Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Someone I never (really) disagreed with

Our sweetest moments always coincide with unexpected success. Kapil's Devils' 83; myself scoring a 25/25 in "Gaan" class with Prabhatda -who looked like Hemanta - in Narendrapur; myself - again - cracking the JEE in 1993 and so on. As I, Prantik, Partha and BeNte (Aniruddha) met a couple of days after JEE results were out, celebrating the much expected demise of our Math coaching class on Saturday evening in Golpark -- Prantik bore his trade-smirk and warned me in his very "I know you will be disappointed if you cut this tomato for Omelette" tone that one of his schoolmates would probably be in my Engineering class considering our pretty close ranks. I was 315, the weird named unknown folk talked about was 310. While expecting Partha's mother would bring another round of Bourbon biscuits to dip into very sweet and lukewarm evening tea, I mumbled a feeble "so?". I was already being told about "characters" I would meet in Jadavpur University by rank and file, somehow letting me fantasize of the chaotic life ahead where I could somehow redefine anarchy with the help of so and so.

Jumpcut. July, 1997. The orientation was just over. It rained. As I was about to pay the princely sum of about Rs. 181.50 for the "registration" in Mechanical Engineering, I realized I just had a few hundreds. Always a believer of conspiracy theory and still not coming to terms with me being there, I was scared that I may lose the seat if the clerk does not have a change. Some other Electrical Engineering dude may come ahead with the change and swap. As hard as getting a change was, I broke into cold sweat thinking what would happen if I could not get it in 10 minutes or so. I may have to decide for Printing Technology in REC, Suratkal.

This spectacled and aloof guy was standing nearby with his father. I hid my desperation and asked if they have change. I even took out my most creasefree bill to try lure them. His father, without speaking much and definitely not looking at my bait, took out his wallet, handed me change for a 100 and took the shiny bill from me. We chatted for a moment or two. I shook hands, thanked them profusely and was convinced that Prantik never really understands people the way I do.

Jumpcut. Zoom to first semester. Our roll numbers were adjacent. We both were trying our best to be as blue collar as we can fake to be. We were together in things that are top in every 18 year old's mind - wood working, metal fitting workshop, foundry, forging etc. Worse - him and I were grouped together. I do not know about him, but I started fantasizing I am Robinson Crusoe as I had to take the (literally) hot iron and put it inside a mud-hole. He was not of much help. In the very few classes that required a pen, I saw him - often - doing crosswords. In the ones that required a book, he was omnipresent with "First Among Equals". We started talking more. As I recall September, 1993 was the epiphany. As I proudly walked in with the latest Stardust issue - was very hard to get if you remember what was on the cover BTW - he lost no time in grabbing it. I saw a faint glimmer of appreciation, heartfelt, in his eyes. I liked him. I was about to mention about her sister, the one who was on cover - trying to aim at a juicy conversation. He gave me a sterner look and just mumbled the words "Mithila?". At that point, if Prantik - despite his very unpopular SFI "background - asked for my vote, I would have given it. He was right. Damn right.

Months passed by. Years too. When a senior professor suddenly died and classes were called off, a big group went to watch "Four Weddings and a Funeral". Mainly pushed by him, some of us watched a few Spielberg movies in New Empire. Films were his passion - even my type of films. We spent hours talking about "Tehelka", even about "Vansh" that we both agreed was a masterpiece. I was so proud that someone who reads about Satyajit Ray in English would also read his "Ebaro Baro". The same person who would push for "Citizen Kane" in our newly formed "Film Club" would not mind when I tell him how much I enjoyed "Tilak" the other night. In fact, I too enjoyed the screening of "Rashomon". I really liked it. I still remember the day Dipta paid for the Pepsi and did not ask me back for Rs 8. I remember it so well because it happened just twice. I envied his vast collection of books - even some Bengali ones. However, I do think no one could beat me there. On one summer I was so out of bengali reading material, I finished thirteen volumes of "Bharater Sadhok" (The Saints of India). He did never smoke, most of rest of us did. He almost rarely drank, most of rest of us reveled in that. He was the Vinod Khanna of quizzing circuit. People did not know he was the best because he did not want them to. His academics did not improve much, mine deteriorated a lot. But I took great pleasure when, once, he asked me something about "Fluid Mechanics". I felt so proud someone asked me something "technical", I tried re-branding myself as a "Fluid Expert" and starting to break ongoing conversations about how I think it will be really tough to crack "Fluid 2". He was never much into dramatics and when we went together for the Viva, he was extremely conservative and not very forthcoming. Since he was not, and he was very sincere, he could speak three entirely disjointed and irrelevant sentences together as answer and still would somehow give a 7/10 performance. My theatrics could either earn me an "Alpha Double Plus" (rare, actually just once) or a plain "You disappoint me. Your father tries to stop crime, and you do crime" (frequent). Sadly, that blurb reminded him of Shakti, I could tell it from his eyes he was watching me run through a runway.

As we broke into our final year, something I was not much expecting to, I decided that I was cut made for MBA. He was scoring the prep tests like Greame Smith scored in counties. It was unbelievable. I tried to focus on the "strategic preparation" part and tried to chip in with theories like - in CAT, they may print a 4 page long "Reading Comprehension" passage. As you go through it reading fast and finish it, you may see there is no question asked on it. My proudest moment in JU came in form of only two of us making the final round of HCL (Marketing) interview. I mostly copied from his analyticals for the elimination round however. As he came back from TELCO interview somewhat glum, we watched "Showgirls" without speaking much. He also could not stop talking about the book he read on the way back in train.

We spoke everyday morning over phone *before* we got to college. Usually, I will tune down "Chitralok" (a program another of our friend loves) and talk about the things that we would talk later in the day and on. These days, one of the first things I do is check his blog in the morning. I do not really miss our conversation all that much. He mostly keeps writing about it, even after so many years.

Keep writing, my friend.


Dipta Chaudhuri said...

When PKB said that "crime thamano" line, I had a vision of you running down the path in front of Blue Earth workshop with Kaku chasing you with a revolver in his hand!

This thought was so radical (even by our standards) that I never could articulate it. But I should have known that you read me too well for my own good.

Thanks for taking this burden off my shoulder!

313 said...

We are fortunate to have you two [1][2] to chronicle our life and times at JU and beyond ...