“O Shantaben….paani ochhoo vapro,” yodelled Tanay as he splashed out of the bathroom, leaving a dripping trail on his way to his room.
“Toh amhe nahiyye ke nai?” Shantaben screamed back from the servant’s quarters downstairs.
Vijyant meanwhile was preening in front of the little mirror, hair slickly combed back, as he proceeded to dab a sulphur-based medicated cream upon his pimply countenance.
“Ganja wait for me!” yelled Tanay again as he hurried to get ready lest he miss his lift to college on Vijyant’s (Ganja’s) bike. But Vijyant was almost out the front door.
Vijyant was the proud owner of a Hero Honda CBZ, the coolest bike back in the day. At the time, he was the only one with wheels in that bachelor pad, something he was immensely proud of, though he tried hard never to show it. Today though, he wasn’t going to wait for Tanay. Someone was surely waiting for a lift from the girl’s hostel to the hospital.
Barely had Tanay got one shoe on, when the CBZ was kicked into life. As Vijyant accelerated shakily up the slope, Tanay cursed under his breath. “Ketlo haraami chhe!” he told me with utter vehemence.
I looked on benignly from my newspaper. I had no college to go to. I had flunked out. I was a year down, or YD as they called it. The year was 2002, and we’d just moved into our bungalow.
The fourth character in this piece had just surfaced after all this commotion, and emerged into the sunlight on the terrace. “Madon, doodh puru thayu,” Persy informed me. Translation: ‘Bastard, you drank all of it.’ No I didn’t. It boiled over.
Persy was, and probably still is, one of those people who you never really knew. Some days, he was up with the rooster and off on a morning jaunt. Often, he slept till noon. Today though, he intended to sleep till noon. And the love ballad of Ganja and Gujju had put paid to that.
I returned leisurely to my paper.
Those days provided plenty of time for reflection. Life was strange. Yet simple.
I had been the only engineering student in the entire hostel of Bharati Vidyapeeth, or BVP.
One particularly lazy Sunday afternoon, over the excruciatingly stingy portion of chicken in my non-veg lunch, I observed the crowd around me. Most of them were living away from home for the first time. 18-year old boys would cry over the phone to their mothers. A lot of them walked scared, with shifty eyes that never rose from their toes. There was, however, one noisy one. His name was Tanay. Do you know the difference between a practical joker and a prankster? A practical joker engineers a situation to cause inconvenience to somebody; by contrast, a prankster is more of an opportunist. And nobody was a bigger opportunist than Tanay.
That day, an unfortunate soul found his pants around his ankles as he stood in the lunch line. It was a Sikh student, who’d washed his hair and left it open. Post bath, he was in the hostel for the Sunday feast, and now all of a sudden, he had a plate half-filled with food and no pants on. Worse, he probably hadn’t worn any underwear, for there stood Tanay guffawing and pointing to said victim’s crotch: “chootya ni polly jo!”
Till today, that incident sums up the boy.
Anyway, he walked up to me some days later and we got talking and then he introduced me to Persy who in turn introduced me to Vijyant and the rest as they say is history.
We searched high and low for a place to rent after we moved out of the hostel, settling on a derelict bungalow which hadn’t seen a lick of paint in probably a decade. Better still, it was supposed to be haunted. Over the next four years, 35/A Sai Krupa society became a sanatorium for madness.
There were barbeques, fights, all-night movie sessions, birthday parties, make out sessions and some voyeurism thrown in for good measure. Parents visited now and then. Floors were swept. Porn was carefully stashed. Ashtrays were hidden. Bottles were given to the raddiwallah.
We furnished it as we went along. So we got the fridge and electric stove. Then we got the big boombox and speakers from one of the peths. Essentials like beds and cupboards were rattly iron items purchased from second-hand bazaars.
“Bungalow people” as we came to be known, we had the coolest pad in all of BVP-dom.
It was those days when cell phones cost the earth.
I lived off 3500 rupees, inclusive of rent and food and all the debauchery I could get up to in that paltry sum. But we still partied. We still got drunk.
And then we sweated in the summer because we didn’t have money to pay the electricity bill. But then we’d sleep on the terrace, gazing at the stars as we drifted off…
We’d make movie plans 15 minutes before the film started, and race to catch it in time.
We’d stay in on Sundays and read.
We’d have eating competitions at Ashok dining hall.
Then cell rates became cheaper. We had free night calling. And free sms. Friends would sms from the front door: “darwaza khol” because at some level it was funny.
We’d prance on the terrace during the first rain, and haul out the eternally lazy Ganja and dump him in the rain.
We had a dog, Raul, who ate and drank everything we did. His name was even on the front door. When he mounted a Pomeranian in the neighbourhood, Ganja had to live with the joke that he was the only virgin in the bungalow.
We rode out to Mahabaleshwar and Mulshi and Lonavla and Matheran and Alibaug on countless weekends. We took Raul on the bike with us.
We chased chappals which floated away in a stream.
We crashed our motorcycles and cursed our friends as they cleaned our wounds.
We’d talk about movies and books and sometimes just sit and argue about almost nothing for hours. Tempers would flare. Sometimes, we almost came to blows. But we laughed. And of course it was everybody’s turn to get ragged.
Then life happened.
We graduated, and moved out.
Today, it’s all action plans and career moves and family time and finding the right woman.
Our parents have aged.
Our siblings have married.
We watch what we eat.
We curse less.
We’ve ‘grown up’. Damn.