By Piyush Roy
Part 2 / Series 1
Since our MBA institute, like many others in Pune, didn’t have a hostel of its own, we had to scout around the city for houses, balancing the cost and travel factor to arrive at a livable compromise — a student house, which went slightly easy on the deflating pocket-money bulge in the wallet. Thus introduced, is another thriving calling amongst Pune’s many households. Lending rooms on rent (varying from one-room shacks to large furnished flats) is big business in this university town, on which survive a host of brokers, retired couples, lonely or edgy; and those ‘natural’ born Puneites blessed with the property spoon, oops boon. So, one often had lanes and rows of houses without break, abound in dichotomous double stories with strict landlords below sharing the top space with unbridled youngsters above, around institutional hubs like Fergusson College, Pune University, Symbiosis, MIT, Bharati Vidyapeeth, Sinhgad, and a 100 more and adding. While their ‘ambition curriculums’promised skills in every human vocation, known and emerging – from management, science, engineering, IT,armed forces training, arts, commerce, law, medicine, pharmacy to media, design and filmmaking; outside of the classrooms, a funny game of hide and seekplayed between modernity and tradition, as the young student migrants labored to invent, new passable compromisesaround the restrictions and inhibitions of their landlords.
‘People Management’ for them, had already become a lived experiment. The consequence — a lifestyle of ‘to each on to his own’ –lived discretely, with a passive aggression. Often visible in the malignant under currents that bordered the transactions of my class, cursed with a pyrrhic glory of having too many natural leaders, and all thinking ones at that. Currently leading this breed of pampered know-alls out to make a statement of their own, howsoever silly, alarming or weird the fall-out, was Rahul’s unique fixation of having everything intoxicating from a teacup; only. The storms that followed, were harmless… Naturally!
To be precise, that was one more of Rahul’s ‘I am different’ style statements. One of the original seducers, his crossover midway from a surreal Masters in English Literature into a wealth worshipping course like MBA, seemed quite an oddity, given his affections for the niceties of the Queen’s language and an eclectic lifestyle, enhanced by a love for the exotic. Not to forget, Anisha, currently his most coveted medallion, who he had to woo fast, for courting envy at the ‘official’ fresher’s welcome party. Of course, she would soon be hopped, skipped and jumped for the next victim of Adonis.
Rahul sauntered up to her, that silky crop covering his droopy eyes, surveying the positioning of that shiny piece of gold sparkling over his mildly hairy chest, slightly exposed to be covered again by that body-hugging orange T-shirt, opening finally to reveal a pair of just-forming biceps. A kind of a posh ‘desi’ mix between Notting Hill’s plucky Hugh Grant and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’s cocky Shah Rukh Khan, and equally cute-to-a-fault. Smelling of all the three cups of ‘Rum-&-Coke’ he had just downed, he spotted Anisha, smoking by the side of the makeshift bar, a beer in hand, two guys in tow, miserably failing at their desperate efforts to impress her. Rahul put his arms round her waist from behind, as she feigned being caught unawares, giving an ‘un-coy’ look of irritation.
“You seem bored to death… Missing my company, is it?” Turning to the other guys, trying hard to strike a decent conversation with her, he said, “Take a break, boys; the man has come to take charge of the lady!”
Shocked by his confidence, they hesitantly withdrew, as Anisha waved a ‘will catch up with you guys in the class,’ before shooting a categorical, “Try your charms somewhere else dude, hairy men turn me off”.
Rahul just couldn’t comprehend what had hit him. But he liked her difficult-to-please matter-of-factness. This was one girl, in whose good books he had to be, as friends at least, if not lovers. And irrespective of all her come-hither charms and social skills, his state of inebriation, didn’t withhold the realisation from him that she definitely was not a one-night-stand girl. Never!
Coming back to Anisha, full of life, can be a very faint word to describe this girl of utter grit and incorruptible lure. Add to that a dash of peacock’s pride and ostrich’s stand-oafishness, the concoction spelt combustion. Why did I use these words to describe her? That too in just two days of my knowing her. Well, she had a charming presence, coupled with a devil-may-care-attitude that made her a darling of the guys and a cause of envy for the other members of the fairer sex. Yet, irrespective of the previous night’s failed rendezvous, Rahul had started boasting of winning her over by the end of the week. Could it be possible? After all, he had most of the girls in the class falling head-over-heels to be at least friend-zoned with him ever since he’s joining. The thought rattled me no end, irrespective of that unknown and undeciphered soft corner that I harboured for him, something smacking just little short of an elder brotherly protection. Though factually he was the one who upped the scales right now in both age and experience, to me.
Rahul indeed was a tough competition for the other guys in the class. So while few of the little population of guys that remained – eight if one didn’t count Pam and Rahul and the 20 girls that made the combined student strength of the whole class – joined his side of the ‘unofficial’ Team-R, the majority pompously upheld the opposition deriding him and the girls as a corollary. Pam led this group, officially codenamed Team-P after its maverick leader Pam, who though had been gracious enough to bear the stud boy’s antics at his house.
“Few pegs down, the dumb ass will start making a fool of himself. Watch my words and check out the fun,” he had joked, through one more of that liberal refill into my glass.
“And with the fun on the house, enjoy without inhibitions,” he invited, simultaneously introducing me to the others, Atul the loud-speaker, Amit the fuddy-duddy and Manish the Angrez (a Hindi sarcasm for someone hitched to the ways of the West). All of Pam’s original cocky euphemisms, which they did seem to take in their stride, even happily. I too couldn’t resist my curiosity, and quizzed him of any inevitable adjectives coined for me. Pam thought for a second, looking me through – up, down, and up again – before declaring, “Yours will follow suit soon. Just let me know you better, I can’t think of anything for you on the physicality factor only, you seem to go deeper.”
It was a polite way of indicating that I was yet to be counted among the happening or the visible in my class.
The writer, a national film award winning critic, has authored three published works of fiction and non-fiction and twice been a judge on the Star TV Writers Program.