The last stop of the bus was the main bus stop of the University, near the main building and from there we would have to walk up to the hostel. Pavan took our leave saying “Good Night” and walked down towards the residential area adjacent to the University. He had not decided to take admission to the hostel and had continued to stay in a rented room, not far away from the University. “Just a cigarette away”, he said when I asked him how far was his room. I observed him going away to find out if there was any staggering, but he was erect and steady.
“Let us take the shortcut,” suggested Mohan. It meant going through the botanical gardens in the dark. The main gate of the botanical gardens was closed but there was a turnstile alongside through which we could enter it. Though there was some moonlight, for a considerable length on the path, it could not reach the ground since the thick growth of trees, some unknown and some common ones, impeded its penetration. During the day time, we could have read all the strange sounding botanical names of the trees, inscribed on the plates nailed into their bark. Now they stood in the dark making various shapes against the sky. I had always been afraid of the dark, since my childhood, although I would not have confessed it before anyone. Now I had the company of a couple of guys and it was reassuring. We had to walk in a single file, for the path was narrow and it was not wise to walk on the grass in the dark. I walked behind Mohan and Bhaskar and Vijay followed me.
“It is such a safe and nice place… I wish Mosquito-coil were here with us!” Bhaskar said with a slur. “Brother, it may not be as safe as it looks”, Mohan replied. We broke the file when we came out of the cluster of trees, as the path was also wider now. But still I liked to keep myself in the middle.
“I think, shortly we are going to have the elections to the post of GS”, Mohan said, “ Ramesh Patil’s group contacted me yesterday. It seems he wants to be the GS.”
“Yes, he can afford to be GS,” said Bhaskar.
“He could not compete with Naik’s group in the college. He was no match to him. But luckily, Naik has vanished. He can spend a lot more it is necessary here. Only CR’s will be voting. And there are hardly about thirty of them.”
CR meant Class Representative and GS stood for General Secretary. “Who is our CR?” I asked.
“God! Don’t you know? Of course you were absent when the elections were held. It is none other than Mohan,” Bhaskar replied.
So I had missed the elections to the CR. Wouldn’t have made any difference, for in any case I would not have contested. “In fact, it was unanimous. Nobody contested his election,” Bhaskar added, somewhat proudly.
“Of course,” I said, “ You people are more or less localites. None of the students coming from other places would have cared to contest,” I said and hurriedly added, “ Nice to know that he is our CR.”
We reached the gatelike structure at the other end of the botanical gardens and passed through it one after another. When we reached the patio leading to the main door of the hostel, we found that several students were standing in a queue before it to enter. “Ah, seems some kind of trouble,” gurgled Vijay.
I could see what was happening there clearly, when I reached the main door. On the box kept at the entrance, was sitting a dark man with brush moustache, covering some part of his upper lips. His eyes had reddened and the cheeks were glowing. Apparently he was drunk. There was another guy sitting by his side. He was tall and fair and had a build like a wrestler. He had good-looking features, but his eyes were half closed as if he was intoxicated. Yet another guy was standing opposite to the entrance. He had a towering height, but was lean and had wheatish complexion. He too was obviously drunk and held a long rod that might have been made from a stem of a shrub taken from the hedge. There were a couple of other guys, wearing lungis and t-shirts, constantly supplying the leaders the cigarettes, matches, water etc.
In the queue were all the junior students, the newcomers, with anxious, nervous faces. One student, who was hardly five feet, and thin as a lamppost, was singing the national anthem. I could make out that it was some sort of ragging. The moment the student, who was singing the national anthem made a mistake, the tall guy used the rod on his buttock. The poor fellow cried out in pain and said, “Sorry sir, I will learn it properly!”
“You better learn it properly. You are a graduate. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself that you are not even able to sing our national anthem correctly?” The other guys tried to stifle their laughs. “And,” continued the guy with the rod, “You must stand in attention when you sing the national anthem. Don’t you even know that?”
“Namaste sir!” Mohan greeted the dark guy. “Oh, Mohan. It seems you guys have had a party it seems,” the fellow replied with a friendly grin.
“It was a small get-together. We had inaugural function today.” Said Mohan, while Bhaskar also greeted the leaders. “ This is Harsha from Belgaum.” Mohan introduced me to the leader. “Oh I know him. Only he doesn’t know me,” said the leader and shook hands with me. I was astonished as to how he could have known me. But he added, “ I know your parents. How is your father?”
“He is fine. Thanks for asking.”
“I think you are going to get the Gold Medal for topping in the undergraduate examination”
“So I have been told”
Mohan barged in, “ You please carry on with your entertainment programme sir, Good Night!”
As we all starting climbing the stairs, we heard the command “Next!”, then the next guy starting to sing “Janaganamana.” “No, stop! Who asked you to sing national anthem? I want you to sing our national song.”