My Best Friend’s Engagement

May 15, 2010 Off By Bharath Yogi

The landline phone rang…

And I woke up from my fantasies to the reality……

Squinting at my watch…I stood up from my chair…in the balcony…with the lake view and the half-moon. Half moon is always sexy. It’s always nice to imagine the unseen half…

The minutes hand shifted lazily to number 6… and the hours hand is perfectly in the middle of 3 and 4…Hmmm…its 3:30… hmmm…my watch is faster by 10min…so its 3:20…! Hmmm I am gonna get a Fossil watch tonight… Madhu is landing tonight from US.

Hmmm…I thought of the landline that’s still ringing…
If it’s ringing it does mean… Shankar, as usual, fell asleep and did not pick his call… and waking up Vijay with just a call at 3:20 in the morning is an impossible day-dream that could become Madhu’s nightmare if he had called him. And Sharif, Thimma are married and living with their wives, so strictly not advised to disturb. The landline rang. That means, Madhu is headed to my place.

I picked up the phone…
“Hi raa… I thought you would have slept off…” Madhu’s panicky voice crackled my ear-drums. “No, I am awake…, I was expecting your call anyways”. Giving directions using landmarks at nights is such a task, as Bangalore’s roads are never well-lit. When the person on the other side is panicking, it gets tougher.

My directions went on like… one hump ahead…after a km…one big pit… left turn… another bumpy stretch of road…(This looks fine, as one can sense this even while he is sleeping) and then a smooth stretch and a right turn… and 3 more mountainous speed breakers and left turn and then the dead-end… and I stood there, walking half way till that smooth stretch of the road…waiting to see a faint head-light and psyching up myself… to suit the excitement of meeting Madhu after his 3 years of being NRI, returning for his engagement on the weekend.

I lit up my 19th cigarette for the night and felt like the teenage of my night’s smoking is gonna be over… I could hear a dog bark within a range of a kilometer. Bangalore’s dogs are very welcoming. I just hoped they are not hungry but just showing their hospitality lest either Madhu or I should get hospitalized with those love-bites from the dogs. I could see the faint light of the rick finally. The rick seemed like a sinking boat, struggling to stay balanced on the ocean of pits and holes on the road. I dragged the last puff from the cigarette and the smoke filled my lungs. I waited for the rick to arrive. I held my patience and released the smoke, when the rick finally reached the smooth stretch. The tiny cloud of smoke dissolved into the air and the vision of Madhu leaping out of the rick struck me. I smiled, thinking of the rick-driver’s reactions. “Heyyyy……….!!! How are you???” Madhu screamed, and I had already psyched up myself for this running and hugging scene and I screamed, “Madhu…. Welcome to India!!!” and we hugged tight, ignoring the rick-driver’s confused stare at us.
The first question came…
“Have you not been working out, Bharath???” I knew it meant, I have become fat and ugly and he meant he had been working out. I thought unless I had AIDS, my size wont shrink in 3 years and I ignored the question and said, let’s go home; we are still half-way. The rick-driver started grumbling… “Saarrrr…, this is too much, too interior, you should pay me, extra 50 bucks”. More than my NRI friend, this rick-driver hates bumpy roads, it seemed. We leapt back in the rick, and I could read Madhu’s thoughts, though I knew he does not hate bumpy roads more than rick-driver. He hated the pains it took to find his way. He had already travelled 10km finding his right 3km way to my house. “Why so interior?” he said, trying to be patient and polite, at the same time. I thought it’s actually interior on the exterior… but close to where I should be. And I replied… “I took this place, because it’s the best place I could afford that is closest to my office.” And the 3 mountainous speed-breakers separated by 10m each made us, safeguard ourselves not to fall out of the rick and I could hear the rick-driver grumbling, he should have charged 100 bucks extra. Madhu quickly thought of the puzzle of three speed breakers separated by 10m each and gave up and before he could resort to any violent outbursts on Indian roads, I decided to explain.

The guy, in the house, which had the first speed-breaker in front, had some cows that cross the road often to graze on the grass on the other side of the road. As they say, the grass is always greener on the other side. So he had that first speed-breaker done in front of the house. The lady, in the house, which had the third speed-breaker in front, had some heart-patient at home so she had got it built so that the speeding vehicles passing by would not make noise. The middle one anyways got the remaining one laid-up just being competition-savvy in the neighborhood. Madhu’s mind still puzzling over the height of the speed-breakers and I had no possible sane or insane reasoning. It’s just the “heights”, I could say.

The driver took the final left turn towards the invisible dead-end in the darkness. The light in my balcony seemed like a light-house on the shores of an ocean. Madhu held his patience for a few more minutes. Finally we reached. And the rick-guy robbed extra 100 bucks from Madhu, saying he had no change. I could feel his frustration having had to go back in the same bumpy road again. The sadist in me, felt happy its worth paying him 100 bucks extra for that extra torture he would go thru.

Madhu quickly shifted his luggage from the rick and asked me, “Can I pee there?” pointing to the green and greener bushes by the side of my house that do look tempting for anyone who is on the verge of a bladder-blast. I replied “Pee wherever you want to, but please turn that side and pee”. Madhu ceremoniously laughed but controllably being aware of his bladder-condition. I could understand the joy of that freedom that allows peeing on the road-side in India.

Both of us helped ourselves climbing to the second floor, while I was guessing which bag would have the fossil watches he had got. He helped himself checking the house and felt relieved he did not need to suffer from a smoke-stinking loo or dusty bedrooms. I knew he would be surprised looking at the hygiene conditions. Sure, an improvement from my side in 3 years. Thanks to my hygiene-freak room-mate.

We settled down on the bean-bags in the hall and started talking about the status updates about all of our friends, though Madhu could still get all the information thru status-messages either on orkut or facebook.

Sharif got married to Shahin. They are blessed with a cute…hmmm… the cutest baby girl- Faraah.

Thimma got married to Usha. The special news is expected anytime, since it’s been more than a year since he got married.

Rajendra got married. So did Tulasi. Sivasai was the last one to get married to Sunaina. The first ever love-marriage, in our friends, that went successful without any violence and family drama. Though, we badly wanted some violence just to add effects to the story.

The sequence had logic. All the guys who had no girl-friends and who did not flirt and who studied hard during college, and worked hard to get jobs and worked harder in their jobs, got married first. All the guys who had a count of girl-friends right from the college, (obviously who did not care much about studies or exams or career) to the work-life, remained bachelors. Keep flirting till you find the perfect match. And some of us did. Information Technology Industry is a like a sweet mother. Raavan ho yaa Raam ho, maa toh pyaar karegi…! Job milegi..! so everyone had settled in pretty good jobs.

So, the next one was Madhu. His Engagement was on Saturday. Shankar, Vijay and I were the last few of the bachelors, with our own confusions contributing to our non-readiness to the marriage-concept.

I checked my watch and I had no patience to look at the minutes hand but the hours hand showed somewhere between 6 and 7 on the Thursday morning, having had to wait whole night for the fossil watches topic to come. So I asked Madhu, “What are the plans for his short vacation in India?”

Thursday- Meeting up friends and delivering the special gifts he got for his friends. Shankar had already applied for leave to be with Madhu.
Thursday evening- A Kushie party. (This would bring the interesting topic of what bottles he had got from US. He got Glenn Fiddich. That’s sweeet!!)
Friday- Shopping for a diamond ring, for his fiancée. I had applied for leave on Friday.
Friday evening- All the friends would leave from Bangalore to Kadapa, Madhu’s town.
Saturday morning- Engagement
Saturday night- A Kushie party.
Sunday morning- Madhu would go to Hyderabad and we would return to Bangalore.

The plan seemed too good for the weekend.

Madhu looked like a genie to me.
A genie making my weekend spent with parties.

He took the genie bottle first. Glenn Fiddich. Out of the bag. I guessed right. The bottle is always in the small bag, so one could carry easily, never wanting to put the bag down. He took the bottle like he took a baby out of the bag and handed it to me. I took the bottle with both of my hands handling it with utmost care. What a beautiful morning, I thought! I placed the bottle in the hall’s showcase and both of us, looked at the one liter full bottle with the admiration of an army general, looking at his medals in the showcase. I pondered over it. This bottle has travelled 1000’s of miles to reach this showcase. Madhu said, “That’s for you!” I said… “We would have it together, having the house-party this evening!” though I knew Madhu would want to go out to party that evening. And Shankar would never allow a house party if there is someone who could spend those dollars, without thinking of the dollar-to-rupee conversion.

The sunshine glittered on the metal-finish Fossil watches that came out of the bag finally. Now I had to choose the best one in those for myself. The best part was I had the first chance to make a choice. It did not take much time to select the costliest watch in those and I knew Madhu would take pride in his choice and my choice too! And we sorted out the remaining watches for the others and leather bags to the ladies of the guys who are married.

I needed rest never mind Madhu’s jetlag would not let him sleep. The waiting for the fossil watch was over. It was time to rest for the night’s party!! With the parties going unmissed. While Madhu tried to get some rest sleeping over the cleanest bed he could afford for himself. He might be dreaming over his engagement. Never knew the weekend would turn out to be so unpredictable and funny that would remain the most memorable moments amongst our friends.

The remaining day went smooth at work, while Madhu went on growing conscious over his anxieties of engagement just like the pimples grew on his face ever since he stepped on the Indian soil, due to allergies of Indian water to foreign cosmetics.

The evening, Shankar decided the party would be in Royal Orchids on Airport road. I loved the sight of Rolls-Royce Phantom parked at the hotel. Awesome! The party went smooth with full attendance from the bachelors and guest appearances from the uncles of the batch. The party went on with conversations between all the cocktails possible with all un-natural fruit juices, obviously not getting high and finally settling with penultimate option- beer. The night crept by without much fuss just like the calm before the storm.

The next morning Madhu went on shopping spree. Precisely, commenting on the over-priced standards of Indian brands. We could help Madhu with suggestions on where he would get a flower bouquet when he would go meet his fiancée on that afternoon, and where he could buy a diamond ring for the engagement. He was done with the shopping and he met his fiancée that evening, as how I knew the plans would have gone as he mentioned to me the previous night. Though I was unaware of the things happened actually that’s gonna unfold a series of freaky incidents that night.

After my work, I got busy shopping for underwear and I was panicking as I was getting late because Madhu had booked a vehicle that night at 8:30 so we could reach his town a little early and catch a late dinner. The clock was ticking and I was getting late and I was panicking and the time was 9 pm. I realized its time I would call up and find out when the guys would be leaving. I called up Shankar’s number and his number is either always busy or he would not pick up. I thought he would be with his chick and I called up Vijay and strangely none picked up. And I continued panicking and I continued shopping for underwear. I text messaged frantically to Vijay and Shankar, desperately trying to figure out what’s happening.

Around 9:30, I got a call from Shankar’s cell, and I picked up on first ring, ready to curse Shankar. A weak voice said hello, instead Shankar’s trademark bass-voice. I screamed into the phone, “What is happening?” Madhu replied in a possibly controlled composure, with pin drop silence in the background, “Come to Shankar’s place. We need to talk!” I was getting irritated with the suspense building up and screamed into the phone again. “We are supposed to leave by 9… what the hell is happening?” Madhu’s composure disappeared and he screamed into the phone, “Engagement is cancelled and just get your ass to Shankar’s place” and he banged the phone. I was shocked. Before I could recover from the shock, a call from Vijay came. Shankar’s voice took over, Vijay’s whispers over the phone. He said, “Kaakaa… bring Glenn Fiddich”. This, I always knew! Always! It’s all about the Glenn Fiddich.

Huh… it was so tough to let this bottle go off my hands. I ended up at Shankar’s place around 10:30, everyone was seated in the hall and I could see Madhu sitting on the couch, looked predictably disappointed. Shankar, sitting opposite to him, with his glass already in hand, and he looked as if he had finished 3 pegs. And Vijay, as usual, holding his first peg, like how the Statue of Liberty would be holding the torch, baby-sipping his drink as if his glass is eternally full. Madhu, not just looked disappointed but also dejected, depressed and I could see his pimples have grown even bigger, as if he had an allergy attack. And worse than these, he did not look drunk. God! What a pity. I was rather more worried he was not drunk and I totally forgot about the engagement thing. At least I was sure, it’s gonna be a Gham-party that night, rather than a Kushie- Party. Shankar was in the middle of saying something like… “Forget it Kaakaa… give me your photo and profile and within a week, I will get you the sexiest Reddy-girls in town for you. Forget about that girl. She does not deserve you…” and his trademark censored abuses, which sound strangely “cute” when he uses those words while he was drunk. And he stopped …taking a look at the new entrants in his house. Dheeraj and I stood at the door, looking utterly confused, trying to analyze the situation.

Shankar almost snatched the bottle from my hands and stared at me, as if an explanation was demanded for me coming-late. My coming-late is more like a virtue than a habit. Nevertheless, it was at the hotel, where I ordered a take-away of Full Grilled Chicken that caused the delay. And I was thinking, who would volunteer to explain the situation to me. Shankar got busy serving the pegs and I sat down next to Madhu and I could afford to utter “What is happening?” to start the conversation, while Vijay got busy ordering starters. Madhu would have felt like a horribly ill-willed and sickly tired patient who could not explain his trauma to the doctor, trying to volunteer to explain the Gham. I was psyched up already with the suspense drama and irritated with myself parroting “What is happening?” at least ten times till then.

Pin-drop silence again.

Shankar silently served the first pegs of the first round, fresh out of the Glenn Fiddich bottle, and lifted his head only to ask who wants ice-cubes, or who wants soda or who wants coke. Shankar looked at Vijay’s posture in silent disgust, urging him to finish up his drink. Vijay silently nodded in assurance. The precisely heightened silences, was psyching me up a little too much. I badly wanted my drink and then I could listen to Madhu coolly. My ethical senses were gone, yet my curiosity did not die. I pulled Madhu’s hand which was consistently feeling (rather I should say, pricking) those pimples and told him to stop doing it and start talking. And so he did…

Madhu exchanged painful stares at everyone in the hall and shot a long stare into emptiness and nodded his head in disapproval and dejection and I knew he was psyching up himself to explain the situation for n’th time.

Madhu looked at me, fixed his eyes on me, and started speaking …

“After I finished shopping for the Diamond ring, I went straight to Forum to meet that girl. She showed up a little late. We found ourselves a table in the Subway Food Joint, and we settled down and I gave her the flower bouquet, which she ceremoniously took, like a celebrity taking flower-bouquets and handing it straight to the body-guard standing by the side, simultaneously throwing a fixed length of smile and a standard “thank you”. The girl took the bouquet and kept it aside on the table instead. I had expected a natural smile at least seeing the flowers but strangely there was an un-decipherable expression on her face.

Determined not to get perturbed, I asked her, “So… when are you leaving to Kadapa?”

Since the engagement was in the next morning, it seemed sensible to ask that question. For which she said, ignoring the question completely, “Madhu, I have to tell you something.”

Still determined not to get perturbed nor petrified, I said “please go ahead”, with all the sweetness I could afford to sound, in my already trembling voice.

She said, “Madhu, I know a guy who knows me for a year or more and I do not know that whether he would propose to me or not, but I doubt he would love me though I am little confused.”
(Sure, Madhu would have felt the biggest lump in his throat, and the biggest shock of his life.)
I said “You could have cleared these confusions well before you would say yes to the engagement at least right.” I could say only that much, I have called her brother and explained the situation to him, and he made sure, the engagement would be cancelled so the girl could be happy at least.

Any guy would have done the same, and Madhu had done the same. Doing a good thing.
Before one could insist on anything, Shankar announced everyone would have it, on the rocks.

And I thought the tragedy was over and so I could have my peg. But it aint. Madhu continued.

“Man, this is not what I am feeling upset for. That girl’s parents had called up my parents and complained to them, saying I have made the girl uncomfortable, asking uncomfortable questions when the girl is not at all comfortable, which was again not comfortable for her parents so they would want to cancel the engagement comfortably.”

Madhu’s parents were predictably upset and that was really bad. He tried to do the good thing for that dumb girl and he ended being a villain in the tragedy. And his parents were disheartened. So did every one of us felt really bad for Madhu and cursed that dumb girl’s idiotic moronic parents to screw his happiness so bad.

Everyone fell silent again.

Pin drop silence.

Madhu volunteered again, saying “Please let’s talk something else”.

Shankar’s bass voice shot at Vijay’s posture again. “Reyyy… finish that bloody peg man…” Vijay was administered total bed-rest for indefinite duration, because he had severe back-pain. So the topic changed to Concerns-over Vijay’s back-ache. Shankar discarded it to be just a sprain, and Vijay had already taken more than a month bed-rest already. And the pain had aggravated only because Vijay over-cautiously over-rested over-reacting to the silly sprain. Vijay was prescribed some exercises for his back by his physician and I was wondering, if this statue-of-liberty posture included in those exercises. Vijay had always the quality of irritating adherence to the prescriptions by the doctor. He would follow it very strictly that would put God ashamed of his perfection.

Shankar announced that everyone should have the whiskey on the rocks. Vijay slightly nodded his head, without taking a chance like his nodding head would /might hurt his back by some dangerously unknown possibilities. I had never technically been to a gham-party in my life. This was my first. Sure, Glenn Fiddich would wash the sorrows down our throats. So I was ready for “on the rocks”.

In gham-party saying “cheers” is banned. The glasses clanked against the glasses, in silence and I downed the whiskey at one go and the rest of the …what the hell… they just took a sip and downed the glass. I cursed them for fooling me, while I looked around for water to cool down my burning throat. The whiskey felt nice when it finally dissolved into my blood and I could see, everyone was enjoying the drink in strict silence.

Vijay said, “On the rocks, again!” He took one more sip and returned to his trademark posture. Worse than the sarcasm, that posture would irritate one to death. I wondered we had been friends for almost 10years, and Vijay kept re-inventing himself consistently posing challenges to our tolerance levels. God!

Madhu found his way out of his misery in Vijay’s jokes laughing his lungs out while Shankar, Dheeraj finished their first round, while I whiled my time away lost in clouds of smoke wondering over Glenn Fiddich, slowly working its miracle effects on us that are reflecting in Madhu’s laughing and Vijay’s baby-sips picking up speed.

Shankar sensed the mood lifting up and this time, he did not care about ice-cubes or shit and he poured the second round trying his best not to spill the whiskey. Every time a drop was spilt; we could feel our hearts skipping a beat, writhing in pain. Slowly we got used to the pain of seeing the level of whiskey in the bottle every time a peg is served. We wished, there was a bottle something like “akshaya-paatra”.

Madhu got a call from his brother and he was eating into the phone, and he walked out of the suffocation of the clouds of smoke. And the rest said “cheers” to the second round. It’s a sheer joy to watch Vijay getting drunk which is a rare-phenomenon. All for the gham-effects. Minus the music, minus the grooving in our heads, the fun was missing and I knew Shankar would have planned something awesome for the gham-party. Never knew, it would turn into a wild-night and many more things to unfold. In a few minutes, Madhu came back and looked back to his lost-and-depressed looks. Another peg of Glenn Fiddich contributed to the mood-lifting for Madhu.

Madhu got back into this cheerful mood again and again, Vijay screamed “on the rocks” and the glasses that possibly belonged to Madhu and Vijay made a loud clanking noise. Both of them took a sip and the deadly combination of Madhu’s squeaky laugh and Vijay’s laugh that made Dheeraj remember the Hyena’s laughter on his favorite Discovery Channel. That also made me beg Shankar for some music. Shankar went inside to bring his lap-top that’s suffering from slow-death and gave it a bath in the Glenn Fiddich that’s spilling from his glass that caused violent reactions from the Team. It certainly did not help. The laptop groaned and moaned like a dying grand-pa and Shankar’s ego got hurt. That is dangerous. Considering the freaky wild parties he had enjoyed with Madhu back in US, he owed the same back to Madhu. That’s even more dangerous.

Shankar walked out of the house and I knew when he would come back with a bang, and I knew at least for Madhu it would be mind-blowing. A wicked smile was dancing on my lips, while Madhu, with his gaped mouth, was staring at Shankar walking out.

Dheeraj screamed for 100th time,… “Glenn Fiddich is rrrrrealllyyyyyy nice”! I could see Dheeraj struggling to fight his eye-lids feeling heavy, with the chicken leg-piece hanging out of his mouth, which reminded me of a dinosaur, clutching a piece of a huge animal between its jaws, straight from the Jurassic Park movie. Dheeraj started having on-the-rocks. It gets really dangerous if everyone gets dangerously drunk in a gham-party, except the one, who was actually suffering from the Gham. Perfect. I thought, “Perfect”.

I could not help thinking of Brain-Drain. Looking at the frustration of Madhu, I could understand the pain of losing the dowry of an eligible NRI bachelor. Ptch… it’s sad… that was well deserved, at least if I consider getting a Fossil watch in return.

To worsen the sadness… the Glenn Fiddich is over. More sadness.

Its time for Shankar’s arrival! I knew his timing would be perfect. As always!!

He arrived and he announced “CAMP FIRE!!!!” and he sneaked into his own bedroom like a thief… to keep the suspense of the surprise, built-up with more and more suspense… and almost enacted a jump that I could rate higher than a drunken-monkey’s jump but lower than an athlete’s jump, that deserved at least an Olympic gold medal. One should look at the glee in Madhu’s wide open eyes with an equally wide open mouth. Perfect. I thought, “Perfecttt!” it can’t get any better.

The VAT 69 Bottle that Shankar had in his hands…initially hiding it, behind his back….. Looked like a mermaid just fresh out of the ocean of the galaxy of milky-way. The drunken sadists inside of us are SADISTFIED and every one of us and each of us…dragging our asses out….following the night’s visionary revolutionary- Shankar. To the Campfire.

To the CampFire…! Never knew this would be the turning point of the night.

It was responsibility of Vijay to ask about ice-cubes or coke even though nobody cared for it… and Shankar gave a surprise to us …saying CampFire was just an idea and the interesting point was the wood was in need, since we could anyways steal petrol from any bike, on which on our drunken eyes could lay on. So we had to steal again. Steal wood from the nearest biggest apartments where construction was at a baby-stage where one could find more and more wood. Playing with Fire could be tougher even when one is not drunk but stealing wood,…. Hmmm… anything for that matter… could never get easy, when one is drunkkk…

So we stole lots of wood and lots of petrol enough to accommodate fireworks, enough to celebrate Independence Day, when all we could depend on, for the night, was whiskey. VAT 69.

Everyone was in mood for CampFire, sinfully more than in mood for whiskey… and so the wood was set-up in the grounds next to Shankar’s apartment, which sometimes the kids occupied to play cricket during day. The nights were ours. So did the night belong to ours? No… there was more to happen!

Madhu was typically totally drunk …
I was totally escaping a few burns leaping out of fire when I poured whiskey instead of petrol, into the campfire.
Vijay was at his best of his hyena-laughter.
Seeing his laughter…, Dheeraj getting drunk was trying to get rid off his addiction to Discovery Channel by trying to get addicted to alcohol.
Shankar, who was already on his 5th peg, trying to remember too hard, the name of the girl, who he had just called, to sound desperately romantic, which he could do only when he was drunk.

There was more to come. Shankar’s then-current-girl friend arrived, in Shankar’s car (obviously), with few more girls. You, the readers, even if you guys were not drunk, should be able to imagine, after reading all these, that,…. Madhu would have felt it could not get any better anymore. He looked too happy and too much in mood, that he could hear the music in his skipping heart-beats for the girls in car. He could not have thanked Shankar much more than ever than that moment for making him feel the star-guest, who deserved that much of CampFire at the grounds and the girls.

In a flash, the ground was turned into a dance floor. The girls, crept out of the car, and the doors of the car flew open, just like our hearts flew away for them. And then…, followed some sinful and lusty hip-hop songs to suit the mood. Everybody around the CampFire felt an experience, which I rated as CMMi Level5 Quality.

Madhu kept dancing. Shankar played the good host. We played the ghosts. And the liquor was over. The alcohol was over. The Pepsi was over. We were thirsty. So were the girls! The girls, after downing one full Champagne bottle without un-caringly sharing with us, posed a challenge of getting more booze to Shankar. The time, my bullet-electra 350cc got into action. Shankar and I zoomed on the bike to get more booze leaving Madhu, Vijay and Dheeraj to enjoy the CampFire and the fire within them, and the struggle within them, having a few chicks closer-by and very near-by. Within the next few minutes, we did not know, the entire scene would take a U-turn making it more memorable but not, that predictable.

Shankar tried his own tricks and used his Alexander Graham bell’s invention, the cell-phone to call his contacts to get our hands laid on some more booze. Ptch… it failed. Thinking back on Madhu’s depressed face, Shankar and I, together, pondered over the permutations and combinations of taking the risk of going back without booze, when Shankar made a huge promise with his overly-built-up entry just one or two rounds of pegs before. And then….

Shankar realized… or he realized his own possession of Alexander Graham Bell’s invention. I can hear his phone was ringing and he could sense his phone was vibrating. It was his girl friend. No matter how much, no matter how much ever Shankar was drunk, one should see his “pre-programmed” reaction when his girl friend would call. I could see his struggle in psyching up himself to sound sweet…saying “hi, baby…” whenever he picked up the call. I looked at him in disgust and he ate into his phone saying… “Baby…please wait… I am coming there in 5 min. we will get beer”. She replied… “Shaaaaaaankaaa….(R is always almost silent when she calls Shankar.), the cops came”. Shankar’s face went from pale red to dark red and he said “what the hell? I am coming there right away!! Don’t be scared!” No wonder. The music was too loud from the car and obviously some pissed-off neighbour at 3 am in the morning would have called, and the instant response would have come only because this pissed-off neighbour would have pissed them off to the core.

“Hop on!” before I could say that, Shankar started grumbling… “Go go go…!” I could only try my imagination to imagine the situation of the people there at the campfire. I was anyways cool, thinking it would be one or two cops and we could bribe them and it would be cool. My drunken vision could be blurry and I might see 2or 3 people instead/in place of one and 2 or 3 Suzuki-Swift Black’s instead/in place of one, but I could see, there was one Police Van also. It scarily stood in the middle of the grounds, close to the campfire. That meant not just one or two cops but a good number. I could hear both of us screaming in rhyming or in chorus “what the hell…”

I stopped the bike, an involuntary reaction, seeing at least half a dozen cops, sharing the warmth of CampFire along with few more figures that were violently gyrating to the music few minutes ago, now reacting wild to the intruders. The girls were quick to respond it seemed. The car was not where it was, when we left the place sometime ago, hunting for booze. And the car’s doors were not open unlike sometime ago. The music is gone. And the girls had locked-up themselves inside the car. Safe and secured. From the laathee-wielding cops.

Shankar jumped off the bike and ran straight to the grounds while I reasoned out with the sanest of my brains whether to follow Shankar’s tipsy topsy running or stay-put. “That was a bad mistake!” I heard a guy, whispering in the darkness of the parking lot. The dying camp-fire did not help me figure the dark figure in the dark parking lot but I could remember there were some guys in the neighbouring flat, who were enjoying the show, from distance since the time, the girls had joined us. He came out of the shadows or the darkness and parroted, nodding his head in disappointment. “That was really a bad mistake. Shankar should not have gone running to that situation now”. I said “really?” and turned to try my blurred sight to take a look at how much really bad mistake that Shankar did? I could see him running in slow-motion and I thought it would take at least another 100 seconds before he would reach the spot so I turned to this guy, from the shadows and demanded …“How did this happen?”

He looked like a typical guy, who would be desperate to be interviewed by TV-9 in a refugee camp, so he could see himself getting some attention and some footage on TV. “I am not from TV-9 but tell me… how did this happen?”

With all his excitement he started pointing at the people at the CampFire and narrated….

“Its all because of that Tall & Fat figure (Referring to Dheeraj) it turned out violent. The cops came in the van expecting a mob and looking at the girls, they had softened and they just told the girls to get back into the car and told the guys to get into the Van one by one, first to evacuate the place there. The Tall& Fat Figure hardened at the softened cops, trying to win the girls, did not like the intruders and that too, when he was frustratingly waiting for more booze. So the Tall& Fat Figure strolled or rolled his way down to one Extra Small Size Cop and screamed “We won’t evacuate. You people should evacuate. Get all these cops back into the van and disappear from here”.

I interrupted him, seeing Madhu running, from right behind us, towards the grounds…towards the campfire. The narrator guy sounded super pissed off and groaned saying “that‘s really a bad mistake. This medium size figure just got a tight slap from a cop and I saw him running away from the grounds to the apartment and now he is running back to the campfire. Very bad mistake”

Even I could not rationalize why Madhu had to run back to the cops, even after getting a hard and tight slap. I could see Madhu was holding something in his right hand while running. Anyways, by now, I could see, even Shankar got the welcome-hard-and-tight slap from a cop and he was trying to talk to a cop trying to bribe him. His wallet was with me. Shit.

The narrator continued ….

“Meanwhile that frail and thin and short figure(referring to Vijay) stayed put, that medium built figure(Referring to Madhu) got a tight and hard slap first (I felt , the sadist in this narrator sounded really happy every time he stressed on hard and tight slap. Might be he was jealous looking at the guys dancing with the chicks.) And then he ran. The chicks in the car slightly opened a door for Vijay and shouted at Vijay to get in the car but it was too late. By then, a cop noticed him, slipping away and went straight to Vijay, and Vijay was conveniently ready to show him his right cheek for the hard and tight slap. Vijay was telling the cop… “Sorryy…ssaaar…This is all our fate saarr… my doctor told me not to drink. Yet I drank because my friend’s engagement got cancelled saarrr.” The cop had no patience to wait for his explanations and screamed at him, to get into the van.”

The narrator, with the live-situation-analysis, gave his final verdict saying… “It could have been smooth…and under control only if that Tall & Fat Figure was in control.”

I asked “what did dheeraj do?”

The narrator said, “That Tall & Fat figure?”

I impatiently answered “yeah…he is Dheeraj. What did he do?”

The narrator said, “He seemed he wanted to be a hero. He snatched a laathee from that extra-small size cop and that extra-small size cop did not match the strength of this Tall & fat size guy and some more cops joined him to pull the laathee from Dheeraj’s hands. It looked like, a tug of war between the Tall & Fat figure and 4 cops. The cops won but cheated. They pushed Dheeraj down to the ground and Dheeraj comfortably tried to get a quick-nap smacking his lips for some more beer, unless the cops were not stubborn to get him into the van.”

I still could see 4 cops trying to pull Dheeraj into the van. And one cop talking to Shankar, while Shankar was rubbing his forearms rigorously. It looked like the narrator and I missed some action and Shankar possibly got some laathee-hits on his hands. I wished he had known Kung-Fu.

Madhu ran to the first cop, from who he had got his first slap, and I could figure it out, Madhu has his wallet in his hand. “Sweet guy!” instead staying back in the apartment, he came back running with his wallet to save the other guys. Madhu dug into this wallet and pulled out two notes with our Father of the Nation smiling picture on them. The cop took it without a smile and told Madhu, to stand aside. Vijay anyways, obediently sat in the Van while Shankar still unsuccessfully trying to convince the other cop into bribe. I loved Shankar’s confidence in persuasion without his wallet in hand.

The cop talking to Shankar did not care to listen but joined the 4 cops who were pulling Dheeraj into the van, inch by inch and contributed his physical effort. Shankar, having had the time, to plan& implement his escape plans simultaneously, signaled the girls in the car to escape or to hide. The hand gestures were confusing even to us and I hoped, the frightened chickens or chicks would get some sense out of Shankar’s hand gestures. The girls got the hint and I could see the car moving finally. Shankar had to plan escape for others so he went close to the van, being satisfied at least the girls are out. He went and stood next to the van, and screamed “rely… do as the saarrr says. Do …as the saaarr says”, and whispered to Vijay & Madhu in the Van “Jump and Run…Jump and Run”. Vijay had no strength to run and he gave up before he could jump. And Madhu convinced Shankar out of that escape plans saying he had already given the cop some two Gandhiji’s notes and told Shankar not to panic. They could not think of any escape for Dheeraj, who was too much drunk so much that even 4 cops had to help him into the van. Before Shankar could get into the Van, he wanted to make sure, and looked around for the car hoping it was gone.

To Shankar’s shock, the car was still there. The girls understood the gesture like “To Hide” but “Not to escape”. I could not help laughing, when I realized the girls were trying to hide the car also, but not just themselves. They hid the car in between two tiny bushes a little far from the campfire. “What a hiding place?”, the Narrator gave his expert-comment.

Shankar this time, decided to call his girl-friend and tell her to escape. Shankar called up his girl friend and his girl was not picking up looking at the unknown number. I could see Shankar’s going mad at things happening. Finally the girl picked up the call and whispered “who is this?” Shankar whispered back “baby… escape…escape…just get out of this place. Take the car” and he disconnected. A few unbearable seconds and still the car did not move. I could hear Shankar swallowing abuses and rigorously hand-gesturing again. I know what Shankar must be going thru on his mind and how exactly he would be going thru it. Totally mad.

Finally Shankar decided to call her one more time, and whispered “baby… this is Shankar.” The girl,… “Shaaankaaa…. I am scaredddd!!” Shankar said, possibly trying to sound as calm as possible, “baby…just get out of this place, taking the car. Just go. Just go dammmitt!!” the girl panicking “baby… what about you…?” hmmm… the scene seemed like the drowning scene of Leonardo Dicaprio in Titanic and the girl letting him drown letting the guy’s hand finally into icy-cold water. Shankar said… “JUST GOOOO…!!” and he disconnected. After a few unbearable seconds, the car started moving slowly, inch by inch. An intelligent and sharp cop noticed it and he went about the car trying to stop but, the panicky girl, had a heavy foot on the accelerator and the car roared down into the pits and bushes and finally out of our sight. I hoped they found a road. Shankar would have suffered a mild heart attack seeing his car, disappear into pits and holes and, in search of a plain flat road. He hoped she would find a road and he would find his car safe in the morning.

Quickly relieved at the partial success of the escape, Shankar got into the van and joined Madhu, Vijay and Dheeraj. Shankar still did not give up thinking, if any spare time left, about his escape plans. He whispered to everyone, never to tell the cops, their original names. Madhu understood quick and fast. Vijay anyways asked “what name I should use?” and Dheeraj whispered, “My name is Dheeraj. I will never use another name no matter what!” Shankar replied “ok … you don’t tell your name. Do us a favor. You please sleep now. we would wake you up in the morning”. Dheeraj said, “ ah.. sleep? Sleep here? no I can’t.” Shankar impatiently said, “okay…fine… Do not sleep but let us only tell your name and you please keep quiet.” Dheeraj was fine with the idea. So he dozed off to get some rest on the frail shoulders of Vijay.

Shankar had an extra responsibility now. The names for everyone.

Vijay’s name is Sandeep.
Madhu’s name is Rahul.
And his name is Nikhil.
And everyone should remember these names, when called. In that drunken state, Shankar’s presence of mind and confidence in the others’ memory power. Beautiful. I thought “Beautiful!”

The narrator said “you gotta do something.”

I said “I know. But I don’t know what is that something”

The narrator was more curious and even happier that he was the only one I could rely on, since I did not know what to do and he could throw some free advice. “First go get your wallet and get some cash to bribe them. Also get their cell-phones so we could give it to them in case the cops gonna lock them up till morning” it sounded sensible to me. We climbed to the second floor and then we realized the door is locked. “Fuck” it rhymed and chimed, when we said in chorus.

Vijay had the key to the apartment. The narrator said “I doubt he would have the key. And it must be somewhere near the camp-fire. Let’s go search.” I replied, “What? Searching now in that ground for the key would take whole night. I have no patience for it.” The narrator psyched me up saying “it’s your friends there. Let’s go search”. So we climbed down the stairs and went back to the campfire. The scene at the camp-fire looked like a mini-riot scene. Chappals, bottles, cigarette packs, lighters. I picked up the cigarette pack, and lit one with a twig I took from the dying camp-fire. The narrator had too much patience and he rigorously searched for the key like a sniffer dog, searching for clues in a crime scene. I asked him, “Why are you so much concerned?” he lifted his head up and looked at me, as if I asked the most shocking thing. He replied, “I am just curious.” I nodded in agreement. Even I was curious what must be happening with my friends. I must find the key and get the cash and go to the police station. Finally, the narrator found the key, along with Vijay’s tablets for his back-ache. He carried them everywhere?? Huhh…

We got the key finally and we ran to the apartment and got the cell-phones and the cash and strode our way to the police station. The narrator knew where the police station was. We could find the cops’ van still on its way, picking up some more night-junkies. We stopped the bike over-taking the van and I almost did a zero-cut to enhance the entry effects of mine in the scene. The visibly pissed-off ugly cop sitting in the driver’s seat growled at me and Madhu started waving his hands at me… rigorously. He got a window seat in the Van. Looked like the 2 notes he paid to the driver, got him the concession. I gave the phones and also the cash, and Madhu was like… “No need, man. You guys just go. I would manage.”

Inside the van, Shankar and Vijay chanting their duplicate names lest they should forget. Dheeraj got busy trying his heavy frame in different postures on Vijay’s shoulders, almost partially successful in getting his well-deserved nap after the tug of war with 4 cops.

The narrator anyways would not give up on his curiosity. And we followed the van, to the police station.

We found ourselves a bench, in the compound, as safely close as possible to the room, where everyone was seated in the police-station. I could hear Shankar’s bass voice dominating Vijay’s consistent statements “it’s all our fate…saarr…it’s all our fate…my friend’s engagement…..”

Shankar kept repeating the duplicate names with perfection, which came only out of his practice, while he was inside the van. But he had to keep reminding others about the duplicate names. The writer in the police station started filing a petty case on my friends. Stating “public nuisance and dance” as the crime. I loved the rhyming – nuisance and dance. Shankar helped out others getting their names right and once it was done, the writer asked the address. Shankar bit his tongue and rubbed his swollen forearms rigorously buying sometime to think abt the duplicate address he should give. He quickly thought, he should give a wrong address rather than giving a fictitious address, because cops would smell fishy if the address is fictitious.

I kept wondering, what shankar would do this time, while the writer kept his sleepy-stare at him, in waiting and Madhu’s staring with his standard open mouth, in awe. I could hear Shankar saying, “J.C.R Layout”. Fuck ..fuck..fuck.. that ass is giving my address. I cursed him. I could hear the writer asking Shankar to give Full address and I smiled, thinking Shankar would not remember the full address but still I prayed he would not remember the full address. Though… he remembered the route.

So he started saying “Outer Ring road…saaarr..” and.. “Behind Cisco building saaarrr.”… and “straighttt”….

The writer buried his head into his writing pad, clutching the pen like it’s his life in it… and retrieved back… saying…. “waitt…slow…tell..slow..”. Madhu sensed, the writer was poor in English. And yet he was curious what the writer was writing. So he hung his head low and looked into writer’s pad. The writer looked up and looked at Madhu in disgust, as if they were in an exam hall and Madhu was copying from his sheet.Madhu still stubborn, piercingly looked into the writer’s pad. And the writer gave up and continued writing…

The writer…did not start writing the address..

He told shankar to tell the address again…slowly. Shankar seemed happy this time, that he got more time to think of the address..and he said “ Outer Ring road…saarr..”

The writer wrote.. “A” first …

And then… “O”…

And then… “T” ..

And then Madhu giggled, realizing the writer did not know the spelling of OUTER. The writer visibly pissed-off looked up at Madhu and Shankar. Shankar did not know what Madhu saw in the writer pad and he thought the writer got suspicious and he asked “what happened saarr..?” Madhu offered the writer, saying “I know the spelling saarrr.. I will write it for you…”

The writer felt humiliated and said, “ no…no..necessary…no necessary” and he buried his head back into his writing pad and Madhu’s head followed with curious stare and an open mouth. The writer shook his head, as if he was writing IAS Exam and trying to answer the toughest question to his highest possible IQ levels, and he struck out everything he wrote in English and he started writing in Kannada. Madhu felt cheated and he hung his head back and let the writer continue.

The writer finished writing “outer ring road” in Kannada. He lifted his buried head from the writing pad and said… “Next, Nikhil”… Shankar having forgotten his duplicate name while he was trying to remember the address, took time to respond and said “behind Cisco building…saarrr…” The writer gave a thoughtful look like a student, waiting for the next puzzle to come up from the teacher, and then he looked happy he knew the answer and he knew how to write that in Kannada. So he wrote that fast and shot his head up and his stare back at Shankar.

Shankar said… “Straight …saarr…”

The writer looked confused. He asked, “What straight..?”

I wanted to burst out laughing because Shankar is giving the route to my place but not giving the address. And I knew he would continue saying “straigghttt saarrr… and then TV tower saarr….yellow board…saarr… you can see… Magadheera cinema posters also saarrr… and then rightt saarrrr…”

The writer looked like a student, as if he got a question, which was out of syllabus for him. He slammed the pen down on the writing pad and demanded at Shankar. “I want the address not the route”.

Shankar quickly got up from the bench and he went to the writer…. And he took the pen and he started drawing the route-map on the writing pad itself, trying to impress the writer. The writer snatched his pen back as quick as possible before Shankar could consume the whole writing pad, ending up drawing the whole Marathalli map. And Madhu giggled.

Shankar finally gave up and said… “I know this much only saarr.Area name is J.C.R Layout.”

The writer did give up by then, and he gladly wrote J.C.R. Layout in his form.

“J.C.R.” in English. “Layout” in Kannada.

And he put down the pen and looked at the form, as if he were a Picasso, finishing up a masterpiece of painting and looking at it in absolute satisfaction. And he looked, in disgust, at the drawings of Shankar on his writing pad. And he looked up, and he looked, in more disgust, at Shankar, as if Shankar should be hanged to Death. Year 1999 Batch, Topper of the Class- in Engineering Drawing, Roll Number: 438, Name- Shankar.I knew it was an insult to Shankar’s ranking in his drawing skills. Anyways the writer had his revenge and I thought he would demand a new writing pad from Shankar.

Dheeraj still grumbled “my name is Dheeraj”.
Vijay still grumbled “it’s all our fate saarr…it’s all our fate…”

A senior cop zoomed-in to the compound in a toyota- qualis. The senior cop looked agonizingly woken-up from deep sleep, still in pajamas’, entered the room and the writer stood up to salute. The senior cop nodded his head at the writer, as a sign of greeting, and paused looking at my friends still seated on the benches. Everyone stood up this time and the senior cop scanned everyone as if he had x-ray in his eyes and he did not need to strip their clothes off. The senior-cop’s display screen for his scanner section in his brain displayed “No threat. Not criminals but drunken fools”. He headed straight into his room and a cop followed his steps and entered the room and closed the door behind him.

Shankar, Vijay and Madhu exchanged confused glances at each other and Narrator and I exchanged curious stares at each other and Dheeraj stared at his own toes hanging his head down, wondering whether they would take photos of them and publish it in the morning news paper, though he was happy its too late to publish in today’s newspaper because it was already almost 6 am in the morning.

The cop came out of the senior cop’s room and called up “Rahul”.

Nobody responded. The writer tapped on Madhu’s shoulder as if he was trying to console for what was going to happen to him inside the room. Madhu realized it was his duplicate name and got up and followed the cop into the senior cop’s room. we thought we would die in this killing curiosity, guessing what would be happening inside and finally after 10minutes of waiting, Madhu came out, wiping his sweating fore-head. The cop followed him to walk him out and called up Nikhil. Impressively, Shankar was all and out ready and stood up again, rubbing his forearms again, suspecting another round of laathee charge inside. Madhu slipped few notes of Mahatma into the hands of Shankar and instantly Shankar realized, Madhu’s first turn was influenced by the size of his wallet. Nothing happened much inside except that the senior cop enquired about the name and address and delivered a speech on Indian youngsters, getting spoilt in Drinking and Smoking, spending the IT industry salaries like water. Dutifully, Shankar listened to his lecture and the cop took the money and walked Shankar out and then called up “Sandeep”. Vijay knowing that, the fate has brought the climax, was very much ready, as that was easy to sail thru considering Madhu had still some more notes left to share with him. Vijay listened to the senior cop, sincerely nodding his head every nano-second, making the senior cop doubt his lecture’s face-value to a drunkard in the early morning. Vijay came out much sooner than Shankar, to help Shankar lift Dheeraj to take him into the room. Seeing Dheeraj’s condition, the cop let him go off the torture of the senior cop’s lecture and Madhu dutifully handed over the last remaining notes to the cop.

Madhu asked the cops to drop them back and the driver asked “where?”

Everyone said in chorus, “same place, saarrr…CampFire”.

The writer suspectingly asked, “The address is J.C.R. Layout, Nikhil?”

Dheeraj groaned, “I lost my bathroom slippers, there”

Vijay joined, “My tablets…! Ptch…My back-pain”

The cops dropped everyone back at the CampFire and everyone was too tired to talk anything and crashed on beds.

The narrator and I followed the van back to Shankar’s apartment and I thanked the narrator guy and we exchanged numbers and I said, we would party soon, it was so much fun.

I fell asleep in the couch and it felt like a few minutes had passed and I could hear someone annoyingly knocking on the door. I opened my eyes, and I could see Thimma staring at me… from the window, next to the couch. He looked so anxious and so worried and I was confused how and why he showed up there. The moment I opened my eyes, Thimma started shouting as if I woke up from my death and another anxious face joined Thimma’s face at the window. Sharif. Damnn… who the hell told these guys???

I opened the door and questions started pouring over me from both the fellows. I yawned and said…”everything is fine. These drunkards are sleeping inside… but tell me who told you about this?”

Thimma and Sharif said, in chorus “Ashok”

Ahhhwww… then I remembered. I called up Ashok at 4am when I did not know what to do, when the cops took these guys. He picked up the call. I said, “Ashok…something terrible happened.” Ashok, still in his deep sleep, grumbled … “aaah…” I said, “Ashok, cops came and took Shankar, Vijay…” and I stopped… realizing some noise on the line… the noise was like someone is snoring. Ashok was snoring. I disconnected the call. That fool realized in the morning and he panicked and he called up Thimma and Sharif and these two showed up, in panic.

Meanwhile, Thimma and Sharif dashed into the bedroom of Shankar. Shankar, Madhu and Vijay seemed like puppies sleeping together in a small kernel. They were sleeping in each other’s arms and in between each other’s legs or whatever. Thimma and Sharif shook them out of sleep and everyone woke up to see the anxious faces of Thimma and Sharif. Dheeraj was in another room and everyone slept in this room, because Dheeraj was snoring so much that the walls could crack anytime and the whole apartment could crash anytime. Hope none gagged Dheeraj’s mouth with some stinking socks, to stop him snoring, suffocating him to death.

Everyone woke up to realize things happened last night and Madhu’s cell started ringing… Shankar picked the phone and put the loud-speaker on. The caller was SivaSai. Sivasai in his own sweet-voice… “errraaa…. Madhu… it’s your engagement today. Congratulations raaaa!!!”

In response, there was silence. Pin-drop silence.

Sivasai …annoyed with the silence… his voice turning from sweet to hoarse… “…eraaaa….are you there?”

Everyone looked at each other and bursted out laughing. SivaSai asked in confused voice, “errraaa…what happened raa…??”

That’s when I decided to write this.

I came out while Shankar and Vijay and Madhu continued counting who was slapped more, who got laathee-hits more and who got swollen hands and who got swollen cheeks….

I lit up my first cigarette of the day… and took a deep drag and held my patience and held the smoke in my lungs for sometime and released…

My cell phone beeped. The display showed “One New message.”

I opened the inbox and noticed it was the narrator guy who sent the SMS.

It read…

“I AM SORRY. I was the one who called up the cops last night. Hope you guys had fun!”

**************** THE END**********************

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