“Who were those guys?” I inquired the moment we reached the first floor.
“They were our super-seniors in the college. Tough guys. The dark one who talked to you is Sadanand Mane. He has finished his master’s in Sociology and now he is doing MSW. The tall fellow has finished his M.Lib. Another persons who looks like a wrestler is Javed; he has left his job as a security officer in some private industry and is now doing MSW.” Mohan said.
“It is not ragging what they are doing today. It is their routine. Every now and then, they entertain themselves like this. Last week, after midnight, they were knocking the doors of all rooms. If the light were on, they would scold the person for unnecessarily burning the electricity. If it were off, they would accuse the tenants of being lazy. ‘Have you come here to sleep, you creep?’ they would shout. ‘You better study, sonny, your parents are toiling like donkeys in the farms to keep you here and you are dreaming of pussies in your warm bed?’ They kept doing this for quite a while.” Bhaskar added.
“What if somebody complains to the Warden?” I regretted the moment I asked it. It was very naïve of me. “Bhaskar laughed before saying, “ Nothing happens man. It won’t help. They are more close to the Warden than all others. The Warden would want to keep them in good humour as long as he can. After all these are all minor irritants to the university authorities, so long as they are restricted to the hostel.”
“Ok. Let us call it a day,” Vijay suggested. We all agreed and said good night to each other. Vijay and I walked towards our wing.
I wanted to knock at the door of our room, but Vijay just pushed it. The door was open. Our third roommate was fast asleep.
I was awoken next morning by some strange sounds mixed with those of the opening and closing of the windows with a bang. I got up and sat on the bed. Vijay was not there in the room. The third roommate stood by the window, and was spitting out. There was only a towel wrapped around his waist. He was a short, lean fellow of a complexion that could be said to be a shade lighter than dark. He had already bathed, but still looked as if he had bathed a month ago. Above that he was trying to bring up the phlegm by making sounds that one makes when about to puke. Abominating. I thought. I also felt he was overdoing it deliberately. There are some people whom you begin to hate on first sight, just as you may like, or fall in love at first sight. He obviously belonged to the second category. Although he saw me getting up and sitting on the bed, he did not even smile at me. He totally ignored my presence and went about his business as if nobody was witnessing him. He continued puking and sitting through the window for some time and later went out of the room with just the old towel hanging around his waist. What the hell! I couldn’t help getting angry.
The door opened and Vijay entered saying “Good Morning partner” with a smile. I felt better that at least Vijay was there with me in the room. How can you stay in any place with oddly behaving strangers? “There is a queue for hot water. You better come along. I will show you my bucket in the queue,” he said. “Thanks man. Yesterday, we should have first purchased the bucket and the mug in the market.” I said gathering my clothes and toothbrush.
There was queue not only for hot water, but also for getting into bathroom. There were about 6 bathrooms for each wing and the same number of toilet blocks. A huge water heater was installed in the bathing block and we were supposed to fill our buckets from the tap jetting out of the water heater one by one. There were only a couple of buckets ahead of mine. The guys in the bathrooms were singing loudly, yelling would be more appropriate. One guy stood before the large mirror making faces and examining every inch of his face, while simultaneously scratching his groins shamelessly. Oh my! I was going to have to live with all these people! I left out a deep sigh.
When I got back to my room, Vijay was already dressed in a full-sleeved shirt of cream colour, tucked into a dark pants. Our third roommate entered along with another boy, a frail, dark fellow wearing a Kurta over his pants. He ignored both of us, again went to the window, pushed it open with a thud, and “yaa..aak..thoo!” he spat. There was frown on Vijay’s face and I too scowled. But there was a satirical grin on the faces of our third roommate and his friend.
I dressed silently and wore my shoes before spraying brut to my armpits and collars. The third roommate made a crooked nose as if he smelled something fetid. Vijay and I collected our keys before leaving the room.
“What is the problem with him? Who is he?” I asked Vijay.
“His name is Jogesh Gaudar. He is from history department. I don’t know what is wrong with him. But it seems he is a nasty fellow.”
“He is so frail and effete that he can’t even stand a simple punch. He will have to be carried straight to the hospital. But the way he behaves, I would love to kick the shit out of him.” I said, as if I were used to bullying, by punching and kicking people.
“I know you would, but it is better if you wouldn’t”
After some thinking, I added, “May be he doesn’t want a third person in the room. May be he is resenting my coming.”
“No, I don’t think so. His behaviour has been the same even before you came.”
“How can you tolerate the bastard?” I asked with some rage.
“Can’t help. I just ignore him. I have been spending much of my time outside my room” Vijay was calm.
We reached the hostel canteen. It was a rectangular hall huge in proportions. The portion at the end was converted into kitchen with a counter. The smell of Poori-bhaji, fried rice, upama and tea wafted in the air. Mohan and Bhaskar were sitting at the table near the counter. There was someone else with him. In fact, two were there. One was a guy of medium height and average looks. His eyes displayed a perpetual feeling of eagerness and humility. Another person was tall and well built, somewhat on the side of being obese. He had cheeks that were well filled in.
As we approached the counter, Mohan raised his right hand to greet us. We paid to the proprietor for the plastic tokens, after producing which we got our plates filled with upama and a cup of tea each. We joined Mohan and others at their table. “This is Virupakshappa and this is Suresh Hiremath,” Bhaskar introduced the other guys. “ They are also from our department,” he added. I introduced myself to them, without shaking hands since my hands were not free. Vijay already knew them.
Virupakshappa was the taller one. He was from Raichur, but he had finished his graduation in one of the reputed colleges of Dharwad. Suresh was from some village near Ranebennur, and had studied in Ranebennur. He had taken a break for a couple of years to work with his father and elder brothers, helping them run a canteen in Haveri. They were roommates and their room was immediately next to that of Mohan and Bhaskar.
Bhaskar had finished his breakfast and had somehow gotten hold of a newspaper. He was reading it with rapt attention and at the same time taking sips of tea. Mohan saw that Vijay and I were fully dressed, ready to go the university, and commented, “Why are you ready so early? We have a class at 11.”
“We have nothing better to do. So we just got out” said Vijay.
“In fact, we are escaping from the vulgar behaviour of our third roommate.” I said.
“What is wrong with his behaviour?” Mohan asked.
Vijay was unwilling to reveal anything and wanted me too to clam up. But now that I had opened the matter, he had to join me in describing how Jogesh had been irritating us.
After breakfast, we went to Mohan’s room and lighted cigarettes. Vijay, Virupakshappa, and Suresh did not smoke. They had all become close to each other and addressing each other in singular. However, all of them addressed me in plural and I too kept addressing them in plural. In English we do not have any such difference. Only you start addressing the other person with first name if he is close to you. I had, somehow, always resented somebody addressing me by my first name, or talking to me in singular. I had only two friends back in Belgaum who could talk to me in intimate terms, because they had been my classmates in the junior college. It never occurred to me that I had a difficulty in socialising, nor did I ever even consider it a problem.
It is indeed very difficult to say, when this hubristic attitude affected me. At times I felt that it was a classic case of superiority complex with deep roots in the awareness of some foibles in me. But I would not, nay, could not confess to it and try to change it. It must have set in when I joined the junior college, where I soon discovered that I was far too much grown up to be in the company of the boys. I had read so much already while in the junior college, while other boys could not even write a sentence in their own mother-tongue, without any mistakes, either spelling or grammatical.
I was the only one to have opted for arts courses despite having scored seventy plus in the matriculation examinations. It was totally against the trend. Everyone wanted to join the science courses with an aim to become either a doctor or an engineer. Luckily unlike the other parents who were pressurizing their children into becoming doctors or engineers, my parents trusted my abilities and endorsed the choice I had made. I would never do anything, which I was not sure to do properly and more importantly, do it better than others. I knew that I would have made a very bad doctor, or a very bad engineer. Even if I did succeed, I would be nothing above mediocrity. I was interested in language, literature, history, music, geography and philosophy. I was to discover later, that I liked political science better and could excel in it.
By the time I joined the degree college, the fact that a degree in arts is hardly sufficient to get me a proper job had dawned upon me. But it was the pursuit of knowledge, hunger for reading more and more, desire to stand out of the crowd, propelled me into the whirlpool of beliefs, inhibitions, predilections, ideologies and ideals. I was abnormal, though I thought at the time, that I was above normal, the normal being the pursuit of material happiness.
When all other boys were indulging in earthly enjoyments like wearing fine, trendy clothes, racing on bikes, pursuing girls, going to tours and picnics, I had denied my self all mundane pleasures. I felt this hedonistic life style was not worth pursuing. Allthesame, though I could not even confess it to myself, I did have the feeling of jealousy. While I pitied their ignorance, looked at their lethargy and mediocrity with disdain, I also felt left out…far behind, sometimes. The intellectual eagerness that was intrinsic to my nature, my industry, integrity and intelligence caught the eyes of my teachers, but the other students, with a very few exceptions, were blissful, joyous, and unmindful of their future. Today is what we have, who has seen tomorrow? And anyway, who cares? This was the outlook prevalent. Why did I need to be an exception? True that I liked the appreciation that was bestowed on me by the teachers, parents and relatives. Sometimes, even by a few classmates. But I was not in the mainstream. I wanted to be in the mainstream. At least now!
Stop all self-adulation. Be gregarious. Belong to a group. I kept telling myself.