Sunday, June 6, 2010

Because He hated One


Crazy, flamboyant, different… no, none of these words portray Nishan as precisely as the naive word ‘SYMMETRICAL’. I don’t really know what symmetry means to you folks who’re from science milieu, but for an ill-scientific soul like me whose mathematics had ended with tenth non mentionable board exam it means balanced or to be more realistic symmetry is everything which is natural or somehow related to the goodness of nature, like flower, river, tides, seasonal changes etc. Oops! My bright and breezy curse for the intellectuals who have stood on their toes by now to interrupt me for sniffing the symmetry in seasonal variations… fools it’s not nature, it’s you who’re responsible for molesting these natural symmetries. And yea, my middle finger for those brains once again who’re whispering in their mind “empty vessel sounds much”… huh it’s thorny to hide this complex I had developed since my college days… now coming back to track rather snail track once again, bad part was Nishan was a boy born, brought up and baptised in science, simple reason being his dad’s stinking service as a mining engineer in a nearby coal mine…

I had joined a new school (worthy to mention it was my first entry to the world of co educational dream) after concluding the chapter of primary schooling. It was first time I was suffocating inside the vain prestige of a serpentine necktie, because my previous school lacked such deceptive sophistication. I was not even used to with etiquettes like “May I come in madam?”, “May I go to toilet?”, “Sir naughty X is disturbing me”! What best I could do was to stay numb before the teachers as much as possible. It was first day, first period and I was semi hiding at the back most rows with some impish brats (whose reputations I was not familiar with at that moment). I was struggling hard to get enough space to place my ass on the bench as their wicked group was constantly pushing me side down. You can’t imagine how lowly it feels when you’re ragged by your going to be fellow mates… The whole class stood up with the entry of a middle aged pokerfaced lady. She was Mrs Roy, our class teacher for that session. First thing she did, I still remember after so many decades, is allotting sitting arrangements to us. It began with a relief but ended with a brisk moment of anxiety. I was made to sit between a boy and a girl… what a disaster! That was the first time I met Nishan, my first bench mate of secondary school, my first friend in the new school and my closest pal till intermediate college level until he went abroad for graduation. At first sight he looked so eerie to me; he had two pockets on his shirt (I didn’t have any pocket shielding my chest at that time)… he seemed more creepy after our mind-numbing class teacher left the class. He stood up and told the girl at my right, “Annu you come to the middle”.
I was astounded by his bloody bossy attitude; he spoke to the girl as if there was Mr None in the middle! Huh! My occurrence and my sanction were of no value then? The Barbie haired cutie gave him a damn friendly wink and stood up with her bag and bottle, staring at me with glowing face as if I had promised to swap my place the day back! What a new comer could do, other than abiding by their silent order like robot… but I tell you, I was boiling from inside until “thank you” came from the pretty Barbie like a soothing ice cube… common I was a boy after all. From a fifth standard boy’s point of view, I saw so many crooked intentions that day in Nishan’s master plan of picking the girl and a pocketful of rowdiness in possessing two pockets at two sides of his hanging necktie. Oh my God, sitting by the side of such a beauty, that idiot started poking his both the nostrils in chorus engaging both his hands! “Great, you’re boosting up my prospect”, I spoke in my mind unconsciously gripping the knot of my tie. My satisfactory sigh did hardly bother his poking hobby and he kept on digging the hole of his misfortune till the commencement of next period. I indulged myself in my other bench mate’s fantasy completely ignorant of the fact that it was the official beginning of my getting accustomed with Nishan’s exclusivity of being symmetrical…

As the calendar caught up its speed, I discovered so many novelties in Nishan. His practice of keeping two hankies on two sides of his pant, sharpening the wood pencil from both the ends, equally gesturing both the hands while reciting a poem, munching alu parathas using both the hands and even playing cricket equally incompetent with both his hands. Don’t know why the fool had never practised writing with his left hand as well… when he had to shake hand with somebody he had a very warm gesture of grabbing the right hand of the other person, sandwiching between the palms of his two hands. Everybody used to call him by Iyer-babu, getting irritated with his nodding head on both the sides to signal ‘yes’. Don’t know if it’s so distinctive of south Indian mannerism. I must confess it looked so hunky when Nishan dribbled the ball with both his hands in every basketball tournament, yea that was his favourite game as far our schooldays memoirs permit… Once he had met with a small bicycle accident just when our yearly exam was knocking at our doors. Nishan got his left hand fractured, that was what I came to know from a common friend who lived near his neighbourhood. When I went to visit him next morning, I was literally shocked by seeing him on his dad’s easy chair with both the hands plastered. “Nishu I heard of your left hand getting injured…” I couldn’t help screaming at his surprisingly double misfortune.
His dad shaving at one corner of the room broke open his frustration before I could finish my sentence, “No no… I’m fed up with his madness. Have you ever seen any other crap getting bandaged on both the hands even when luckily one is injured?”
Before I could understand my role out there in the middle of a pissed off dad and a lunatic son, uncle further continued, “Yesterday your friend made such a drama in my friend’s clinic and washed out my prestige like anything. Yes like anything… now those bloody people will get free passport of spreading the rumour that Mr Ahuja’s son has gone mad! Can you believe it? This greatest ass Nishan Ahuja thought it most prudent to put a condition before my friend that if his left forearm has to be plastered then the same treatment has to be given to his right arm! Just think of the level of irrationality!”
I was in a real dilemma whether to nod at Mr Ahuja’s grumble and provoke him to sustain his high blood pressure or to pacify him like son’s dutiful friend. So I chose the third option- silence was gold… Disgusted at my indifference poor uncle finished his shaving in hurry and left the room. I knew asking him the noble reason of putting on double plaster would beget nothing but more disappointment for me which I’d experienced quite a number of times in prior occasions. What had followed next was no less surprise for any of us when Nishan appeared for the first paper with a hired writer along with him. Yea it was a special arrangement procured by his dad by lying principal that both of his son’s hands were fractured! Actually, although uncle had that rough outer shell of a typical authoritarian Indian father but his soft corner for his only son extended way beyond this which had further got deep rooted probably after his wife’s death…
Unlike me Nishan was quite sensitive to the essence of teen age romance, may be partly because of his liberal background at home and his full schooling in co educational English medium schools right from nursery level in contrast to my primary schooling in a hardcore over disciplined Hindu boys school, for which in later days also I could never bridge that gender gap from the core of my boyhood mind… He once fell for a pretty Brahmin girl who belonged to a very conservative family. I had warned Nishan earlier of the feasible dangers but as always he “couldn’t hold his heart back once given to somebody”, this is what the idiot used to cry every time before me to melt me emotionally and get the best help out of me. Yes, the result I had foreseen came out to be true. One day just after Nishan had given her a well versed love letter (I think not less than 5-6 pages!) her dad came to school, called for Nishan and gave him a tight slap before his pretty daughter. I was too scared to go to the battlefield to support my friend, so covertly kept witnessing his ultimate insult. I was expecting him to fall on that bull’s feet to make a narrow escape from further worse possibilities. After receiving that first insult over his crimson converted cheek, I could only see Nishan pointing onto his other cheek and I knew by that time what he meant and what next to happen… after repeated refusal the girl’s dad had no other choice than launching another slap with a lower zeal, just to end the episode…
Although it was Nishan himself responsible for fancying the second slap, the whole incidence had broken his heart badly (Don’t get carried away by crocodile’s tears)… he stopped falling for girls for quite a sometime and started smoking, especially in evening gossip hours at our usual meeting paradise, our old river bank. Nothing unusual it’s to smoke in your mid teen but lighting two cigarettes concurrently and even absorbing the bad smoke from both the sticks together at the same time hardly anybody of you’ll support. The picture didn’t change much until Nishan finally got committed to a Christian girl, Sylvia. It was the beginning of our intermediate college life after our tenth board exam results were out. Nishan had passed with rainbow hues, especially in science and maths, whereas, I had shitted badly particularly in those subjects that left me no option other than taking admission directly to arts stream. We got admitted once again under the same roof but our cells had changed. That was the first time I went to our meeting venue all alone with a cigarette, a hired lighter and a boxful of anonymous unlfilment. I had smoked in that evening for the first time with the lips of a suckling infant and tears of a tormented mother. Probably that was the first day, yes that was the first evening I was fully all alone with unbound emotions to shed, not even an insect to witness my overflowing impulses in the dense black darkness…
Nishan was newly settling down with Sylvia, who had taken admission to the commerce wing of the same institute. When a boy falls seriously for an opposite sex for the first time, he gains a lot of things- like sense of responsibility, maturity, power of adjustment etc., but perhaps the only thing he loses is his time for old friends… no off course it’s not his fault, probably it’s a simple adaptive mechanism to meet the growing demands of the time for his love life… Was Nishu in love then?... Something I realised for sure, he had found out the symmetry he had been chasing from his childhood days…

It was in the middle of class twelve that I could persuade my father to get me a second hand scooter. In the present set-up it might sound a bit funny to you but in those times an intermediate college lad speeding on a scooter was not a very common sight. By that time I had initiated filling up my purse all by myself with some private tuitions, so I had strong logic to support my two wheeler purchase. In one winter evening me and Nishu went to river bank after a long gap of Saturday-evening-whisky-session. Post dusk chilly breeze had always been the same effective healer to our tired liquor wet warm wits. Under the golden liquid’s magical spell we laid down on the damp grass, spoke of our obsolete professors, political instabilities, neighbourhood beauties, family woes, dad Vs son grievances, recent scandals, international porn actresses, last lottery disaster… the last topic I coined, “Nishu, your relationship has progressed…”
We both were happy, exhausted and rolling like two pigs out of gutter until it was quite late when we got back our consciousness partially and felt the urge of hurrying back home in the normal most shape. We sprang up and rode the scooter like most dutiful sons. We were in real hurry as the clock showed 10:30 PM! In that era we didn’t have that much relaxation of stress free night salsa… I was accelerating as much as I could do where as my pillion rider, unable to come out of his hang over, was continuously bumping his head over my backbone. The road was dark and desolated. Suddenly I slipped over a pebbled road and we fell down like crumbled bullock cart. Luckily it was a turning, so our speed was low, I didn’t even drop down on the stony road, but Nishan couldn’t escape getting few scratches on his limbs. A greater relief was seeing the scooter almost undamaged, other than one of its looking glasses getting thrashed… When I could focus on Nishan again, he was almost erect on his feet and grinning like a victorious soldier. I patted his back as a sign of ‘everything is under control’ and was about to start my vehicle. All of a sudden, he picked up a larger stone from the street and hit on the other mirror of my scooter which was intact even after the crash! The mirror crumbled down and the alcoholic bastard lost his balance, dropping down the road he gave a smile of contentment. I was terribly shocked, irritated and annoyed seeing his loathsome action. I directly got down and shook him by his collar and roared, “Hey I’ve been tolerating this fucking bloody whims since years, what do you think yourself you crazy bastard?”
“Relax Mihir… I balanced your scooter…now it’s safe”, he replied in a cold voice.
“You insane bastard you think it’s a joking hour? I shit at your so called balance… you’re the most fucking unbalanced psycho I’ve ever been with… no more of this…”
Before I could close my mouth, he liberated his collar from my fist and pushed me back with firmer grip, “I’m the most balanced rascal in this asymmetric world. Do you get it buddy?” his voice totally changed, eyes sparkling like owl’s eyes…
I was motionless by his frozen voice. Getting the burning charcoal in my voice extinguished I stammered somehow, “How can you say everything around you lacks balance?”
“Look everything nature has made are in pairs… they function in pairs… yes they look good in pairs as well. See the river you left just now, has two banks… idiot, don’t you see the trees?... after a certain height it branches on both sides… ye that’s how it maintains balance…”
Nishan took up a piece of brick from one side of the road and went to the middle of it like a gust of wind, sat down and scratched that over the road to draw the digit one, and then two, while I stood still to witness that street-show of unbound madness in dim light coming from a streetlight some thirty metres away…
He started again, “Just look at this Mihir, ‘Two’ has such a stable ass, yes it’s damn balanced thing in this fucking earth… but see the base of ‘One’ itself is so unbalanced, how can it be of any good to anybody… can’t even stand by its own”, he started laughing like one of those feng shui puppets.
By then I had realised that the fire set by me was no more in my control. I was slowly getting involved in that lunacy… I participated, “Nishu chill down man, how did you get allergic to this poor ‘One’?”…
His mad man’s loud smile got condensed in a fraction of second into a crumbled tissue paper like expression. “I lost my mom and my doll like sister for this bastard”, he cried like a whining baby and sat down on the roadside with two palms veiling his wet cheeks…
Thunderstruck scooter owner had the only option of sitting down beside his broken friend, to keep an arm around his drooped shoulder and help him to vomit out all the poisons he had been petting in his stomach for last twelve years… I won’t lie, that day I felt elevated than never before for being the successful navigator of the corner of my friend’s mind about which I was fully unaware of… not just me, his father was equally unlucky to get the insight of his son’s greatest torment…
“I was a kindergarten kid then… it was summer vacation that we all four were travelling back from Chandigarh. Our train was about to reach our hometown station. It was crowdie. Dad told my mom to advance towards the gate with my one year sister in her lap so that he could manage our luggage. He was opening the chain locks of individual bags and suitcases one by one when mom had reached the door side. I went and stood behind her to enjoy the moving trees and coal smelling air. She was holding the support beside the door with one hand and treasuring her daughter with the other. I was keen on peeping through the open door but every time she was pushing me back with a mild motherly scold. I was lost in some thought till I discovered that a hawker was gripping me from my shoulder and mom falling down the moving train with a shrill cry for help… Dad rushed to the door, somebody had pulled the chain to stop… but by then everything was over… the whole fucking drama was over… I lost my mom forever Mihir… I lost my sleeping queen… I lost my world… I lost the best thing of this life Mihir…” Nishan’s voice clogged in saddest melodies.
It was difficult to keep myself untouched by the tragedy… hot tear drops streamed down my beards… I felt Nishu closer than ever…
The Phoenix rose from the ashes again, “Today you know Mihir, her last cry for survival, the moment of her fall with the baby in her arm, their red recovered bodies, nothing torture me more than the fact that she was standing by the door with just one hand’s support… that fucking ‘One’ killed her… this scoundrel snatched my mom... I won’t ever forgive this ‘One’…”
That whole night I kept tossing on my bed, reflecting of the whole incidence. Little before the dawn I fell asleep getting heavy with the satisfaction of opening a decade old mystery and partly by the depth of the catastrophe linking my friend.
In a few months we finished our intermediate education. I took interest in English language and moved onto Calcutta, where as Nishu made his visa to study medicine in England. In the beginning we used to break our pocket money for international postage but dusty time gradually rusted our string and the frequency of letter lessened… we lost connection in five six years, by the time I took the job of a teacher and Nishan became Dr Nishan and moved to Florida for post graduation.

Yesterday evening after I returned from my college, I was watching news headlines of ongoing political flip-flops, when my twelve years old nephew came to me with two registers and pens. He looked excited about something and sat down on the divan beside my cushion and started writing with both the hands with a hurry to attract my attention from the scrolling LCD. Reading his intention I switched off the TV and ruffled his wood pecker like hair with a swift soft palm, “Oh, now Mr Tintin will scribble his report with both his hands…?” I showed well woven curiosity to my little boy.
“Yeppy Chachu! Now I can write… no not just writing, I can do every… everything with both the hands at the same time…” Rohan finished in a single breath with rounded eyes.
“What?” I developed a sudden wrinkle over my forehead.
“Yes Chachu, now the secret of side dominance in human mind has been decoded. From now onwards a person can use both his hands and legs for individual purposes at the same time! Amazing na?” He finished his informative style with an optimistic shrug.
A lost civilisation seemed to have been excavated beyond my oblivious freedom. I desperately asked Rohan, “Who told you all these beta?”
“Just now I read in a website. At first I was googling for the list of last year’s Nobel laureates and there in one corner of the website I found the nominees for the current year, there I came across this incredible news. You know Chachu it was a single biomedical engineer’s research and the man who holds the entire credit for this………………” Rohan’s inquisitive narrations faded as my single side dominated old mind dived deep into the ocean of reminiscence… I kept on swimming amidst those bygone oysters and coral reefs in paramount solace, supremacy and satisfaction…

- littleWriter

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