Three poor souls, cast away to a far off place. That is how it was. On a fine day in Bangalore, in a posh office, our fates, at least for the next couple of months were sealed as we sat watching. There were euphemisms for that event, post-induction placement counseling, it was named and we were posted in the one of the largest power products hub of India.
So off we went.
This writing is a promise being kept to the other two characters. Sia and Rakshi, this is to all we have done and those that left undone.
Three girls and eight boys sitting in a hall. A man in suits was asking as to introduce ourselves for the umpteenth time in the day.
Rakshi’s turn: Sir I am from Jamia Milia Isla…
The entire hall cuts her short and burst out laughing. “Yaar yeh tera college ka naam hain ya address”
Dinning hall of guesthouse. A Manager sitting across the table. We were managing hard not to talk and appear ‘respectable’ as the new entrants to the MNC. This time, it was my day, not good one of course, it couldn’t have been.
“Where are you from?”
Caught unaware, the reply had to make its way through the mouthful of half-chewed roti,
“Assam”, it came out.
“Assam!”, the usual tone of surprise failed to surprise me. I have had enough of it. Sia perhaps knew what was coming and had already started to stifle her laugh. “That must be near China!” , the bearded manager completed his surprised reaction.
So this is how it went on.
We went to office in the morning .Perfectly timing our our movement like 3 minutes to reach the first speed breaker, two minutes to reach the gate and one reach the punching point. Thanks to Sia and Rakshi, they had converted a lazy bug like me to a perfectly timed ‘something’. Actually the motivation lay in the fact that we never wanted to stay in office more than the period that was absolutely necessary.
Now please do not ask if we worked in office. That is an off-limits question. But let me reveal this much that the two tea breaks and the lunch breaks had turned out to be the most awaited time of the entire office duration.
In weekends we had important issues to address, like washing clothes, settling the one rupee-fifty paise debts that we always incurred during our food-gathering stints. Sia was particularly particular about these things. So particular that one day, she asked to autowala to take ninety nine rupees instead of hundred so that it can be divided equally between the three of us.
May be friendship is mostly easily fostered in the situation when we are in general friendless. That was the exact situation of us. And perhaps an unique bond was forged between us.
After 12+2+4 summer vacations, this time heat brought no respite. The entire city felt like a huge oven. All round one could see people moving around with their faces wrapped up resembling footballs on feet. It was bad, very bad. But then it was during such a bad summer that sinful mangoes started making their appearances. yellowish green and greenish yellow with a sweet dimple, they made the air heavy with their scent. We tried the varieties Kesar and Badam and then decided to try the royal Alphonso.
Our colleagues were always forthcoming with their advices and when it was about food atleast, if not mandirs, they just lost it, enthusiastically. Upon such cajoling, we decided go on a ‘Haphoos’ expedition in supposedly the best fruit market in the city, Khanderao market. Rakshi, the sensible of us two, told me repeatedly not to try our luck there but a Bong overconfident foodie that I am, I obviously had to try the best haphoos of the city. She said that we wont be able to differentiate an alphonso from a raw mango and should better stick to known shops. But how can I listen to her.
So we took an auto to Khanderao market. It was fruits, fruits at around, mangoes in heaps, bananas in piles. On doorsteps, shops, foot-paths and every inch of space that left unoccupied by people were covered with one type of fruit or the other. Mangoes obviously dominated the scene. The air seemed thick with the sticky scent from ripe mangoes.And amidst that din, scooters navigated deftly as people perched behind with large boxes of mangoes. Gujaratis are more fond of aam-ras than Bengalis are fond of aantlamo.
Okay, so we decided not to act smart and ask the oldest man available that where we could get the best haphoos. He peered at us from behind his pile of the smallest mangoes I have ever seen. Local mangoes, he told,us. They were smaller than our palm and had a healthy splash of yellow and orange on green. Had Rakshi not pulled me away, I would have convinced her to buy these too. (‘let us sample new types’ would have made a good argument). On hindsight, I was indeed thankful that I did not try that,(a separate story).Now we started towards the arcade which was pointed out to us. And when we entered, we were shocked!. If outside it was mangoes, inside it was MANGOES. While the country cousins lay outside on the pavements and carts, here the rich ones lay in wooden crates lined with papers and sleek shiny ribbons that added to the show. So we started our mango-mission. After a lot of pretentious sniffing and frowning bargains (pretending as though buying mangoes was the only task we excelled in), we brought two kilos of the famed Ratnagiri Hapoos.Next couple of days, we couldn’t eat.
We were tired of having three types of pulses served thrice a day. We had chomped through the entire clan of pulses and all possible variations of them. The only thing that kept us going was Rakshi’s cooking and chocolate brownies with ice-cream. One day, a co-poor-soul,blurted out in dinner table,”Bhaiya! Atleast cook bhindi once in a while!”. Pop came the answer,” Sir, have you checked the price of bhindi!”Oh yes, there we had learned the sublime art of discretely wiping the plate clean when ice-cream was served.
To be contd…