8:30 am, NH 7— I had been waiting, since the past 15 minutes, carrying a black bag and waving my arms like a traffic policeman, in an attempt to stop almost anything on wheels for a lift. I thought about my boss, who was probably going to blow her head off, when I reach. But then, who cares. They knew I was underpaid. Just then, a car slowed down near me. The man behind the wheel, a spectacled, pot bellied fellow, spoke with a dash of an accent that seemed to be something between British and Australian “Need a lift my friend?”
I acknowledged him, by nodding my head and hopping in the passenger seat beside that of the driver. “Thanks a lot. It would be great if you could drop me near the fly-over.” I said, meaning it.
The driver, someone in his late twenties, asked without looking up from the wheel “Where are you headed to by the way?”
“Marathalli. Would be going there by any chance?” I asked, as I strapped in the seat belt. I hoped that he was, as it would save me a lot of time and money, if he would drop me till office.
He glanced at me through his dark spectacles and replied “Yea, I am…. Say, are you from NIT Durgapur, by any chance?”
Now, this was one of those moments I always dreaded, ever since I left college. I had found out, that I was pathetic at remembering names. I was always left embarrassed, as I proved to my batch mates, that I had forgotten their names in a year. It’s not that I had never spoken to them back in college, but somehow, I seemed to have forgotten many faces and most names. Though somehow, I felt, he wasn’t one of them. He seemed too old to be my batch mate. As I tried to remember, I replied, “Yes, I am… are you?”
“Yup, you’re a mallu right??” came the next question.
“Yea!… ok, I’m terribly sorry, I’m just not able to place u in my head, have we met before?” I asked trying to sound least embarrassed as possible.
“I passed out in 2005” replied the mysterious pot bellied driver. “I was in the thambi family”
Then, the realization hit me. “Whoa, wait a sec, I remember you, you’re… Biju, final year thambi!!!”
“No, actually I’m Varun, but it’s ok, at least you recognized me. But, I’m sorry I’m not too good with names, I just don’t seem able to recall your name.”
“I’m madhan, man, Varun, you’ve changed. Wow…. how have you been?”
“Ah, yes, Madhan, right, right. I’m good. Was in UK for sometime now. Just returned 2 days ago. How are you? Are you in touch with any one else?”
“I’m fine.. Yea, in touch with couple of guys….”
And then yours truly and his new found friend talked about how much has changed over the past 4 years. We caught up on, who was doing whom and who was doing what and where, profs., reunions, and the usual college nostalgia. The half-an-hour drive was far different from my daily office rides in BMTC volvo.
As we neared my destination, Varun turned to me, and said. “Hey Madhan , listen… about what happened back in college. That was just ragging. I know you must have forgotten it already, but I want to say sorry for slapping you then.”
Now, after 4 years, Those 301 technical advice (that’s what slaps were called then) I had received, and with this sudden mention, the hard and bloody ones flashed in my mind together, almost at once. I remembered his. It was, what the seniors called, a “squash shot”. It had been hard, so hard, that I nearly fell down. I had decided for vengeance then.
“Hey, no issues man. You’re right I had forgotten it. And besides, that was 5 years ago, chill maadi.” I replied with a smile so fake, that even Mona Lisa would envy it.
“Yea right! Good seeing you again bro! Here, take my number, we should stay in touch. Keep me informed, the next time there’s a reunion ok..?”
“Yea, I will.. you do the same too. Hey, that’s my stop.” I pointed out. I got out of the car, and closed the door behind me. “Thanks Varun, was great meeting you man”
“Yea, you take care..”
I paused for a minute, and then said “Hey, there’s something, you gotta know. Remember that day, when u asked me to refill the water bottles?
Varun laughed.“No, not really… I think you’ve refilled couple of times. I guess I have asked you to bring me food, couple of times too. That’s what you junis did back then, serve us” said Varun, with a silly smirk.
“Yea.. right, about that, I spat in them.”
The laughter was cut short.
“And perhaps, in the food too, not every single time though.”
What followed was an awkward silence, and puzzled expressions on either faces. I had to break it.
“So, great meeting up huh? We should meet up sometime, you know ,for drinks…and food too Take care alright.” I tried to manage a clean goodbye before I did any more damage.
“Yea, I guess I have to now, enjoy” Varun replied, slowly recovering from what he had heard. He started the car, we waved, and off he sped off.
As I walked into the building, I thought about how crazy the whole of 1st year had been, especially ragging period. Proposals, dancing, fundae, MR, my final years. I remembered what I had told my friends before entering the room before MR.
“Tonight is the end of our misery, tonight is our freedom night. This is that part of our lives, that never existed. None of us would ever want to remember what happens behind this door. Bleed we will, but if lucky, we won’t be deaf, when we enter hall 9 again. So all the best my friends, all the best for Hell.”
A smile escaped my lips. Yea, 1st year was crazy. I was crazy, to once think, that I would never want to see my seniors, ever again.
Just then, I received a sms. It was from Varun, and it was a smiley. 🙂