Pune Memoirs, 2005-06:
Final Year, June 2006:
I am a waif and straddling from one place to another. Put it plainly, I am homeless and literally on the road. Life after college, I tell you! Sharma Ji comes to the rescue and took me to his Kondwa flat, far away from the city and traveling towards college side, Fergusson College, where I normally hang out for the entire day means lift hopping on his bike early morning and waiting at our college hang out till late evening past 10 p.m for it’s quite an ordeal commuting by bus. I spent the entire day outside the comfort of a room or bed for a nap. Alternately, I could walk from his home to the bus terminus for a good 10 to 15 minutes and then another hour to reach the city side.
A short stay with Sharma Ji and his friends in the apartment comes at one condition. The owner stayed upstairs and meaning that I sneaked out of his house early morning and reach late night so that the owner who stays upstairs doesn’t sniff the sight of an unwanted visitor. I was literally on the run but how long can one stay in the hiding. Like Mom says, you eventually get caught when you hide.
The fateful day came sooner and aunty visited her tenant when we came face to face. I was saved on the day for the guys in the flat told her that I visited them and will go home tomorrow morning. The rest is too easy to guess for Sharma-Ji told me aunty eventually got wind about the trick. I am off looking for a temporary accommodation. I was chatting and smoking with S at our college hang out Savera and the second friend who rescued me by taking me to his house for a couple of days. Few days of respite!
He stayed at the other end of FC and the outskirt off Katraj and bike hopping with him. There was no way I could have taken the bus to the city and forget about Rickshaw ride meaning to fork out 500 bucks one way. I remember waiting for S at VIT in Bibvewdi and it was already 10 p.m. Don’t ask how I reached there. Been bike hopping with friends from one place to another and S reached in high spirit, telling me he wants to drink more. A quarter of whiskey was shared over gossip, chana and smoke. It’s past midnight. Finally, we hopped on his bike and zooming ahead on the busy road, veering towards his apartment and the wind fluttering the long, unkempt hair and an icy cold sensation caressing the cheek. The blossoming Pune weather in the first burst of monsoon is simply beautiful.
I met S’s roomies in the most unusual fashion and post the formal Hi, the dudes scurried outside to sit on the stairs. S winked and signaled me to follow him. A couple of guys were sitting on the stairs past midnight and S told me, ‘Call center.’ Ha! Still wanna bet! Nah! They were not running a call center but everyone was busy with their girls friends and love interest. Midnight is always happy hours in the age where sms and calls fares were slashed. It was a daily affair and started teasing them with the tag call center, the moment it struck midnight. It was time to exit from S’s apartment who gave me a place for a week time.
I was loitering on FC Road and one rainy day, was broke and with hardly 200 bucks in my pocket. I plodded my tired feet, for cheap lunch and a Mosambi, getting a couple of cheap cigarettes. Night was approaching. I had no place to stay and asked some people who turned me down. The only option was to cross the road and sleep inside college at Kimaya. A second option was the railway station.
The face was blank, expressionless and wore a sullen look. I was on the verge of tears, pacing in and out of the restaurant to stand on the pavement. Mom and Dad already made the bank transfer but the money would probably reach in another 24 hours. The feeling that your favorite city has turned its back on you was difficult to fathom. It broke my heart. I was pinning for a miracle and drenched with a backpack filled with clothes and other stuff.
What a day it turned out to be. I don’t remember everything which happened in the flick of seconds but eventually was saved at the last minute. I saw K getting down from the rickshaw and he spotted me. He wore a bandage on the arms and told me about a bike accident saying, “Daaru peene se yehi hota hai na” (When you get drunk, you are bound to meet with an accident). I asked him for a smoke. He asked, “What else is happening?” Being someone who can’t hide emotions, I just told him everything was ok. My voice somehow cracked and K could see that I wasn’t my usual self. He asked, “Are you ok!” I made a very bad attempt to hide and pretend that everything is fine with hands firmly on the table.
K knew that things were awry. I was probably a mess. He firmly told me that something is bothering me and I am not looking my usual stuff, time to cut the crap and tell. I poured out my heart on the entire things and spoke in a rather uncomfortable, non-confident gaze and stammering telling that the plan is to go and sleep at Kimaya which is inside college. I was literally broke but knew once the night gets over, things will be fine.
I don’t remember the exact words but he scolded me, “Charsi hai tu that you will go and sleep inside college or the railway station. Friends are intuitive and get the hang when something is not normal. He stepped in and in an effortless manner told that I could stay at his house. It showed his pure and genuine heart. My friend and drink buddy forgot for a while that he got a night out and dragged me for alcohol at Namaskar. I took a sip and gulped the whiskey. The rain flowed outside and another friend R came to join him. It was their party and not mine. I felt a bit uneasy.
K was on a call with someone in Marathi and he told that arrangement has already been made to stay in a hotel near Pune station. He slipped a whiskey quarter in my bag and some money to settle the room for few days. There was no balance on the modest Nokia 3310 and the battery dying. The moment I picked K’s call in the morning, the phone conked. I walked to Pune station and sat in the PMT bus heading in the direction of Deccan. I met N, my classmate at Savera and borrowed his handset to call K. He called back on N phone who assured him that everything was fine with me. I returned the call and thanked him profusely for bailing me out. K in his own signature style signed off, “Ease out dude.” I can’t remember exactly what happened and think N took me to his flat or may have stayed in the lodge for another night or two. I am forever grateful for having friends like K whose heart beat for me. Friends made in Pune have always been my strength.