Love means different things to different people. Some like Atul can lay their lives too. Arindam reminisces a real life incident, many moons ago.
We were newbie in the Allahabad University, in 1976. Most of us, in this traditional city, landlocked city, Allahabad, were from all boys and all girls colleges – possibly we were considered too ‘dangerous’ for coed schools – things have changed now.
The English medium students were luckier in the undergraduate classes. We were allotted coed classes. Though we sat in segregated rows, almost all the boys had a ‘partner’ in his fantasy. We discussed who was whose girl and others in the pack respected it, with some exceptions. It was an unwritten code amongst boys.
Now, each of us, according to our nature, taste or ability, behaved differently. None of us were ‘normal’ when we saw girls. All of us needed a certain ‘preparation’ time. Some proposed. The luckier ones got a positive response. Most got a gentle ‘no’. Some of us got not-so-gentle-no. Two girls had bodybuilder brothers, while another girl’s brother was a backstreet tough. These three were out of bounds, termed, ‘unsafe property’.
Those who got no, gentle or rough, went through their ‘Devdas’ periods, their absent-mindedness, unshaven far-away look, before they chose some other partner. It could be a girl who had said ‘no’ to his friend or acquaintance. She was this boy’s possible partner now.
In the clan, we discussed it all, threadbare, the hits and the misses. Those who succeeded became ‘love gurus’ of their peers.
We even discussed the ‘economics’ of proposal. And if any member of the clan had any problem, all others came to his aid. On the big day, he got someone’s shirt, someone perfume, someone’s scooter, someone’s money and a poem from me. When a friend was on his way to conquest, all friendly kings and lords, extended a helping hand – it was clear that the favours would be returned, when he was out on a conquest.
However, if he won the lady’s hand, the conquest (read fort) was his. Others would back off. It was up to him how he handled her, unless he sought counsel from Love Guru.
A friend of ours, whom I prefer to call ‘Atul’ (not his real name), lost his heart to a lovely lass.
She had turned down all his advances. The Love Guru of the group heard his woes. Of course Atul had to foot the chai-samosa bill for all, patiently. Advice is never free – that’s one lesson we learnt early.
Somber and serious like a judge, Love Guru, advised that a desperate situation called for a desperate measure. After much debate and disagreement among the group, Love Guru and Atul agreed to go ahead.
Atul sent a letter to ‘his girl’ through a girlfriend of another friend. She had a week to decide. If she agreed, she would smell a rose on the way to her Philosophy class. If that did not happen, Atul would shoot himself dead, in full public view. He would wait for her in ‘next life’.
The D-day arrived on a particular Thursday. None of us attended any class that day. One said, “Natak mat kar…saala marega. Ja bey mar” (No need of all this drama…you will die. Go kill yourself). With a budding poet’s heart, I felt otherwise. Suppose he killed himself. I was dissuading him from any drastic step, after he showed me a loaded country-made pistol. He had stolen it from his chacha (uncle). I kept on telling him, “No girl is worth your death. Think of your mother, your father, brothers and us. We can’t lose you.”
But, Atul had made us his mind. He hugged me and said, “Alvida, Dost” (Adieu, Friend). I was mostly sad and a wee bit amused.
Someone had arranged for a marigold garland. Another put a Tika on his forehead. Atul, dressed in all white – that’s how one should die – some of us observed. I prayed that good sense must prevail. You can’t trust a young adult with a loaded gun, after all. Love Guru was somber. He behaved like god.
At about 12 noon, a bunch of girls, including Atul’s ‘heartbeat’ walked to their class in the boys section every day. It’s not clear how the news spread that Atul would kill himself that day.
Hundreds of boys had gathered to watch this brave lover, who would soon be another tragic hero like Majnu or Romeo. Boys had gathered to witness a grand martyrdom.
An advance team rushed and announced, “Wo aa rahi hai” (She is coming). There was pin drop silence. Not a leaf moved it seemed. The birds were silent too. There was ‘deathly silence’.
Even the girls sensed something. They were tense and silent.
The bevy of girls, with Atul’s girl in the middle, walked silently. Her head was bent low. She was shivering. We saw that she held no rose.
It’s not easy to die.
Atul waived at the crowd and delivered a heroic speech. He said that he thought of his parents and us and decided to move on. Some cheered in glee. Others booed.
Atul was alive.
While most said that Atul had chickened out, I thought otherwise. None of us would ever know who was right. But, we all were happy that Atul, the big ‘Dramey baaj’ (big actor, attention seeker) was with us.
The worst was over. Thankfully!
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Arindam Roy has 37 years experience in various newsrooms. He was the Managing Editor of a reputed Gurgaon-based Citizen Journalist portal and has held senior positions in several publications. As Correspondent and Bureau Chief, he has written extensively for Associated Press, Times of India, Hindustan Times and multiple news outlets. He has contributed 13 chapters to various publications. Of these, seven chapters were published in two Coffee Table Books, published by the Times Group. He is a co-author of a novel, Rivers Run Back that he penned with Joyce Yarrow. The novel was launched at the American Centre, New Delhi, on January 2015. He lives in Allahabad.