The Day When We Were Finally Free.
5th March, 2006.
It has been said since the days of Adam and Eve, since the times of the Mahabharat that girls are the most complex creatures on earth. Anondo Da, my senior, had once said that the complexities of womenfolk, their unpredictable mood swings, all are governed by their menstrual cycles, by the permutations and combinations that go on between the various hormones in the body throughout the day. Anondo Da might have failed in first-year and might be our batch-mate now, but these words of his carried serious weight.
Sonam was the best example for me. When I called her, she told me uncountable times that she missed me so much and that each day her longing for me was getting more unbearable.
‘Liar ! I don’t believe you. Hee Hee.’ I would say, delighted to hear all that. The ‘liar’ term was used to trigger her to repeat ‘I miss you’ again and again.
But true to Anondo Da’s theory, very soon Sonam’s oestrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone and other hormone contenders would start wrestling among themselves to argue whose concentration ought to be higher than the other in the body. As a result, Sonam’s mood would change drastically,
‘G-----, I don’t think I should meet you anymore.’
‘What ! But why ?’ (Damn you, all you hormones who control Sonam’s uterus, Sonam’s menstrual cycle, Sonam’s moods !)
‘I do love you but I feel I should meet you only after I’m self-dependant and learned to stand on my feet.’
If she was not standing on her feet, then whose feet were those ? ‘Why do you keep saying these depressing things again and again ? I don’t like to hear about you not meeting me.’
‘Sometimes I feel I’m not your right choice.’
Again. Once girls start their emotional drama, there’s no stopping them. They just love to be the victim and downgrade themselves. Aww ! So humble, huh ! ‘OK, then, find yourself a new boyfriend in Darjeeling !’, I replied angrily, loudly.
‘I don’t want a new boyfriend. Why do you speak inauspicious words like this ?’ She said sadly.
(So clever, this girl. Who started speaking inauspicious words first, huh ? Now the blame has been put on me.)
‘…………………..’ I couldn’t bring the lips to utter any word.
‘I want to tell you something. Don’t be angry, OK ?’
My God, what’s coming out of her mouth this time ? ‘OK, tell.’
‘Your Valentine’s Day gift…’, she started hesitatingly.
‘Yeah, what’s wrong with it ?’
‘I threw them away.’
‘Huh ?’ (Why is this girl spoiling my whole day today ? How could she do that ? Does this girl even realize remotely what a Valentine’s gift stands for ?)
Sonam broke the silence quickly. ‘I was joking ! Ha ha ha !’
I was relieved. All the drops of perspiration that had accumulated on my forehead evaporated away, leaving behind a cool head now.
‘How can I do such a thing ? You can do anything with my things but I’ll never do any harm to your things.’ (She meant to say that she was an angel who could do no harm while I was a devil, a shaitan who could’ve allegedly, possibly destroyed her things). Sonam was in a lively mood. Her mood had swung to the opposite spectrum now.
‘For a moment I thought you really threw away the gift.’ I told her. I was on the threshold of being broken when she had said all that.
‘In fact, I have hung the big, red Valentine’s heart on the ceiling above our bed. All of us play with it every day.’
That was supposed to be a love gift, not a plaything. I imagined the girls hitting the velvety, red heart to-and-fro like a temple bell, and the red heart swinging reluctantly in the air.
Sonam warned me about Obhishek Da, who was Prem bhai’s batch-mate.
Obhishek Da used to come regularly with Prem bhai to Shiv Mandir to hunt for his girlfriend prospects. Sadly, none of the singles in the GPRS group got impressed by his double-chin or his T-shirt-stretching paunch or his curly chest hair peeping out of the unbuttoned collar of his shirt. He always looked at Lokha and me with disgust whenever he saw us at Shiv Mandir with the girls. He was of the opinion that we, being first-years had no business to come to Shiv Mandir and meet girls regularly as the college freshers’ day was not over yet. According to him, first-years didn’t deserve so much freedom and needed to remain inside the campus till freshers’ day.
‘It’s a simple case of Motu frustrated of being single.’ Lokha reasoned. ‘As a matter of fact, how can he even get girls ? That double-chin is going to turn into a triple-chin very soon, and girls know that beforehand.’
‘Sala frustrated Motu always irritated at us, ha ha ha.’ I agreed with Lokha.
Meanwhile, Sonam warned me that Obhishek Da was planning some nasty shit on the last night before Freshers’ Day to torture us and that she was scared for me.
Instead of seriously believing her cautionary advice, I said, ‘Oi, I feel like kissing you.’
‘Uff ! You talk so dirty. I’m keeping the phone.’
‘How come it’s dirty ?’ (If a kiss is dirty for her, then what about the next level after kiss ? Meaningless, this girl is. Worried about a little kiss without any reason. Not even a real kiss, just a phone kiss. Damn her !)
‘Please don’t watch too many dirty movies. That’s having an effect on you.’
What !!? How did she know about what I watch at hostel ? ‘How did you know ?’
‘I know all guys watch it. Especially at hostel.’
‘Hmmmmmm.’ (From where does she get this kind of secret information about boys’ hostel ?)
Even Garima spoke to me on the phone and warned me and Lokha not to eat chicken for a few days because of the danger of bird flu, cases of which had been reported recently all over India ; a few cases had been found in nearby Jalpaiguri district 2 days back.
Sottom, the mess-wala decided to close the hostel mess for the day as most of the seniors hadn’t paid their dues. It was a relief anyway, as Sottom’s food would rank 1st from the bottom if ever there was a list made of the best food in campus. Sottom and his family were just not made out to be cooks, no matter how hard they tried. Cooked food they made was tasteless, I understood but even something like tomato-cucumber salad, which was just raw, even that tasted so awful when Sottom made them.
There were rumors that the night before freshers’ day, all the first-years would be called to the common room at 10 pm for the ultimate, the most grueling, the last ragging of college life before we were set free. Me and the four of my friends waited tensely to be called as the watch struck 10. We waited and waited but no one came to call us.
When we were finally called, it was 6 in the morning. No ragging took place as there was no time, though some of my batch-mates gave the news that a selected few of them - whom the seniors found entertaining when they ragged them earlier – had spent their whole night at a room in SBH (Senior Boys’ Hostel) being ragged and made fun of by an excited group of seniors, a few of them drunk with 3-4 pegs of McDowell’s No.1.
‘We are safe !’, Slash breathed easy in relief as he put on his white coat to get ready for the day.
Soon all the first-years dressed in white doctor’s coat stood in 2 rows in front of JBH (Junior Boys’ Hostel) with our faces facing the hostel building, with paint peeling off it’s abraded walls and seniors assembled in a group on the corridors of the 1st and 2nd floors and the terrace.
‘Ki dekhchis ? Cholo…start kor !’ (What are you looking at ? Come on…start it !)
It was time for first-year guys to start the JBH Salute, a college ritual to be performed by all the first-years to the seniors before the start of Freshers’ Day.
The ritual demanded the first-year guy to stick his thumb into his mouth, bow his head and the upper-half of his body down and then lift his head up again bellowing an elephant’s trumpet-like shout out of his mouth.
The whole campus echoed with the trumpet of 70-odd future doctors standing in 2 lines resembling 2 long, white snakes that morning. Only one JBH Salute was not enough. ‘Abaar !’ (Again !), demanded the seniors. Again we saluted them.
After half a dozen salutes in open air in full view of the public, I lost all self-respect for myself. Policemen in ganjees and khaki pants sun-bathing outside the police station adjoining JBH, skinny, dark local women picking up twigs of branches below trees next to us, Sottom and his whole family standing behind the hostel entrance giggling at us with their hereditary protruded cheek-bones in full display, everyone saw us that day.
After we were ordered to go by the JBH seniors, Obhishek Da, with his group perched on the NBH terrace stopped us. We had to repeat our salutes again for them. He even pin-pointed the first-year guys who didn’t bend low enough. Ditto procedure in front of SBH, too.
We were welcomed in the Multipurpose Hall by senior Didis. They put a tikka on our foreheads, handed us a red rose and a hard-bound card containing the Hippocratic Oath. I decorated the rose on the chest pocket of my doctor’s coat.
How pretty the red rose looked in the white background !
Some of the parts of the Oath which I found interesting :
"To regard my teacher in this art
as equal to my parents; to make him partner in my livelihood, and when he is in need of money, to share mine with him,"
"Into whatsoever houses I enter, I will do so to help the sick, keeping myself free from all intentional wrongdoing and harm, especially from fornication with woman or man, bond or free."
All of us repeated the Hippocrates oath after Principal Ma’am. When all of our voices soared in unison, I truly felt like we were of one community – same duty, same tortures, same frustrations, same happiness.
All of us were ordered to enact a skit in groups of 3-4 after which there would be a question-and-answer round. In our skit, I and Handu were to play angry army-men forcing the poor passengers Lokha, Slash and Holy-One out of the train for no reason. The Didi who selected the skit topic for us coached us briefly, giving ideas how to enact our skit. Acting is easy, I told myself confidently.
I and Handu put one arm each on each others’ shoulders like inseparable die-hard friends and stood in a corner of the stage while the three of my friends sat in the middle looking at us, confused what to do next. I and Handu, locked together side-by-side on the shoulders looked more like Siamese twins than two angry army-men. We started to walk and covered the whole periphery of the stage silently and returned back to our starting point after completing a round.
‘What else should we do ?’ I whispered at Handu. The audience chatted among themselves, least interested at the group of pathetic actors performing on stage.
Handu, being more of a singer than an actor, suggested we make one more round around the stage, this time with a song on our lips. Without informing which song to sing, he started on his own,
‘Yun hi chala, chal raahi….’ and both of us resumed our walk. Soon I caught up with the song from the movie Swades. The Siamese twins, singing songs, completed one more round of the stage. The song seemed to have energized us as we started our acting only then. We started mock kicking the 3 passengers and shouted, ‘Get out ! Get out of the train !’
Our group had the worst actors. When we landed our mock kicks, Holy-One didn’t act like he was being kicked or insulted. He sat like a statue and grinned at us, as if enjoying the kicks. Slash looked at the ground shyly, red-faced, embarrassed in front of everyone and kept adjusting his spectacles with fingers. Only Lokha was at his over-acting best, rolling on the floor in agony from one end of the stage to the other after receiving kicks.
O God ! Please remove this MAHA over-actor out of my sight ! Can't take him anymore.
This was in sharp contrast to the other skits where the performances were watchable, be they dialogue delivery, acting, expressions and all ; as if my Bengali and North Indian friends had been ingrained with this kind of culture since childhood.
Now, in the video of ‘Yun hi chala, chal raahi..’, Shahrukh Khan lip-syncs the song while driving an RV (Recreational Vehicle) and a hairy sadhu who hops into the RV accompanies him throughout the journey in search of his ancestral village.
In the question-and-answer round, the seniors asked Handu, ‘Both of you sang the song ? Which one of you is the dirty sadhu ?’
‘He is !’, Handu pointed at me.
(Why is it always me who gets the bad pieces ? Sala Handu, the gaandu.)
I was asked by the panel of interviewers, ‘Your friend said you are the old sadhu. How do you feel ?’
‘I don’t feel good as I’m young.’
‘How can you prove you are young ?’
‘Umm…I’m young because…..because I’m energetic…because I have lots of josh in me.’
‘An old man too can have lots of josh. Can you name a medicine which can energize even an old man ?’
As expected, random guys in the audience shouted in a low voice, ‘Viagra ! Viagra !’ I knew these kind of double-meaning questions always had 2 answers – a vulgar one which came to mind instantly and an innocent one, which might be easy but damn hard to recall. I kept thinking of the innocent answer as the audience poured in more suggestions. ‘Say MAN-FORCE tablet, you dumb donkey !’
‘Japaani Tel !’ (Japanese oil), another member of the audience suggested.
Then I got the answer, ‘Zandu Kesari Jeevan.’ But the interviewer didn’t seem to hear me and promptly sent me away, ‘OK, you can go now.’
According to what's written on the bottle of Zandu Kesari Jeevan, it's an ayurvedic revitalizer which claims to 'rewind the biological clock and make you feel youthful again' and 'is an age-old recipe handed down through Zandu's family.' Zandu must've been a great scientist then for inventing this recipe.
As for Japaani Tel, there are numerous ads in the local Bangla papers claiming its potency to increase the size of a man's you-know-what-I-mean. I was fortunate enough to see one such ad in English. Only then I realized the deeper meaning of all the Japaani Tel jokes circulating around the campus among Bengali friends and seniors.
Here is a sample of a real ad copy-pasted from the net to prove that ads like this do exist.
"Welcome to Japani Tel (Oil).
It is a healthful massage oil, which helps you in your luxuriant experience upto extreme, which you imagine always.
Japani oil helps people to regain energy and satisfy their partner so that they cannot think of any other men.
After using it for a few days, you can feel the enlarged size of p**** in your trouser. You can measure the size on daily basis as well.
You can use Japani Tel to massage your p**** once in a day.
Numerous research has proved that oil is better than pills to enlarge the size."
This was a subtle one. There are ads much more vulgar than this. Being full of grammatical errors, I have corrected the English, too. God knows how many people have been cheated by Japaani Tel.
Another famous double-meaning question seniors loved to ask was, “What is a guy doing to a girl when she screams ‘aaah’ in pain at first, but after a few minutes, says ‘aahaa’ in relief ?”
10 times out of 10, freshers would reply shyly that an act of copulation was going on between the guy and the girl.
‘He’s applying MOOV or IODEX on the girl, you dirty, filthy mind !’
‘Chee ! You pervert !’
Many of my friends, even the girls were subjected to inappropriate, uncomfortable questions by the panel of interviewers. I was amazed at the vast number of hidden-meaning questions that had been composed. It required a special, crooked talent to invent this kind of questions.
There was a cultural program in the evening. The whole first-year group took part with enthusiasm. I sang ‘An empty street’ (Westlife) while Holy-One played the guitar. Surprisingly, I felt no stage fright. For the first time, my singing actually matched the guitar rhythms. Motu Prosenjit and other batch-mates hugged and congratulated me when I came down the back-stage. Raina even hummed my song when I met her before DJ.
Handu sang ‘Girl of my dreams’ (The Moffats) and ‘Dooba Dooba’ (Silk Route) and the girls in the audience swooned in delight. Kaushik Nata sang ‘Pehla nasha’.
Motu Prosenjit, who has his own band, sang lots of the latest songs with his synthesizer. The double-synthesizer was as bulky as his figure.
Abhijit Lambu and his group sang a Bangla rock song ‘Bishakto manush’ (by the band FOSSILS). Without understanding any of its lyrics, I found my feet tapping vigorously to the song.
Rubol played tunes of old songs on his mouth organ. So seriously he played, as if his very life depended on it. So serious that he sweated profusely.
Dinesh, our topper, displayed his amazing mimicry talent by producing a dog's
bark, cat's meow, monkey's chattering and a range of other inhuman sounds from his vocal cords. And they were as accurate as the original.
'Our whole batch is so talented. Wow !', remarked an amazed Ho-Chi, sitting in the last row, watching the performances with interest. (Seniors named him after Ho Chi Minh, the famous Vietnamese communist leader because, though he was a Bengali, his facial features resembled those of a Mongoloid race.)
Of course, our batch was supremely talented. After all, we had a topper who could bark like a dog and meow like a cat.
'Oi Lengta (nude) ! Aren't you showing your talent today ?', some of my seniors joked at Viktor. During the college fest PLASMA, Viktor had teamed up with a senior and showcased various yoga asanas on the stage wearing only a pair of jeans, the upper half topless. Since then the nickname Lengta (nude) stuck to him like a permanent tattoo throughout his college life.
Most of the girls in the batch showed their dancing talent. Even Ashish Dhoot, who had arguably the most unflexible body and the most deadpan facial expression in the class, was part of the troupe with Mayank and Rajeev's dance group. Since Dhoot was an extremely good-natured friend, I cheered for his steps enthusiastically.
Aah, Freshers' Day was finally over. And with it, our days of freedom started.
No more secretly running to Siliguri to watch movies.
No more wishing seniors 'Good morning/evening Dada' robotically everytime we saw them.
No more going to seniors' room to give them a massage.
No more singing like a street beggar and dancing like a circus monkey at every request of seniors.
From now on, everyone is equal.
A senior is only a doctor.
And me, a junior, I am also a doctor.
Doctor = Doctor
So, Senior = Junior
LHS (Left-hand side = RHS (Right-hand side)
Hence proved, everyone is equal (in college).