Saturday, April 05, 2008

A friend like an old shoe; sometimes shoes get worn out

It still gives me a kick – a hefty darbaan pushing the door open for me with a salaam, the huge golden foray, huge bouquets over centre-tables bigger than most loos in Bangalore apartments, the sprawling sofas. Big everything. I can easily see why some guys can get hooked on to living off the suitcases in these places. Room service, continental buffets, Anything else I can do for you, sir? But, I guess, what’s really thrilling is the fact that you don’t have to shell out anything from your own pocket for living this life. A golden cage.
The pansy-looking guy eyes my T-shirt and stubble but still decides to like me. He gives me the kind of smile that goes around with everything – really big.
“Yea, Sudda... No, (what the hell is his name) – Sudipto Mukherji. Room no. 12 something.”
“Room No. 1217, sir.”
“Cool.” Like it means something to me.
He calls and listens.
“Why don’t you wait in the lobby, sir? Mr. Mukherji will be down in a moment.”
I look back and decide that the maroon sofas would be the lobby.
I wait.

Most people think Sudda and I go back to school. Coz we studied in the same school since class I. And weirdly enough, we went to the same engineering college and then did our MBA together too. But to be honest, we hardly registered each other for a decade. Coz sometimes I guess things have their own time. People, money, girls. You never know when what happens t you. I believe that, truly do. That’s why I keep shuffling and walking around – the more I meet, the more I see sort of improves the probability of my hitting something, right?
Anyway, I don’t remember how but somewhere in the second year we landed up in Delhi together on a train with 30 bucks between us. I think it was some college fest or something – yea, it was. We were sort of roaming around CP at midnite trying to get an auto for the dough we had and then the cops took that too. So, we just started walking. Along the way, some autowallahs half-heartedly tried to mug us but we didn’t have any money left. We just bummed a cigarette off them and walked till almost dawn to reach the fest. Sudda was in some choreography affair but he was so pooped out that he missed the audition and the team got kicked out – they were going to get kicked out anyway, he told them. I was sort of just goofing around – part of the free-riders. In the evening, I caught up with Sudda at the canteen. We both had been sleeping the entire day and just sat there checking out girls. On a whim, we paired up for some literary events happening somewhere and next thing you know we are winning everything. I mean, I still remember this dumb charades event – there were guys from Mumbai, Bangalore and Cal who were so fast that watching them do the chopping and signalling was like watching someone having a seizure; or getting electrocuted. And both Sudda (at least, then) and I are not exactly very hurried in our affairs. But we won coz we just read each other’s minds like there was a big prompter sticking out of our heads; with font size 100. Like I got this movie and I just signalled the first letter was an A and Sudda was Amadeus. He just declared it; didn’t even go like ’Amadeus?’ And there were these guys from some law college who got the fits watching us. They ranted for hours on how we had some secret cheat codes that had to be “ferret”ed out (the guys actually used this word) till Sudda had to roughly shove them off – That scared the shit out of them coz Sudda was huge even back then.
And what a gas. Our entire team, an entire truckload of contingent, didn’t win anything in the festival other than what Sudda and I won that evening.
Once back home, we started hanging around. Our gangs merged – some people dropped; ultimately, most of them. But Sudda, Faizal and I stuck.
It’s funny. But I never gave it a thought. Why I landed up with Sudda. And why it took me so long. Just that when things with Nidhi started breaking apart, I thought of him one day. I was thinking of those nights we used to climb a big water tank away from the campus and talk about anything under the stars till dawn. I wanted to speak with him – just wanted to tell him that I am thinking about those nights.
And I had no number to reach him.
And sometimes you just want to call up someone you haven’t called for years and just have a ‘Hey, remember that?’ and they go – ‘Yea’ and you sort of just relive that moment. Coz you know this other person also remembers it and you’re both remembering it right now.
I was in that mood then.
That day, I sort of went over the roads we had covered together. Not like relived every moment, but more like traced it in the map. And, to be honest, it was more like broken roads; all potholes. A little tar ther, a little there – but that’ it.
Sometimes when I am in a horny mood, I think about the girls I have been with and it’s the same. There are some girls I can’t even remember what their eyes looked like. Even the make out sessions – I hardly remember anything.
Then there are the friends I know I had a great terrific friendship with; once. But I can’t recall a single moment or anecdote with.
I don’t know what all this means- this wiping out of the slate again and again but it sort of makes you think what was it all worth.

But I know why Sudda and I never got together in school. We were parts of different gangs. And don’t ask me how that happened. The guy you are seated next to knows another guy, you know a guy who was in your team in a game, then you’re sent out of class with another guy who knows the guy you sat with last year. That’s why I never look back – it can either look all predestined; or random. Depends on how gullible or cynical you are.
But anyway, Sudda was with these guys who were totally into athletics and I was more like a cricket, soccer and resteasy guy. Sudda told me that I hit him once in class V or something with a blue plastic bottle. I don’t remember that. But if he remembers the color of the bottle, I guess he has it right. Yea, that was a down phase for me. I got a little too violent because of this guy in my gang, Saif. He was a senior and totally cool. I guess everybody in those years has a gay phase where they have a crush on a senior. And I got a little rough coz I wanted to impress him. But Saif got rusticated and it was a sort of waking call for me. Anyway, after the initial years, fights got too rough for me – knives and kattas and stuff. I once was walking along the back alleys of Hazratganj and I saw this fight, or rather a guy getting bashed up. All hockey sticks and steel pipes. And it made me goddamm sick – especially the sounds. I sort of became a pacifist after that day.
I don’t know what Sudda’s trip was in those days: I never asked him too. What does it matter anyway; everything changes after college.

Sudda finally walks out. Or rather his paunch walks out and he follows. He’s wearing a suit that looks expensive; but I really am not the best judge. In school I could never understand the concept of uniforms; at work, I never understood suits. Especially in a hot place like India. How the fuck does a thing you wear define how good you are. I think it all started with imitating your white imperial masters and by the time you arrive big enough to change things, you ‘re so full of gas yourself that you sort of start wanting the suits around. And gawwd I hate those shirts with different colored collars and cuffs – usually something like turquoise blue or parrot green. Like a guy who can’t make up his mind on whether it’s a boardroom meeting he’s going to or a disco. If you have to wear shackles - wear them with dignity - grey and dull - making them fluoroscent ain't going to change a thing!
Suits: In an age when you have Tshirts, cargoes and jeans. Sheesh!

Sudda has this sheepish grin when he sees my Tshirt and corduroys. I also grin.
Three years, I say.
Three fucking years, he says.
We hug.
He’s busy all the time; checking his Blackberry after every couple of seconds; walking off to a corner to take some shushedup calls; and coming back with – Yaar, bahut maar ke rakhee hai.
Whenever he takes a call, I play a shooting game on my mobile.
We catch up.
How’s Maddy? Is it true about Vids and Gopalan? Pondy kahaan hai, bhai!?! Tere ko yaad hai...?!? Guess whom I ran into in NY? Rads ki bhi shadi ho gayi. Yea, I heard he got divorced some time back. Hmm, he’s running a start-up. She’s on a sabattical. Dude, check out his wife if you meet him! Fuck man, three years!
I skirt around Divya since I know.
He doesn’t skirt around Nidhi since he doesn’t.
‘How’s Nidhi?’
‘Yea... doing fine.’
‘Kahaan hai?’
‘Tum log shadi kab kar rahe ho?’
‘Hmm, I dunno... we’ve sort of...’
‘Don’t tell me you guys have broken up!’
‘Sort of...’
‘Abe, kya? Kaise? Fuck man! Everybody in the gang – true love to rahaa hi nahi.’
‘It’s a lon.. I mean...Hmm..’
‘I’m sure you must have been the culprit.’
Thanks for the moral support, pal.
‘Kisee aur ko dekh raha hai?’
‘Nope, taking a break.’
‘Abe kar le shadi, you’re 30 now!’
A 30something divorcee advising a 30something bachelor to get married.
‘Hmmm. How’s work?’
‘Hectic man, hectic. I have been awake yawn for the past 30 hours on this project!’
‘What about you?’
‘Yea, can’t complain.’
I have been awake for the past 12 hours only.
‘So is XXX planning to go for an IPO soon?’
‘Dunno, haven’t told me yet.’
His Blackberry rings.
‘Hmmm... hmmm... ok. Aa raha hun.’
‘Dude, I have to leave for the presentation now. Catch you at the canteen?’

I drive into the campus. Sudda is nowhere around – still presenting I guess. The guards remember me and wave me in without asking me to sign anything, the canteen Prabhakar grins and embraces me, Chhuttan is shy and hides his face in his hands as he giggles when I tickle him. Prabhakar prepares a kadak chai for me and asks me a hundred questions – woh lambe wale saab kahaan hain? Aur Kholu? Sudda abhi aa raha hai? Shaadi ki?
I roam around the empty corridors.
I usually hate coming back to campuses. I feel lonely; all the guys I spent my times here with are gone and to the new guys I’m just a stranger. I was in college when this old guy landed up at my door in the morning and starts telling me about how he’d been in this room, years ago. And I felt really sad for him even tho’ he’d woken me up and everything.
That’s my point – why go over something that’s no more? Memories are never happy – they are always sad. Even when they have happy moments, you get sad coz those moments are not there anymore.
Sudda walks in like a filmstar: surrounded by fans. They jostle and try asking smart questions. Sudda has this face that he couldn’t care a fuck. A guy pushes forward and tells him that he’s Rank 2. Seriously – right there in front of everyone. Sudda steals a glance at me and can’t resist it. He puts on a very grave voice and says – ‘That means you’re not trying hard enough.’
I guffaw. Sudda and I barely scraped through.
Sudda drops on the chair, greets Prabhakar and yawns. The crowd disperses tho’ some wannabes lurk about. Eyeing a live top-notch IBanker.
I wonder what they think of me. They probably think I’m not even from here. If they do, they’ll probably think I am a loser.
I wonder what if I come to sell my company here – an obscure low-salary start-up. Probably not even the bottom-of-the-barrels will turn up. But I don’t feel shitty about that – placements have nothing to do with the real world.
Yawn yawn YAWNNN.
‘You wanna sleep?’
‘With whom?’
‘Is that what your standard of humor has fallen to?’
‘I have this really hot girl in my team – looks like a fucking Ms Venezuela. But she sleeps only with MDs.’
‘So how many years do you have to become one?’
‘Oh, lots.’
He nods his head sadly. Probably he thinks the girl won’t stick around till then.
‘What time is your flight?’
‘Huh... ah... 5 in the morning.’
How the hell can they live like that?
‘You sure you don’t want to crash somewhere?’
‘Nahi yaar, this is all the time I have. I can always catch a nap in flight.’
‘As you wish.’
‘Tere ghar par daaru padi hai?’
‘What do you think?’
‘Chal phir.’
He slaps his thigh and gets up and stretches.


Alam said...

when is the book coming out ??

Bland Spice said...

i still don't even have the skeleton figured out... feeding off ideas from friends - or, what i have seen of them:)