Monday, July 23, 2007

Shine On, You Crazy Diamond - II


You reached for the secret too soon,
You cried for the moon.
Shine on, you crazy diamond.

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Chapter Three

For the next few months, the three of us were inseparable. From going to college in one autorikshaw, to hanging out with the same set of people (one of whom was the infamous P), to watching porn stuffed inside the same cubicle of the local cyber cafe, to sitting at the same coffee shop for hours, to riding together on the same Kinetic Honda and going in search of Marijuana, to drinking ridiculous amounts of McDowell's No.1 on the sloping terrace of the hostel night after night, risking our lives, dissecting possibilities and fantasizing about what life had in store for us.

Ironically though, if you compared our basic character, we were three corners of a triangle.

Raktim was the alpha male. The kind of guy who ALWAYS had a plan. He was also the decision-maker, primarily because RK never opened his mouth and I was the local push-over. (And in case you've forgotten, he was the guy who walked around the hostel whose VIP underwear also doubled up as a head-band whenever he was wasted. He also flashed occasionally, for no reason whatsoever.)

RK, in contrast, like I mentioned, was the silent force. He was also a wannabe alcoholic. Come to think of it, all he said to us in those first few months was the phrase 'Shall we go drink?' The only other word I remember him uttering is 'yes' which he used when someone asked him if he wanted to go drink.

The only problem was that once RK was drunk, his 'yes' was said in response to Raktim's PLANS.

Lets learn more about Raktim's PLANS with the help of an example:

Raktim: Hey guys, you wanna smoke a few joints before we sleep?
Me: Errr, no yaa. We have class at nine. We'll never wake up!
RK: Yes.

Raktim (after the joints): Hey guys, you wanna wear your towels like capes and wake people up, pretending to be Superman?
Me: NO.
RK: Yes.

Raktim (after the joints and the cape crusade): Now do you want to put your undies on your heads like a headband and take a walk?
Me: Bhenchod, shutup and sleep.
RK: Yes.

Raktim (now lying in his bed after the eventful 'road trip'): Fuck man, I'm so wasted. I think I'm going to pass out. You guys should also sleep. We have to get up in few hours.
Me: Hmmm. Makes sense.
RK: Shall we go drink?

*That night the local security guard lodged a complaint with the Koramangla 4th Block society president that three boys from Sacred Heart Boys Hostel were seen racing in the colony lanes at 4 AM. And that, for some inexplicable reason they had hung towels from their back and were wearing underwears on their heads. The story was also confirmed by one of the residents, a doctor on his way back from the hospital, whose car was forcefully stopped by these boys who pestered him to find out if there was a place nearby from where large quantities of chocolate could be bought or stolen*
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Chapter Four

October 2004 -

P and I were going through some old college photographs, a friends birthday treat at an up-market ice-cream parlour sometime in September 2001. We were talking of the days gone by, days when we could eat 'death by chocolate' and 'litchi with cream' back to back without gaining an ounce.

We stumbled upon a picture where P was doing what she does best when there is ice-cream in the vicinity, devouring it as if there were no tomorrow. When I looked at the picture carefully, I noticed something that I had never noticed before. I pointed it out to P immediately.

On careful observation, you could see RK. He was smiling in the distance, leaning against the pillar, smoking a cigarette, his eyes dreamy and of course, planted firmly on P.

She stared at the picture for a brief moment, blushed and put it away.

"You know he was madly in love with you, right?"

"Yes TS, we've had this conversation before. Why must you always bring it up whenever we speak of him? Are you guilty still?"

"Me? Guilty? No way! When I realised he also liked you, I spoke to him about it. He told me very clearly that he would've never confessed his feelings to you. In fact he was the one who convinced me to leave Raksha and ask you out, because he felt you and I were 'made for each other'!"

"And you believed him?"

"Yes. Why wouldn't I? He knew me well. I was one of his best friends."

"Were you? Or was it the other way round? Think about it TS. Just think. Considering he convinced you to ask me out and not the other way round!"

"Achha fuck it, I don't want to have this conversation with you. "

"Why?"

"Because the two of you would never have happened anyway. He was everything you hated in a man. He was a spoilt brat who was destined to quit college and go back home. Remember how he was always either drunk or stoned? He never even attended his classes..."

"Neither did you in those first few months TS. The only reason they didn't throw you out of college because you managed to pass your term papers."

"P, do you really want to go down that road again? Can we, for once, be civil and drop the topic?"

"Fine. Fuck it."

Prolonged silence.
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Chapter Five


Half an hour later -

"TS, do you still have that white Park Avenue shirt he gave you?"

"Yup, its in my cupboard. I don't really fit into it anymore though. But the funny thing is it STILL smells of him, even after all these years. Remember that awful perfume he used to use, the one Rajnikant endorsed? Thats what it smells like."

"Maybe there's a reason why it STILL smells of him..."

"Oh, come on! I thought we agreed to drop the topic!" Why are you hell bent on making me feel like a lousy bastard? Whats happened to you?"

"Thats not what I was trying to..."

"See. See. You always do this P!"

"I refuse to listen to this. I want to go home. Now"

"So go. Who's stopping you?"

"You mean you're not dropping me?"

"No, not after everything you've said."

"Fuck you!"

"Whatever!"

---

*After P left, I spent the rest of the evening lying in bed, thinking of RK, Sacred Heart Boys Hostel, and that white Park Avenue shirt which RK had lent to me for my first date with P. For some reason I had never gotten around to returning it, much like the other things I had borrowed from him.

In the next few days I introspected a lot, trying my best to come to terms with the person that I once was.

My ability to be indifferent had taken me by surprise, and so I decided to do something about it. I spoke to Mom about the entire episode, and she was of the opinion that if the whole RK thing was disturbing me so much, the best thing to do would be to call him up speak to him about it. I told her that this was not something I wanted to sort out over a 'phone conversation.' I felt a need to to meet RK personally and talk about it.

And so it was decided that I would look him up the next time I was in Bangalore. I didn't have his cell-phone number, but I had an old e-mail address and home phone numbers of a couple of his close friends and relatives, which would suffice.*
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Chapter Six

I think I'm testimony that 'time is a healer.' Because I went to Bangalore quite a few times after that, but never once looked up RK.
---

In June of 2006, I got a surprise call from Asif, one of the many boys who had, back in the day, inhabited one of the many bunk beds of Sacred Heart Boys Hostel. He had managed to get my number from a friend of a friend. He sounded very excited to have tracked me down.

Even I was happy to speak with him. It felt nice that someone had made the effort to get in touch with me after all these years.

I asked him how he was doing and he gave me the usual updates. He was now back in Dubai, managing his dad's business. Something to do with medical systems and the sale of ambulances. He tld me his geeky days were long gone, and that he had even found himself a girlfriend. But more importantly, the fact that he had finally managed to lose the one thing that had hung on to him for dear life during his college years. His virginity.

I gave him a few updates from my end as well, post which we spoke about the only thing we had in common, the life and times of Sacred Heart Boys Hostel in the year 2001.

He reminded me of many things I had long forgotten, like the time he and I had studied for the English exam and he had outscored me. And the time he and I had gone to the 30 rupees all-you-can-eat Andhra restaurant and I had forced him to beg the server to pour ridiculous amounts of Ghee on my rice because I was wasted. And how he hated me for finishing off all the foodstuff his Mom used to to send for him.

We also spoke about our seniors and what they were doing now. He asked me who all I was in touch with and I told him no one in particular apart from P. He was happy to know we were still together.

He asked me what P was upto and I told him that she was in between jobs. He asked me about Raktim and I told him that I wasn't in touch with him, but that I knew he was studying Law at Delhi University. He was surprised to hear that Raktim and I were in the same town and hadn't even met once in 2 years. I told him that was the strange thing about life, and about people and how they move on, just as he had.

After a little while we started running out of things to talk about, and thats when I enquired about RK, in an attempt to keep the conversation going.

He fell silent. But since the noise in the background was clearly audible, I knew he was still on the line.

And when he finally spoke, after clearing his throat, all he could manage was:

"You don't know, do you?"

His tone of voice was quite strange for some reason, almost angry. But I didn't make much of it because all said and done, Asif was always a little sensitive.
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Epilogue

In June of 2005, Radhakrishna Dureswami and a friend decided to drive down to a 24-hour liquor shop on the highway in search of alcohol when their Honda City crashed head-on into a truck, whose headlights had malfunctioned. RK died on the spot, while his friend, Vivek, battled for life in the ICU for over a month.

Speaking to his friends and family shortly after regaining consciousness, Vivek claimed that he couldn't remember much except for the fact that 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' by Pink Floyd was playing in the car stereo.

A few months later he told an acquaintance from Delhi that he was almost certain that RK's last words were:


Shall we go drink?


Monday, July 16, 2007

Shine On, You Crazy Diamond - I


Remember when you were young,
You shone like the sun,
Shine on, you crazy diamond.
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Chapter One

So in June of 2001 when Radhakrishna Dureswami walked in on me while I was 'draining the main vein', my first reaction was a four-letter-word followed by a voice in my head telling me that I'd forgotten to lock the bathroom door. Realising it was a little late to do something about the unlocked door, I took evasive action and positioned myself with my back towards him and continued to pee.

What followed immediately after I made the adjustment was the shocking realization that Radhakrishna Dureswami for some inexplicable reason was still standing there, staring at me, almost transfixed. The look of curiosity on his face didn't help the situation either. He was obviously unaware that I could see him in the mirror.

Now I'm not homophobic. But I am a WEE bit wary of folks who like to hang around and watch me pee.

So once I finished the routine and zipped up my jeans, I turned towards him with what I'm guessing was a facial expression that conveyed: WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU STARING AT, BITCH?

No wait, make that: WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU STARING AT?

(BITCH makes it sound like I was up for the 'potentially' homosexual experience that was on offer.)

Even today, MOST people back off when I have that look on my face. However, Radhakrishna Dureswami, the boy that he was, chose not to respond and continued to stare, now with me looking at him straight in the eye.

That was when the voice in my head yelled: Psycho alert! Proceed to wash-basin, wash hands, get the fuck out!

And so I went about doing exactly that. Once I was out of the bathroom, and more importantly out of danger, I questioned my decision of choosing 'Sacred Heart Boys Hostel' as my place of residence in a city where I didn't know a soul. I also tried to figure out what would have happened if Radhakrishna Dureswami had attempted to violate my chastity? Who would I have ran to?

***

Looking back at that incident now I can't help but laugh my head off. Maybe I should've said something to him in the loo that day. Anything.

But then again, I hadn't the slightest idea that Radhakrishna Dureswami was going to play such an important role my college life.
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Chapter Two

The Next Evening:

It must have been close to midnight because I was tucked into bed, waiting to fall asleep when my roommate Raktim (pronounced: ROCK-TIM) walked into the room screaming out my name in his typical Assamese accent. He switched on the lights and stood with his hands on his waist. Just like those body-builders in American Muscle Magazine.

I looked up at him, partially blinded with the sudden light in the room. I noticed his eyes were bloodshot, and for some reason he was grinning like a donkey who had just been shagged.

He was drunk. But since he was standing without any support, I figured the situation was under control.

Thats when I noticed the VIP underwear he was using as a headband.

Raktim: Oye TS, I want you to meet my latest best friend Radhakrishna Dureswami. He just joined the hostel yesterday. He is from Erode in Tamil Nadu and his father is a bhery bhery bherrryyy rich textile merchant. You know how I know his father is bhery bhery bherrryyy rich???

Me (sarcastically): How R-a-k-t-i-m?

Raktim: Because his father just now paid for all my alcohol, food, cigarettes, Rajnigandha and everything! (Evil Laughter)

Me: Uh, ok. Very cool man. Where is he?

Raktim (yelling): Abe Radhakrishna Dureswami madarchod idhar aa (Translation: mother fucker, come here) and meet my another best friend TS!!!

Radhakrishna Dureswami walked in slowly, managing to look unsure and curious at the same time. When I placed him from the bathroom fiasco, I felt an immediate uneasiness. But THE MAN THAT I WAS, I managed what I think would qualify as an unsure but pleasant enough 'half-smile.'

Pee-watcher on the other hand, extended his arm and held out his hand. I wasn't sure if I was comfortable touching him just yet but being THE MAN THAT I WAS, I managed to complete the handshake.

Me: Nice to meet you R-a-d-h-a-k-r-i-s-h-n-a... err...

Radhakrishna Dureswami: Call me RK.

Raktim (yelling): Yes, call him RK!!! Or Madarchod, or Randi ke Jamai, or Bhootni Ke, or anything else. He doesn't understand Hindi. Can you believe our luck???

(More evil laughter)

Me (to Raktim): Abe is se bach ke, ye woh hi hai, pee-watcher. (Translation: Be careful with him, he's the same guy I was telling you about, the pee-watcher)

RK (oblivious to Raktim and me): Shall we go drink now?

***

That night, three first year students of Christ College, all from different parts of the country, with almost nothing in common, sat down and shared their life stories with each other, aided by the one common force that would continue to bind them in the years to come. Alcohol.
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