Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Vagabonds of Punterland II

These are 3 parts of what was supposed to be a five-part series, and one of our initial efforts. We'd written this some time in late 2012, a time when we used to be both 'unkempt' and 'sophomores' (now we're just unkempt). For precisely those reasons (and more), they always remained just drafts, often yearning for attention and closure. I now reckon they belong more here than in a folder on my laptop, for whatever they may be worth. We have abstained from making any changes to the original draft.

3 is greater than 2 

There are people who choose to take things the conventional way and play by the rules of life. Then there are those who like living dangerously and make their own. For the short time they’d known each other, Sam believed Ayan was a ‘Type 1’ guy, like him. They both knew TJ was the rare ‘Type II’, the ones who never learn from mistakes, until they make their own and blow them up into disasters...

‘Playing loud music and use of stereo is strictly prohibited in the premises...’

‘Inmates are not allowed to bring laptops, heaters, blowers or any other electrical appliances inside the hostel...’

He read the last of the ‘general instructions’ in the typical, hysterically croaky voice of the warden, known more for his unpredictable mood swings than his unconditional fury. The 2 guys on either side suspended their hearty laughter as TJ ripped down the sheet of paper from the notice board. Having been with him for almost a week now, Ayan and Sam had become quite used to the unconventional ways of their new-found friend and roommate.

While these sudden bursts of hyper-activity stemming from his archetypal Bohemian attitude- instantly made this prodigal son the principle focus of attention, it also made TJ the odd one out of the 3. With a perennially serious Ayan, a particularly sincere Sam and a perpetually sinister TJ, it had been a rare but pleasant amalgamation of the Conservative, the Liberal and the Radical under one roof in Room 7 of Tagore Bhawan.

‘Eat, pray and rest. Your ass belongs to me...’ TJ completed the mimicry. “Welcome to the Fox River State Penitentiary” he buzzed.

“What you just razed down was meant for 300 people” Sam pitched in, gesturing to the guard at the gate who was overlooking.

“Common courtesies man...” Ayan bitched as often, shrugging his shoulders. His ‘absolutely sober’ upbringing could not reconcile with the apparently rash ways of this instinctive guy. Sam on the other hand had grown quite fascinated by his spontaneity and outspokenness.

“It’s been 7 days”, he started, strolling along the veranda of the first of the 7 wings that housed their room. “And I already feel like running away”. Ayan and Sam tagged along. They stopped when TJ reached the day’s copy of TOI at the newspaper stand.

It was that time of the year when local and national dailies get swamped with statistics of students topping merit lists and coaching institutes flaunting their best kept nerds- the AIRs.

Looking at the passport size photographs of the supposedly smartest youngsters, Ayan felt a part of him perish. Not a day went by when Sam didn’t repent his ill-decisions made on that fateful second Sunday of April. TJ, meanwhile, had tuned himself to a different wavelength altogether.

“The lectures are farce, food barely edible, campus life non-existent after 7 pm. Curses be on our movies that promise colleges full of ravishing beauties and cafes packed with dancing youngsters”, he complained.

“The curriculum is a mess, labs complete hokum and hostel a pathetic junk-yard”, Ayan rhymed.

“Never thought I’ll smile at people who screw our lives”, lamented Sam.

“These are supposed to be the best years of our lives. I can’t spend them scribbling notes and finishing assignments.” Sam could sense TJ was up to something.

“Enough of this sitting-in like spinsters. We need to shake the shell pals. It’s time we hit the streets!”
Ayan and Sam stood transfixed but clueless.

“Lohni. Tonight.” TJ talked more like himself. Everybody in their freshman year had heard of this place but no one had explored it yet.

“I’m in. They’re throwing grease anyway for dinner”, Sam’s aversion to spinach was well known.

“Well they’ve also reduced the hostel entry time to 8:30. And you know how serious that beast is about miscreants. Count me out.” Ayan was reluctant.

“Come on mate! What happened to the ‘3 more than 2’ rule?”

TJ knew Ayan would always be the one to back down. So, he’d formulated what he called ‘the 3 is greater than 2’ rule for Room 7. It was about how outings were always about 3 guys on a riot and never about 2 getting bored. Persuasive as he was, he had forced the 3 into this strange covenant.

“We swim and sink together, remember?” TJ winked.

As it happened, convincing Ayan turned out to be easier than arranging 3 cycles for the 4 km back and forth journey. So, pretty soon, the 3 of them were out in the dark, headed to the dhaba, 2 kms outside campus- slapping the rules in the face was always fun!

Ayan didn’t have a healthy gut feeling about this. Perhaps he should’ve insisted a little more. After all, circumstantial decision making is like a house of cards, there’s only so much margin for error…

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