Travels through India

This is a story about three great cities, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore

Chapter 9

Office premises in India are not kind to smokers. I-Clarix was no different. Smokers needed to hitch a ride on the snail-paced elevator to the ground floor, take a short walk through the back door to the landing and commit bodily harm to their lungs in sweltering heat and humidity. The early morning session had left Tarun depressed, and he felt sanity return as he took in a long drag and peered through a glass door which led into the pantry and the dining hall. Subho and Anup followed with cups of coffee, Subho slurping noisily, stretching his left hand out for a smoke.

“The others have come”, said Subho.

“The others?” asked Tarun.

“He means the other samples from our college. The two lovebirds”, said Anup, his face twisted into a wide grin. “Some guys also arrived from Benaras Hindu University; one of them looks positively geeky. Way above us, ha ha.”

Tarun couldn’t fathom what was funny in what Anup just said, and nodded. “How much longer do we have to endure this? And what …”

Tarun stopped as the door opened and two guys, (must be those guys from BHU, he thought), came out and smiled at Anup. “Hello”, the taller chap said, somewhat nervously. “I am Subodh. This is my friend Karma”, he said, pointing to a demure looking diminutive fellow who was busy studying ants scurrying towards a dead fly.

Tarun was not in a very communicative mood, and couldn’t bring himself to say much more than Hmmmm.

Anup had to take the burden of introductions. The two guys were graduates from BHU, in Electronics and Computer Science respectively. Further conversation revealed that a batch of three had joined, and they had a girl in their group. Tarun felt pleased, things felt brighter. His cigarette was almost over, he felt saner, refreshed and a little less sleepy. At the same time, he felt a little worried. He fretted how many days would go by before someone actually noticed him dozing off in class, and ticked him off. He wondered how Anup found it so easy to connect to two totally new people and carry off a decent conversation with them without sounding sarcastic and unduly rude. He hoped the girl who had come from BHU was prettier than the girls from COEP. Soon he realized that he was worrying too much and hoping for more than normal. Feeling that it was probably the unrelenting sun, he told the others – “I shall go grab a coffee. I need to stay awake for sometime, heh heh.”

Coffee machines in most corporate offices in India are namesakes. They do not make coffee. They just vend hot water and lukewarm milk, which sometimes need to be steamed to an acceptable beverage temperature. Those in I-Clarix were no different. Tarun spent a fair amount of time searching for sugar, and then realized it was on a rack on the opposite side of the room. Making a mental note to send in a suggestion to administration, he trudged in, sipping his coffee into a room, which was now surprisingly, a whirlwind of activity. Rounds of introduction were taking place, a cup of coffee swayed precariously, Tarun was happy to notice, on the edge of the little girl’s desk. Will it, won’t it, his mind raced. Souvik took the initiative and introduced Tarun to his batch-mates; Tarun, this is Divya, pointing at the demure looking lady who looked sweet enough to be his aunt. The child-like girl’s name was Supti. Both were Marathi, but Souvik was what Tarun was, a true thoroughbred Bong.

Tarun smiled sweetly through the introductions, and for a fleeting second, wondered if he should ask the girls about their hobbies and pastimes. He finally decided that it might be misinterpreted, he sipped at his coffee, and waited for someone to say something.

“Err… So have you guys planned something for the evening?” Souvik asked Tarun.

Thank heavens you said something. “Nope, I doubt if we have plans, but it doesn’t take Subho too long to think of something, heh heh”, smiled Tarun.

“Then why don’t all of us have dinner together?” suggested Souvik. “There’s this place close-by which is not too costly and has a family room too, so the girls can go with us. It would be a good way to get to know each other better.”

Tarun hated dinner parties as a rule, but Souvik seemed too polite and too suave a person to refuse rudely and he simply nodded at Souvik’s suggestion. “I hope no one has a problem if I have a drink or too?” He looked questioningly at the girls.

Divya blushed, Tarun did not understand why. Supti just smiled and her cheeks became a mass of dimples. She looks cute, thought Tarun dreamily. Subho and Anup entered the room, smelling of a hundred cigarettes and breathing heavily. Whatever have they been doing?

“Souvik has suggested that we go out for dinner tonight. The entire fresher-batch. It might be a good way to interact. Do we have any plans?” asked Tarun.

Subho looked at the ceiling, stroking his non-existent goatee. “I don’t think so. Am always game for fun. Instead of dinner why don’t we have a, err… party? At some nice pub with some nice music.”

Tarun went close to Subho, and whispered into his ear. “This is the first time these girls are probably going out for dinner with a bunch of guys. If you tell them that their first dinner is going to be in a pub full of drunken rowdy men head-banging to Metallica and Maiden. I have a feeling they will not be pleased. I also feel they might refuse to go. I think I am beginning to get a crush on the childish-looking girl; she looks really cute when she smiles. I might want to know her better, you know what I mean?”

“Bloody pedophile”, hissed Subho noisily. “You know how boring dinner parties are. You will have to talk to everyone, and if you are not talking to everyone, people would think that you are abnormal, which you definitely are not. Finally, it’s never a win-win situation.”

“Fine you suggest the pub idea to Souvik. But if the girls refuse to come because of your stupid idea, you are finding me a girlfriend in Mumbai.”

Mama-barir abdaar (Anything more sir?!)” chuckled Subho somewhat loudly and suddenly stopped midway, when a voluptuous lady with lavish assets walked straight into the room, the picture of arrogance and raw sexuality. I wonder WHAT she’s coming to teach us, and laughed silently at the innumerable double-meanings possible in the sentence. “Hello people”, the lady droned, “I am Amrita. I shall be teaching you people, the basics of C and object oriented programming.” You would need earplugs when you lay in bed with her, smiled Tarun, or maybe just not lay in bed with her, the softer option, and looked down, unable to resist an involuntary chuckle.

The first days of teaching a programming language are generally the toughest. Most teachers enjoy starting from the basics, and love teaching them all day. Tarun hated them, he had faced the same plight when in college; and had stopped attending lectures ever since. He couldn’t believe that he would be going through the same ordeal even after college. Don’t crib all day, a voice in him whispered, at least she’s good-looking. Did you ever think about sex when you were in college and a bespectacled lady was taking your classes in analogue electronics? At least this lady looks raunchy, if nothing, you can stare. Tarun’s mind inevitably wandered to long-drawn lectures on sunny warm March afternoons in massive lecture halls with miserable acoustics, and instinctively thought of the hot professor in the Computer Science department who took their practical course in C Programming. She was married to some guy in the same department, who every computer science student regarded as the perfect example of a born-loser. She was, thought Tarun, unable to remember her name, DEFINITELY HOT.

Amrita moved to each member of the class, and handed out meticulously prepared handouts which had been printed on a printer with its last dregs of ink. Tarun wondered if he should smile at her as she passed him, but finally decided against it. Lovely perfume, very alluring, he smiled as she gave him the handout and moved to Subho’s desk. For the next two hours, Tarun had an agonizing time trying to stop himself from dozing off as Amrita started with the basics of C and pointers, and explained the differences between values and references. Tarun looked at Subho; saw him staring fixedly at Amrita, clearly with not very dissimilar intentions. This class had no break, and by the time it was five and nearing completion, Tarun was in the caring arms of slumber, his fingers had loosened their grip on his pen and he was nodding his head in sleep. The ordeal finally finished at a few minutes past five, with Amrita thanking the class for their undivided attention, leaving Subho desperately wishing they went to a dance-bar instead of a simple dinner.

Anup nudged Tarun, who almost fell off his desk. “Wh… What the hell!?” and then realized that he had been dozing off. “Oops, was I in deep sleep? Sorry. It happened at the one-hour interval, when I realized she wasn’t interested in a break, I lost all hope. It was like someone had attached enormous weights to my eyelids. Both of them.”

The little girl, Supti, smiled at him. She smiled, he screamed silently. I know it probably means nothing, but she SMILED.

“Are we going for dinner?” asked Supti. “Because if we are, then I am gonna wait. Plus I got to call the lady with whom I am staying to not prepare food for me.”

“Should we offer her a chance to stay with us?” whispered Subho to Tarun.

SHUT UP”, hissed Tarun, loudly. “When was the last time you talked sense?”

“I think we shall go for dinner”, decided Tarun. “Souvik knows the place, and apparently it’s also got a family room.” Supti smiled again. Does she do it out of habit? wondered Tarun. Did she think I was intending a pun on the word ‘family’? He clarified – “Family, because we have four girls in our group too.”

“Isn’t it too early for dinner?” asked Anup.

Anup had a point there, Subho had a plan to circumvent it – “I suggest we go there, order a few drinks, the ladies can have mocktails or cocktails, ha ha, and then we can gradually order our food, and then the girls can push off. So they won’t be late in getting home.” Subho moved to Tarun and whispered, and then we can visit Yaari, the you-know-bar, along with a mouthful of hot-air.

Dinner accompanied with overly priced cocktails turned out to be what Tarun had feared it would be, a boring, lifeless affair, punctuated with inane jokes and banal comments by every person. Tarun found it tough to have a meaningful conversation with the rest of the people; he was feeling sleepy, and he was depressed because the place did not have Long Island Iced Tea. He exchanged a few desultory words with Supti, wondered if she was an introvert, or thought of him as a retard with nothing to live for; convinced himself that Divya was already married and had two girls and a boy, and decided against hitting on her; looked at Subho staring at his drink, observing freezing patterns on the ice-cubes; looked at Anup engaged in animated conversation on photography with Mukesh; Mukesh scratching his (own) hair with a toothpick; listened to the guys from IT-BHU engaged in extremely boring conversation about rising real-estate rates in Mumbai; and finally realized that he had no option but to get disgusted with the set. He wished he had carried some marijuana with him. Everything feels like an ordeal; time just seems to stand still. It’s like someone caught hold of time by the neck, and buried him head-first into a deep abyss. He tried to divert himself. I think I should go with Subho to Yaari tonight. Let’s see what the fuss is all about.

As if he could read his mind, Subho moved to Tarun’s side of the dinner table and asked him – “You are coming today, aren’t you?”

Tarun nodded. The bill had been paid, and the waiters were clearing the table. Supti commented to Tarun that he was very quiet, and should talk more. Apparently she had found his views and comments quite interesting. She likes me, I am sure she likes me, his heart raced. Should I offer to drop her home? No, that would be too forward; I can make that offer on the next treat.

The three girls got on one auto, and Bharti, the Tamil girl from IT-BHU got into an auto with Subodh and Karma. The two lovebirds apparently had some money on their hands, and took a taxi. The others from Kharagpur took autos to Andheri station, leaving Tarun, Subho and Anup looking at each other expectantly. Should we, was the question they were asking each other wordlessly, and they all wanted to say yes.

Finally Subho said – “It’s a five minute walk. Do we need to take an auto?”

“Let’s walk”, said Tarun, heaving an inaudible sigh of exquisite relief.

3 Responses to “Chapter 9”

  1. # Blogger Showknock

    nice touch :-)  

  2. # Anonymous aru

    Do u by any means remember Bela Bar in Jogeshwari :D !!!
    oh, that Supti thing was awesome, I always knew that someone had ... ahem ahem !!;)  

  3. # Blogger Prashant

    agla chapter kab aayega?  

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