Friday, 3 August 2012


"Wake up, nut-head !", Sandeep was shaking me hard to wake me up from my fake-slumber.
We had reached Madurai Kamaraj University campus where the South-Zone National Inter-University youth festival was to happen. It was around 4.30 in the morning and still very dark, apart from the long line of tube lights lit up all through the tarred roads of the campus. Our bus had stopped in front of some office building inside the campus and from the window seat, I could make out that our DSS representative was trying with all his might and with all his knowledge of English and Tamil to convey that we were the Mahatma Gandhi University team come to participate in the youth festivals-
"Sir, naangal coming from Kerala to participate pannarathukku in the youth festival... MG team ! MG team ! Accommodation enge irukku intha team boys and girls ?!"

I tried to suppress a fit of laughter when I saw the alarmed look of the big-moustached, dark complexioned man whom he was addressing, who clearly knew no English and was surprised to hear something similar to his mother tongue coming out of this person who was using it as enigmatically as possible.

My friends were already up, and the other DSS staff who had accompanied us in the bus was giving them directions for unloading the huge set for the drama competition that the Women’s college team had brought along. I at once got a whiff of the situation and that’s when I decided to fake my sleep. We had already seen the heavy painted boards tied to the top of the bus even before we had boarded it from our university. But then it didn’t even cross our minds that this burden was for us to carry once we reach Madurai. We had already received long lectures from the DSS representatives about working together as a team, helping each other, this... that...

"Not me, man... I’m not gonna sweat and break my back carrying some girls’ drama set", thought I and closed my eyes.
Sandeep, a worse crook than myself, discovered what was going on and decided to come over and pull me up. He shook me so hard that even sleeping beauty would have woken up after two shakes, had I been her. Mouthing an obscenity, I rose from the seat of the bus and went over to my mates who had already untied the boards and stuff from the top of the bus, and helped them carry to a corner of the hostel in which the girls were to stay. After half an hour, there we were, panting and dirty from the effort, and angry at the girls who seemed to be enjoying their vacation. I remember getting into the mens’ hostel, entering the room that was kept ready for us, falling on the iron cot with a dirty bed on, and slept till 10 in the morning until someone woke me up.

Daylight showed us what the nature here was like... How the thick bushes and the wind that blew here all the time was way beyond beautiful. There were peacocks flying in and out of the bushes unafraid of all the people around them. There were Neem trees aligned with the sidewalks of the roads that gave out a constant ‘hush’ sounds when the breeze caressed the millions of bitter leaves as it passed by. All of us had fallen in love with the nature here that had no rustling traffic and sweat and all the sickness that was a city from where we had come. We were in another world the previous day and I felt like within twelve hours, we had reached another, a hundred times better in many ways. Occasionally, someone would find a peacock feather lying around and immediately run after it and fight over it like school kids. The sun shone bright and hot down on us, but the breeze was way too cool that we didn’t even feel the heat . Each building block in the campus was placed with considerable distance from each other and we had to walk a little bit every time we had to go somewhere. But I tell you, it would never wear you down. Mother Nature was preserved with all her grandeur here, and that is one big reason I loved the stay there. I know that even though the description I’m giving you is not at all sufficient to describe it completely or even 50 percent of it, some of you reading this are slipping into a deep nostalgic feeling. And I’m happy about it. I will someday return to the University and walk those roads again, either alone or hand in hand with someone I had promised that.

The only thing that was breaking the serenity was the 24 hour rehearsals that were going on. Folk music and dance items are great to see when performed, but when you’re around a rehearsal, it could get on your nerves like a nagging woman. The big hostel room adjacent to us was occupied by some students from a South Indian University, and these guys were rehearsing for their performance. These items were to be conducted on the very last day of all the programs, which meant we won’t be getting any sleep for the rest of the days, or we should go deaf. It was louder than gunshots, believe me, and we had to shut the door tighter every time we were in our room to keep the sound off at least to a small extend. But don’t ever have an impression that we were all silent when we were in the room. It was hell and it was party (Well... In our own way of booze, smoke, songs, big laughs and the drum that we had smuggled out of college!).

Our first day passed on with registrations for the events, distributing circulars among the team members, listening to the DSS guys... bla bla bla... But by evening, we realised that we were in deep s**t. There was a procession that was to happen in and around the university along with the inauguratory function of the events. But it was not the deep s**t that we were worried about. We had to wear a formal jacket throughout the procession. Us !!! We hooligans wear formals? "No effin’ way!" The only queues that we used to follow with great discipline were the ones at the ‘Beverages Corporation’ outlets. Now we had to walk in single file with a stupid formal jacket on? We hadn’t known what discipline means in the past three years of our graduation life and we had this to follow in our final year? "No effin’ way again!". Our only relief was that were already notified about it, and we had made a plan to slip away and hide somewhere in our hostel just before it was about to start. But the DSS were a little bit cleverer than we had thought about them and saw through our intentions and held on to us like leeches throughout the day and even came to our hostel to take us along before the procession started. So there we were, clad in the jackets that you could clearly say that it had passed on through quite some generations.

I am no John Rambo, but a fair remake of Charlie Chaplin and these jackets they gave us were all "One size fits all" kind - They were all made for guys of six feet and a well built body. Misery awaited me. Only Nijith, who was stout was comfortable with it and he was wearing it proudly, and I being the smallest of the lot was having a real tough time. The jacket reached just above my knees and I had to fold the sleeves back so that nobody could notice the excess length was simply hanging loose. Apart from that, I had to fold my arms around my body throughout the procession so that no one sees how loose the jacket was hanging on the sides of my body also. This wasn’t very different from my other friends, some of who were wearing a jacket for the first time. The girls in the team seemed to be having a good time though, dressed in Kerala style ‘Mundu and Neryathu’, a beautiful cousin of our classic "Saree". The procession itself was very colourful and every university were trying their best to display their cultural art forms, dances, and whatever thing that could earn them better points (There was points given for the procession- we learned it from someone later). I remember slipping to the back of the line once we got midway and removing the jacket to hang on it on my shoulders without the DSS personnels watching. We all even made up a story that the material of the jacket was making our skin prone to itching. But the stone headed DSS guys were actually clever in reality (no offense intended) and weren’t buying that piece of cheese. Sad... We went back to our group meeting after the procession, obviously not performing very well like some of the other universities, but very relieved to throw away the heavy piece of cloth that was like salt water to earthworms. Thus was the ‘comedy of errors’ we had to face during the great time there, but I can feel this light smile playing on my lips when I remember it now.

You might be wondering why Ponnu was not even for once mentioned in this second note. Well, the fact is that just the name had only registered somewhere way back in my head and we kept off the other girls in our team. Some guys from our group went up to the girls and boys from other colleges and had made some introductions to each other, but not the proud us. We occasionally had chats with the girls from our college, and kept off from the girls of other colleges. One or two guys (whom I shall not mention for the fear of life) among us were literally hanging on the tails of the girls from our college, to be honest and I still remember ourselves looking at these "girl-sponges" in an "I-would-never-stick-to-any-girl-shamelessly-like-that" look on our faces. Well... Not dry branches like us, of course. All our concern was to get to our hostel room and have all the fun in the world that we could. Some of the other girls tried to start conversations, but somehow that lamp didn’t burn long with our dreary-rain attitude in position. But something else was written in the eternal book of life, and those few days taught me how wrong you could be if you were to go around judging something without even taking a chance to experience it. But isn’t that another story meant to be said later?

Chapter-1 JAB WE MET

This is the first chapter of the my love story that someday I wished to publish as a novel (yeah... I was planning to write one). I had written one more chapter of this which I'll publish as a new post, but now when I think, I won't be able to write it anymore as it evokes too much pain in me. But still, I wanted to publish these two in my blog. These were published first in my facebook notes. And I know now that I won't be able to write anymore of this, as the story has a tragic ending. I so much wished that she had shown a little bit of courage and fought for me. Well... I don't know...

Chapter-1. JAB WE MET

"Ponnoooooooooooooooooooooooo !" - A sing-song female voice sang out from the front seats of the bus. Ignoring the fact that my own name, when said, was followed by a "come again" or "Could you spell it, please" or something similarly stupid, I had immediately scratched it in my mind - what a strange name ! "Ponnu" ??????? Must be a pet name, for sure.

In my part of the world, the word ‘Ponnu’ (it refers to a very pure form of gold)  is used to call cute babies or kids only (I stress the phrase again - "babies or kids only") when they are still young, which would eventually be replaced by their original names. I even smiled to myself thinking of the days she grows old... Her skin wrinkled, her teeth gone, her back stooped... What would be the effect when her grand-children calls her by her name that sounded like a pet name? "Ponnu grandma !" I was smiling to myself... Cute for a girl of 19, but later? I was amused. But somehow, I still remember that this was the first name I heard of any of those girls. And I wonder why it stuck somewhere in the corners of the highly complex folds of my brain.

We boys were seated in the backseats of the bus, stealing a look or two occasionally at the bubbly girls in front, who pretended not to even notice that boys, not exactly Shahrukh Khan materials, but boys still, were even there.

"Humph ! proud, head-weighted, english-speaking, clever-pretending creatures !" someone from our gang exclaimed, and I noticed that it was one of the girls from our college- a Fine Arts college where all the students wear simpler clothes (jeans was the most common and luxurious cloth worn, and the girls weren’t even on the edge of wearing jeans, but they stuck to churidars or salwar-kameez or whatever), listened to malayalam songs, danced to the beats of the ‘shingaari melam’ and so on... In short, our college was one with all the simplicities and complexities of a typical Keralite government college in contrary to the ultra-modern, jeans-t shirt-wearing, english-speaking, ‘bollywoodish’ girls from the most famous women’s college in Cochin (or should I say notorious?). I’ll explain this college in simple words to you. Imagine tons of cheese spreading the fragrance to miles, locked up in the larder with millions of hungry mice around... That was their college, the women’s college even for stepping into which boys were ready to give their lives for. So now you know how deep the contrast goes... We had our own image of these girls when we knew that half a dozen of them were to travel with us and work together as a team for the next six days. We boys had already sworn to each other that we won’t even speak to these proud girls so as not to embarrass ourselves, lest they think that they shouldn’t even talk to middle-class guys like us.

We all were on our way to the South-Zone National Inter-University youth festival that was to happen on the 27th of December 2006, I remember. The mega event was happening at the Madurai Kamaraj University, Tamilnadu and we were on the way there, about fifteen of us from our college including girls, half-a-dozen from the famous women’s college, and a few from three or four other colleges. That year, the inter-college youth fests were not conducted within our university but instead a screening was held by the Department of Student Services which we came to notice by sheer luck, enlisted our names, and without much effort, got selected (I’m resisting the urge to put a smiley sign here, but I will definitely say this that these were some of the best days of my entire life). We were a bunch of boys who readily jumped into anything- Study tours, NSS camps, Forest camps without any hesitations. And this was the chance of a lifetime... A national level competition, Travel expense, accommodation and food provided by the hosting University and our Mahatma Gandhi university, Kottayam. So here we were, on our way to six days of enjoyment, booze, roaming around new places and the company of girls. As for me, any chance to get out of home was not missed and during the four years of my college life, I can clearly say that 50% of those days I have spent out of my home- either in the college itself or in the house of some friend (Linu was my usual victim), or at some place where I did my freelance jobs, or at some rented shared houses of my friends. I was a leaf in the wind at that time, with no chains to hold me back or refusing whatever hindrance in my path of freedom. Luckily one or two months before the Youth Festival, I had cut my one-and-a-half feet long hair (no exaggerations) or believe me, I wouldn’t have been writing this, in the first place. I was selected for the items Poster designing, Collage making, and Installation which was a group item consisting of four members- Me, Linu, Sandeep and Nijith. Linu had clay modelling, Sandeep was participating in Cartooning and Nijith in painting also. Apart from the ‘bollywood’ girls, there was a group of girls from our college who were going to participate in the much anticipated group folk dance, and about five other students from other colleges under our university. Just to give you a clear picture of the scenario, I would also add that Inter-college Youth festivals under our university in not very short of battle-fields when it comes to the Women’s college who take it too seriously, as they are used to fighting with nails and bones for the over-all trophy with another famous college. Our college was very much new to the competition as we had only participated once in the inter-college youth festival after the affiliation to our university in 1998.

In Malayalam, there is a saying-that I dare not quote here not wishing to share the obscenities- about how two women would not be able to get on well together, but my point here is that the girls in our team had already started pointing out how the other girls wore jeans (how bad of them !!!????), spoke in English and so on and so forth. Tell you what, guys- if a girl start feeling jealous of other girls, there is nothing like it, and if you are lucky, you are in for a treat. You would ask if we were; I honestly say I’m not sure because the girls who don’t even talk to us properly inside our college were all getting sugary-sugary, but that was someway or the other a little bit disturbing. There was a fat, grizzly-looking teacher from their college with them and with us, nobody to help, as usual and zero funds. Here these girls were, dancing to the much hated Bollywood songs, and we male chauvinists were reclining on our back seats, arms folded and a sarcastic smirk on our faces.

"Poor kids", we said to each other, "They are showing off a little too much. Let’s see how long this dance of theirs lasts..."
We all were very much confident of our dancing skills and stamina - we could dance for long hours without getting tired for a bit. Of course, some of us would dance for the whole day, provided the booze kept flowing ! And much to our relief, after an hour, the bollywood numbers ceased to play and there they were, sitting on their seats, but still chattering loudly. And no one can challenge them at that, and I know that you will agree to that too. Now it was our turn and the channel changed from MTV to Asianet. Malayalam songs kept flowing from the rear end till the bus stopped for dinner at a college on the way as planned.

This was how we all met together... How our big gang came together... A clash of two cultures that bomberded against each other initially but made way for some great friendship... Even though it didn’t last very long, it was great while it lasted and still each of us cherish each moment of those journeys in our hearts dearly.

But what I didn’t know at that very day was that Ponnu was not a pet name, but the real name of that very sweet, in fact the sweetest person I have ever come across in my life. Another thing I didn’t have a clue at that time was that those five letters would someday make me sit huddled in front of my laptop in my room with a confused heart and a brain that is heated up with thoughts and type down these words. I didn’t have a clue that those days were about to change my entire life for good... I know now why the name crept into the crevices of my mind even without my consent or knowledge...