Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category
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A few of you must have read my previous posts; a very few of you, I would guess. You must have come across the post about me bashing our very Indian infatuation with anyone who isn’t an Indian. If you remember I wrote about a train journey, in this update I’ll elaborate on that point.
Indian Railways is one of the most extensive rail networks in the world and naturally it occupies a very important part of our lives. It helps us move from point A to point B. And you know, what’s the best part? It’s cheap. This means, it must occupy a VERY important part of our life.
The western railway is run by the most misanthropic specimen of human beings. Especially the guys who arrange my seat numbers. I can assure you, there is some sort of conspiracy against me. For some reason, I always end up with a seat smack in the middle of those surrounded by senior citizen seats.
Its inexplicable and inescapable.
Except once. The only exception in the eight journeys that I have had so far. That is what I have written about.
I stepped into the compartment in Kurla Station, Mumbai (The train was due for Trivandrum). I was one of the first ones to do that, so the whole place was really quiet. I didn’t have to go far to find my seat. It’s one of those seats that no one ever misses. If you have travelled long distance in the Indian railways, and have used its beautiful toilet services then you must have noticed that whenever you enter or leave the AC compartment and step out, there’s a side bunk placed right beside the door, against which you will inevitably crash your door. That too with a loud sound; to the lasting inconvenience of the woe besotted passenger in that particular seat.
I had never really thought about that seat before, but now that I did, the gravity of my situation hit me like a wave. But I am a young man, with the fire of youth in my eyes and ‘Catch-22’ in my hand. I decided to quench my fire on the book. Provided the book is engrossing enough, I believed I could tide through any sort of disturbance.
That was where I was wrong.
Catch-22 is a very different kind of book. It’s a war book, based on the Second World War. Yet, its not about fighting. It’s more psychological, but very subtle. Hiding all the madness behind a façade of dark humour. I was positively intrigued.
And then I snapped out of it. The door was flung ajar, and in walked a family. It wasn’t just any bloody family. It was BIG family. They were followed by their relatives from their maternal side, their paternal side, from left side, from right side and every other side that God deemed uncouth for Man. Loudly, with a lot of excessive laughter and boisterous posturing; they occupied three cabins including the one I was cowering in.
They had lots of kids. Too many for my liking, or for that matter the census taker’s. One of the little bastards decided that he was going to be a pain and loudly occupied my berth. Confining me to the smallest space, he ran amuck on my seat, carefully trampling my precious luggage.
“Chhokra chhe (he’s just a boy)!” an obese woman, who I suspect was the mother, explained. I think she was trying to be apologetic, but I am not sure, because she was affectionately petting that imp on his head.
I threw myself back into the books, hoping that my surroundings would soon disappear and that I would find myself in the grim world of Joseph Heller. But that wasn’t to be. That bas… that kid, snatched the book from my hand, and started dancing around with it. I was aghast. No one would do such a thing to me in my home or even my hostel, because if there’s one thing I expect from this world, which is to leave me alone when I am engrossed in a book.
But this was neither my home nor my hostel. It was a beady eyed brat, grinning like an imp who was dancing with my book held out like bait for me.
I snarled and snatched the book out of his hand. Apparently I intimidated the kid with my lightning fast reflexes (or maybe my face), because the little thing started wailing. Not crying, mind you. Wailing.
“Soo chhe? (What)” the obese woman, towered over me, scowling . All my manly bravado withered away before this massive monument to motherhood. “He took my book…” I whimpered pathetically. “Su chhe, baby (What happened, baby)?” she then asked the kid, in a maternal tone. The little twerp pointed at the book, and mewled something to the effect that he wanted it. “Give it to him for some time.” She said, as if that’s the most reasonable thing uttered since Adam bit the Apple. “What?” I asked, just to be sure.
Soon, I was sitting in the extreme corner of my seat, glaring at the kid, who was fanning himself with MY book. The rest of the people, who were one BIG HAPPY family, were busy singing songs together.
“Pankhiraa tu urirajajo… Pawagarh re!”*
With so much screeching, I was sure that I was going to die. I mean there is nothing wrong with the song. But obviously, there must be reason as to why singing has become a profession. This was definitely going to be my worst railway experience, but what happened next was what would be called a divine intervention by a theist, or the law of averages by an atheist.
An old man, fit to be in a museum, stepped in.
“Arre! Kem chho, Jignesh-bhai? (How are you, Jignesh?)” someone shouted from an upper berth.
“Jignesh bhai! Oh, dekh ne, Jignesh bhai!(Look, its Jignesh!)” recognition dawned on the rest.
“ Tame kem chho? Majama chhe, ne? (How are you? Are you okay?)”
And they cackled back and forth.
I was relieved that the noise had stopped, that opened up a lot of opportunities. So I did a favour to myself and dozed off in a while.
At length, I was woken up unceremoniously. It was the same fat woman. But uncharacteristically she was smiling at me and in her hand there was an open sweet box. “Chahiye (Want one)?” she asked me. Sensing something afoot, I declined.
For a moment she was taken aback, probably wondering how a person could refuse an open box of sweet. Then she composed herself and pointed at the old man, who had just walked in. “You see, Jignesh bhai there, na?” she said.
“Well you see,” she continued in her most reasonable voice, “Jignesh bhai is very old. And he is three compartments away so we were wondering whether you ….”
I had got the gist as well as an escape route.
I imperiously snatched the book out of the little monkey’s hand and readied my luggage. “Thank you, beta. Bhagwaan tumhara bhala kare (May God bless you)!” she said, wearing her most genial fake smile, reminding me of a toad while she was at it. To say the truth, I was glad to exchange places with the old man. Couldn’t wait to get away from the place. And seeing the relief on the faces of my co-passengers, I could see that they were glad too.
I muttered savagely as I dragged my overfilled suitcase through moving compartments, all the while tripping everyone all over my luggage. Three compartment away was no joke. I was totally exhausted by the time I reached the place.
In the meantime, I realized that I would rather travel surrounded by old people, than with family that wasn’t mine. At least the elders gave me enough room to exist. That and the silence. If you want peace of mind, then travel around old people take that from me (an experienced traveler in my own right). They may occasionally get curious and ask personal questions, but if you can deflect that, the journey will be as smooth as butter.
I stumbled into the section and was annoyed to see the two part curtain drawn fast together. I dropped my luggage in an attempt to do the curtains apart, the whole time cursing the elders’ need for privacy. What exactly would they be doing behind curtains anyways? I rolled my now eyes as the curtains came apart.
I nearly fell face down.
Five of the six berths were occupied by beautiful girls. Two of them in the lower berths were fast asleep. One in the middle berth was softly head banging to some loud Indie pop music. The other one in the middle berth was busy messaging on her phone. The one in upper berth was busy reading a book.
I could have cried with joy, if it wasn’t considered lame given the scenario. This was heaven!
I had been standing and staring for quite some time, and they were looking at me curiously. “I ..uh.. I ..the upper berth is mine.” I said, feeling like an idiot. The girl who was listening to Indie pop asked, “What’s your seat number?”
“43…wait, that was the old one….uhh…15 ..no, 16!” I said.
The girl on the upper berth sat up and said, “Then that would be…..” she looked around thinking.
“The one you are sitting on.” I said, feeling like drowning in a pool of embarrassment.
“Oh right.” She said, and leaped over to the other berth.
I scrambled over my berth and for some time I just stayed like that. I felt highly self conscious, aware even of the hair moving on my hands. There was no sound except that of the all girl band playing something about ‘all revolution – girl style’. The lone guy in a girl bastion.
When the inactivity became too stifling and obvious, I decided that the world of Joseph Heller would be much more accommodating for me. So I started flipping through the pages of Catch-22 and quite soon I was lost.
It was some three hours when I realized I was parched. So I called out to the railway attendant who was hawking cold drinks. But the man with imperial high handedness disregarded me and walked away. Cursing the man and my luck, I wondered when that guy would backtrack and I get a precious water bottle.
“You want some water?” the ‘book girl’ said, offering her water. She was a pretty girl, and difficult to say no to.
I gallantly refused, but then considered it and took it anyways. I took a gulp and returned it to her. But she said it was okay.
I twiddled around with the bottle cap wondering what to say next.
“So,” I said, trying to start a conversation, “may I see, what book are you reading?”
“Sure.” She said, smiling.
I took the book ….and nearly dropped it. It was a black book, and on its cover it proclaimed, “New Moon by Stephanie Meyer”. The girl beamed at me.
“Nice…” I said, I heard the book is pretty decent. I wasn’t lying but that wasn’t the whole truth.
“Really?” she said incredulously, “This is the first book I am reading.”
“Umm..but isn’t this …like… not the first book?” I asked.
“Nope,” she said excitedly, “but I just saw the movie and I was like wow!”
A little bit of me died inside.
“Oh….” I said. My hand was clammy with sweat.
“Have you seen the movie?” she asked, smiling broadly.
“No.” I replied delicately.
“You should watch it.” She said with finality. “The movie is just awesome. I was like totally in love with the guy who played Edward…what was his name..?” she wondered.
“Robert …Pattinson I believe…” I said in a hushed voice, wishing I hadn’t.
“Oh yeah that.” She said, “Have you seen the movie?” her tone betrayed her suspicion.
“No!” I said quickly. “No….”
“Whatever,” she continued, she said tucking her pwetty hair behind her pwetty ears, “the movie was awesome, the actors
were great! The movie was fabulous yaar. So much mature than Harry Potter or Lord of Rings. Epic romance, yaar.”
I wanted to run. I absolutely had to preserve my sanity.
“’The’ … ‘the rings’.” I tried to correct.
“What?” she asked.
“Never mind.” I said. “Edward, the shining vampire.” I added snidely.
“Yeah,” she said, unaware of the sarcasm. “Totally awesome guy. You into vampire books?” she beamed.
I debated with myself whether I should tell her something about Anne Rice, but then thought otherwise. She wouldn’t know anyways. And I was tired and my head was throbbing. I had enough of shining vampires and over extended families for a lifetime.
I excused myself and proceeded towards an extended nap. I needed it. There is no trouble big enough that you couldn’t sleep through. But that was going to be difficult since someone was playing a Riot grrl band and the screams of “Double dare ya…triple fuckin’ dare ya..!” was now getting to my head.
* the translation is something like: ‘The bird flying over Pawagarh….’ and so on. It’s a beautiful folk song FYI.
PS:I didn’t make the poster below, but thought it nicely summed up what i was thinking.
The class room seemed like new-age stuff, what with air conditioners and all, sitting places arranged like a Greek theatre, the place seemed more like a mini-concert hall than a class. I sat on one of the revolving chairs meant for the students, staring at the paper that I held in front of my face. I wasn’t reading it though; I was using the paper as a cover to steal glances at the beautiful girl with waist-length hair who sat somewhere in front. I closed my eyes for a bit. The slow breeze from the air conditioner had a soporific quality about it, which I enjoyed.
The class room was filled with people who were busy scratching away at their respective question papers, the same version of which so uselessly was held in front of my face. My partner (who does not wish to be named and who was sitting beside me the whole time) asked me what I thought about the paper. Not sure about what to reply, I felt its texture for a bit and finally looked at its contents.
The title said ‘Wordly Pleasures’ and its opening lines was a verse from the Bible. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 “. In the meantime my partner, a good catholic, was getting very restless due to my inactivity. So since he did not wish to be named, for all practical purpose, let us call him ‘John’ as an ode to the good verse.
Its cultural festival time! Nearly every half decent college in India arranges for its cultural festival around January and December. Indian Institute of Management of Kozhikode, which is among the top 5 business schools of the country, is no different. Thus Echoes ’11 was organized. Cultural festivals are one of the most important ways to buy some precious ‘limelight’ for your university, hence these festivals are brutishly marketed and advertised. Since we are talking about an IIM, this is even more true.
I did not wish to go the IIM at first, planning to devote the entire weekend to textbook-worshipping. But when ‘John’ came to me looking for a partner for Word Games in IIM, I thought it was a good opportunity for me to make my mark in an institute of some standing. After all, John is quite a prodigy with words and to pair up with him would enhance my chances hundred-fold. So off we go to IIM.
Me , John, Stein (my roommate) and Joel (a venerable senior) hitched a bus ride from our college to the IIM gate. I walked to the checkpost and was waiting for Joel to catch up, but then Joel went and hired an auto. Hired an auto?! I thought. We were there, right at the gate, why would we need an auto? But Joel was right. Even with an auto-rickshaw it took us a good twenty minutes and we were going uphill.
When I first stepped into IIM-K, I thought we were in a hill resort. I was so used to the forced severity of buildings in educational institutes, that I couldn’t believe that IIM actually tried to create a college and ended up with what looked more like a plush hotel. You can get a 360 degree view of the entire Calicut region from various spots in the college. And they were indeed breath-taking. After staying in NITC for one and a half-year, I did not believe that Calicut could look so good.
And then we walked into the registration desk which was being manned (…er… womanned?) by the prettiest girls IIM-K could muster. Joel, a vigorous participant in all IIM events, was well known and all the girls gave him the … well ….“full heat” of their hospitality. No offense to the girls in NITC, but spending half a year at my college could leave your eyes thirsty, if you catch my drift. ( I mean no offense, I am sure girls have some choice adjectives for the boys in engineering colleges as well.) One of the girls in-charge of registration asked me, “okay, so now that you have given me your names, I will need a team name.” “We need a team name?” I asked, caught off-guard. “Yes.” the girl replied with the sweetest of fake-smiles, which was laced with write-it-or-go-back-to the-end-of-the-queue. So like Steve Jobs, I put down the first thing that came to my mind, which was the name of the breakfast I had eaten a while back – ‘Scrambled Eggs’.
I doodled something completely random at the edge of my sheet. John, in the meantime, was explaining to me the nuances of the word ‘decoupage’. I was not listening, rather I was appraising the vivacious tamil youngster who was my partner. Stealing a quick glance at the pretty-girl-with-cascading-hair who was sitting-somewhere-ahead, I wondered whether there was any chance I could have replaced John with that girl. The thought brought with it a wave of hopelessness, yielding to which I sighed aloud. John, mistaking my sigh for a grunt of approval, quickly wrote down D-E-C-O-U-P-A-G-E on the answer sheet.
To say the truth, we were getting nowhere in the word game competition. John was busy smashing his head on the paper, when I decided to use unconventional means. Stein and Joel were a team, and they were sitting on our right. For the record, Stein is a complete hoe when it came to vocabulary, and Joel is a monster when it comes to word puzzles, together they made a great team (they match each other, even in the height department). So I strain my neck and eyes trying to catch a glimpse of their answer sheet. All I could see was one big jungle of solutions, of which I could make no sense. Disheartened I retreat back to our own answer page, which was rather white. We struggled all over the question paper through the entirety of an hour allotted for it, interspersed with John’s usual comments which went along the lines of “Okay, Goswami, we are f*@^#d.” Unfortunately, John was right all along.
When the answers were discussed by the organisers, me and John found ourselves with both our head under the desk, trying to drown out all those “Hell Yes!! Another correct answer!” and “I told you that was the answer!”. We reconciled ourselves with probably the last position.
Then there was scrabble. Neither me nor John had any clue about scrabble rules. We participated anyways, and deduced the rules while we were at it. John came up with words whose origin I could never guess, but which would never work. For example, he said “Hechsher!” and then would go, “wait, we don’t have a ‘c’.” I would help by pointing out that we don’t have an ‘r’ either. He never did say ‘Hechsher’, rather a word that I don’t remember, mind you. At length, the girl hosting the event announced time up. We go into a flurry of scrabble solving and settle for words like ‘And’, ‘what’ et cetra. John suddenly looks up at me and says, “ Listen Goswami, times up, but the collector hasn’t come here yet, we should think up better ….” He is cut short by a tall, imposing IIM-K senior staring down at us. At that moment time seemed to have stopped. Me and John staring at the senior and the senior staring at us with a bored expression. “Oh f*@^#,” says John and pleads, “please give us FIVE minutes, why don’t you come to us last?” The senior replies dispassionately, “You ARE the last.” It was the first time I had seen John plead, no doubt he failed, he should really work on it.
Needless to say, Stein and Joel had had a ball of a time. They got the maximum scores in nearly everything in the scrabble that and the two even qualified into the next round. And thus was closure brought down upon Scrambled Eggs.
End of Present
IIM-K had been a great experience. It was the first time I had seen a college which actually looks good. Looking at the structure itself would influence anyone into taking a shot at CAT. The students are great (and some of them R-E-A-L-L-Y pretty too), the professors are great (one of them judged the debate) and the canteen is great too. It actually served ‘food’. If you eat in an NITC mess, your definition of ‘food’ would change. I don’t know about the other IIMs, but students should definitely visit IIM-K.
This is the story of one of my room-mates. . Its more like a deep insight rather than any story though. Since he did not wish to be named, let us call him Jack.
To put it simply, you don’t measure Jack’s height or weight. You measure him not in kilograms or meters, but rather in newtons. That’s because Jack is less a person than a force of nature. While he is solving puzzles and riddles in a blink, or hooking up with some random girl,or playing DOTA on the eve of the exams, or master-locking the shit out of someone bigger than him …or even while being able to find a clean toilet every single darn time, Jack … is a force.
He is an idea, something like Chuck Norris. If there is something you can’t do, Jack can. Want to beat money out of Angshuman ( who is a rather big guy) ? Call Jack. Want someone who’ll do your assignments for you in the name of friendship? Call Jack. Want someone to play DOTA with before the exam? Call Jack. Want to rape the funniest joke you have ever heard? Call Jack. Jack is the best friend a guy can possibly have. He wouldn’t even mind baby-sitting you and listen to your pointless whinng. If you want, he will follow you to the depths of hell, master-lock Satan and force him to lend you some money while he is at it. Needless to say, but he is probably the most popular guy in the college. Every other guy is a friend of his. So we go like, “Jack, who is that?” Then Jack will say,” Oh that? That’s a friend of mine …what was his name again?”
His intellectual capacity is humongous. He is at his element when solving puzzles, whether word puzzles or mathematical ones. I remember there being a puzzle which me and Stein were brain-storming over for hours. Jack walks in, sees the riddle, solves it and walks out, leaving us to doubt our IQ level. He doesn’t limit himself to his books, but broods over deeper mysteries of the world.
In the world of Philosophy, Jack is the new age Osho. Like a sage, you can find Jack sitting with his blanket wrapped around him, dishing out predictions. For example-“ We will get our LAN connection on Friday.” “We will not have any exams this week.” “ there is no homework for tomorrow.” and such. How many of them come out to be true are a matter of debate. Yet, with the air of a mendicant about him, if someone has achieved nirvana, its him.
Jack brooding over deeper mysteries of the Universe
PS: I declare this post as largely fictional, seeing that my life is in a danger…
There are different kinds of mall in this world. Firstly there is ‘The Mall’, the one which is large and dominating, casting a long shadow of “western culture” over these impoverished lands, you know, the one with controlled environment (read: air conditioned) and boasting such brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton et cetra (read: whatever you won’t be buying anytime soon). Then there are what are called “Strip Malls”. Also reviled as the “Park Malls”, sheltering myriads of bargain stores selling chinese products and cheap imitations (you know, the one where you end up buying things from). And lastly, the Discount Malls or the Hypermarkets (if you so prefer). I’ll be talking about them in the rest of the post.
So the other day, my dad declared that we will be going to a mall. When my dad says “Let’s go to a mall” it normally means we go to this posh mall, and window-shop for two to three hours, eat out and return home. I consider these “outings” a rather pain in the ….ah, well…eyes for one thing, watching all those branded items costing an arm and a leg and more if they choose. Hence I usually end up in a Crossword Store with a book in one hand and an ice-cream in another just to escape the window shopping ritual.
But that day it was to be different. That’s because it was a Sunday, for one thing, and we don’t go to Inorbit or anything but to an archetypical HyperMarket. You know, hypermarket is like those 7-11 stores or those Big Bazaars mushroomed to the size of a very large mall. And it was a Sunday. The hypermarket had taken the form of a rather obnoxious human ant-hill. The whole place was swarming with people (mostly women) trying to make use of the obscene discount that was being offered in the place (on a socialist note, the same ones which were driving the poor vegetable-sellers out of business). It was kind of ironic to see all those ladies , manicured and dressed up in western style (branded), screaming, jostling and fighting to lay their hands on discounted beans; and swearing like pirates while they were at it. I was unfortunately standing lost, near the vegetable counter, when this fat lady comes and nearly knocks me down. I was holding my ground ( quite literally ) and look up to realize that she probably didn’t care as she was too busy putting the potatoes in the basket, all the while competing with other women, who were surrounding the counter like a swarm of hungry piranhas. Of course there was a 30% discount on potatoes that day.
My parents were obviously not immune to the charms of heavy discounts, and so we end up buying a bunch of things that we did not need. And whenever we buy something in a mall, it’s a tradition that it is I who end up in the queue in front of the payment counter. And that day, the queue was SO darn epic, that its epicness was solely matched by its own epicness. I stood in the queue for more than an hour.
My family members were kind enough to leave me in the lurch, to go look “whether they have forgotten to buy something”. I am left behind wondering who would be paying if my turn comes up. Luckily, that never transpired.
So now, over thirty minutes pass and I am in the middle of my line. In front of me, there’s this Gujju family with their three year old daughter, exchanging words in rapid Gujarati and behind me was this little bald guy. Definitely not the kind of company you would prefer to pass an hour with. But Fates have a way to make things interesting.
A hot lady (Note to Stein: she was in her twenties ) walks up to our line pushing her trolley. The queue is pretty long and discouraging. But so are the other queues. She pushes her trolley and brings it close to the Gujju family. She looks around, and spots me looking at her suspiciously. She gives me her most winning smile. What the hell am I supposed to do? I melt. The little girl (the one with the Gujju family) was in the meantime staring up at the woman and bursting spit bubbles. The Hot lady bends down in front of the girl and says, “I am leaving my trolley here, okay?” the little girl bursts another spit bubble. Her parents don’t notice anything, being too busy in their conversation. The lady walks away, leaving her trolley behind.
Okay, now what? What the hell am I supposed to do in this situation? The woman is trying to cut in. I was in the queue for past thirty minutes or so. How can I give away my place to an upstart? But then, it was a pretty face that I would have to give way to. And we wonder why Adam ate the apple…..
I spend a while arguing with myself over this, when the lady in question returns. She walks in to the line. “Hey, hey,” I said. “you are cutting in.” I tell her. She looks at me with a perplexed expression. “Am I? “ she asks, smiling in a pretty way. The way she was smiling …..was so pretty, so pretty ……that it was downright devious. I took a moment to realize this but it struck me that the woman knew people thought she was hot, and also knew she could manipulate them. To say the truth, I felt kind of angry that she tried to manipulate me (of all the people). “you obviously DID notice that there’s quite a substantial bunch of people behind me .” I said.
The people started noticing. The lady took on a confused look and said ,“I was always here, why don’t you ask the little girl.” She turns to the girl and asks,” wasn’t I always here, child?” Everyone around stares at the girl. The little girl bursts a spit bubble.
I laughed a rather overly-mocking laugh and tell her “ You are asking a little girl who obviously does not understand what’s going on? That’s low.” Everyone around goes rather quiet.
The lady senses the hostile gazes from the people in my queue and acquiesces. Tucking a strand of hair behind her delicate ears, she played the martyr. “Okay, so it seems you are in a hurry, fine then, go ahead.” I must put in, she looked really cute while doing that. Everyone turned and resumed their conversation. Then when no one was noticing, she gave me a rather venomous look, full with hostility. It was only then I realized that I was grinning at her like a village idiot.
And that, as they say, is that. I won the Battle at the Hypermarket, all thanks to the little girl who preferred bursting spit bubbles like a retard and did not bother answering the hot lady and of course, thanks to the middle class Indian crowd which does not like girls in low-neck Ts and tight jeans (rather preferring to portray such specimen as villains in soup operas). I for one realized why I was so unpopular with girls of around my age.
I am an engineering student. I believe that my world is as unforgiving and cruel as the world was in dark ages. Back then I would have to worry about falling on top of the wrong end of a spear, now I have to worry about completing twelve page assignments in less than two hours. But coming to the “fellowship”…the “brotherhood” part, being a male engineering student in my college hostel would most probably mean you are sharing your room with three others. Spending that much amount of time together, you are bound to talk shit with each other. It goes like this – we talk randomly for some time, after that we feel all dopey happy and share an embarrassing secret. Then we go like – (o___o) . You see, that’s because men can ‘bitch’. People say that ‘bitching’ is a girly phenomenon. I can assure you that’s not true. Telling your secret to one of the guys in my college is same as calling Mike Tyson a “nigger”. Except that you don’t get raped immediately.
Coming to the original theme of this article, I’ll give you some profound insights into the mind of an average nerdy male engineering student. If you came here hoping to get hold of some dating tips, then do send me your photo. I can look at it and have a nice laugh.
So one day, I was sitting and doing my Statistics and Random Variable assignment, when I realized that I would rather do something else. So I start wondering how my roommates would react when I ask them about their infatuations. Each of us had different personalities and we were all engineering students (lol). This was bound to throw up something hilarious. Ergo, I turn to my roommate Avinash, who was busy studying (as usual).
Me: …..so……whats your opinion on love?
Avinash:(turns slowly towards me) ….what?
Me: well…..what do you think about love?
Avinash: ………seriously…..go do your maths, boy.
Me: just tell me will you! Not like you are doing any favours…..
Avinash: (rolling his eyes) since I am NOT going to marry, your question is null and void.
Just so people know, this type of answer is what I call – the Abstinence. Also, notice that I did not say a word about ‘marriage’. The subject in question, sticks to the same answer as he would have given before his fifth standard. “ewww….girls”. They don’t mean any of it, of course. They just want to wriggle out of a possible uncomfortable situation (and blackmail). Consider for a while – this reply, coming from a guy who remains awake till 3 am attending calls from various girls every other day. The Abstinence demands that you roll your eyes and change the topic.
Meanwhile, Stein and Jakes were sitting on the other end of the room, unable to come to a decision as to who picks what hero in DOTA. But hearing my question, Stein leaves his laptop and stares at me expectantly.
Me: (sighing) okay Stein, go ahead tell me what is your opinion on this topic?
Stein: (getting all nostalgic) you see, I truly realized love when I saw Haley. I was in Payon and she was like a gypsy and as she passes me she breakes into her dance and I went like………….(at this point I zone out, I don’t remember what I was thinking. Nothing relevant to this topic and definitely unimportant. What I DO remember is that there is a gap in my memory ) …………..then the time when we would spend together in the wilderness and simply sit there for hours and not talk …………(at this point I start rifling through the pages of my maths text book in a vain attempt to dissuade Stein from extending his monologue).
Stein talks for a while, but I don’t remember exactly what he says. Whatever it is, this kind of reply would be called – the Shakespearean rant. It’s the positive idealistic type, with the description matching something out of a mushy romantic novel. The people who use the Shakespearean rant, are usually the lucky bastards who have girlfriends and are incidentally surrounded by people who don’t. And the worst part is that the Shakespearean rant is ALWAYS long. It HAS to be VERY long. Hence it’s a rant.
But Stein did not stop there.
Stein: What about you?
Me: What about me?
Stein: Tell us about YOUR beau.
Me: (flustered) the girl I had a crush on was this real smart girl. I mean she was pretty AND smart. But she was dating another guy, so I checked up things on Wikipedia and realized that love is nothing but a hormonal imbalance in the head. I am not going to waste my time on hormones. Meh!
What I used is a famous nerdy tactic called- the Chemical Defense. Its commonly used by unsocial boys and feminists. Since we are an unfortunate lot, and we are asked this difficult question by a guy/girl who has much better luck, we desperately try to gain the moral higher ground by talking biology (which incidentally happens to be a subject an engineering student can’t argue about). You know, something like, “ Oh! You have a girlfriend, yes? Nice! By the way, are you aware that love is hormonal reaction between pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin? Its like a sort of imbalance.” But just so you know, it’s lame and it’s hogwash. These boys are trying to do the “grapes are sour” charade even while they are slowly dying inside. The usual follow-up for a chemical defense is to quickly change the subject or the focus before the guy who asked us the question can say something condescending.
Me: What about you, Jakes? Tell us about your old flame.
Me: ya! Tell us about the first time you felt the fire burning inside you…
Jakes: (starts smiling) I’ll tell you. (turns to Stein) dude, you remember that girl from Bhavan’s? (takes the name of the girl)
Stein: oh that girl? I thought she was disgusting. I disliked her.
Me: …..so Jakes, you were saying……
Jakes: Oh yeah……….one day there was this dance lesson thingy and it was raining HARD. I had to go to the school. And she was there. (dramatic pause). She was wearing this tight t-shirt thing …… and she was all wet……….i think I fell in love……
Ensuing expressions went something like this:
Whatever Jakes said, I call it – Caveman’s resolution. You see, that’s what Jakes is all about. He is one of those people who like to break things down to the basic level. Absolute simplification. These kind of people know exactly what they want, and as they say – they get down to “brass tacks”.
Four people with four different answer. That should have given you an insight into the working of the mind of engineering students (of at least four of them). So enjoy, dear reader. Go out to the world, and ask people the same question and when they do answer, you know which type it falls under!
If you have come here because you thought that I would tell you the Laws of Attraction, then you have been disappointed. For the record, I am as unfortunate as you are (especially if you are from NITC).
Other than Jakes’ dialogue, the other dialogues were not exactly framed so. I have captured the gist, but don’t remember the conversation word for word.
PS: Jakes, I know you are reading this, and DO NOT DENY IT. You know you said it. Btw I left out the name of the girl 😉
PPS: Stein, all in a good faith, buddy. So, don’t. you know what I am saying. Please don’t.
It was an eventful day. It was an election day. Not something too extraordinary. No Congress, BJP or (the more probable one) Communist flags flying anywhere. It was the Student Council election in NIT Calicut. There were two parties, and too much slander flying all over the place. And as is usual with me, I dragged myself out of the bed, and plodded towards the voting booth to exercise my right (meh!) in the great national institute. I selected candidates randomly (as usual again) and clicked on “Vote”. As the words “Your vote has been registered” appeared on the screen in front of me, the die had been cast for the coming weeks.
Voting results were declared and I was told that one of the parties was not happy due to loss of some key posts. Not that it matters to me. But it did matter to the bigwigs in that party and they pinned the blame on 2nd and 3rd year mallus (to the uninitiated, mallus = malayalis). Hence we got to see lot of threatening, pushing and shoving going on in front of the MC (Mini Canteen). It was fun to see this huge knot of people randomly swearing and pushing anything around them. It was fun till I was told that the MC will be closed following the disturbances. Seriously, of all the places they had to slug it out, they had to do it right in front of the MC. For a mess-out like me, MC is the life line. Without food (and no valid source of income) I pretty much join the 30% strong Indian population below the poverty line.
Incidents and rumours fly around for days, and more people shove it out in front of the MC. MC gets closed. And I get stranded. I borrowed and ate some Maggie (courtesy Neeraj Salpekar) and ended up in bed for three days with food poisoning. Three days!
While I am shuttling between my room and the toilet, people were sitting in darkened rooms plotting revenge and conspiring against all those who had wronged them. So as ignoramuses like me go about chaffing against assignments and lab works, the battle leaves the streets and reaches hostel rooms.
One day in a Thursday morning, as I am going towards my class, I noticed a lot of students on the street discussing something in hushed voices. When I asked I was told that some guy had been beaten up by some other guys, whose friends were beaten up by the first guys. Whatever it was, I go to attend my classes which usually start at 8 am and go on till 6 pm. But when I did return home from the lectures, I saw the weirdest sight that I had ever seen.
The streets were lined with Mallus running away carrying whatever they could carry. Trolley bags, suitcases, bags ….. the road was overflowing with them and their sense of urgency. To say the truth, it reminded me of the great Exodus by the Hebrew people as told in the Old Testament. My roommates, all of whom are mallus, were busy packing up as quickly as they could. “dude, you better start packing up with us and come to Cochin.” said Stein. “Why?” I asked,” today is Thursday, why is everyone going away? what about Friday’s class?” “Forget about the class,” Stein replied,” don’t you know, there’s going to be this big fighting tonight and it won’t happen outside. So better get your hands on some clothes and come with me and Jakes to Cochin.”
Predictably I refuse. First of all I didn’t believe that there actually was going to be a fight and second thing was that I did not want to pass an opportunity of being able to stay alone in the room through a weekend.
All the mallus had left by 6 pm and it was then that you could pretty much taste the tension in the air. People locked themselves up in their rooms, and only spoke in a hushed voice. The whole place was quiet, like the quiet before a storm. And at about 7 pm we received a notice from the director of our institute telling us that the college will be closed indefinitely and that all the boys in 2nd,3rd and 4th year hostels have to vacate their rooms before 10 pm.
My watch told me that we had 3 hours to get myself out of here. But where the hell will I go? You can’t just tell us that “you have to leave in 3 hours, college will be closed indefinitely, you have no ticket, very less money, but we don’t care” but they did.
I did not have enough money to go to Mumbai, but I did have barely enough to get myself to Bangalore, where my dad was present on an official tour. After intense searching around, I found Shubhangam, Angshuman and Alok. I tagged along with their group, and after some pitched battle for pizza slices, bouncing around in the sleeper seat of a bus for six hours, carrying three 2 litre water bottles for hours, we at last made it to Bangalore. The rest of the group made it to the airport while I rendezvoused with my dad.
After that it was a cake walk back to Mumbai. But surely, if anyone would have told me on Thursday afternoon that on Friday night I will be hammering away at my laptop in my home I would have called him mad. But this world is predictable in a way that it is unpredictable. When you are cast from your everyday routine and are forced to make decisions and try to get the most favorable outcome, you know something different has happening. We had to fight against time and bad luck to get ourselves back home. It was sheer good luck that I reached Alok for the tickets before he was off to buy them and that I tagged along with their. I remember that we had to leave so many people behind because the bus tickets were not available and time was constrained. Before the journey, emptied my bank balance to raise cash, and soon after that the ATM ran dry. There are so many people who were forced to camp (not camp as in putting up a tent, I meant “camping” in lodges and motels) in Calicut. There were people without a ticket and very little money, God knows what’s become of them.
All this because that day we clicked on “Vote” and the words “Your vote has been registered” appeared before us. That’s colourful Indian democracy.