Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Virupakshappa's Wedding Surprise

The months preceding the annual examinations affected the routine for the remaining members of the group, yet for me it changed only a bit. Every morning by nine we all started visiting the university library. Though there were no holidays, nobody attended the classes. I had expected the master’s examination to be different from the undergraduate examination but it was not so. The same pattern of answering five questions out of ten in three hours time, with one or two questions mandatory to be answered, was followed. If one studied a couple of previous years’ question papers, one could easily find out that the questions covered only the first couple of chapters in each subject. The questions tested only the memory of the students and there was hardly any question intended to test the reasoning power of the students. It was amazing that even then the students feared the examinations and for many, the only aim was to get a second class by scoring fifty percent, for then alone they would be eligible for the post of a lecturer. Only a microscopic minority of students had a vision of undertaking research leading to the doctorate degree. I used to wonder why such mediocrity prevailed among the large majority of students and teachers.

Since all friends would be in the library, I inevitably had to spend much of my time during the day in the library, making best use of the opportunity to read whatever caught my fancy- encyclopedias, novels, philosophy, logic, sociology, and so on. On the stairs of the library where we sat to have some chat during short intervals that we took to refresh ourselves, I became a lecturer, answering the questions and clearing the doubts of my friends, not that there were many.

So, it was a very dull period for me till the examinations are over and on the last day of the examination, Virupakshappa invited all of us to his marriage ceremony to be held in his native village near Raichur. It was scheduled on the fifth of May and all of us decided to meet in Raichur, in the hotel that would be booked for us.

All others left for vacation following the examinations, but I still had to attend another examination, that of diploma but I didn’t want to stay alone in the hostel. Luckily for me, Pavan invited me to stay with him in his rented room, located not far from the campus. I thankfully accepted the offer, for he was a great company for spending the evening. This was the time when he became one of the close friends of mine. Although he had studied with Mohan and Bhaskar in the same college as they had, he unlike Bhaskar was not a follower of Mohan and for some of his eccentricities, he was shunned by both Bhaskar and Mohan to some extent. However, he certainly was a friend of theirs and could easily belong to the group, had he not joined some other department in the university, and had he not chosen to stay in a rented room instead of staying in the hostel.

On the fourth of May, I reached Hubli bus station in the evening and found out that the bus to Raichur will depart at 8 p.m. I had about an hour to wait and the best way to wait was to sit in a bar. The bars and restaurants near the bus station are always full and so noisy that I finished one and a half peg of my drink in no time, sitting on the bar stool near the counter. I decided against having my dinner and instead ate a couple of burgers in an Iyengar bakery.

The platform where my bus would come was crowded, and being near the lavatory, the air was stinking with the smell of urine. I decided to move away from the place and went near the main gate. A couple of ladies wearing heavy make up and bright red lipstick smiled at me expectantly. Without realizing that they were looking for customers, I smiled back, then immediately I moved back to my platform.

When the bus came to halt in its reverse movement, I was right at the door and was the first one to enter as soon as it was opened by the conductor. I sat by the window comfortably, purchased my ticket and when the bus started, was lulled into sleep. I was eagerly waiting to meet my friends in Raichur, but did not expect the girls to come that far to attend a marriage. A surprise, not a pleasant one, was waiting for me in the hotel at Raichur.


It was after three in the morning when I got down from the bus. Virupakshappa had told us that the name of the hotel was ‘Sindhoor’ and it was just five-minute walk from the bus station. The streets were almost deserted but for a few passengers who had come out of bus station hailing and alighting autorikshaws. In the distance, I could read the hoarding of the hotel Sindhoor. A fellow, who must have been the clerk of the hotel, was fast asleep on a bench there, covering his whole body with a black blanket and covering his head and most of his facial area with a monkey-cap. He responded the rattling sound of the grilled gate and sat up. On enquiry, he told me that I was to go to room number 121 on the first floor. I climbed the stairs and found that 121 was on the extreme end of the corridor on the right. When I knocked a couple of times, the door opened and there stood Vijay, rubbing his eyes, which had reddened due to lack of sleep, perhaps.

“Come on in. You are late,” he welcomed me trying to bring a smile on his sleepy face.

“ I couldn’t have come earlier,” I replied entering the room. It was a ten by twelve room with two beds, a dressing table, teapoy, and a chair. The bed sheets were white and clean. A ceiling fan was circulating the hot air in the room with noise. It was very hot, so hot that the bed felt like a frying pan. As I sat on my bed, I asked, “Who else has come?”

He sat in the chair and yawned, cleared his throat and said, “Mohan and Nirupama, Bhaskar and Vani”

I looked up at him, surprised by the way he put it. He continued with a jeer in his tone, “Yes, tonight they are couples. In 123, Mohan and Nirupama are staying and in 125, Bhaskar and Vani.”


He seemed to enjoy the startled look on my face. “Yes, Bhaskar and Vani are having their first night!”

“My Goodness…” I sat silently for several minutes trying to absorb the shock. “So the second wicket has fallen,” I said at long last.

“But I don’t think it is the first match, neither for Bhaskar nor for Vani!” he replied with a grin.

“But how could it happen?” I queried although the reply was obvious.

“Three rooms have been booked. Mohan and Nirupama occupied one, Bhaskar and I came to this room and Vani was staying alone. Bhaskar went to her room about 2 hours ago and has not returned.”

“Of course he was drunk”

“Of course”

“Nice reception I had. I need a drink badly now”

“You won’t get even water to drink at this hour in this hotel”

“I expected it to be so. I carry my own drink,” I said and opened my briefcase. I had brought a full bottle of gin.

“You can just go to bed Harsha. It is very odd time to drink,” he said compassionately.

“No I can’t. I am damned tired. I will only have a couple of drinks, that’s all.”

I took the glass that rested on the teapot upturned and poured a large measure of gin. Vijay filled the rest of the glass with the water from the jug. I emptied the glass in just three sips and the liquid entered my stomach, burning all the way from the throat, but the anger, anguish, envy, rage, disappointment and disdain that I experienced burned me far more than the liquor did. Be cool. Be cool. I told myself as I poured another large into my glass.

“Go slow, what’s the hurry?” Vijay asked as he mixed water in the gin.

“Got to catch some sleep. What time are we leaving tomorrow?” I asked him in reply, an effort to change the subject under conversation.

“Virupakshappa said he would send a vehicle at 8 in the morning. He had come here last evening though he is not supposed to come out of his house after the Haldi Ceremony. He was enquiring about you.”

I quickly finished my second drink too and started perspiring due to the heat outside as well as within. “Damn the weather here!” I cursed wiping my forehead with the back of my hand. “Any one else is coming?” I asked Vijay.

“No, as far as I know. The school and college buddies of Virupakshappa have all come, and were staring at us, especially Mohan and Nirupama as if they were aliens. It was embarrassing.”

“Well, let them enjoy. Let us catch some sleep now,” I said as if concluding. “Right,” said he and rose to switch off the light.

I felt more comfortable in the dark. At least I won’t have to make any effort to conceal the expressions that might show on my face, thought I. Had I known that this was going to happen, I would have stayed away, called off my trip and kept peace of my mind. But I couldn’t have missed a friend’s marriage, could I? First Mohan took away Nirupama, now Bhaskar took away Vani. What do I mean took away? They didn’t take away anything from me. Nirupama and Vani are free individuals, for God’s sake, and they chose what they like. Why should I feel hurt or betrayed? Nobody had betrayed me. I won’t have any pleasure because of my own moral high ground, my self-rectitude. I do not deserve any pleasure. I have never been hedonistic. At best, I can congratulate Bhaskar for catching up with his leader. God, I hate myself, to be grieving over such trivial matters. I went on cursing myself till sleep took over me.



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