By the time the function was over, it was almost six in the evening and just as I was thinking of going back to the hostel, Vijay asked me, “Partner, Mohan and Bhaskar are going to the city for dinner. They were asking if we care to join them”
“They have to purchase some buckets, soaps etc. I think you too require getting them. Shall we go”?
“Well, you are right. Let’s go”
Soon we were all off to the city in a bus.
It was getting dark. I could see through the window of the bus that the university beginning to glow with fluorescent lights, and man, it did look great. Sitting by my side was Vijay. Mohan and Bhaskar were sitting a row ahead and it was Mohan who purchased the tickets. This time the bus was taking a round about route to the city and I had the opportunity to see another part of the city. But all of a sudden it began to rain and I had to close the window. The rainwater covered the already soiled windowpane and began dripping down. I could hardly see anything through it. It took more than twenty minutes for the bus to reach the city-bus stand and it was very difficult to get out of it due to rain. None of us had an umbrella and we had no other choice but to jump out of the bus and run to take shelter under the concrete tapering shelter. “It is better we directly go to Sitara” Mohan suggested. “Yeah, it is already late”, Bhaskar agreed. I did not know what Sitara was but I guessed it might be a hotel.
Sitara turned out to be a bar and restaurant. Mohan and Bhaskar hadn’t even cared to know my view. I just had to follow them, thankful to be relieved of hopping over the potholes on the road, filled with dirty, muddied rainwater. It was a small newly constructed restaurant with a hall of the size of our lecture hall behind the counter, surrounded by about eight rooms with curtains. It was clean and the waiters wore white uniforms. Since it was early in the evening, we could occupy a room. I was soaking wet here and there, all over my clothes. Still surprisingly it felt good.
“What would you like to order?” Mohan asked me immediately rejoining it with “ We usually take whiskey”. “It is fine by me,” I said. “Nothing for me. I don’t drink”, Vijay said. “What man, how come you don’t drink? It is considered backward these days. Isn’t it?” Bhaskar asked with a grin. “No brother”, said Mohan, “ It is good that he doesn’t drink. We will never compel anyone to drink.” Bhaskar’s grin widened. Said he,” Right brother. There should be someone sober enough to take care of us. Like we used to have Swamy.” Both Mohan and Bhaskar laughed loudly.
Mohan, watching my puzzled look, said, “ We have another friend, we call him Swamy because he neither drinks, nor smokes, and leads a very pious life. But he would never miss being with us during drinking bouts. Before last year, on the New Year’s Eve, we had a cocktail party in our room. We started drinking all sorts of drinks, right from the sunset. By 11, half the guys had left and only Bhaskar and I continued. All the while he was serving us soda, water, cigarettes and listening to all our blabber. Soon Bhaskar blacked out and he began to throw out in his sleep. I went out of the room and slept on the verandah on the cold floor. I think Bhaskar kept on puking for about half an hour. But in the morning, the room was spotlessly clean. Swamy had washed the room with his bare hands!”
More laughs followed. But Vijay said,” But don’t you dare expect such a service from me. Ok?”
“Got you! I knew I will be able to catch you here!” It was from a guy of medium height, wheatish complexioned, who was standing at the door with the curtain pushed aside by his right hand. He had small eyes, arched brows, and cheeks scarred by pimples that he might have had when he was stepping into adulthood. “Nice timing! Come on in.” Mohan invited him.
“ Are you alone?” Bhaskar asked.
He sat by the side of Bhaskar opposite me.
“Yeah. I was waiting for Suryavamshi Raja. He did not turn up. I think he is stuck up with some old friends of his in Hubli.” He said, and then looked at me.
“This is Pavan Sulebhavi. He was our classmate in the college. He also has joined for PG but in History department. “ Mohan introduced him to me. I shook hands with him saying, “ Harsh from Belgaum. Nice meeting you!”.
Obviously they had a very large group of friends, what they termed ‘friends’ circle’.
We ordered whisky and soda water and boiled peanuts for munching. The conversation drifted to Mohan and collegemates and the funny things that had happened. I had to observe silence for I obviously was an outsider. My roommate knew quite a few of their friends since he hailed from the same or the neighboring Taluka and threw in some comments here and there. I kept sipping my drinking and listening to them. After a while, Bhaskar became more animated and his face turned red. He called the waiter and asked for ITC smalls.
Bhaskar, I realized, had a very attractive way of speaking. His satire and wit held others’ attention and often resulted in roaring laughter. However, it was Mohan who was the natural leader of the group. I could make out that he was he was a leader for those of the group who were not present there. Pavan was a bit withdrawn and drank silently. I found that he was drinking it neat. Now they were talking about their collegemates who could not make it to the university, or those who had chosen to join B.Ed College. But the focus was on the girls. Bhaskar said, “ Brother, Katyayani has joined a private B.Ed College. I met her the other day. She was inquiring about you specifically”.
“Oh! Don’t mention it. It was a good riddance “ Mohan replied. But Bhaskar continued, for the benefit of Vijay and me and narrated how every one in their college was mad after her but she was herself mad after Mohan.” Was she very beautiful?” I asked. “No man, not very good looking. But she had something in her personality which attracted all the guys.”
The conversation soon turned to the university, with Vijay asking Pavan about his department. Pavan replied. “It is all the same in all the departments in the university, man. I have heard of some Ph.D students washing clothes, and bringing groceries for their guides.”
“Hard to believe” said I. “You will soon find it yourself shortly,” Pavan said. Mohan said, “ It has changed to some extent after the introduction of double valuation in the PG exams. But teachers know how to control their wards. Girls seem to have an upper hand in the university exams. One of our seniors who passed out in the university used to tell us that you should be very intelligent and servile to get better marks. But if you have what the girls have, then things may be easy!”
“That means you should have either tits or wits to be successful in the university” Bhaskar said. Everyone laughed out loudly and I too joined them, although I found it hard to believe.