The cab came at the right time to pick me to Chennai airport. Kamaraj airport was busy as usual, I checked for any good looking ladies, none. Thank you Chennai. I got my boarding pass and went to the security check. My baggy pants with innumerous pockets made the security guard think I was a terrorist . Apparently it was on the eve of Dec 06. And all the airport across the country was on high alert. But nevertheless, the lackadaisical approach of the Indian police force was omnipresent. The guard just checked the left part of my body, I was free to go in with anything in my right pocket. Too much of security!
Delhi, the powerhouse of india, had changed from what I saw three years back. A glossy metropolitan look that awed everybody, welcomed me with a cozy chillness . With flyovers that criss crossed, with cars that you could never afford , with building that roared at sky, Delhi was majestic as it was always. I took a pre paid taxi and went to station. Pahar Ganj in purana delhi was still the same, as if the god just winked his eyes when he crossed this area while horning his artistic skills. This was the place where you found the actual india, the india of bhaiyaas who don’t know how to read, how to feed their children their daily bread, who were despised without any pettiness. I tried to remember the last time here, with anish and arun. Those were the best days which are never to return. Inside the train , it was easy for me to doze off. The secret of getting a fast sleep is simple – just take a book that’s damn boring.
North Indians are early risers, so at 10:00 Am morning everybody was busy snoring under their quilt. I looked out for the station.. Kanpur. Another three more hour and I will be there once again, may be for the last time. Kanpur is one of the dirtiest city I ever seen. There is nothing to admire here except the IIT. It was a dream come true when I first stepped into this green campus. And we were there for three days. This is where we the underdogs pulled our sleeves and bet almost 50 colleges in northern india to get ourselves a 2nd place in Antaragni. I still remember that hall in which I along with sudeep, 2 mallus stopping the heart beats of all hindi speakers in the last minute and getting on to final Hindi dumb charades competition. Those were days, when you don’t know whats going to happen the next minute still success comes in the end, somehow . The train started to move slowly. I didn’t remember whether my college would pass through this track. No,it comes when you come from Banaras side. The last time when we went to Banaras, we pulled the train on the way back to get down in the college instead of the station.
Allahabad – pretty much the same. The same old crowded station, babus chewing beetal leaves and expectorating everywhere, the frail hapless looking rickshawwalas . I took a rickshaw, he asked 15 rs to govindpur, I didn’t argue for the first time. I was earning now, and no longer I am carrying my pop’s money. On the way, before crossing the civil lanes, I checked out for the old Tibetan winter market. No, they hadn’t come, instead a lot of new Indian traders had taken their place. Strange, they too have been disposed, like me. Somebody new had taken their place, just like my rooms would be occupied by somebody. We reached telarganj in no time, I was shocked when I saw the new gate of the campus. The old one had been better. But then change is a must . Inside it was better, the roads were tarred and garden renovated, a new administration block in the shape of I don’t know what.The change was evident. It was already 1:00 PM, the final years would be having an exam at 2. I could see few students busily going to exam halls. I laughed, I knew why they were going this early. If destiny permits they will sit in the same bench on which they would have written the formulas otherwise ,of course ,the roll number rules. The garden in front of the hostel was even more beautiful. I was happy that I had the camera to capture them. I never stayed in Tilak hostel, but it was no different from Patel. Room number 260 that’s where I was supposed to bunk. During the ragging time I used to get myself lost in these corridors, but then I found the trick, 15 rooms in a wing , divide the room number and you get in which floor you need to go. So I went to third floor. Room 260 was locked.
After changing to a presentable civilized form , I got off to see my professors. First I went to the one who taught me how to take a class. After returning from Stanford university (he taught there for 13 years) he gave us a scare by giving one of the toughest paper of all time. Out of 150 students only 56 passed, fortunately I was one among them. I had already taken the appointment, and he was expecting me. He said what he needs from me and I gave him in no time. I was happy to whatever the former director asked me to do. Before leaving from the computer science department I went to see the one thought me the secret rule of the blessed – confidence is the mother of everything. He was happy to see my face and took around to all other professors . Goose bumps were shooting all over my body. Yes I was a good student, at least. He gave me one of the best recos I have ever seen. I repented my thought of throwing him a stone in the night after the final year presentation. My intentions were not always right, but given a chance to rectify I would surely do. But opportunities are very hard to find now a days.
The winter nights in Allahabad is one memory that I would always cherish in my life.
Next day I was on the way to do all sorts of paper work. Indian bureaucracy is known for their laggardness. I was expecting the same here. From 10 to 2:30 I started walking from one desk to another . Finally the verdict was out. I would get my certificates on Monday. “Monday!!!” – who needs them on Monday . I wanted to protest, apart from increasing adrenaline flow, I knew, it was not solution. One of my junior said he would take care of it. I was relieved. One thing I must say is that ragging makes you closer. I don’t know how it gets undone but it’s true. Talking of ragging , there was once this funny thing that happened. In the first year because of heavy ragging we decided to boycott it. The term was called “Group out”, meaning you are not going to be a part of the mallu clan. But due to some unavoidable circumstances we decided not to go forward with it. But by then seniors came to know about it. So during the next room call , all nine of us were summoned . we were standing in a straight line. One senior in his raucous voice asked us whose plan was it to boycott. With our head down and sweating profusely, Everybody was trembling with fear, you don’t know what they are going to do. He then said whosever want to quit the group and could come forward . As soon as he said this , we all took a step back ward, except sudeep ,he didn’t see this treachery coming. And thus he became the scapegoat. The same senior was there with me in Chennai laughing at our fears and being there for everything, day or night.
My train was at 9:30 PM, I left the college at around 7:30. Few of my juniors came to see me off. Alvida they said. Come to Chennai, we will have a blast, I screamed from the tempo waving my hands madly. It was very foggy and rear window of the tempo was not that clean. Vision was getting hazy and before I could comprehend everything became a far far away land. In the station ,I knew nobody. There was a time when it would be difficult to find somebody else other than the guys from the college. But today I was a stranger, a stranger in my own backyard. Just when train was about to leave I got a call . Gandu calling….
Hello, Mein Allahabad mein hoon……Has anything changed? He asked.
The train had already started to move.