This is my couple of friends who want to find out: how soon can I leave from my office. Well! the agenda is quite simple, my friends would arrive at my office in their old fiat car, which has just two usable doors. They would be waiting with wide grins awaiting the “start” of the evening. The one who drives is a movie director and the other bloke is an “assistant director”. Together they weave stories and create sitcoms, tragedies, hilarious situations and countless moments that leave a lingering aftertaste like the orange candy does on your tongue, when you are a kid. The only difference between their professional and real lives was that they created all these in real life and not on the editing table. So, as you can imagine, life was a roller coaster ride with a melting ice cream in your hand.
Our responsibilities as the three carefree directionally challenged youth were clearly spelled out: we'll not only live as free as possible, but we'd squeeze the last drop of emotional highs and lows that life could throw at us. We'd debate on dialectic materialism and we'll celebrate our slavery to Darwinian evolution. We'd shine the moonlight through the prisms of life! We'd laugh our heads off on director sahib's flamboyant clothes; our eyes will fill up when someone said a few kind words on a lonely night on a lonelier road... Those were the days, my friend..
“I'll do what I did a year back, if you don't call me NOW”. That was the junior (the assistant director) threatening to slash his wrists, as we (yours truly and the director sahib) had been playing truant with him through the evening. One look was exchanged and we knew we have someone who truly was our pal, but a stupid one! Ever since then, we never treated him an equal!
He was the one with very clear role and responsibilities. His salary was reserved for cigarettes and vital emergency expenses, such as bread and eggs. My salary had a well stated agenda of meeting up the patrol expenses, beer and food, in that order. Only director sahib knows what his salary was contributing its financial muscle to. The junior and I were too awestruck to ask, since director sahib was the only one, who could drive!
On a rare day, when returning from our beer session at “Princess Garden” bar in South Extension, director sahib would slur: “wanna drive”, this was always at the same location, when you turn from ring road into Malviya Nagar. I used to take up the wheel of honour position and try to steer the unsteerable into the intended direction of our one room apartment in Malviya Nagar. My respect for director sahib would always increase manifold after such driving lessons; if he could steer it, he was the real man! Junior didn’t even exist on this plane of manhood (to be considered for a driving lesson, not that he cared to drive anyway!).
The evenings were the time when we used to spread our wings and take flights of freedom into the chaotic world of passions, mostly unrequited and a few fulfilling ones. We were like unloved mongrels for ever chasing the hands that pet us a little; come to think of it, we even looked like one.
Director sahib called up on Monday morning: “guess what?” I nearly lost my poise and almost toppled over the table to the mousy librarian (who shhh’ed me again): this could mean only one thing, D.S has fallen in love. They (D.S, J and sundry sitcom crew) had gone to Bhopal for a shooting and D.S had fallen in love with the leading lady, who was an oomph.
I brought a pager and the established protocol of love birds was: She pages the messages on my pager, D.S reads the message and if he feels like it, he goes out, makes a call to her, comes back grinning or grave, the cycle continues. The protocol was necessary and quite appropriate, since the “baby doll” was married and they had returned from their honeymoon a month back.
The evenings became quite lively now, we used to get invited to Baby Doll’s home nearly every day. Her husband would play the graveyard shift music on the FM, while D.S would “help” Baby Doll with cooking. I endured countless evenings with the graphics artist listening to the graveyard shift music and yes, the evergreen, “only for broken hearts”! Junior would always be somewhere in the background nursing a drink, fixing this, getting that. Progressively, I noticed that I was seeing lesser and lesser of D.S and Junior together! Either of them was “helping” the baby doll with errands.
Junior was in love the Baby Doll too and she started paging for him on my pager! So there were three of us waiting for pager to buzz and when it did, no one could guess who needed to respond. Sample this: “call me now, I need to tell you about him”; so both Junior and D.S suspected that it was for other one! I couldn’t care less, as long as some fireworks were in offering! Both would tell each other that the message must be for him, quicky go out for a leak and call her up; there was so much love and passion in the air.
Baby Doll landed up in my office on a windy, rainy day and held my hands for a long time! She gazed into my eyes and a throaty “Raaakaish” took my breath away. I felt her fingers tighten on my hands, fat plump ones, which I was so unused to! I lingered my “friend only” grip and she relaxed hers. I stroked her hand and muttered a dry throated, ambiguous: “I understand”
Months passed and D.S would hide her photo in his diary, her hairpin and other precious stuff from Junior, who was intent on building his own collection. On certain days, I noticed that she had visited our apartment (as it was cleaned up and either D.S or Junior was hiding his glee). We managed get her a decent job and she realized that the best place for a married woman is her man’s castle.
It was a long day at office and I reached home quite late, the door was opened by D.S who was swerving back and forth trying to focus his eyes on me. Junior looked quite plastered. They had been to a party thrown by Baby Doll and she had dumped both of them. They had been drinking, supporting each other and had spend part of the nights sleeping, waking, getting sick at multiple places on the ride back home and here they were. I’d never forgive them for the horror they induced in me that night.
It took a great deal of sensitive handling for yours truly to convince Baby Doll to suspend all communication with D.S for the greater good…
If there is one author that we owe our well wasted evenings to, it would be Jim Corbett, without doubt! Well! it was actually his “Man Eater of Kumaon” that was object of our DS's scrutiny and research. “Baba, main corbett par story karna chahta hu” (“Baba, I would like to do a story on the life of Corbett”) was the definitive assertion that spun the wheels of mechanization that lead to quite a few unpredictable results. As they say: there are wheels-within-wheels and DS setup the first cog with the above assertion!
Corbett became our mantra which DS would invoke at any office emergency and saunter out of office. The AD would follow, for him, the modified mantra would be “DS-corbett”. Countless evenings were spent in the name of going to Cannaught Place to buy the famous book. DS would invoke this towards the evening and in about 20 minutes, DS and AD would land up at my office ready with plans, excitement, a grin and nothing else! (no money, no plans and no food).
We'd go to our place through the narrow service lane and make omelets and tea. The feast would energize us and add air to our wings, our imagination, plans would soar as DS would light up the solitary cigarette. The act of lighting would do poets proud, the grace of lighting up after having consumed eight eggs, half a loaf of bread and copious quantity of milky tea. DS would lie full length like a mogul in the harem, waiting for the show to begin.
On other days, during monsoon, when peacocks spread their plumes and shriek with joy; on lonely stretches of roads, a couple would get down from their bike near a “bhutta” (skewered corn cob ) wala to share a moment. Our hearts would leap to our mouths, when we watched drops of rain perched on someone shoulder, as she waited under the tree. We were the lonely romantics whom the world had forgotten in its service lanes. It was sickening, the passions were unbridled with nowhere to go.
Monsoon time was fascinating and Corbett was invoked to escape office and rush to the girl's hostel in saket. A.D had graduated to passions of youth, the rite of passage followed a narrow lane from Malviya Nagar through khirki village. On valentine day, A.D got her to Princess Garden restaurant basement. Our regular waiter (“Jule”) greeted us and we settled down for an introduction with “bachhe” (our kid girl – that's the term of affection). DS handles complicated situations in his unique ways and is never predictable. Within five minutes, DS excused himself and vanished. The burden of conversation when it wasn't needed, fell on me. AD was flushed with passion, his face crimson, dried lips and shivering hands. He was sick with love, I could sense that. DS returned with a bouquet for our bucche! AD was shocked out of his wits and I was surprised too. DS being so thoughtful and actually moving all of his 100+ Kgs to do something in a non-emergency situation. Beware of the energy of the lazy; he was the cause of a flash strike at AIIMS (All India Inst. of Medical Sciences), but that, me dear, is another story. AD's heart must have missed a couple of beats, he knew that as long as he had DS with his 4 Kgs denim jacket on, we had an invincible, sexy team. We were invincible, we were the best thing that ever happened to mankind and we were blessed with whatever it takes to squeeze the last drop out of the life's orange! A few months later, our bachhe introduced AD to her fiance, who noticed the broken cigarette in AD's shivering hand and remarked...
AD's world came apart and we landed up in “Krishna Continental”, if you visit PVR saket and notice a dilapidated hotel near a dirty disused fountian, you'd also notice that it has a pretty strategic location. The hotel had a multilevel bar called Jharokha, we, naturally occupied the basement on most days. Deeps was our man at large there. He promptly got six bottles of beer, peanuts and our AD told us about it. If only DS was around, AD could have laughed at the whole world, stomped on its ambitions, materialistic values and maybe I could have cut my ear and gift it to bacche there and then. AD has graduated that day, we felt a bond and I felt that he had found a trail of his own. We felt the tragedy in our veins, together. DS went on the offensive and AD felt better. AD had known the fine play of desire, passion, lonely waits and a broken cigarette. He had known well-earned tears.