Archive for the ‘Let it be’ Category


I saw this guy (kid?) negotiating with the lady at 7-11. I missed the first part of the conversation, but from the looks of it, she was refusing to sell him beer.

She asks him for the ID.

He brandishes his school ID in front of her– “May 1992”, Now it’s July, I *am* 18.


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I was rotting at work, so I called one of my colleagues out for a coffee. It’s besides the fact that we landed up having a glass of wine each.

And he told me, he had to explain to other people, where I had vanished for three weeks. Since I am on talking terms with him, they asked him instead of asking PD. He re-asked them, “What if she had gone on work for three months?”. “But that’s different”, they replied in unison. As if going on work prevents automatically prevents you from having sex with strangers.

“They are nice people”, he tried to sum up. “I really don’t care”, I drew my own conclusions.

Wish he hadn’t told me. I feel more like a martyr. I feel the pride of a non-conformist. And the last thing I need is a complex and more importantly, a fake sense of greatness. I am fine, I did nothing new. Big fuckin’ deal. I would mess with their minds even more, given the chance. Big deal, really. (Though I feel great!)

Let’s keep it at that.

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He is a colleague, immensely attractive. And I am stretching the bounds of the word immensely. When I started working, I had a teensy-weensy crush on him – it wasn’t unnatural, he is hot, I am normal. Then the company parties happened – we danced together. A lot. Both of us are much better than Pappu, and landed up challenging each other on who can last longer on the dance floor. He can dance. I am not bad.

Over years, the awkwardness has given way to great friendship. All permutations have been taken care of – I know his wife, he knows PD, his wife  knows PD. We all go out together at times, drink, dance, partayyy – as it’s called in the circuits.

And then, on my birthday, am shaking my booty and I feel a smack on my butt. I look around to find the guy who is taking advantage of the situation and find no one suspicious.

It happened again at the company event last weekend.  *smack*

I don’t want to give an impression that I enjoy it. I don’t want to tell him off for it will ruin the friendship.
As I said, he is a great friend. And I don’t know what to do.

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The problem with having met as many bad people as I have is that when the good people come, and are out and about (after constantly scratching the surface to find motives) I file them under figment-of-my-imagination, use words like can’t-be and look at even tangible things like phone numbers in disbelief.

Ah, well. At least I always have stories to tell.

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1992. The first time I was watching sport on Colour TV. And the Olympic games…

Hola, Barcelona!

Love the place, the club, the language ever since…..

And I remember the ’92 Olympic games a lot……

Coming to the point, I remember Basketball, and the Dream Team….. Jordan, Magic, Bird, Ewing… and Barkley, who quickly became my favourite.

And I remember uttering …. Croatia, good team, they will give the dream team a fight… they have a good guy playing for them….

Well, Croatia didn’t. The Dream Team had 6 guys as good as that Croatian guy all the time on court, and they decided to really play, really put up a show that day in the finals.

Croatia lost rather tamely. That guy did put in an effort, but it amounted to little in the scheme of things

I often wondered what happened to that guy…. Iron-curtain mediocracy? That’s what I always suspected.

But no, Drazen Petrovic‘s story was sadder….

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Late night viewing of “Into the wild”. I fell in love with the soundtrack first. Eddie Vedder mixes the spirit of the wanderer with the sense of foreboding in a cocktail so potent that songs play on loop endlessly, and in an instant you grab the tone of the movie. The movie wouldn’t hit the same chord unless you have — in that strange moment of zoning out while in the midst of an inconsequential conversation with someone — said to yourself “Why? Why me?”. Unless you have wanted to leave it all behind, in quiet desperation, and sew wanderlust on your sleeve like a boy-scout-badge, remember all the training, and chase utter loneliness and live in wilderness.

Chris McCandless dropped out of school and then out of society. he wandered around a bit before heading to Alaska. In his final journey, he found an abandoned bus and was found dead in the same. They say he died because of starvation. If he had had the common sense to carry a map, he would have discovered that a human operated tramway was a quarter of a mile away, and he would have survived. If the movie is to be believed, his thoughts close to his dying moments were that of survival, and not of death. That the greatest happiness is the one which is shared. He mentioned God twice in his near-death note.

And yet, his is a hero’s story.

The rebels always catch everyone’s eye early on. It’s not the attire, but the aura of devil-may-care, the restlessness that everyone notices. Everyone has an opinion about them. The conformists hate them, but secretly want to have the courage to be like them — they would rather be free, and yet, they are so afraid of their weaknesses, that they don’t want to be like them.

What makes us — the ones who would rather rebel but don’t — this way? I believe, it’s the will to survive – nothing more, nothing less. It’s not the money, or the pride, or the desire for material pleasures. It’s not anything superficial. We want food on our table, a roof on our head, the safety and to procreate – to keep civilization alive… It is a different kind spirit of survival. It is a different kind of roughing out. It’s not easy to live a conventional life. Rebelling is far easier. There are absolutely no expectations.

Being a rebel, not believing in society, and shunning all material comforts makes a good story. While the failure, and eventually the sorry fate of such people is narrated in hushed tones to neighbours, such people gain a romantic edge, and become fascinating protagonists of a book or a movie. One way or another, I don’t know of anyone who wouldn’t be weak for a rebel.

Chris McCandless was conceived when his dad was still married to another woman. His parents fought incessantly.This boy‘s parents eloped to get married. His mom is ten years younger, and at some level, the generation gap still shows. They fight incessantly.

Chris McCandless was very smart. He was well read. He could quote Thoreau , Louis L’Amour and Pasternak. This boy passed exams studying 1/10th as much as any of us needed to. He could (can?) speak physics and pink floyd like no other boy can.

Chris McCandless dropped out of law school. This boy never finished his masters.

Chris McCandless wanted to run away for a period of solitary contemplation, for he hated the empty materialism of the society. He wanted to explore nature, and rough it out like the pre-historic man. He believed that careers are a twentieth century invention and that he didn’t want one. At last count, this boy told me something similar.

Chris McCandless took pride in surviving with a minimum of gear and funds, and generally made little preparation. This boy does, mostly, the same.

Chris McCandless had a plan, an ambition. Unfortunately, this boy has none.

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Weird first few days of the hostel. Unsure, naïve me, cloistered from the world all this while. People zip by. I meet people. Smelly, loud, tall North-Indians; Oliy, grammatically wayward South-Indians; Slimy, political Bengalis; Taciturn, sticking-to-themselves North-easterns… ‘What-the-fuck’-ing big-city kids; Wide-eyed, gauche small-towners… getting used to them all was a slow process.


A wild-haired, rather feminine-featured kid comes up one day (my second day in the hostel, if I remember correctly) and says ‘Remember we met yesterday, you are Retro, right?’

I beam. People recognize me!

– Yes!

– So since we know each other, what’s my name?

– Ahem. Ahem.

– See! So who’s the smart guy here?

– Depends on what your definition of smart is…

– Okay, relax now… I am RG. Remember me the next time, alright? Which department are you in?

– I&E

– Hmm. Cool! So am I. Meet you in class tomorrow.


Aargh, I say. Pain in the neck. And I will have to survive him for 4 years now…..


First day in class. We huddle around. We talk. We check out the girls. Exasperation. Aunties, most of them. RG is there alright, with Nit, another kid I met during seat allocation, chatting up with the few non-aunties. ‘Big-time ladki-baaz hain yeh dono‘, Vic, best friend then, mentions. I nod in agreement.


Seniors rag us in the evening. RG gets ragged the most. I get ragged pretty badly too. We exchange notes. X is a bastard. Y is a good guy really. P is a sadist. Q is the one with the cute girlfriend, you remember?


I team up with Murray and Jake, and win the college quiz. The same day in the evening, RG wins the Mr. Freshers. We hug, Rg and I. The beauty and the brains of the batch, what say you?


we are good friends now. RG, Nit, Goal, Vic and I. Nit is going around with Plush. RG, does he have anything for Bell? Maybe, may not be. She is too ‘pavam’ for RG, Vic the lord of all romantic knowledge mentions.


We are a group. RG, Nit, Goal, Vic, Plush, Bell, SideK. Ez is a good friend of Plush. She hangs around in the periphery of the group. We are The Gang.


I get involved in theatre. The 1st semester results come out, RG has done the best of us all.


2nd semester. Both RG and I get into theatres. Mw joins the theatre group, I know Mw from earlier somewhere, don’t really remember where. RG and Mw meet, and we see the immediate chemistry.


Few days later, Vic, the lord etc.etc. mentions to me, RG and Mw seem a good fit, no? I nod. Yes they do.


There is a vacation, and only about five are left in the hostel, having not gone back home for the vacations. RG is the only one among the five who is a friend of mine. Every evening for the next fortnight, we talk. We discuss a lot of stuff. About life, about love, about science, about family and about sundry other things. RG isn’t half as shallow as I thought. He was, infact, not shallow at all.


I have a soft corner for nobody in particular in college, and RG asks me why. I tell him the Lug story.  You do remember the Lug- Rosog – Yb story, readers?


RG’s parents are relocating to Bangalore. As his best friend, I visit their new house. His parents accept me with open arms. I still am almost family to them.


RG leaves the hostel, becomes a day-scholar.


Ez has a thing for me. It’s obvious. Vic has a thing for Ez. That’s obvious too. There has been no complication yet, but there will be, I know. I have no romantic inclinations towards Ez, but Vic, who I consider the closest to me apart from RG, is getting a bit edgy in my presence.


I am about to leave hostel and go back home for study leave, just before the 2nd semester exams. RG meets me in the railway station. Takes me to a corner.

– Vic and Ez, won’t they make a nice couple?

– Oh yes they should!

– You are good friends to both, no?

– WTF? Of course!

– Fuck logic. Stay away. Far away. That will do all three of you a lot of good.


I think about it during the course of the journey home. I agree with RG. I could do all three of us a lot of good.


Time moves. The Gang gets new additions, becomes larger. Becomes weaker. My ties with Nit and Plush get weaker, my ties with Goal (and whoever girlfriend he has at that point of time) were never strong anyway, I don’t talk with the new additions of the group, I avoid Vic and Ez like the plague. I hang around in the periphery of the group… perhaps for old time’s sake more than anything else. At times, I love being nobody. It’s good fun. Try it sometime.


I hang around with RG and Mw. I get along fine with them. I always did. Nothing changed with me and them.


During weekends, or before exams, I visit RG’s place. For weeks at a time. His parents love me. There’s good South-Indian food his mother prepares. And she knows I like to eat. So I eat. A lot!


I develop other friends. I immerse myself in sports. I immerse myself in quizzing. I immerse myself in college literary activities.


RG and I, we still smoke packs of cigarettes behind the college canteen. We drink. We laugh and we cry. Nothing has changed between us.


Leaving home, I needed a family in this alien city. RG was family. One you can almost take for granted.


RG comes along to the hostel before semester exams. He is smart. He picks up the concepts quicker than the rest. The others, including his other best friend Nit, avoid him like the plague before the exams. They call him the ghost. So RG stays in my room. I don’t have a problem. I study at my pace, and he at his.


Then, I grow up.


Nobody gets jobs that year or the next. We all are worried, maybe even a bit desperate. Would it have made a difference had the meltdown not happened? Had RG got a job in the third year? Had I got a job in the third year?


RG and Mw’s relationship is in tatters, I think. Mw is bitter, and talks to me about how it’s not working out. She is in tears.


How can it not work out? RG and Mw are my only links to the past…


I scream at RG. What the fuck does he think he’s doing?

He screams back.

– Nobody tells me what to do.

– Nobody, if you have forgotten, is my middle name. Fuck you. Get a grip.


I don’t know if he listened. But they are together and happy again. At least for a while.


Then one day, RG comes down to the hostel and stays back for the weekend. I take time off from my football and my quizzing. We talk. Just like old times. We discuss life, we discuss love, we discuss family and we discuss science. He talks a lot about his relationship with his parents, with Mw and with the establishment in general. And why nothing is working out. I listen. We have a few beers. He goes back home.


I study for a major competitive exam. I clear it. I get admitted to the Big Bschool.


RG is trying to go abroad. He does reasonably well in the GRE. Mw has got a job, she was always good in studies. Vic, Ez and I have made our peace I think. Vic and Ez are going strong, maybe they will get married in a year. Nit and Plush, after a few hiccups, are still going steady.


I have developed a thing for DQ, and maybe she has, too. We are talking all the time, and will continue to do so while I am at Bschool and she at her job. Maybe there’s something there.


I leave for Bschool, directly from hostel. I stay back at RG’s place that night, he will drop me off at the airport the next morning. I call up DQ at 12 in the night, and we talk. for about two hours. Maybe there’s something there.


We are late, and RG drives at breakneck pace to get me to the airport. I mention at parting, in all honesty, that I could not be as good a friend to him as he has been to me. RG laughs. Thanks for being there, dude. Best of luck.


We part ways.


Into the great wide open……




Four – five years pass by.


I am doing reasonably well now. Confident, composed, grown up. Crests and troughs. A bad DQ story hence… ah, you know about it.


My friends from college have moved on. None of the relations, in hindsight, were made to last.


I am somewhat in touch with everyone.


Vic is a better friend than I left him at college. Ez is a better friend than I left her at college. Mw, in a faraway land, is the tied best friend I’ve got now. Goal, Nit and Plush are somewhat in touch with me. RG is anyway taken for granted.


Mw gets married. RG calls me up that morning from the US. I refuse to take the call. 


I attend Vic’s marriage. Three months later, I attend Ez’s marriage. A few months later, I attend Goal’s marriage.


Nit is at a Bschool in the US. Plush is working in another corner of the US. They are, of course, not together.


Other stray elements of the group get married. I am invited. I do not attend. They were never that close.


And then, RG comes down to India. He has started a company in the US, which he never discussed about. RG rolls up a joint every 10 minutes. RG supposedly has a girlfriend in Bombay. RG never talks about life, or love, or career, or family anymore. I do not discuss science. We do discuss MTM. RG is very happy for me.


RG gets angry one day, on the face of incessent questions from me. He screams abuse and dashes away from my house. The next day morning, he comes back. Sits in my room, and rolls up a joint. Not a word. We never needed to say sorry or anything anyway.


I visit his home. Haven’t met his parents for a year now… His father is scared. His mother is terrified. What is their son up to?


I talk to them. Auntie breaks down. In a bit, uncle breaks down too.

– Talk some sense into him, Retro. We are helpless. We don’t know what to do.


I take a call.


I am a friend of many because I don’t take sides. I don’t tell people what is right. I don’t tell people what to do. I am risk-averse and non-confrontational. I am a safe friend to have.


And a safe friend will not do today. To be as good a friend to him as he has been to me, I will have to hurt him, I will have to ensure that he is not a friend of mine anymore.


Before I can call up RG, he calls me up and screams abuse at me for speaking to his parents without informing him. I write him a pungent email.


RG visits my house the next day. He has shaved his long, matted hair with the buzz that I have gifted him, and is tonsured now. He looks uncannily like the guy I knew 10 years ago.


I confront him and ask him to do the same. Confront himself. Get a grip. I call him a loser, and he agrees. I get angrier and heap abuse on him. I tell his that he is the kind of loser who will hurt himself to ensure the ones who love him feel sad. I call him a shirker. I ask him to get his butt off the chair and do something. Anything. And then I tell him to fuck off and not show me his face again unless he has put in two years of honest labour.


And then, there on our quaint, tree-lined street, in the middle of people gathering around or looking down from their balconies to witness the source of the commotion, he starts his motorbike and goes away.


I have never met him since.


I get married. Mw attends the marriage, and so does Ez. Vic has to miss it for a family emergency. Somewhere at the back of my head, I missed RG’s presence there.


I hear that he has taken up a job in a restaurant there in the US.


I am proud of him.


It is just six months of the two years yet.


Eighteen months from now, I certainly hope to catch up with him. And when we meet, we will surely open up a can of beer each, and discuss life, and love, and careers, and family, and science. It would be just like the old times.

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