Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Vagabonds of Punterland IV

Vagabonds of Punterland II

The Help 

‘Please, let me get this for you…’ Ayan requested. Sam and TJ joined.

He was headed to a woman across the street who, with a baby on her shoulders and what seemed like a week’s grocery on the other, seemed like someone wrestling with an octopus on a conveyor belt.

‘Thank you beta’, the lady smiled handing over all the stuff, careful not to wake up the infant. She watchfully made her way across the road to a Honda City and managed to open up the trunk.

‘I hope it’s not much trouble’, she seemed very modest.

‘I’d told you not to carry it all at once’, a coarse husky voice startled the three of them. They could not notice a man fast approaching the vehicle while they were busy adjusting the items in the dickey.

In the absence of street lights, all they could make out was a bulky six-foot frame wielding loads that could easily substitute weights in a gym. They realized he was the man whose ego they’d just bruised by helping his woman.

‘No uncle it’s fine’, TJ replied smiling, casually grabbing and pulling Sam and Ayan by their shoulders, ‘Good night aunty!’

‘It’s late beta. Come we’ll drop you’, she said getting into the car, glancing at her husband. The way he occupied the driving seat made it clear that it was not a request. They exchanged looks of 3 fellowmen attempting a base jump from Petronas Towers. They were already past 9 and too loaded to walk anyway. A little help wouldn’t harm. Ayan and Sam took the rear seats. TJ complied reluctantly.

‘Household shopping is an exploration here. You got to travel all the way across the place to get to this mart. And until last month, it wasn’t even an option’, the woman complained. They realized this store had just been opened, right by the university exit.

'Which hostel beta?’ the woman asked cuddling the infant who’d perhaps woken up.

The question made the three skip a beat. She knows! Although undergraduate student population was a clear majority in the place, one could not neglect the local residents which formed an influential subset of the place’s demography. This time the looks were of three inmates attempting a Prison Break. TJ held back Ayan who was about to answer.

Silver Jubilee aunty’ he said nodding at his friends.

SJ?’ Sam complained in a whisper.

‘You really want to be dropped at a senior hostel at this time of the night? Stop fooling around.’ Ayan wasn’t as quiet with his revolts.

TJ winked. ‘Just play along'.

‘3rd year? All three?’ the man seemed older in the dim lighting of the car and oddly intrigued. There was no practical concept of entry time for seniors, although in theory it was 10. TJ, knowing the fact, had played the odds.

'Which branch?’ he inquired, eyeing the three in the rear-view mirror, lowering the gear to slow the vehicle considerably.

‘Eh… my name is Alok, Production Engineering. This is Karan…’ he said patting Sam on the back ‘…Information Technology. And he is Rahul…’ he said pointing at Ayan ‘…Civil Engineering’.

The lies were bang on. No one really knew students of the first 2 branches cause they barely had classes and no one worried about students of the third- the most feared department of the college- cause they could rarely ever skip any. To an absolute stranger in a car at night they should have been nothing but random variables and absolute gibberish.

'Oh! Civil? That’s nice. Then he would know Sir, right? Which course do you take, you say?’ the woman seemed pleased.

SIR?!’ the statement soaked the air off their lungs.

‘Yes, he should. Don’t you Rahul?’ the man replied, childish mischief reeking of his voice, or so it seemed. The question sent shivers down the spine of Ayan. Sam could feel the vehicle closing in around him. TJ could barely think, let alone lay an anti-thesis as a deathly silence descended upon the car.

The old man had called their bluff and won.

‘Sushil Kumar, Associate Professor’, he replied with an air of condescension, pushing the gas and revving up the engine now, as the Honda City creased into the dark night.

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