Saturday, August 20, 2011

A river runs through it

Warning : Long, meandering, spur-of-the-moment kind of post.

It is said that you can’t go home again; it is truer for me than for anyone. I have no home so to speak of in India, parents stay in Mauritius, we have our home in Jodhpur where all the stuff is kept and I had left from Kota when I left home last. 

It has been more than 500 days since I have left Kota, the night of 13th July, 2010 to be precise when I had left for Bombay. I’ve gone to Bombay, Pune, Zaheerabad, Hyderabad, Calcutta, Delhi, Agra, Bangkok and Bangalore since but never to Kota again. In fact I had left Kota in a way on the morning on 18th September, 2003 and I had told my mom that for practical purposes I am leaving home today and I never intend to come back. What my visits back home have been what my friend Chirag would call as Pit Stops. I never gave much thought to leaving, in fact I was glad to leave what my brother described as a ‘two storied town’ after the Bon Jovi song. My parents were in fact a little emotional, in fact more than they showed on the eve of my leaving, but I was drunk on the rush of finally being independent and with 3 bags, a big-ass music system , two thick novels and such excitement that only naivety could bring I departed for Bangalore.

Leaving home and especially going to Bangalore meant for me freedom, adventures, doing my own thing, not having to hide the booze on my breath, going where no one knew me and the exhilaration that only being totally on your own could bring. And I got all this, and more. I have drank sitting on the pavement outside a bakery right out of a Bacardi bottle, kissed on the dance floor of a crowded disc, been broke to the extent to be literally not able to buy food ,  been caught by police numerous times and spent time in the police station thrice, wheelied (jack-rabbited) my bike being drunk out of my senses, rode back on bike at 3 on the night in freezing Delhi winter after watching ‘Avatar’, played music out of the balcony on the farewell night and broke beer bottles in the college, got in fight with land lord at 1 o’ clock in the night, fell in love and got my heart broken, been made a fool of many times, humiliated and ragged. But I was happy; it was my decisions that lead to these, and to quote William Ernest Henley from my one of my favorite poems –

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

But leaving home is like any adventure sport, whatever excites you also scares the living hell out of you. The fear of having nothing to fall back on, no father to reassure you when you are scared, no mother to sympathize with you even when you were wrong, no one to rescue you when the shit hits the fan. And also the simple leisure in life that only your home can provide - not worrying about your next meal, the car always has petrol, the clothes are washed and leaking taps are fixed, the comfort and amenities of home, the familiarity of your surroundings, you parent’s name opening doors for you. And for all this and more I miss Kota.

It is no paradise let me tell you that; it has senseless traffic, bad roads, extreme weather, rains which bring floods, cunning people, rough sounding language, no natural beauty to speak of, a conservative mentality and the normal small town shit. But yes I miss it today.

Kota to me was my huge house on the outskirts; and it was big, especially by today’s metro’s apartment standards. It was a good old fashioned government quarter on the outskirts of the city, with three and half bedrooms, four bathrooms,  a garden in front and one in back, lots of trees and a separate servant quarter to boot. It had a huge driveway which doubled or rather tripled up as a cricket pitch and a basketball court.

Kota to me was the hustle bustle of Talwandi and Vigyan Nagar areas which had student on the streets as far as you could see all discussing which ‘Sir’ (teacher) had gone to which coaching institution, new books on the market, had yesterday’s DPP (don’t ask what was it if you don’t already know it) been done or not, which mess had the best dal and so on …. You know life for an average teenager in Kota, and I mean average in the Kota sense, life revolved around the coaching class you go to which prepared you for some kind of entrance examination, girls as the second priority, outing with friends as a distant third and school loomed somewhere back in list. And that was pretty much my life too for the last few years there. First preparing for N.T.S.E. (National Talent Search Examination), I crashed out in the final round and in retrospect I don’t understand what the big deal about it was. Then it was preparing for IIT, anybody half decent in Kota with Maths in his 11th Standard prepared for IIT, and I was half decent, in fact I was above average so I prepared for IIT as well. I didn’t and nor did my parents probably knew at that time that there were more above average people in India than there were seats in the IITs. Especially in Bansal Classes which was like the Colosseum and the toppers of all cities of the neighboring states were the gladiators, and like in the fights, some of them got the thumbs down from the Caesar.
 But in the daily struggle it was meant to be we found quite a lot of time to do other stuff. Thanks to the fab 4 – Mr. Gaurav Mathur, Mr. Vaibhav Shukla, Major Kunal Sahni and Shri shri 108 Sankalp Vyas jee. And not to forget Mr. Tarun Bhatia, in his rented room I had my first drink. Vaibhav and Sankalp used to stay on the way from my house to place where the tests of Bansal Classes were held and we used to go together. And I back then I used to be late for everything, including that, so I used to rush to Vaibhav’s house with a few minutes left for the test to start and he would be standing on the road and curse at me, I would apologize and we used to go to Sankalp’s house, who at that panicked state (only of us two) would slowly come out and say “Abey jaldi kya hai? Kaunsa tumhe test mae kuch aata hai jo tum jaldi jaake kuch kar loge?” Then in our frenzied state we would give that test and in which we did used to get screwed like he had predicted every time, then we would come out the meet the other two; Kunal would then tell us about his elaborate plans of talking to a girl  “Aaj maine na apni bike us ladki kee gaadi mae fasa dee hai, aaj to usko bike hathane ke liye mujhse bolna hee padega”, Gaurav would then grin and then swear at us, the paper, the teachers and a few other people. Then we would wait for everyone to leave and chat in the parking or follow some girl and then would think to go for a pastry at Jai Shiv bakery or to eat Samosa or Kachori of Jodhpur sweets, Brijwasi, Ratan or others.  Or the Poha at Vigyan Nagar.

The mention of Poha reminds me, that I didn’t like it very much, in fact I never ate it home whenever my mom made it, I only had it on that Thela in the morning. And the reason for that is a long one. You see whenever I used to bunk school I had the same routine. I used to pick up my friend Siddharth from his house at around 6:30 or so, as I remember the school time used to be 7:15. We used to go this place by the river bank called ‘Mauji Baba kee Gufa’ or DP (Dying point) as he used to call it, though it was hardly any place to die from. We used to sit by the river bank and kill time; actually I have had my first philosophical discussion about life and its meaning at the age of 16, sitting by the river side throwing stones after bunking school. I had once thrown my Kiney’s key in the river instead of a stone and had to literally lift it from there to some other place, but that is a story for another time, back to my routine. We used to kill time till 7:30 or so as nothing would be open at this time, then we used to head back to that ‘Poha’ place and eat,  by then the pool parlors would open, so we used to play pool for an hour or so and I or we depending on the plan used to go to my house where my mom dad would have left for work and we had the house to ourselves and they wouldn’t realize that I was back at home by 10:30. There is this another ‘Poha’ story with Bengali, actually his name was Arjun Biswas and he was from Baroda but everyone called him Bengali. But for that story is for another time, speaking of Bengali -

Bengali had broken up with his girlfriend of a few years with whom he was very serious and lost his marbles. Unfortunately the movie ‘Devdas had also come out that time which inspired him in strange ways. In one of those days he showed up my house at 11 carrying two quarters on cheap rum and a CD of ‘Devdas’ . Did I forget to mention that it was 11 in the morning? And he knew I was home alone. After half an hour of movie when Paro gets married and he is one quarter down he starts “Yaar <beep> ye ladkiyan bhi badi <beep> hoti hai pehle to <beep> pyar dikhati hai fir sala <beep> pe laat deke nikal leti hai…. <beep> unko to koi dusra mil jaata hai, maa <beep> hai to hamari”. Aa yaar ek peg to tu bhi pee”. Back then as now I was too polite to say no to man offering a drink, so I accepted. When we had finished that second quarter my doorbell rang. It was only 12 o’ clock and way too early for my mom to come in so we had the glasses and empty bottles lying around. I panicked. My nerves were calmed by the sentence “Abey chutiyon daaru kee mehak yahan baahar tak aa rahi hai, kya kar rahe ho be tum?” It was my friend Siddharth (the above mentioned one), he too had dropped in. It took only 5 mins of Bengali’s time to convince him to drink. So they both set out to buy more booze at 12 in the afternoon while I cleaned up everything and prepared the room on the first floor. We started drinking over there and I and Bengali being newbies spaced out in 3 drinks. Bengali was not only drunk but also stupid, he pulled out two bubble gums and tossed them to us and said “Ye kha lena is se daaru kee smell nahi ayegi . This infuriated both me and Siddharth, as it was a strawberry flavored bubble gum, not even a mint and even that wouldn’t cover the stink of cheap rum we had had. Siddharth exclaimed “Theek hai. Aur ye tattoo kya teri gaand pe lagaye?” waving that free stick – on tattoo that came with it. “Nahi ye saale iski gaand pe lagao” he pointed towards me. I said “kyun tumhari mae kya burai hai?”. What transpired next was that three drunk guys at 1:30 in the afternoon were wrestling on the floor trying to stick that tattoo on someone’s ass. Now Siddharth is 5’11” well-built guy and Bengali was an average gym goer too, so as you would have guessed it by now finally that tattoo found its spot on my ass.
After that it was only bits of pieces of good and bad stuff that I remember, of course the high and low points stick in your mind forever. I used to come home for 15 days every 6 months, talk on the phone at nights, eat home food and go back.

Then I shifted back to Kota for 9 months. I remember becoming good friends with Somya Shringi who in his own words is my mirror image (soul wise), getting drunk and eating food kept on the trunk of my car, on the road in the middle of the city at 2 o’ clock in the night.  Driving alone in the roads behind my house listening to Bic Runga’s ‘Drive’. Finding wine and cooking pasta for someone, and getting my hand cut while opening the bottle of wine (the scar is still there). A jinxed new year’s eve, courtesy Mr. Akhil Babel where we finished the Vat 69 before reaching the place we were supposed to drink it.

Of course here Mr. Prateek Bansal deserves a special reference, he was my perennially busy neighbor who never had time to talk in the 5 years I have known him, but used to talk standing on the gate for hours, discussing philosophies of life, movies, books, the psyche of people we knew and taking my advice eagerly but never following it.

I’ve stayed in Kota for 8 years this is the stuff I remember and I miss the most.

When I was close my sometimes I have transported back to that place, sitting on river bank in a foggy morning, where the only sound was the water flowing and cigarette puffs, no worries in life than who’s gonna bounce the stone off the water more number of times, the promise of youth and Siddharth’s question “Bhenchod koi bhi aadmi life mae kya chahta hai?”

P.S. – To the people mentioned in this post. I have linked your name to your Facebook account, if you want that despite your ‘Kaali Kartuute’ you should remain anonymous just tell me I will remove the names’


  1. sala subah 4 bajey emotional kar diya tuney..

    didn't knew you sported a tattoo on your ass too :-)

  2. Main khud din mae 4 baje emotional ho rakha tha ... And yes I did had to sport that tattoo on my ass for those ten minutes ....

  3. mai baithe baithe rula diya tune :(... cheers dev babu !

  4. this post is Aug dated i never gt a fb tag or sth, and one fine GUJU friday evening(which is today) i decided to open my blog links folder in firefox and i stumbled on the GREAT ones blog and saw this post

  5. But u forgot a few things: the smuggling of daru for u in the home
    and all the set up for that, i mean a bag and to stay in the room for a while just to appear normal and stuff :-0

  6. You should be happy you were under the tutelage of the great master of all the shadowy activities. I was your 'Abdul Khader Khan' :-D


Have something to say? Say it here