Friday, September 18, 2009

Billy's BreakUp

Disclaimer: Any resemblance , real or imaginary, to people living or dead is most definitely not a coincidence.

It was a good morning.

Mountains were dew-pearled, my pet snail, Roger was on the thorn ,the lark on the wing. All in all, the sort of morning when God comes out of his house, sees all’s pippin’ with the world and goes back to heaven, fresh milk delivery in his left hand and the latest Cosmopolitan issue along with the daily newspaper curled up in his right. The sort, in fact, that would have sent The Boatman of the river Styx to take the day off and go springing from bower to bower , Communists hugging George W bush like a long lost brother who ,on his part, would snip off to the closest orphanage to kiss little kids’ foreheads . If, on such a buoyant morning , I put down the feeling of impending doom to a concerted conspiratorial attack of last night’s dinner and the 4 shots of Caribbean’s strongest- whom I had sent down to investigate the riotous upsurges from down below, immediately after- a graceful murmur of “ Perfectly mot juste , my dear DJ. We understand”, should immediately conspire among the citizenry. The joint operations by Messrs buttered bread and cream-and-sugared coffee cleaned up the effervescent tingling of the aforementioned dark, hovering clouds of wars, treasons ,stratagems and spoils ,as poet Brown puts it, so much so that after ferrying a couple of revolutions full of people through the revolving doors of the cafeteria , the people who beheld me walking on the streets would have gasped in amazement if some philanthropic soul had informed them that I had no springs under my feet. “Gorblimey Guv’nor, You are mistaken about the Mister that has just passed away(Uncouth barbarians! Passed away indeed) . Positively leaping, I say, by as much as four and three-quarters of a feet in the air”. With such energy I made my way through the thriving throng that thronged three-tenths of the triangular thoroughfare.

Of course, it is expected by the more discerning of the audience , who are asphyxiating with bated breathlessness at the current state of things , that a disastrous denouement must immediately follow, for a good thing as this cannot last and that the peace of the tranquil street will be shattered by , if not a boisterous rally by the Uttar Pradesh Navyuvak Utthan Mandala to protest the recent hike in the wholesale price of White truffles ,then at the very least, a couple of philanthropic knife yielding gentlemen who would be kind enough to rid me of the antique watch that I have to lug around with me on my wrist day in, day out. In retrospect , I would rather have taken my chances with them, perhaps practice my newly acquired skill in executing triple steps and twirls in the arcane art of Ballroom dancing with my adversaries, than submit to the nightmare that followed.

I ran into Billy.

Inadvertently , of course. Ever since the bloke encountered his first dumping of the season , he had been haunting the campus hangouts , looking as cheerful as a prisoner on death row watching his hangman doing crosswords even as he is being led to the noose. Dare ask him a 7 letter ending in an E for “One you won’t find in a foxhole” and be prepared to lend him your shoulder for the better part of the next three hours(if you are lucky and he isn’t inclined to prolixity) while he pours out his Italian opera, all this time ,tucking into your stock of Cheese sticks and Chicken wings. And when the meeting breaks up , him being none the worse for the experience and you set back by a couple hundred quids, he invariably touches you for a Grey one to help him get through the testing times.

General consensus as to what led to the breakup varies. Some attribute it to the slightly apocryphal story of when he smuggled in his pet mouse, Monsieur TickyTock, into the girl’s dormitory ,who finding itself in alien surroundings, viz tidy cupboards, books arranged in order of their dimensions and the dainty smell of Chanel No. 5 wafting in the rooms , instantly went about setting things right, causing a not insubstantial amount of disquietude among the dorm residents . Used to order, discipline and world peace, the flurry of small furry legs on bare arms , kempt hair and the recently procured supplies of Thaggu’s latest (the city’s favourite laddus) seemed to exercise a strain far beyond what Adam’s rib was built to tolerate to and led to an immediate schism between the two love birds. The veracity of these claims is questionable since Billy housed no other known pets besides Mr Mac and the modus operandi of the disaster does not jel well with the iguana who used to be choleric the whole day if he didn’t get his 20 hours of sleep. I mean, Who wouldn’t?

Another school of thought , founded by Smart Alec traces the origins of the break up to the following alleged event the evening of 17th September, 2009. According to one eye witness, the cooing lovebirds were nestling under a neon sign in the solitary Multiplex of the city, whispering I am sure, sweet nothings in to each other ears, giggling and being generally nauseous to the surrounding multitudes. The eye witness, call him A, much shaken by the ongoing goings on ran out for a quick sobering smoke and handed over the reins of observation to another by stander, Mr B. This person was more assiduous in his duties of Public Nosey Parker and continued to keep a shifty eye on the proceedings.

Time passed.

Time continued to pass.

There seemed to be no ebbing in the flow of pleasantries between the couple , completely oblivious to the queasiness their cuchy-cooing was causing until presently a free thinking stalwart of free society took it upon himself the responsibility to put an end to the marsh-mellow fair the whole mall had degenerated into. Rallying forth like-minded citizens, they congregated a couple of feet from the couple and according to Mr B, complimented the fairer half of the duo on the aesthetes of her anatomy, including but not restrained to the gorgeous curves, radiant physiognomy and lush flowing tresses of her hair. My friend Billy, being a socialist at heart, thought it was very kind of them to lavish his partner with such well thought out comments ,some which he thought had great literary merit and with a little bit of polishing and Old English, could be added to his already burgeoning repertoire of romantic missiles.

“Aren’t you going to teach those arseholes a lesson ?”.

I daresay women since the beginning of time have had this misconception of their partners being veritable Supermans who can dodge bullets, kick the crap out of any other male in the vicinity (no matter if the male in question looks like Hulk on steroids) and be generally up and about all the time. Bringing to their notice the ashen visage, the protruding belly and the balled up fists of fury holding on fastidiously to their Big Macs is an exercise in futility for the fair eyes are already shining with pride on their very own dashing knight in shining armour that hath come to rescue the fair maiden. They absolutely refuse to consider that the poor guy might be the New Age Gandhi with excellent ideals of “Ahimsa”, “Live and Let Live” and “Slapped on one cheek, set forth the other”, these being more the consequence of muscular penury than any real fondness for the MoneyMaker and an attempt on part of an objective observer to bring this to their kind attention has more often than not led to.... let’s just say, unpleasantness .

I daresay(yup, I daresay a lot), Billy articulated these points in some detail and was later seen slinking out of the mall, his face slightly aglow with the allegations delivered by his girl-fiend ,beg pardon, girl friend in full public view, the allegations being mainly concerned with the detection of what are commonly considered as his manly organs. And there and thus the matter rested.

Of course , a major romantic tangle doesn’t rest on its laurels . With two theories already doing the rounds, the third hypothesis made its appearance in a pot smoking session. This one was more lenient towards the defence counsel in the sense that it judged the recent altercations as being an amicable separation of the two sides due to reasons of mutual incompatibility. The story claimed that Billy had a confidential amorous relationship with Megan Fox while she mingled with George Clooney and his ilk, hence they parted ways promising to be good friends forever a la Jen Aniston and Brad Pitt. But you know how pot smoking sessions are. It’s hard to make out the truth in the smoke.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Girl in the Library

26th July, 2009

ToE : 1 PM

Just a routine jaunt to my favourite haunt in the campus. As expected, the place was silent as a tomb not because of any strictness in adhering to the “Keep Quiet” signs, quite conspicuous by their absence but because it would have been completely out of character for any person to come here when the semester had just started. Imagine the consternation if he/she was found out by their peers, immersed in a novel in the library, barely 24 hours after registering. Horror!

Nothing much has changed over the vacations. The guard on duty, roused out of his mid-morning stupor impetuously asks for an ID, happy to have found someone to heckle for no reason. He is a new one on the job, I see. Thakurji usually waved me in without such ceremonies. Well, he will learn over time. I see a couple of matkas in the corner(M.Tech students) going at it like rabbits( rabbits very sincere towards studies, that is). For them the year is usually one giant monolithic study hour and I can make out 3 very old timers poring over manuscripts like there is no tomorrow. They all as a rule, keep to themselves and its always awkward to smile at them while passing by; they seldom smile or even frown back for that matter. The books are all there of course, except those that have been listed as reference texts by the respective Course Instructors. They are the first ones to be whisked off in bulk by rampaging students and I suspect that they will fulfil their destiny of gathering cobwebs through the semester in somebody’s room while he/she plays Counterstrike on his latest laptop. Well, it’s our not to reason why...

But the rest is all there. Works by Spinoza, Landau, a solitary Wodehouse, Coffee table books on the murals of Ajanta and Ellora, a veritable feast for one who looks closely enough. The library seems to be the perfect place to be, to curl into one of the wooden chairs that would give a neck pain to ElastiGirl with a newly discovered Thurber in hand while the sylvan fountains outside blocks out the world from your consciousness. Ah... it is good to be back.

Found Nirad C Chaudhuri’s 1979 edition book “Hinduism”. My day is made.

27th July, 2009

ToE : 7:45PM

Headed straight for my customary ‘workplace’ on the third floor. The hostel quad is witnessing unparalleled levels of ragging the freshmen. Needed some peace and quiet and 34 degrees at 90% humidity in a room isn’t really my idea of one.

A new entry. Usually you don’t see freshers coming to the library so early.,mostly because of the blanket ban on movements outside the hostel gates once the classes are over. And a female at that. Interesting. I steal a glance .Yes ,definitely a fresher . The dress code, the flinch on hearing footsteps that might herald the discovery of her blasphemy, the sigh when I had crossed, all there. Didn’t see her face in that millisecond glance.

I pitched tents 3 desks behind her and got down to the Adventures of Bertie Wooster and Reginald Jeeves in the county of Snodsbury-in-the-Bush. She had luxuriant brown hair knotted in a cute ponytail. Wonder what her face looks like. She had taken off her shoes. Clever move. Salwar Kameez with shoes are always incongruous and distinctive especially with Fresh-men and Women are being hunted by rabid squads in the days before the Fresher Party. She left at 10 so as to make it back to her room without arousing suspicion. Wonder if she made it back safely.

1st August,2009


By binary search , I have isolated her time of arrival. She comes in at 6:30 and leaves at 10. I suppose she hasn’t met any of the squads yet on her way back. Good. Good. I look up as she enters, cast a knowing eye on her dress code, throw in a reassuring smile for free only to see her blanch. Seems like the smile is more evil than reassuring. Maybe my facial muscles have atrophied. But at least she knows that I mean her no harm as she slides her Reeboks beyond sight. I could have applauded her grit. Though she can do with some more humor in her reading. Dostoevsky isn’t very healthy to read especially in times like hers. Well, every man his own poison ,every woman her own eu de cologne .

2nd August, 2009

Things brought to a head today. Gave her a nod and a smile to her. I see she wears specs and the physiognomy tends to the cute end of the spectrum but other details are still hazy.

3rd August,2009

Feeling like Young Lochnivar galloping in from the East. Sat facing her today. Two overzealous sophomore girls pottered into the section and suspecting foul play, zoomed in on the prospective offender. Now there wasn’t enough number of people around to annoy if you raised your voice and that’s what they did. After a dialogue or two on the importance of interacting with seniors , they were going to embark on an exposition of the choicest abuses that you can hear from members of the IITK fraterinity when I stepped in. I didn’t of course physically step in,just cleared my throat from a distance to announce my presence.

The proceedings then became more muted but I could see the terror in her eyes. For some reason, I went up ,said she was studying with me and them shooed them away. There are some advantages of being in the seniormost batch of the college. You are assured that you are not messing with the wrong person at any point of time. No doubt muttering oaths of being deprived of fresh meat, the two sounded retreat. She didn’t say anything as I made my way back, nor did I.

5th August,2009

Dropped off the customary half pack of ‘Polo’ on her desk. She accepted with a smile and said ‘Hi’. Strangely enough, yet to get my voice. Got 2/10 in a quiz in Mth509 despite studying for 5 hours in the library. I know I should start sitting somewhere else and I know equally well that I won’t.

Seeing that she had finished her Dostoevsky when she was out for lunch, I surreptitiously place my favourite Wodehouse copy, “Jeeves in the Offing” on her desk with a small note specifying when I want it back and slide back to my place. She is bewildered, I am sure, but then laughs out lightly and I can feel her sight boring into my back. I desist from looking back.

10th August,2009

The date of returning has come and there it is. I imagine I can smell a tinge of perfume on it but specificity as to whether it is Chanel No. 5 is beyond my reach. Tucked into the book is a small note saying “Thank You.” And I see a copy of “Crime and Punishment” on the desk too. Not very promising ,I must say, when a girl give you a blighted book as that. Next thing I know, she would be handing around Khaled Hosseini’s ‘The Kite Runner’.

Addendum : Heard her speak for the first time. Completely different from what I imagined it would be like but in a nice way. Ran into her in the Shopping Center. She seemed surprised on seeing that I existed outside the walls of the Library. I thought of asking her, her name, but somehow the fascination of the mystery seemed too precious to destroy.

20th August,2009

It’s mid sem time again. The time of the year when everybody suddenly remembers the Old Faithful and comes flocking back . reminds me of the old couplet:

!! Dukh mein sumeeran sab kare, sukh mein kare na koi

Jo sukh mein sumeeran kare, to dukh kahe ka hoye !!

I just hope i have been praying fervently enough through the first three weeks to get me through the midsems comfortably. Usually I am cool at this time of the year but I know something hasn’t been the same and I am as worried whether chapter 4 is coming tomorrow or not as anybody else. I see her sitting at the same place but this time she has her friends with her. She acknowledges me with her customary bright smile as do I , with my insides freezing simultaneously to render any and all dialogue impossible.

Reminded me of the fast moving montage of two people sitting at the same position in Central park, New York while the world rushed past them in a blur and the leaves of the trees turned from yellow to red to green and then brown and crushed on the ground. I think I have seen too many romantic movies.

Reminder to self: Watch Transformers: revenge of the Fallen as soon as possible.

24th August,2009

Back to the great Gobi Desert scene. She doesn't turn up. Probably out enjoying herself at the local Hookah restaurants with her wing mates ,just like normal people. Feeling alone. Absolutely no one in the building except the staff. Head back home for a day of watching Will & Grace, You've Got Mail, A Walk to Remember. WTH!

27th August,2009

Saw her sitting as usual and exchanged our non verbal pleasantries . Looked like a guy had joined her for studies. Didn't like the looks of him, no sir. He had what novellas referred to as having the Shifty Eyes. Break a leg, moron, on the first opportunity that presents itself to you and the world will be a better place for it.

The leech leaves at 9. She too heads out for a cup of coffee. I take a swig from my flask and head out after her. Today, I will know her name,dammit! She orders coffee,black as usual. I place one for a cold coffee,strong and head out to the seating area making straight for her. Commanding my voice, I hum and haw while she looks with those beautiful eyes at me. Ggr..gaw..glug... it goes on. It seems it will never stop. My tongue is tying itself into nice sailor knots and the mouth is dry as the Great Australian Outback.

And then , the rum kicks in and I say , in a John Waynesque drawl, completely unlike my voice , " Umm... Hi , Do you have a name?". Stupid line.

A smile to die for. "Thought you would never ask."


Monday, September 7, 2009

Ode to the Important and the Compulsory

2 little orbs
and the faint print of a nose
pressed against the frosted glass
his little sobs
behold his friends who chose
to play in the rain, coming home from class
Even as he turns back
at the clarion call
of the Important and the Compulsory

Hand in Hand
they walk on the lonely road
in the moonless night, the yellow arcades
A sliver of pain , a prick so cold
pierces his heart as he draws back the shades
Blinding out the scene
at the behest of the effervescent call
Of the Important and the Compulsory

Distant memories of
lazy afternoons , curled up with a book
Daily fixations
in an era long lost
that melted away at a single look,
One of the many
sacrifices at the altar
Of the Important and the Compulsory