OCTOBER, THIS YEAR...
Now, when driven by emotions, I get down to prepare an account of my extraordinary voyage, I cannot help but wonder what Professor Sidhu, Aalekh and Dr. Prabhakar, those fateful men who were meant to be a part of it, were doing at that hour.
That hour, my choice for opening this account, was when I truly sprung into action.
I recall distinctly: it was a typical October noon; there was a cool breeze all over the place, and the sun was mellow.
It does not get any better in Delhi, the city of extremes.
I lay on my back, my mind not without trouble, when the October air, the type that lulls you into sleep, without you actually making any effort, did the trick.
My eyes closed, my thoughts scattered, when, suddenly, my cell phone buzzed.
It was Chauhan, our Class Representative, one who does all the running for a particular department; in my case, the Industrial and Production Department, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.
"Hullo!!" I said yawning.
"Were you sleeping, Raj? Get up, yaar, I couldn't get you ticket;
there was this long queue and little time. Do what you want to
quickly. I guess only about fifty tickets left." That woke me up.
"Anyways, thanks, yaar, I'll book mine. What are your seat
"Bogey S-9; the first twenty-seven are ours."
I got up quickly. I had to rush to the nearest travel agent at once.
Bookings opened ten days back and the moron could find time only now to book the tickets. What if I didn't get mine?
I grabbed the essentials money and my itinerary that I had so meticulously prepared on Microsoft Word. I kick-started my Scooty; it coughed, jerked and finally started.
I headed for the Sector-15 Market of Faridabad, a peaceful place juxtaposed with Delhi where I live with my papa, mummy, dadima (grandma), babaji (grandpa) and Sherry ' my dearest sister.
It was a spacious office.
A huge multi-coloured banner announced :
'JFK Travels ' Always on the move'.
A baffling name,indeed.
I recalled coming across a certain JFK Tailors once and wondered what the properties of the ingenious brain behind this JFK chain could be when the man inside the office called me.
He looked like a typical businessman.
"How may I help you, sir?"
"Train reservations?" I asked in return.
He didn't bother to say yes.
He simply pointed towards the board the said 'Rail Reservations' at number three. Rest were air travel related. I was not that rich. I took my seat.
Without wasting any more time I asked, "Can you book me tickets from anyplace to anyplace?"
"I mean, for example, sitting here in Faridabad, can you book me
tickets from Timbuktu to Honolulu?"
"If there is such a train, then, yes sir!"
"Fine!" I took out my itinerary and showed him the train numbers
and names and time.
"I want a ticket from Delhi to Pune for 10th December. The train reaches Pune on the 11th. Then I want a ticket for the train from Pune to Chennai, 11th midnight or 12th whatever you wish to call it, which reaches Chennai on 12th night, 8'o clock."
He eyed me suspiciously, I thought, and said: "Only one, sir? For
I replied in positive, coolly and asked. "Are they available?"
A torrent of computer keys late, he said, "Plenty!"
"I was informed that only about fifty remained!" I said.
"No sir, about a hundred and fifty!" he said, smiling and I cursed Chauhan. I hate being woken up, especially woken up like that, with a shocker.
"Sir, name?" he asked.
I had thought about that. I wouldn't give my real name.
"Leave not a speck
That may cause a wreck."
has always been my slogan. My name wouldn't have mattered but
my surname might have.
What if he turned to be my father's patient?
My father is a doctor, by the way, and so is my mother.
And one can never afford complacency when one's parents are doctors.
All sorts of people flock to them and while showing a sore eye or a loony pimple, they can always blurt out things that they should not.
My father, over the years, has formed a tremendous network of his patients, without any spying intentions, of course.
And its wretched members seem to be everywhere.
Or at least their sons and daughters are; who, being my schoolmates, contrive to expose, without fail, that latest zero I scored in my Moral Science or some such paper. Thank God, I am in a college now, far away from the network which mercifully has its limitations. So, playing safe, I said what I had thought:
"Rohit Verma." Not a bad name, I reflected, common, any easy to
But just as I began to feel good about my enterprising skills, foresight and all that, he bowled the next googly.
I hadn't thought of that. I took a pause.
"Do I have to give it?" I shouldn't have said that.
I tried to correct my expression.
"Actually, I'..I'.I don't live here. I came to visit a friend for
Dussehra holidays. I stay in Delhi. Can I give that address?"
"Fine! D-24, Karakoram House, IIT Delhi."
"Contact number?" I coolly gave my mobile number. Thank God. I
"Well, I want the aisle seats. And, from Delhi to Pune, I prefer a seat in Bogey S-9, if the seat number s beyond 50. Otherwise, book me in bogey S-8 or S-10. I hope you get it?"
"Sir, I have been in his business for then years," he said with
pride and would have vomited matter sufficient for his biographer
had I not tactfully shouted, "Wonderful," and pressed hid hand.
Yet I repeated all my instructions.
I wanted to make sure that they were followed. I wanted those very seat numbers. I'll explain all that and other plan details, but, for now, we'll be patient. Here, it would suffice to say that I didn't want to be very close to my college group as one of its constituents was a professor, who one must avoid.
Yet I wanted to be near enough to two of my friends who knew it all.
My department was going on an Industrial Tour to Pune.
The agent informed me that I'd get the tickets the day after. As I got up, satisfied, I remembered in time to ask him:
"What does JFK stand for?"
"Oh. They are the initials of my grandfather's name!"
"What!" I uttered incredulously. The world was strange.
How the great man's grandson could be employed in a travel agency across the seven seas was beyond me.
But as I began to feel good about finally establishing an acquaintance of importance, he elaborated with pride:
"Yes, sir, Jahangir Fath Khan. He was a great man. Always on the move. Hence this travel agency, dedicated to him, and our slogan too: Always on the move!"
Funny was the world, I reflected.
"Do you know another great man shared his initials with your
grandfather?" I asked.
"No, sir, I have no knowledge! Who, sir, may he be?"
"Oh, doesn't matter, he was a small man compared to your
grandfather," I said, smiling.
He smiled too and I moved out. The cool wind greeted me, stirring in me splendid emotions, I had the gait of a soldier who is finally on his way to meet his lover after a ten-year war.
And it is a different matter that mine was a somewhat similar case. I had a song on my lips which is usually the case.
There is a song for every occasion, glad or sad.
I cannot recall the song but one may bet on it being a merry one.
The first stage of the plan had been executed and well.
I hardly contain my excitement. I had to tell her and tell then.
The moment should not pass. I dialed her number.
"Congratulations Naina! I am on my way'"
SEPTEMBER, THIS YEAR...
It would be convenient here, to rewind our tape a little.
To a month back approximately. Mid-September that is.
Naina's number hadn't been reachable for over three hours now.
We hadn't spoken since morning.
Our life had been punctuated with jinxes lately and these were not good signs. My heart beat faster each time the call didn't connect.
Finally the bell rang. I thanked God!
"Hullo!" I said.
"Hullo!" said she.
"Where have you been the whole day? I have been trying your number since morning. How many times have I told you to inform me that you are busy and can't talk?" I said in a tense voice mixed with anger.
"The network was down. And I couldn't call from home."
"Why?" I fired.
"Mom and dad were around."
"The whole day? You couldn't even find a minute to call me?" I
should have tried to understand her position but my temper took
over, "How foolish is that! You know very well that I'll be worried.
Every time you don't call, I think, not again, not another shocker!
But no, you won't call. You are never bothered!"
"Right. I am never bothered," she said irritably.
"No, you are right, I am never bothered and why should I be!"
"Now, don't begin. Tell me, all well?"
"How does it matter if it is or not. I am not bothered. And you
shouldn't be, either."
"Naina, please tell me. All well?" I asked a little worried.
"I can't, right now, I'll call you at night. Around eleven-thirty,"
she said in a melancholic tone.
Something was wrong.
"Just tell me if everything is fine!"
"I won't be able to, now. Please."
"I can't hang up like that, Naina. You make me nervous. At least
give me a hint," I summoned all my guts to say," I hope you are
coming to Delhi in December."
"No," she said after a pause, her voice on the verge of breaking. I
couldn't talk any more. I needed some time to absorb that shock.
I knew that it was on the cards, still I needed time.
MY MIND SPRANG INTO THE PAST'
It was July end and she was back in Chennai ' that is where she lives, a good two thousand kilometers away from me.
Back, I mean, from Delhi.
We had met quite often while she was here and those surely had been magical days.
And after she left I had missed her sorely.
So I decided, or say erred, like many other victims of love have since time immemorial and will continue to in spite of my well-meant warnings, to write a letter to her, pouring out my feelings.
My first love letter!
I wrote under her friend's name and she got in alright.
But not many days late she called to tell me that the letter had been discovered. By her parents, of course.
Like a fish out of water, my game up, I asked, like everyone does in such situations, an inconsequential question:
"Didn't you lock the drawer?" I had asked.
"Then? You said there were two keys, both in your possession!"
It so happened, she told me, that a third key existed.
Her mother kept it.
She wasn't aware of it too until she came into her room after college and found the drawer open and the letter removed.
And they say ' ignorance is bliss!
Well, rest of it is usual!
Her mom played a passing-the parcel, and gave the letter to her dad.
And any dad, on discovering a letter written by a lover to his daughter addressing her dangerous things like darling and sweetheart, leaps in the air and so did Mr. Iyer, her father, and in that process hit the ceiling impairing his brain forever.
I don't blame him.
It is perhaps natural, for I have seen documentaries that study a dad's reaction on the discovery of his daughter' darling and they all show the same thing.
The dad goes mad.
For him it is not merely a letter, but a time bomb, ticking away, threatening to blow his daughter away one day.
And when a dada goes mad, he decided that his daughter must be kept in strictest of custodies, with barbed wires and all.
Tough times ensued and I reluctantly admit to have become something of a philosopher. Such was my condition that I managed to write a song on life, playing which on my guitar, brought me comfort.
Though scarcely better than a crow's serenade, it was of help, and so I reproduce it for you:
You haven't pain your rent,
Landlord isn't much of a friend,
He wants his 50 dollars 30 cents,
Or you'll be booked for offence,
You'll be kicked out, but
Find new house, new town.
For life goes on.
Her name is Alice,
Yesterday you got your first kiss,
Today she tells it is all over,
She saw you with another miss.
Before you tell her it was only your sis,
It's a bye-bye-Alice.
Alices will go but Sallies will come,
Life's a rollercoaster, with its ups and downs,
Life goes on.
There's one thong you've got to learn,
Life's full of twists 'n turns,
You've got to break the rocks in the hot sun,
For the tide to turn.
If there is night, there has to be dawn.
Life goes on.
Yesterday may have been shit,
Today you may be a complete misfit,
But tomorrow's a new day,
So don't give up that weeny ray.
You've got to pray, dream, hope and move on,
O-O-O Life goes on.
The band's gone, the applause over, let us return to the story.
Around two months had passed and like all matters,however hot initially, this one too cooled down, and life had indeed gone on.
We (which strictly includes only Naina and me) had hopes that her dad would allow her to come to Delhi in December as had been the plan.
We managed to talk once a day and were satisfied.
There had been no shock for a long time, until this day when her father had, no doubt, for some reason, ordered that his daughter must not be allowed to go to Delhi.
And so, it was required that his daughter's love must go to Chennai, of course.
So, that's the story of my first love letter and, well, the LAST...!!!
Edited by Revolutionbreez - 19 July 2012 at 1:37pm