नहीं होगा| भला को सफ़र पीछे देख कर चलते हुए पूरा हुआ है क्या?

 

गुजरी हो भले पीछे बहारें अनेक

प्रिय हो भले तुझे ग्राम प्रत्येक

राह की यही पुकार, मुसाफिर तू आगे देख|

The bullet

What makes the bullet, not any ordinary but the one that kills, different from others? It looks and feels like any other bullet. So what is so different in this bullet that when it leaves the muzzle hell may break loose it hits the target and hits to kill. Is it the way it is forged or is the metal. But each bullet is created the same. They all come out of the same assembly line. Can anyone looking at a carton of bullet tell which is the one, the one that would hit to kill?

Sitting in the magazine of the gun, along with other bullets which would be fired but will never fulfill their aim, is our bullet’s fate already sealed or is it only when our bullets makes it way to the chamber that it’s destiny is stamped. But, isn’t it the hand that pulls the trigger which guides the bullet to it’s target. Is it not the bullet that is destined to hit the target but the hand that fires makes it hit?

The hand pulls the trigger which in turns pulls the plunger. Ready to hit the bullet and ignite the charge which would sent the bullet flying out of the muzzle, towards the target. The plunger waits for the finger pulling the trigger to pull it beyond the threshold, the point after which nothing could be reversed. After this point the plunger will hit the bullet, the charge will ignite, the bullet will be fired. But wait, doesn’t that happen with every bullet? So what is so different with our bullet that it hits the target? Overcoming every obstacle, flying through wind and water, piercing the protective covering it kills the target. And once it exists the wound is not as small and as precise as when it enters. It takes whole chunk of flesh with it, spinning aimlessly trying to find a way out.

Bullets, like humans are created the same. But there is something that makes a bullet special. Something which differentiates the one that hits to kill and one that is wasted.  But bullets have one and only one aim. Once they achieve it, there is nothing left for them. Their life is over. Are we the same as bullets?

How to ‘almost’ kill a faculty member in an engineering college

Disclaimer: This is a true incident that did happen. No matter how unbelievable this seems, it happened. Please don’t ask when, where and with whom. I have withheld names for reasons of privacy.

This is story of a batch from one of the zillion Indian engineering colleges. The batch was in its first year of college. February was the month and the college annual function was closing in. The first year in college is daunted by seniors though but in this college the management also dominates the freshers. Some over enthusiastic bunch of guys, trying to gain overnight popularity, decided to participate in the annual function. The best thing they could do was mock someone. So the wise one suggested that they should participate in the annual function with a skit, which was a spoof on the Indian film industry. They were initially told that being a fresher you don’t dare such kind of thing, as the seniors will not like this. But like most Hindi film heroes undaunted by the threat they went ahead. The skit was to be presented in front of selection committee and they needed time to practice it. In the college they couldn’t think of bunking the class for that. Even if they were able to dodge the faculties the wrath of seniors was bound to catch them. So they realized that they had only two options either they back off from the scheme or they must bunk the college and not come at all. But as the saying goes Pran jaye par shan na jaye, even the greatest of fear would not have distracted them from their path. Because, ek baar jo unhone commitment kar di to wo apne baap ki bhi nahi sunte.

Image

Apart from the skit a dance item was also being prepared by their classmates, who were more interested in the booty shaking and body aching form of art. So it was about half the class involved in the activity and all had the same big question. When and where do we practice?

As it happens in all good masala Hindi films, the help came from the Gods. Lord Shiva came to their rescue. It was not that Shiva himself came down from the icy abode of Kailasa. The God of gods doesn’t even need to blink one of his two eyes (shhh, we don’t talk about the third one! Pralaya). It was Maha Shivratri or the occasion celebrated as Shiva’s birthday (if I can call it a birthday, because technically Shiva was never born, more on that sometime later). The college had not declared a holiday for this occasion. Although none of the people planning to do the skit would utilize the holiday for any religious purpose, almost all were offended. They took the matters in their hands and some how convinced the rest of the class to go on a GT (General Tadi or GT means as mass bunk, a local slang)

If the college authorities had enough funds they would have put speech analyzers all around the campus for monitoring the word ‘GT’. It was the one thing which should not be named. But had our protagonists stepped back just because of this fear, thing would have just like the usual – boring. And this story would not have been there.

Coming back to what happened next. Over all it was a successful feat, they had successfully performed the first GT of their college lives.(Pat on the back! Applause)

After practicing the fine arts of acting and dancing for a whole day at a friends place. When the next day they came back to college there was a buzz. Everybody was talking about a serious action been taken against the class. Soon the thunderbolt came upon them. Dr. Lion King (AKA Chin 2.0), the director of the college along with Mr. Mother-of-groom, HOD mechanical department came to our class. They were all much tensed for what they will do to us. They had heard a lot about Dr. Chin 2.0. Even the Bravo seniors (4th year guys) wet their pants due to fury. There were legends about how he punishes the culprits. It was rumored that he will hit with anything that comes to his hand. He holds your hair tight in one hand and makes you bend over your back before he starts punching your back with his other hand, holding anything that comes in front of him.

Mr. Mother-of-groom on the other hand was not so famous for anything. At first look he seemed like a regular old guy who has had enough from life and had a significant bald on his head. On the other hand Dr. Chin 2.0 was a big man, his appearance was intimidating, and he had a huge belly and used suspenders to support his pants. The most freighting thing was that he was a retired army officer and had that hostile air that army men have for their enemies.

It was couple of days after the GT feat when they came to the class. Mr. Kyu-Sir was lecturing on Engineering Physics. Mr. Kyu-Sir was a flatterer; he was always trying to impress Dr. Chin 2.0. As they came in, in true filmy style everybody was stunned. Nobody spoke a word, not even Mr. Kyu-sir. Dr. Chin 2.0 started writing something on the board. The class thought that finally he has taken the matter into hands, frustrated with the stinking notes that Mr. Kyu-Sir taught us, and will teach physics from now on.

But to everyone’s surprise, what he wrote was a numbered list. Everyone was totally confused. The numbered list said

1)      Get suspended for 30 days

2)      Deduction of 5 marks from sessionals

3)      Rs 500 fine on each student.

These were the three options that the class was given. They were to choose their own punishment. A true act of typical Hindi film villains. Moreover at that time Kaun Banega Crorepati (Indian version of Who wants to be a millionaire) was quite popular. So it was not very difficult to guess from where the inspiration came.

“We won’t talk about what you have done or why you have done. We just want to know how will you pay the price.” Declared Dr. Chin 2.0

“You have three options. Get suspended for 30 days, deduction of sessional and a fine of Rs. 500.” He said.

“What will you like?” he asked. This question frightened the hell out of everybody. No one had a clue. And the biggest fear was that if anybody told about the skit and the dance they will face the rage and also will not be allowed to perform.

Nobody in the class dared to answer everybody was trying to think. Some wished that they had the lifelines the participants had in KBC. They would’ve gone for 50-50 so only 1 and a half choice would’ve left.

But they couldn’t ask for anything here. Suddenly a student spoke. “Sir these 5 marks are to be deducted from total of the sessional or from each subject separately?” It was Paw-on. Everybody was shocked to hear that. How could he ask a thing like that thought.

Even though the situation was tensed. The simple question from Paw-on brought in an unintended laughter, students tried to conceal it. As soon as he asked this something happened to Mr. Mother-of-groom. He started having nausea. He started having shorter breaths and almost fell on the chair and was almost unconscious.

They thought he had a heart attack after listening to what Paw-on had uttered. Dr. Chin 2.0 was helping Mr. Mother-of-groom to recover but it seemed Mr. Mother-of-groom was fast getting unconscious. People were frightened as nobody understood what to do. “Sugar” Shouted Dr. Chin 2.0 as if he had broken the code and got the cure.

Mr. Kyu-Sir soon dispatched a student, Go-rub, to fetch sugar from the Physics lab.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mother-of-groom was still lying unconscious taking long and distant breaths.  Dr. Chin 2.0 was trying to talk to him. I wonder what an effect Paw-on’s question had on this old man that he is knocked down to unconsciousness.

His situation started worsening and he turned down to puke. He vomited on himself and the disgust was clear on the students sitting close to him. He also started groaning. Sounds that people make when they are possessed, came out of him. It was getting scary and bad. Mr. Kyu-Sir had almost shitted in his pant and was standing there trying to think (!) what to do.

Soon Go-Rub came back with a glass of water and some sugar. Dr. Chin 2.0 ordered Kyu-Sir to mix sugar in water. Kyu-Sir put all the sugar into the water only to find that there was no spoon to stir. Mr. Mother-of-groom was still unconscious. Most of the students were convinced that he is surely going to die and they might get another holiday and this time officially ;).

But Mr. Kyu-Sir found out a way to stir the water by using his finger as spoon. He was also very afraid of Dr. Chin 2.0 and didn’t want to upset him. He was in double thought as what to do. If he is late in mixing water and sugar and something happens to Mr. Mother-of-groom, Dr. Chin 2.0 will certainly do something bad to him. But on the other hand if he was not able to find any spoon and using a finger which was dirty and was covered completely with chalk dust will only inflict more dangers of infections. But Mr. Kyu-Sir went ahead to deal with the present problem first.

As he finished stirring the water Dr. Chin 2.0 poured it into Mr. Mother-of-groom’s mouth. As soon as the glass of sweet water went in Mr. Mother-of-groom stood up quick like a rabbit.

“So what is your decision?” he asked. The class was stunned once again as what was all this. This guy nearly escaped a life threatening situation and they are still bothered about the GT. Still nobody answered, all were freaked out with what had happened. There was a stunned silence as no one could think of a possible answer. Some thought of the Addad-Bakkad method used for objective type questions in India, some were thinking of asking – Sir answer kya lana hai? As they always do in practical experiments.

The dashing duo didn’t have enough time for the students to come up with anything concrete so they went away without any solution and told that as the class had not opted for anything, they will decide it by themselves.

Later it was informed to all that Mr. Mother-of-groom was a diabetic and the situation he was in when he fainted was of hypoglycemia, the lack of sugar in blood.

Paw-on, the croaker, didn’t stop his big mouthed adventure jut there and after all this had finished a circular came to the class. Paw-on in his heavy and loud voice said “ek gaya nahi aur yeh dusra aa gaya” he should’ve considered the position at which he was sitting. He was sitting in the first row and was clearly heard by Mr. Kyu-Sir.

Even if it wasn’t the first row Paw-in’s voice would’ve made it to Mr. Kyu-Sir’s ears. It was just to hear this that Paw-on was sent out of the class for rest of the time.

You want to know what happened next. Well, this is pretty much it, the annual function got cancelled that year. But they surely became a rage in college afterwards, with their plays, stand up acts and dances.

I would come back with more such incidents from the engineering colleges. If you have one which you think should be shared with everyone here for the sake of spreading the smile. Do write to me about that and we (you and me) will put something together.

Note: People who have a ‘Kidda’ for knowing the real names of the people involved in the incident can either try to translate the names that I have given or try to find a name which sounds familiar in pronounciation 😉 

My Room

Suffering, yet again, from a relentless attack of insomnia I lie down in my room looking at the ceiling. I have long given up on trying to find a solution to my sleeplessness. I turn around and look at the state of my room. To an untrained eye my room would seem like an ultimate mess, but to me it is as organised as a military arsenal. I know exactly where I have kept something. I love it this way. I love the chaos and I love how I can still find things amidst all this.

But today when I look at my room a thought strikes me. Something much more than just a commentary on my lifestyle. Isn’t my room a perfect manifestation of the state of my mind? The more I look around the more this makes sense. Memories, faith, insecurities, fear, chaos, passion, prejudices and filters everything was there.

At the far diagonally opposite end stands the cupboard. It is stuffed with random things and I rarely open it. There are things in it which I avoid to confront on a daily basis. Maybe if on a weekend I have some time I would open it just to rearrange the things and then forget it for the rest of the week. The only use it finds through the week is as a mirror.

Behind the cupboard lie things now unknown to me. I remember chucking some useless stuff behind it in the gap between the wall and the cupboard. But the dust of time has changed the appearance of most of those things. I can’t identify them anymore. And perhaps that is the corner of my room I am most afraid to go into.

A whole quarter of my room is occupied by a mattress given away by a friend as she moved to another city. I rarely sleep on that mattress. It is all covered with my clothes, books and bags. The mattress is just visible in-between things, in some patches .

Just opposite to the mattress is the small table which houses the various idols I have. A place of worship. A place where I keep my faith, secured. I do spend time there, but not more than 10 minutes. But I spend that time daily

The fan goes around with a squealing sound as if something inside is broken. Nonetheless, it still works. Moonlight comes in through the window. My room has a fairly huge window with glass panels. I rarely open it, the glass allows the light to come in and leaves the noise out. But then sometimes I pull in the curtains for I do not like the light always.

Image

The door, how can I forget the door! The only way into the room. From the door looks down on me, my favourite poster of The Iron Man and also a Bat-sign placed just above it. Somehow looking at the Bat-sign and The Iron Man poster is the most comforting sight of my whole room. But if I close the door I would lose the sight of them. Have I been keeping the door closed too often lately?

Is this even making sense or I have gone crazy beyond repair?

As I said earlier it just seems like someone peeked inside my mind and created the ambience of my room. Or has this happened by itself? Something which is bound to happen. Maybe the world is not so fluid as it seems. Maybe there is just one state to which all things want to tend.

Is there a cosmic pattern that is revealing itself upon me? Are all things just manifestation of something else? And it is just the matter of scale. Why else would a tiny particle of dust resemble a mountain? Why the atomic model so much resemble the cosmic systems?

Is there a common code which reveals in everything and everyone? As if repeating itself over and over in all forms, shapes and sizes. And we are just too busy in looking at the variations that we miss the commonality.  Maybe it is something which was once known to us but we have lost it over the time. The knowledge of trivial things has replaced the wisdom of universe.

Why else our old teach us to greet each other by saying Namaste? A simple word which we might use several times in a single day, still missing the meaning of it. Namaste (Namh + Aste)- I  bow to the one that resides in you. What is this that is said to reside in all of us. Isn’t it the connecting link, the cosmic code.

Isn’t it the same thing that is inside my mind and in my room.

Reflections – Judgement

Every human being in the city if Ahmedabad was on his roof. Kites covered the whole of the sky above Ahemadabad.  Yes, you guessed it right, it was Uttrayan. Anyone who ever had even a slight brush with Gujrati culture knows what Uttrayan means to this western state.

I was in 2nd standard. My cousins were visiting us and I was boastingly showing them off my knowledge about the big city. I had slender frame and wore a spec, even then. My father had got us one of the most fancy and expensive kites available. It was sky blue in colour, made with a material which gave it a shimmering look, when the sun rays bounced on it. It had a beautiful sparkling tail. Now in Ahmedabad or rather in whole of the Gujrat catching a cut kite is as big a thing as flying one, on Uttrayan.   There are hoards of kids combing the streets in hunt for a falling kite, with differing devices to capture it. Long sticks, lingar or  long piece of manjha with a stone tied at one end were the most popular one.

Since I was not very old resident of the neighbourhood, I was not the part of this kite hunting fraternity. Usually I kept to myself and minded my own kite. It was the big day and I and my cousins were out with our precious kite. With our limited expertise we managed to get the kite flying. Since, we were no match to the honed kite-iers of Ahmedabad it probably stayed in the sky for less than quarter of an hour.

Seeing our kite fall down, swinging in the arms of the gentle breeze our child hearts were saddened. There was a fat kid hanging around on the adjoining roof, who had no kites with him. He kept looking at us all through this, and somewhere down I had created a notion about him. I had thought that since he had no kites with him, he was jealous to see us fly the pretty kite.

The scavenger boys, who saw the kite fall from the sky, ran towards it to catch it. We were on the top floor and getting down the roof and catching it before them was not possible. And I knew that being the outsider and a non-member I cannot get it back from them once the caught hold of it.

As soon as one of the boys caught hold of one end of the manjha, the fat boy shouted his name. The insecure kid inside me judged that he is probably going to tell that guy to keep it for him. This triggered an immediate reaction from me.

“Ay, jaadiya(fatty)!” I said trying to threaten him. I could do this only because I knew my cousins were with me. If I would have been alone I would not have done that.

He shot a look at me

“Hey, don’t take the kite, it is my friend’s” He told the street kid.

I was astonished and devastated. We got our kite back. I could never come to talk to the fat guy again, simply because I was not able to face him

Sometimes in life, we become too defensive just because we build up an opinion about someone or some situation. And that opinion is not created just with what we see, understand and believe. It is solely creation of our own mind. This incident taught me an important lesson – never be too quick in passing a judgement about something, especially when the only perspective with which you have seen it is yours. I am still trying to overcome the faults and imperfections that everyone of us is born with, with each such incident teaching another lesson.

UK ke side effect

It has been weeks since I moved to UK. And those who think UK implicitly means London are wrong. Because I am living in a city known as Ipswich (I feel the name has a Punjabi flavour) . If you think that all the cities in UK are similar to London, then it is a mistake. Ipswich is in no ways like London and nor does it aspire to.

 When I was travelling to the UK I had decided not to write anything about how I am finding the new life in UK. I decided this because I never wanted to write something which has already been talked and written about. But last week something happened that made me think otherwise. I was chatting over the internet with one of my friends when she mentioned something which surprised me, or rather inspired me to think. I took a step back and looked at how change of residence has resulted in changes to me.

This is not about how clean one finds the surrounding, or how organised things are, or missing the feeling of water on your bum every morning. This is about somethings which are more subtle than these, which one misses to notice and slowly gets used to them. Hence I decided to write about these things which happen but nobody mentions. Also, this might act as a guide for people travelling to UK in near future.

Thanks to this friend of mine, I was forced to notice them. What follows is list of these unalarming things which if noticed are as annoying as Himesh’s voice, or probably more.

 You will be born again

Yes. Coming into a new country is like being born once again. You need to learn the way of the land, just like a child would learn about the world. You will have to learn what to say if you want to buy a snack from a shop, how to get a bus stopped, how to open doors, how to switch on lights(believe me these guys are nut, they hang strings all around the place instead of using switches) and even how to cross roads. It takes a month to learn the denomination on the coins. You will find yourself being frowned upon by people in the queue while you are counting coins like a toddler. And it does not stop here, it goes on and on with addresses, doctors and what not. Those who have been here for a long time will either flash a patronising smile or will go nostalgic about how they were when they first came.

 You will realise that you are a Superhuman

At least that is what the people will think of you. It is like Lord Hanuman discovering about his powers and abilities, as for quite some time even you would be in a state of shock when you find out that the amount of work you can do(or people think you can) is beyond the capacity of mortals. You will be expected to do double or maybe triple the amount of work that you would be doing from offshore/India. Moving to UK changes something, something in you which increases your capability, just like it happened with Superman/Clarke Kent. Superman hailed from a planet called Krypton which had a red Sun, but when he came to earth our yellow Sun made him a superhuman. But you are a far greater being. India is no krypton and even if the same Sun shines over India and UK(assuming it is not raining in UK) you will gain super strengths. So bring red underwear with you, in case you want to look the part as well. Up, up and away!

 If you are not thankful to the people around you for the next breath you take, you will be

Thanking people is a national frenzy. I mean, it is good to be mannered and appreciating someone for some help is good. But, here it is at its craziest heights. You will find people thanking each other over and over, for things which should be done as part of their job. Even I do not expect people to thank me for doing my job.  Either these guys are too humble or too sarcastic. It will be no wonder one day they will be thanking the key for helping them open the door, or the remote controller for letting them change the channel. I am thankful to the person living downstairs. Why? I don’t know why but I have to be thankful to someone or another, otherwise I will be considered to be rude. Thanks you for reading friends.

 You will not notice when your phone rings

Why? Because you would have forgotten how your ringtones sounds. The number of calls that you get is reduced drastically (assuming like me, you don’t have a girlfriend) as most of your friends in India will not dare call you. It has happened a couple of times when others have pointed out that my phone is ringing. I simply did not realise and had assumed that it is somebody else’s phone. It can even go to the lengths of you forgetting how to make calls from your cell phones and you eventually forgetting what cell phones are.

 You get to live in an art gallery

Ever heard about the theory of relativity by Einstein? It says if you move to speeds near values the speed of light, with respect to a particular point in space, you travel slower in time than the person at that point. In effect for that person the time seems to move very slowly when he looks at you. A situation can be reached when he feels time has stopped for you. Confused? Anyways no need to get into details, you can still feel the same and without any need to travel at the speed of light. You just have to look out of the window on an evening especially, if it is a Sunday evening. Before the clock hits 5 people rush into their homes, roads are deserted. If you look out of the window you may feel that time has come to a halt. You can keep on looking for hours without a slight movement of things. Not even a car passes or a bird flies by. It is like every window in your home has turned into a painting and you live in an art gallery with same exhibits every day. These are ideal settings for suicide enthusiasts. If you are on the edge and just need a slight push, it is too easy to find that. Melancholy finds it true meaning here. Every atom of everything mourns the end of the weekend.

You will come to know that Hate is love

Until I reached here, I believed I hated crowded places. I believed I don’t like chaos, but not anymore. It was the eve of the Olympics opening ceremony when I reached Stratford train station in East London. The opening ceremony was to be held at the Olympics Park just walking distance from the station. It was 8 PM and chaos ruled. The platforms were crowded like they are in India, the ticket windows were closed, all the gates were left open, station staff had no idea what was going on, and most of the commuters were asking each other about where to go and nobody knew. I looked around and I smiled. In midst of that chaos I found comfort. Never after reaching UK had I felt so comfortable. I almost cried. Few you would believe but I actually miss the street dogs. They are a great source of entertainment, when there is nothing to do, you can just peek out of the window and find them fighting, running, chasing each other. Their gang wars are the most exciting part.  Here when I look out to the streets, there is nothing. NOTHING.

The worst one

As you all would have realised by now by reading the above content that you become a bore. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much you resist, but eventually you become a bore. And this was what my friend pointed out and made me step back and take a look. Probably, the reason for this is not spending the same quality of time with your friends. The time that you spend with your friends nourishes your sense of humour. But once you miss on that, it you slowly start drifting towards what the world knows as boring.

 

So, any aspiring UK traveller out there should keep in mind that there are things which nobody will tell but which happen to you here. I would suggest you all to start going to yoga or meditation classes. It will prepare you. It will impart the strength to your mind.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti…

Weekend Engagement

Weekend, what can you do in a weekend? There can be a million answers for this question. Lots of people would have done lots of prolific things during the span of the two days that we call a weekend. I am going to tell you a story of one such weekend.

Friday, 23rd April 2010 6:15 PM

I am sitting in the office cafeteria at my office in Pune with two of my colleagues, Sakshi and Poulomi. We are having snacks and I tell them I have to catch a bus at 7:30.

Sakshi : How are you supposed to reach ruby hall by 7:30? (She asked this because of the distance I had to go to catch the bus from Ruby Hall)

Me: By auto… (Gesturing the handle of an autorikshaw). I have done that in past, last time I started at 5:30 to catch a bus at 6:30.

Sakshi : You see, there is a difference between 5:30 and 6:30. You will see.

Me : I am done with the sandwich.

Sakshi : I think you should leave.

Me : Bye… (half walking half running)

I get out of the office, catch the first shared auto to reach the Hinjewadi chowk. It takes me 10 mins and 10,000 words to convince a rickshaw driver to drop me at the bus stop for mere (!) price of Rs. 280. This comes with an added condition; he will also take up fares all along the way.

During the whole journey he keeps screaming ‘Teshon’ (‘Station’ in local lingo). Thanks to him we stop at atleast 5 places on the way and I get accompanied by a fat and stout Girl going to meet her boyfriend, a cool and sexy girl who is going for a movie and an insurance agent going for a call. Now don’t ask how I came to know about what they were going for.

I reach the bus stop and manage to catch the last bus leaving for Indore. As I am so late to get the ticket the only seat left was the upper berth at the end of the bus. Those who are not familiar with the sleeper buses that ply in all parts of India don’t get surprised by the mention of the word ‘berth’. The sleeper buses are an amalgamation of the Chassis of a bus and the layout of a train. Search Google for picture of these buses, which will give you a visual feel of the interior.

Travelling with your berth at the rear end of bus is what you call pain in ass, head, back …actually each and every part of your body. The ride is so bumpy that during the sleep (whatever I was able to get) I dream of travelling on moon. I bang my head atleast twelve times after which I stop counting.  At an early hour of morning my cellular communication device informs me of a text message. It says

‘Dear Customer, your outgoing facility has been barred due to negative verification of your documents. Please submit correct documents to continue uninterrupted service.’

Now that’s what you call an insult to injury.

Saturday, 24th  April 2010 9:00 AM

With very little sleep and lots of body ache I manage to reach Indore. As usual the city that I love the most welcomes me with a shower of dust and blow of hot air. I see development work going on all along the way to my place. As I reach home, Mommy – Papa and Anand Mama (Chunnu Mama) are waiting anxiously for me. They think my phone died due to low battery.  A plate of Poha is served in front of me along with a glass of Pana (Green mango squash). Man! I love Indore. As always a plate of Poha is never enough for an Indori.

Chunnu Mama is in Indore as he had to leave for some remote place near Mandla for a training camp for 15 days. The place is so far flanged that he has to walk 1.5 kms and climb a hillock to make a phone call.  (He is still there as I write this).

All during the day I complete various important jobs pending to be done. I present you the list

–        Visit to doctor, as a part of my monthly check up.

–        Get my glasses repaired, which got damaged in my back-of-the-bus journey.

–        Catch up on lost sleep.

–        Lunch

–        Visit to a friend’s place to collect a parcel which I was supposed to deliver to him in Pune

–        Visit to Bhua’s place

–        Then paid a visit to one of my cousin who had recently run into a 75 yr old man. The old guy was now in coma, had broken both his knees and my cousin was held responsible for this. (I never felt so as the old guy was driving a Royal Enfield Bullet and my cousin a TVS Scooty. How can a boy on scooty injure a man on Bullet so lethally).

–        Book a ticket for return journey to Pune.

Meanwhile these things are happening I am constantly planning with my friends for the next day. Sunday is going to be the biggest day in life of one of my friend, Ashish Sharma aka Mathura aka Bhata aka Haapshish aka …..(Sorry cannot produce the whole list; it is bigger than the bible).

He is getting engaged after all.

Sunday, 25th April 2010 5:30 AM

I wake up listening to the alarm. I had to get ready by 6:00 AM as Nilesh sir is going to arrive and we would start for our journey.

Nilesh Sir

Nilesh Singh Chandel, he was our senior in engineering college. ‘Berang’ , ‘Bindass’ and ‘Berang Bindass’ are his word whiskers, but with some meaning attached to them. I have provided the possible meaning for them.

Word Meaning
Berang Literal meaning – Without any colour.He uses it when he intends to say that a particular job was done without any fear. It is more like the just-do-it.
Bindass Literal meaning – Without any inhibitionsHe uses it to denote the carefree nature of things
Berang Bindass He uses it to denote the combination of above two characteristics.

Although a senior of ours he became quite a close friend in the later part of our college years. The bond was strengthened by the mutual exchange of favours among us, especially with Ashish. On Saturday we had decided to go to Sihore for Ashish’s engagement on his bike as I had come back to catch a bus at 7:00 PM for Pune.

While I am bathing, I could hear that Nilesh sir has arrived and is talking to my Mom. I quickly come out and get dressed up. It was 6:30 by the time we leave. We refuel the bike at a petrol station just near the city limits before hitting the highway.

The road from Indore to Bhopal (On which falls the town of Sihore, at a distance of 160 Kms from Indore) is named State Highway 18. Now in the part of world where I live, even national highways are not expected to be in a very good condition, leave alone the state highway. But what we come across was much more than a surprise. The road is unexpectedly smooth and broad. The median is as wide as the roads and there are trees all along the way. We are so taken aback by the quality of the road present in front of us that we go almost a kilometer before we realized we are on the wrong way, near Dewas. At this point we check our phones for the time elapsed (as none of us had watches), it is already 7:45 and we are supposed to reach Sihore at 9 o’clock. We have to travel  116 kms in less than 90 mins. Now that is impossible we both know.

None of us spoke a word for the next one hour which we took to reach Astha, a town 40 kms from Sihore. We had to have a stop here because our bums are so hurting that I start believing that I would not be able to return by same means. A refreshing cup of tea and a plate of Poha brings back life into us. It is still cool and sun is not up to its full glory. We gear up for the last leg of our travel.  All through the journey it never happens that due to the quality of the road we had to shift to a lower gear.

Sunday, 25th April 2010 9:30 AM

At 9:30 we reach the venue, as soon as we entered the marriage garden where the engagement is supposed to happen, an SUV also enters with us. Out come four boys, Aanil Pandey, Davendra Raikwar, Vaibhav Gupta, Vipul Gupta.

Aanil Pandey

Anil Pandey, he is Ashish’s school  friend. His voice is so heavy that a you could crush a can of cola under it. Presently in Delhi he is famous among the friends as ‘the confiscator’. He gets hold of whatever belonging he likes of his friends and is reluctant to return that. He is also famous for his love for black coloured clothing.  Ashish attributes his mischievous nature most to Aanil, who influced Ashish a lot in their school days. Pandey now seems to be grown old as considerable amount of his hair is grey and he has grown thin.

Davendra Raikwar

Davendra Raikwar, He is among the people on whom I can go about writing a book. But will wind it up in short. Anna, is how we address him. He has absolutely unpredictable temper. He can make anybody go mad with his annoyance if he wills. One of my favorite partner when it comes to nag somebody. Both of us combined have produced many disastrous incidents where people got very hurt, which can be recalled by lots of our friends (angry friends, rather). He is very parsimonious when it comes to talking and keeps most of things to himself.  Presently working for Delhi Metro, he holds the most prestigious job among us, as majority of us are software engineers. You need to be his friend for a long time before you understand what he really means when he remains quite. During our college times he used to hate the silly text messages on friendship, love and etc. But now he is the one who sends all such messages and the one who sends them the most.

Vaibhav Gupta

Vaibhav Gupta, again a figure who can be a subject of a book. He is the favorite prey for Davendra and me and he also very well appreciates this. Kaka is how somebody from us will address him. The reason behind this is that he used to play the role of famous ‘Ramu kaka’ from Sholay in the skits we staged during our college. He is also known as ‘the altruist’ due to his helping nature. Very few people know that he lives a dual life. For those who see him from a distance don’t know this. And even no one from us know exactly what his other life is like but all of us know discrete bits and pieces. Below is the list of certain things that define him.

  1. Loves listening to songs.
  2. You will find him always chewing cinnamons.
  3. When it rains it is out of his control to not get drenched.
  4. He cannot help helping others, especially if the other is a girl.
  5. Needs Dal-baati at least once a week.
  6. Loves philosophies of Osho, Sri Sri Ravishankar and anybody who can profess.
  7. Visit places with only some of his selected friends, especially by bunking classes.
  8. Occasionally sleeps at night.

Presently at IIT Roorke, I hear that he had created a fan base there with his altruism and stories he narrates to everybody. I think that is enough to give an idea about him.

Vipul Gupta

Vipul Gupta, Vaibhav’s younger brother. If I consider all the siblings of my friends he is the one we are friendliest with. Our relationships with him have reached such a level that Vaibhav doesn’t matter when it comes to rapport between any of us and Vipul. Monu, as he is fondly called, is a humble and happy-go-lucky creature. Although I have heard incidents of his stubbornness from his mother but I have just heard them. He always comes across smiling. He is always ready on his toes to respond to orders of his elder brother. A Charted Accountant in making he is a dream of a brother.

Before me and Nilesh sir finish catching up with these four guys, Ashish, Pavan, Deepak and Anil Upadhyay along with some other friends of Ashish come to us.

Ashish Sharma

Ashish Sharma, already you all are aware of his various names. The most popular and catchy one is Mathura. Now I am not going to tell you about the story behind this name. Mathura, as everybody calls him is a weird character. An ardent gym devotee, he always believes in doing what he wills. He can talk to a stranger for a whole day, till the stranger is no more a stranger. He loves photography but only if the one who is posing is he. He can sleep for days and remain awake for more days. When we were in college he was a terror among the juniors and was the most dedicated junior to all the seniors. Pavan Rungrecha holds the key to Ashish. Nobody save Pavan came make Ashish agree to certain point. One more striking aspect about Ashish is his Bike. A black Yahama Libero is the one possessed by him. He is famous (or rather infamous) for his trademark U-Turns on a busy road. He has achieved various accomplishments with his bike, the latest and the most daring one is a bike ride from Ujjain to Mumbai (nearly 700 Kms) in 16 hours. Now I won’t go boasting about him. He is the one getting engaged and we all have travelled from different parts of the country for him. As I have mentioned earlier about some of my friends on whom I can go about writing a book, the book on Ashish would be the most massive one. Presently, he works for a software company in Mumbai.

Pavan Rungrecha

Pavan Rungrecha, a plump shaped, preoccupied, self conscious guy who wants to look fit without any effort. Genda aka mama aka pakoda … he too, just like Ashish has wide variety of names. He is always bothered about his appearance. During the college time he used to get smitten by every passing girl. He very skillfully pretends to be the most responsible, the most mature and the most thoughtful guy among us, and is very successful in doing so (although we know the truth). If you tell him the symptoms of a disease he is sure to catch that within few hours. He thinks he is the leader of all the mankind and is the one who should speak on everybody’s behalf. Now I should refrain from writing much about him as it will be harmful for him as well as me. Presntly, just like me he is working for a Software company in Mumbai

Deepak Sisodiya

Deepak Sisodiya, a smart looking guy (he just looks smart) from Mandsaur (along with Pavan and Davendra). Pavan calls him Lala and so do some of us. He always keeps smiling and laughs out loud at every joke. You never know when he actually understands the joke and when it’s a dumb laugh. He is one of the few people who actually enjoy listening to incidents narrated by me(this is what he tells).  Apart from Davendra he is the one who sends a message per day. But his are more comic rather than dull sentimental messages. Presently he handles his family run business and manages a sari shop.

Anil Upadhyay

Anil Upadhyay, another character who hails from Ujjain and is Ashish’s childhood friend. He is one of the most astonishing characters I have ever seen. Some of his deeds are so prolific that if I cannot think of doing those. His friends fondly recall his famous suicide attempt. During the college time he seldom prepared for the exams but often passed the exams. Sometimes we knew how he did that and sometimes not. He was managing all the activities for Ashish’s engagement.   Presently he teaches in an Engineering college.

Ashish: BAWA, BAWA, BAWA, BAWA, BAWA, BAWA, BAWA!!! (That’s our trademark greeting. Bawa pronounced loudly 7 times in a rhythm, with your hands up like you are held by a cop. We even have a community for that on Okut!) Abe to bike se kaise aa gaya? (He asks to me).

Me: Kyun, main bike se nahi aa sakta? Koi problem hai kya bikes ko?

Ashish: Nahi be, main is liye aisa pooch raha hoon ki tu itni der bike pe baitha kaise?

Me: Ab teri sagai me aana tha to tere tarike se hi aa gaya….

Soon Naushad, Amit, Pravin and Ritu (Sharma) arrive. Everybody is talking to each other.

Naushad Ghori

Naushad Ghori, tall, fair and handsome (argh…) male (?). I don’t know it is his habit or he does that intentionally but he can never be serious. Back in college he was an integral part of our team that staged skits in which we spoofed the Hindi film industry. And it was during the times of cultural activities that the two of us interacted the most. He used to play Sanjeev Kumar aka Thakur Baldev Singh from Sholay and Vaibhav Gupta was Ramu kaka (Hence he came to be known as kaka). He is one of the most irritating creature I have come across, there were times when during the rehearsals I used to shout like anything at him and Shikar (I won’t describe this creature here). He always tries to impress girls with his greasy talks. Every time you will find him loitering around girls. During our training days in Kerala he still remained the femalephillic organism. We both were put in the same group for preparing a mock project.  There were instances where he did something which could be called as productive for the mock project, but those are very few. I feel I have wasted enough space on this good-for-nothing rascal.

Amit Hasija

Amit Hasija, slim, tall, fair brown-eyed guy. Amongst all these people he is the one whom I had known for the longest. Both of us went to the same coaching class in high school. He and Naushad are schoolmates. Ashish, Amit and Naushad are flatmates. Ashish, Naushad and me are classmates from college. It is interesting to see how the net of friends interconnects two nodes through different paths. So coming back to Amit. To be honest, during our college times I had minimal interaction with Amit. It was only during our training days in Kerala that we got to spend some time together. He used to come and stay at the hotel in which we were staying, even though he was allotted a different accommodation (God knows why).  Presently he is working for the same IT firm as I am and lives in Mumbai.

Praveen Kaushal

Praveen Kaushale aka chupchap, a dark, reserved guy. He also is one of the flatmates of Ashish. He and I used to travel in the same bus during our college times. There is an interesting story about how he came to be known as Chupchap. Once when we were in second year of college there was an event organized by a local newspaper in our college. Somebody from Praveen’s branch knew one of the reporters. They decided to do one piece for the local supplement of the paper where senseless bits of information and meaningless college news are published (Usually the last page on the city supplement). In that article a picture of group of friends was published (Praveen was also a part of it) and there was a small description of every member in it. Praveen was named as chupchap by his other friends and it was written ‘ab mileye Praveen se jinko inke dost pyaar se chupchap bulate hai….’  And some other shit. Next morning he came out in the bus flaunting that his picture has been published in the paper. When Abhishek (another of my friend) and I read out the matter we couldn’t help needling Praveen. It was so hackneyed and so chutiyatic (sorry for the slang). Even Praveen was embarrassed with that, he never mentioned that article again. Presently he is chupchaply living in Mumbai and exploring new boundaries.

Ritu Sharma

Ritu Sharma, a cute, lovable and what-is-happening sort of girl. Hers was roll number 48 just before mine. She has been the victim of my wrath during the practical session in the college. I was always concerned with finishing the experiment as early as possible and she and Ritu Kapse were the two other member in our practical group. I used to tell them to sit quietly and not utter a word till I have done the practical. It was only after I had finished that they touched the apparatus. Presently she is teaching at an engineering college. When I asked her what subjects are you teaching she replied that, who actually teaches at an engineering college, with a chirp.

And our talks continue till we go into bath. The bathroom doors has slits on the top. Somebody starts taking pictures of the ones bathing inside and that turns into rage with each one bullying another. Now I am not going to describe the intricate details of it. After getting ready we sit below a tree which is very soothing as heat starts mounting. While we were bathing Sandhya(Ashish’s fiancé) had  arrived.  Soon two other creatures had arrived namely Kapil Saluja and Banakdeep Singh Saluja

Kapil Saluja

Kapil Saluja, a smart, young and stubborn guy. He is the younger brother of our dear friend Rishi. As Rishi is in Chandigarh and could not come to attend Ashish’s engagement Kapil came. He would’ve come even if Rishi was there. Kapil considers Ashish as his guru. Both share traits as far as thinking goes. He is also famous for his stubborn nature. I had heard incidents of his beating up a policeman even before I first met him. Presently he is studying in Indore.

Banakdeep Singh Saluja

Banakdeep Singh Saluja, a slim, fair Sikh with genuine turban. He is Kapil’s friend and flatmate. I have met him only on certain instances but the impression I got about his is he is an amiable and cool tempered person. It was during Ashish’s engagement that I came to know about the meaning of his name, Banak means Honey. Although we had a very less interaction there have memorable incidents one of them being his bike being taken away by traffic police. At that time he had even lost all the papers for the bike and his license too. He is also presently studying along with Kapil.

The ritual requires the presence of the girl for most of the time. Hence we are with Ashish in a room where he was getting ready while the rituals are being performed. He will only have to make a presence for exchanging the rings and some trivial rituals. But that is also delayed as he had forgotten a special tika that is worn by the Boy at the time of engagement (Anil Upadhyay is held responsible for this). Two of his friends are dispatched to bring that from the local market. As they aren’t aware of where to get it from, it takes them time to find it out. Meanwhile, everybody starts thinking that we have held up Ashish as a sign of the groom’s ego. People from family keep saying that it is not a marriage let him go, and we have to explain them the real problem.

Just before the auspicious time is about to pass, they arrive with the tika and out comes Ashish dressed in Purplish blue Kurta payjama.  He goes straight to where Sandhya was sitting and also the priest. All through this time, Pavan is taking snaps of the happenings. He thinks he is some world class photographer and expects us to feel privileged to get his services.

It is very crowded as everyone wanted to see the exchange of rings. Davendra, Deepak and me slip back and as soon as ceremony is over we signaled the Dholi(Drummer) to start his act(actually he was already into it) and then we start dancing. For next 10 minutes what happens I don’t know. It is so hot and the dancing resulted in sweating and perspiration. I am dehydrated; I go and drink from whiSchever water body comes to me at first. Despite of doctor’s warnings of drinking only distilled water I gulp 4 glasses of water from a drum kept just outside the hall where we were dancing.

After all this we take time to calm ourselves and retire to the same tree. As many of us meet each other after a long, long time we couldn’t get enough of catching up. Naushad, has a bleeding nose due to the heat. Poor guy couldn’t enjoy the whole function. Soon the lunch is served and we the groom’s friends with the entire attitude enjoy the first serving.

Sunday, 25th April 2010 2:30 PM

After lunch we go back to our temporary lounge(The tree shade) and keep chatting. Nilesh Sir points out that it was nearing 2:30 the time we had decided to leave SIhore. We start bidding goodbye to all and it is not before 3:15 that we could actually leave.

This time the heat is on. We cover ourselves with white cotton cloths one of which I had brought with me and one each was given from Sandhya’s family as an acknowledgement of appearance in the function to us. We are now aware of the route and the time we would take to get back hence we are more confident. But certainly the conditions are different, it is almost 41o C and the highway is going to be hotter than this.

Nilesh sir rides the bike for the first leg of 60 Kms till the MP Tourism highway retreat. Then I take over and it is never a time in the journey that we have to pull down the speed due to the poor quality of the road. It takes us just within 3 hours to reach my place. We cover more than 160 Kms in 3 hours.

Sunday, 25th April 2010 6:15 PM

I reach home, took a bath while mommy prepares a cup of tea. I realize that I am having a headache. Papa gives me a painkiller. I quickly pack my bags and leave for the bus stop. When I reach the bus stop, the bus is already there.

Before I could arrange my belongings the bus has left the limits of the city. And here I am wondering about this adventurous weekend that I had. If I see it in retrospect I could’ve never agreed to the idea of riding a bike all the way to Sihore and coming back in one day. But sometimes you do most unusual things for the people whom you love. At no cost I could’ve missed Ashish’s engagement. At no cost I could’ve missed meeting so many friends at one place. Soon I fall asleep.

Monday, 26th April 2010 12:00 PM

I am sitting in my office and it seems as if nothing has happened. Although I have travelled more than 1700 kms by road in just a span of 2 days including 320 kms on bike in one day it makes no difference. I have loads of calls and issues. The usual life has resumed……

%d bloggers like this: