A hot summer evening in Chennai. Well, hot would be an understatement. As far as weather goes, it’s hot, hotter, Chennai. As I ordered a cup corn and turned around aimlessly looking for a place to rest my hindquarters, I ran into a friend and a friend of my friend, casually lolling around the corner. After exchanging polite pleasantries, I was invited to a brief session of what would under extraneous circumstances qualify as ‘small-talk’.
‘Do you know he’s been here in IIT for 9 years now?. Isn’t that amazing!’
The sudden jolt of surrealism washed over me. I thought to myself, ‘Yeah, that’s by far–hands down–the most amazing thing I’ve done in my life’. I wondered whether it was his nigga way of saying, ‘Bitch, you be crazy’. Or have I suddenly become part of some campus tour program. ‘And in this cage, you’ll find the village idiot who thinks staying in campus for exorbitantly long durations is an idea worth considering. Don’t worry. He doesn’t bite.’
I looked calmly at the countenance of my soon-to-be-acquaintance. What’s the saying? If life gives you lemons, you ask for a refund. ‘Yeah, it’ll be 9 years this summer.’
‘So you were in the same hostel all these years?’
‘No. I was in Ganga for five and Pampa for the remainder.’
The FomF who was lackadaisically sniffing around for signs of estrogen suddenly turned to me and said: ‘That sounds like a demotion, if you ask me’.
‘Yeah. I wanted the change in hostels to reflect the changing circumstances of my life in IIT.’ They laughed. I laughed. Right now would be a case in point.
‘So you must have seen lots of change happening in insti.’
I think I sort of understand why the old kind feel the need to describe all their experiences to the young kinds. The grandpa in me finally has an audience. And they’re asking for it. ‘Yeah. Each hostel used to have it’s own mess hall where seniors and juniors used to dine together. There was no Himalaya you see, and no option to change the caterers. So when Himalaya was opened, it was all the rage. You could finally choose your own poison.’
I then started wondering why that whole tidbit was about food. But then I didn’t. I am a foodie. If there’s one thing you can hate about this place, it is the lack of good food. I mean, in every other Indian metro, I’ve found those small joints where you’d get nice food at a cheap rate. Not in Chennai. It’s either your wallet or your stomach. One of them definitely has to give.
My friend–who by this time might seem like an imaginary entity to you–interrupted. ‘But I always see you eating outside. You never do go to Himalaya, do you?’
‘My man. Himalaya to me now is like a place of worship. I hardly enter that place.’ I thought that was a smart reply. I mentally patted myself on the back. Well done.
‘Oh come on. You didn’t have to bring that stuff into this.’
‘Bring what stuff? Even in a temple, you really don’t enter the srikovil do you? You admire the beauty of the place, worship its magnificence and move on.’
I think they’ve had enough of me by then. We said our goodbyes. Finally the round of 21 questions was over and I could proceed chewing the cud of corn.
And you ask why I am not the élan vital of parties. Happy hunting!