When we reached our room, the third roommate Jogesh seemed to be fast asleep as usual. He certainly feigned to be in deep slumber, for he did not even stir by the noise of the opening and shutting of the door. We changed before slipping into our beds. It might have taken hardly more than a minute for Vijay to doze off; I could make it out by the steady sound of his breathing. However, sleep was miles away from my eyes. Even the liquor was not helping. It had always been the same with me since my childhood. If anything unsavoury happens, however frivolous it might be, I keep mulling over it again and again, till it encompasses the whole being of me, and stays so till the time takes over and heals it. I wondered it happened the same way to any other person.
The next day, again I was woken up by the sounds of ‘aaak thoo!’. Although I never had hangovers, my head was still a bit heavy. It might have been due to lack of sufficient sleep. The third roommate was stalking from the cupboard to the window and back again to the cupboard. As he approached the window, he would try to cough loudly and try even harder to bring out the phlegm. After spitting, he would begin stalking again. I was reminded of the jackal I had seen stalking impatiently in a similar manner, in a zoo long back.
I did not see either Mohan or Bhaskar in the canteen. Vijay and I had our breakfast and decided to stay in our room till it was time to leave for the department. Just as we were leaving the canteen, Mohan and Bhaskar entered. “Hello brothers!” Mohan shouted with a broad grin. I tried to smile back. Bhaskar put his arm around Vijay’s shoulders and asked, “Already had your break fast? Why don’t you sit with us and have one more cup of tea?”
Vijay said,” We will sit, but won’t have tea.”
We sat at the table. I was not still smiling but it went unnoticed. Just as Mohan and Bhaskar began eating avalakki, there was some commotion on the portico adjoining the canteen. It was the sound of a roar of laughter and many guys yelling simultaneously. Presently two guys, who I recognised to be our seniors in the department, appeared at the entrance. One was well over six feet and athletically built. The other was of average height and a bit obese.
Mohan laid his plate on the table and got up. With folded hands, dramatically, he said, ”Namaskar anna, I know what you are up to. Please don’t return my greetings.” Both of them laughed. I did not comprehend what it was all about. “Please take my namaskar also, and keep it yourself!” Bhaskar said, munching his breakfast.
The two seniors sat at the same table, and a boy working in the canteen brought them tea and cigarettes. The tall guy offered me one and lit one himself. “You are Harsha from Belgaum, aren’t you?” he asked. I nodded agreement. “I am Kotresh and this is Sharan.” I shook hands with Sharan.
“So, How many people have accepted your namaskar?” Mohan asked with a smirk.
“Haha..ha” Sharan left out a laugh. “Most of the hostel is covered. Only the professors are left out” said Kotresh with a wry smile.
“Has Shivakumar approached you?” Sharan directed a question to me. He watched my face and understood that I did not know who Shivakumar was. He said, “Shivakumar Saradgi is our classmate. He wants your help in getting his notes translated to Kannada. He will contact you soon.”
In the first thing, the whole discussion about namaskar was intriguing, and a senior seeking my assistance in translation was even more so.
I wanted to ask what it was all about, but soon I could see it myself. Another classmate of ours, Suresh Hiremath approached us. Kotresh stood with the corners of his lungi in his hands, and joined both his hands, lifting them up to his face in the gesture of salutation, and said “Namaskar saar”. Along with his hands, his lungi was lifted and he wore absolutely nothing below it. Suresh had a full glimpse of his dangling tool!
“My God! What have you shown me the first thing in the morning, even before I paid obeisance to our kuladevata!” Suresh burst out in a dramatic tone but with he was feigning anger. Everyone laughed loudly.
Shortly, the seniors left all of us still smiling. Amidst all this I had quite forgotten my feelings about the previous day’s incident. Bhaskar said, “You should never enter Sharan’s room early in the morning. If you knock his door, he will open it only to reveal that he is stark naked. Once the hostel clerk went to his room to remind him to pay his hostel fees; he came out running at a leopard’s pace and kept running until he reached his office” There was even more laughter.
“I have heard that there was another person who was nastier than our seniors, in the hostel about a couple of years ago. The moment he entered the hostel, he would be totally nude. All his roommates vacated and left. He would go the bathroom and come back wearing nothing. He would take bath in front of the hot-water tap, completely naked, when others would be waiting in the queue to get hot water!” Mohan said.
“All other hostelites thanked god that he went to the mess or canteen fully dressed!” Bhaskar added.
It was an uneventful day at the department. We attended all the lectures together, but after the last lecture, just as I went into the washroom to loo, I saw Mohan and Bhaskar leaving hurriedly! Again without caring to tell anything to Vijay or me. It was frustrating.
* * * ** * * *
When Vijay and I returned from the city at 10.15 pm after rigorously following the routine of one and a half drinks and chicken mughlai, our third roommate, whom we had already nicknamed ‘yaakthoo’, was not asleep, breaking away from his usual habit. He looked at us as if we were intruding his privacy. He fluffed his pillow, dusted his bed with his cheddar, went to the window, spat out with that abominable noise of his, and sat on his bed. He took a book, and began reading it. I felt uneasy, and I could bet that Vijay too was not very comfortable.
I changed to my Bermudas and t-shirt. Just as I was sitting on my bed, the door opened with a big thud and there stood Mohan, with Bhaskar and Viru in his wake. “Good Evening sir! How are you two doing?” Mohan almost hollered at the top of his raucous voice, raising his right hand in mock salute, with a tinge of dramatics.
“Please come in. It seems the party is stiff today” said Vijay. All of them entered and Mohan sat on the bed beside Vijay while the other two took chairs.
“So, mama, what is going on?” Bhaskar asked Vijay intimately.
“What have you been drinking man? The whole room is filled with the smell of your drink” Vijay said. Indeed, the odour of rum, wafted through the air. I could recognize it quickly.
“We had been to Big Boor’s room. The fellow does not drink, but keeps a full bottle of military rum. We just emptied it so that he can use the bottle for some other purpose.” Bhaskar said with a slur.
“Harsha’s eyes are red and the cheeks are glowing. What did you have?” Mohan queried desultorily, but without waiting for the reply, suddenly turned towards ‘yaakthoo’, and said in a loud voice, ”Oh, this is your third partner! You are from history department. Aren’t you?”
Now the third roommate was feeling somewhat awkward and replied in a low tone, “Yes”.
“What? I did not hear you man. You have a voice of a girl. Hmmm…what was your name? I heard your name from someone.”
“Jogesh” just as Vijay was volunteering, Bhaskar intervened, “Yes Mohan brother, not only his voice is like a girl’s, he has very sparse hair on his face!”
The third roommate had turned white with fear. But Mohan continued without taking note of it. “Oh. His name is Jogappa. Isn’t it?”
Those who became hijdas in dedicating themselves to Goddess Yellamma of Saudatti are known as ‘jogappas’ in this part of the state. Mohan was deliberately calling Jogesh as jogappa, meaning effeminate man. Both Mohan and Bhaskar had begun enjoying teasing Jogesh and causing a lot of consternation and panic to him. He had started sweating profusely although it was a cold, rainy evening.
“I think this weekend we are going to have a seminar in the department”, I tried to change the subject.
“You may present a paper. We are not going to do that sir,” Bhaskar replied. But Mohan quickly grabbed another opportunity in this and said, “ See this Jogappa is very studious. Look at him. He is studying even now. You have a seminar in your department?” This was addressed to Jogesh.
“No. We may have one next week.”
“Oho! And you have already started your preparations? Very nice! But your voice is not loud enough and we don’t have microphones in the department. Do we? Your voice is too feminine.”
“He has lost his voice due to a lot of spitting, it seems.” Bhaskar added fuel to the fire.
“Oh, Yeah. You are right. He spits a lot. You can hear him from anywhere in the hostel. What do you eat man? Cow dung? Why you need to be puking all the time?”
“May be it is morning sickness Mohan” Bhaskar suggested, with a wide and wry smile. Virupakshappa left out a roar of laughter.
“When we had first joined college, Bhaskar did not know what is morning sickness. Can you imagine what he did?” Mohan said with amusement. “There was a girl in our class who somehow got very close to him. For some time she used to be depressed and looked very glum especially in the first hour of the college. He asked her if she was having morning sickness! She stopped talking to him thereafter!”
“On second thought, I think she ditched him because she had a crush on the other guy, Narendra Swami. One night, we went to his room and beat the shit out of him and warned him not to speak to her. We never saw them together.”
“No man, she was not having anything with him. It was just my mistake. He was only helping her with her physics.” Bhaskar replied with a protest.
“Whatever, but it proved too costly to him.” Mohan said with glee.
“You see, we are gentlemen during the day time. It is only in the evening, that too after a couple of pegs, that we cease to be gentlemen and become real men. You see, the next day in the morning we met him,” said Bhaskar.
“Yes, we did meet him the next day to say sorry,” Mohan added, “Because we are gentlemen. We always have been. I told him very frankly, ‘See boss, forget what happened last night. Such things happen by mistake. Say you forgive us. Let’s be good friends’”
Bhaskar smirked and said with mock sympathy, “Yeah, Then you asked him to eat some sweet with us in the college canteen, just to prove that he had forgiven us. Then you proceeded to make him eat six plates of shira. The poor fellow had to pay the bill too, while he was almost on the verge of throwing up!”
“By the way, shira is available in the hostel canteen?” Mohan asked, ogling at Jogesh. All the time he was looking and feeling like a clown.
Virupakshappa tried to change the subject of conversation by observing, “ This room has a very good ventilation man. It’s very cool and fresh here. The backward portion of the building obstructs the flow of air in my room”
“Indeed,” Mohan agreed, “ We must come here every night and chat with you guys till we are sleepy. Hope Jogappa won’t mind.”
“Why should he mind?” questioned Bhaskar rhetorically, “ He too is a friend of ours. Aren’t you?” He was barely able to conceal irony in his tone.
All of this was bewildering to Jogesh and he had come to realise that is directed at him. He, for a moment, did not know how to respond and the moment he opened his mouth to say something, Mohan said hurriedly with a deliberate lisp, “Who cares if he minds? “
“That reminds me of another funny incident,” Bhaskar began to narrate it.
This went on and on for a couple of hours and I could imagine how grueling this must have been to Jogesh. By the time the boys left our room, it was almost two in the morning.
Next morning, miraculously, Jogesh did not cough, or make disgusting sounds. He did not even go near the window.
“Thanks Mohan,” I said when I met him in the canteen later,explaining to him how Jogesh's behaviour had dramatically altered. Bhaskar said with a grin, “ You know something? There was nobody called Narendra, nor was there any girl.”
Mohan too grinned, “ We did not beat anybody or took anybody to the canteen to force him to eat sweet. Nice story, wasn’t that?”